The teaching and practice of meditation have been slowly evolv- ing in the West over the past several decades as it progressively aligns itself with the needs and character of modern life. It takes time for a vision and practice transferred from another culture to find the proper fit in its new home. The approach to meditation that I will share with you in this book will likely differ from what you have previously learned, but you will find it more natural and easeful and its impact will be greater and more sustained. You will find it most suited for the Western mind—for your mind.
In the following pages and the accompanying ten-session audio recordings, I will introduce you to an awareness-based meditation. Its roots and approach are found in the age-old tra- dition of meditation, but as taught here, this type of meditation has a very modern feel. It is well suited for the psychologized, intellectual, and overactive Western mind, whose blessings and disturbances we experience daily. I am certain you will find that this direct nonconceptual practice allows you a quick and rel- atively effortless access to the heart center of your being and the sought-after rewards of contemplative practice. It is the next evolution of meditation for our time.
It was not long ago that meditation was reintroduced to the West from Eastern cultures. It was initially promoted as a remedy for the stress and distress of modern times. I recall my introduction to meditation in the early 1970s. Before receiving practice instructions, we were told what meditation could do for us—relieve stress, improve sleep, help with headaches, improve relationships, and so on. In short, it would upgrade the quality of our life. In this manner, meditation was initially offered as a treatment, a remedy, albeit one with fewer side effects than pharmaceutical approaches. It was “marketed” as an antidote to the overactive mind, a refuge from incessant doing, and a temporary respite from mental stress. In essence, it was a relaxation technique for a culture very much in need of one. And that was, and continues to be, of value for many individuals. However, both temporary relief and upgrading our daily life is only the first aim of meditation— and it is the lesser aim.
Too often, our efforts toward inner development stop with relaxation and temporary relief. We stop because we are more comfortable. We’ve relieved the sharp edges of modern life, but unfortunately, we have not touched the root causes of modern stress, distress, and suffering.
I have studied meditation for many years in both the West and East. I understand why I and others initially taught medi- tation as a relaxation technique, a surface remedy for the ills of modern life. That’s what was needed at first. That’s what initially captured the imagination of the modern mind. But we were shortsighted. We missed the true gold.
We are not where we were decades ago. The Western mind has matured and is now capable of more depth, far more. It’s time we go further. It is time we go beyond relaxation-based approaches to realize the second and central aim of meditation: the reunion with our true self and the realization of the full human possibility—a peace that surpasses understanding, endur- ing happiness without a reason, a natural wisdom, selfless love and compassion, and freedom from the known. Aristotle called this eudaimonia. We translate that as human flourishing. But, forthis, we must dive deeper. Our meditation must evolve to attain its true essence.
That deeper dive gives us two for one. We touch the pro- found treasures of life, which then become the foundation of a revitalized daily existence. You might think that this must be a more difficult or intense effort than mastering relaxation tech- niques. However, it’s actually more direct, natural, and effortless than customary relaxation-based approaches and it does not rely on the continuous application of methods and techniques that invariably engage us in a struggle, most often a losing one, with the overactive mind. With a direct awareness-based approach, we overcome the overactive mind naturally.
In this text and the accompanying recorded meditations on my website (see page 26 for link), we will learn about our two selves—our ordinary, personal self and our natural, essential self. We will learn how to shift from one to another, like changing channels. We will find that all we seek is already and always present in this deeper self. We don’t need to change anything; we only need to reveal our true nature, our true self, and all we have sought will be discovered where it has always been. The final and noble aim of meditation is to return home to that center of our being and live in alignment with it.
In mentoring many individuals, I have become convinced of the simplicity and ease of an awareness-based approach to meditation. It is so natural that individuals rapidly develop a stable meditation practice and experience the realizations that spontaneously arise from a clear mind and open heart. It amazes them, it amazes me, and it will amaze you.
Furthermore, cultivating a pure, unconditioned awareness allows you to easily integrate what you discover into daily life. Youd realize that meditation is simply being aware and available to the present moment precisely as it is. This natural state effort- lessly transfers to our day-to-day life.
Allow me to recommend the best way to use this guide and the practice recordings: The guide is divided into four sections— Vision, Practice, Human Flourishing, and Beyond. The essays in each of these sections are meant to be pointers rather than a text to simply read through. Pointers are designed to stimulate inner reflection, evoke realizations, and point you toward your serene and wise inner self where written words are transformed into direct experience, your experience.
You will find that I often approach the same point from different directions in different essays. You will also find that certain points are repeated one or more times. This offers the opportunity to dive deeper and more subtly into the essential points.
Each essay is a “practice” in itself. Take your time, feel the words, allow them to enter your heart, and marinate in them. If you feel your mind goes still or your heart is touched, stop, close your eyes, and be with the inner space and stillness. In this manner, each essay becomes a stand-alone meditation, perhaps to be read again and again.
The second section, Practice, is the series of essays that accom- pany the practice audio recordings. Together, they will guide you, step by step, through learning and practicing an awareness-based meditation. I suggest you practice each recorded session daily for a week, first with the recording and then, when possible, without. During this period, I suggest you read and reflect on the essays in the practice section. They will support and amplify your daily practice.
Once you have stabilized your practice, you can move on to the essays in the third section, Human Flourishing. They offer an understanding of the realizations and experiences that will unfold during ongoing practice. There is no planned time frame for the unfolding of the qualities of your natural self—serenity, happiness, wisdom, and freedom.There will be glimpses here andthere, which over time will coalesce into larger land masses. Your life will change, sometimes so subtly that, at first, you may not notice. But, with time, you will embrace your meditation practice, your inner life, and the progressive revelation of the qualities of human flourishing.
Finally, in Beyond, we consider what lies beyond our usual understanding of life and self. It is difficult to express through words what is known only through direct experience, but I will do my best. Consider this section as a catalyst for your creative imagination, encouraging you to imagine the unimaginable so that your life may become your art and your art may become your life. In time, you will know by heart what lies beyond. It is none other than who you truly are and have always been and all that unfolds from that expansive human possibility. You’ve already had glimpses of that state of ease, flow, and freedom that is naturally and always at the center of your being. That is the great hidden treasure of human life. It is now time to drop in directly and make it the foundation of your life. I am happy and privileged to share this guide with you and to spend time together. I am privileged to discover with you the great and noble intent of meditation practice and the recognition and warmth of a long-awaited homecoming.