The Great Connection
As usual my mind wandered a thousand times, and I had to bring it back to awareness of the moment (focus on the breath) a thousand times. As usual I passed through stages. There was one long period where I could not hush my mental voice from continuously telling me to stop and go get breakfast; that I had done enough for one morning; that, after all, Zen masters say that 'this is it' so therefore, why not get up and make a cup of tea?
Another stage I regularly pass through (just about every time I meditate) is the Creative Surge. I suddenly get so inspired to write or play my guitar or make plans to rule the world or whatever that I can barely stay on my cushion for excitement and the desire to get on with it. This is extremely testing, for as an artist I always want to go with it (almost for fear of 'it' never coming back) but I know that this is also a device of the ego - the Inner Fool - to distract me and tempt me to end the meditation session before making the full connection with Tao. The Inner Fool is scared of this for making the Great Connection means surrendering the ego, abandoning the illusion of separate self, in effect destroying the ego entirely (if only for a short while) and weakening it's day-to-day hold thereafter.
But I kept at it, kept returning to the breath, because I knew that if I did, eventually I would 'get there'. Getting there is actually returning to where we already are; waking up to where we have been all along. Strangely this often takes a lot of hard work, whereas mentally travelling to some imagined paradise is – as we say in Australia – ‘easy as’.
Eventually I grew very impatient. I was tired of trying, frustrated with the irritating paradoxes of No-Mind, Beginner's Mind, travelling to where I already was.
Then a child's face, smiling and full of wonderment, appeared to me and said 'It's easy! Can't you see?'
And suddenly I got it. I 'looked out' at the world (viewed the phenomena that is this life) with the eyes of a child, as if everything was new, and there it was - Beginner's Mind, the Great Connection, blissful union with Tao.*
Then, call me a tripper, but I had a second vision. I saw spiritually inspired personal growth as a mission to climb the tallest pine tree in the forest. Standing at the bottom of this gigantic tree I could not see very far because the forest was thick and the sun could not get through. Everywhere there were animals (ah, animals, can't seem to get those furry little critters out my life or my dreams!). The animals were bouncing around, chattering; lots of noise and activity.
As I started to climb, I saw that the branches of the tree were busy also; home to many more busy animals and birds, all getting on with their day.
Climbing the tree was not intrinsically difficult. It required focus and determination, but all I had to do was keep climbing one branch at a time, and I could see that I was getting closer to the top. As I got further and further up the tree, there were fewer animals, and consequently there was less noise and activity.
Eventually I got near the top, and as I scaled the last few branches I saw that this tree was indeed the tallest in forest. Finally perched on the uppermost branch I could now see the wonderful view - the forest stretching for miles, the mountains in the distance, and above me, much higher even than the tallest tree in the forest, eagles soaring on the breeze. Onto all of this shone the sun; the air was crisp and fresh, and I truly felt that I was free. More to the point - I could now see where I had been all along.
I think that this serves as a great analogy for both the act of each individual meditation session and also for the concept of Tao inspired personal growth.
Of course, visions are just visions. They are waking dreams, not reality. But they have intrinsic worth: they are fantastic tools for contemplation. Sometimes they are amazingly profound, like mine felt this morning, sometimes they are a bit silly. Yesterday for example, I 'saw' a small demon, like a mini-Gollum, get pushed up from inside me (during my meditation) on an exhalation. When it was time to breathe in again, he was stuck in my nostril. He started struggling, desperate to get back inside me. I took another breath (through my mouth so as not to suck him back in) and then snorted him out and across the room. I felt a bit sorry for him, so I wished him well, but he was obviously meant to go.
Then, promptly, I deliberately forgot about him for the rest of the meditation. Let's face it - either there are little demons, or (more likely) it was my subconsciousness working through a symbolic process - but if we get stuck on these visions we are missing the point.
Enjoy the Chi Scenery at the top of your tree - then forget it and return to earth, before you fall off!
Flow Like Water...
*The Great Connection - I never know how to put this experience into words. Language is great, but not so great as to be able to fully convey the most fantastic experience in life. I can list a few potential names for this, but none of them suffice (you’ll just have to go there yourself and see/feel it to know): Universal Consciousness, The Mind of God, Clarity, Bliss, The Tao, Perfection, No-Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Absorption, Euphoria, Freeflow, the list goes on.
If you haven’t ever meditated ‘successfully’ but have in the past ever been silly enough (like me) to take any recreational drugs, then you might like to think back to a time where you felt totally blissed out and that everything in the world made perfect sense. Of course the wonderful thing about reaching this state naturally is that it heals your body instead of destroying it.