To be a Taoist means many things to many people. To be a practitioner of Contemporary Taoism simply means to have realised that we are all minute parts of an indescribably large Whole (the Tao), and to choose therefore to 'Flow Like Water' and live in a spontaneous, natural manner. This blog is about: Personal Growth / Spiritual Development as guided by the principles of Eastern Philosophy, particularly modern philosophical Taoism; Developing constructive habits and achieving success with minimal effort; Meditation - Taoist, Zen or otherwise. See 'What In Lao Tzu's Name is a Contemporary Taoist?'

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Tao of Stillness

One of the most challenging things about maintaining an effective meditation practice is, when the situation requires it, finding the time and the will to meditate long enough to achieve Stillness.

It really is remarkable the amount of hoopla that spins around inside our heads. This morning my mind was abuzz with activity - white noise, voices, strange sounds, images, and several layers of monologues.

These monologues are one of the more intriguing aspects of my mind. I find that as I go deeper into my meditation, I discover that I am blathering along to myself in a constant stream of what is usually nonsense. Even once my mind is getting quite calm I still discover more, one of the more regular ones being a smug little voice that prattles on to itself in a self-congratulatory manner, saying things like:

'...yes, yes, very good, now the mind is still, now the mind is quiet, excellent job, very still, very peaceful, you're doing well...'

I have figured out that this is a little trick that my ego tries to play on me to give me the impression that I have 'let go' when in fact I have not fully done so. Another similar trick that the old ego invariably tries to pull off is the old Inner Meditation Teacher routine:

'... Focus on the breath ... let go of thoughts ... you are calm and centred ... your mind is a calm blue ocean ...'

Don't get me wrong - the Inner Meditation Teacher is a very important tool to have, especially early into the meditation when my mind is as calm as a Shopping Mall two days before Christmas, but the thing is to eventually let go of this voice and find actual Stillness. For example today, growing impatient, I found myself thinking 'Oh my mind is just so busy this morning.' I knew I had to turn that around, so I started repeating mantra-like 'My mind is relaxed and calm. My mind is relaxed and calm'. Eventually this affirmation took hold, but then I had to deliberately cease repeating the words to complete the process.

Another sneaky little monologue is this voice:

'... anymore monologues? ... No, I don't think so ... Better look very carefully though, those sneaky little voices can be hard to catch sometimes ... No ... I think the coast is clear ...'

Catching that little trickster out is one of my favourite meditation moments!

It took me thirty minutes to 'get there' this morning (by the way, part of the trick to 'getting there' is to remind yourself early on in the session that there is actually nowhere to get. This helps to diffuse feelings of frustration which block effective meditation. And besides, it’s actually true). Along the way there were some funny moments; one that really struck me as amusing was the moment where Jason, the IT guy from the office where I work, suddenly popped into my brain (he literally stuck his face into my field of vision like someone popping there head around a doorway) and shouted 'You should go digital, man!'

Yeah, sure, digital, whatever...

As I began to calm down, I had an interesting vision. I saw my mind as being like a huge old Art Museum. All of my memories were represented as pictures hanging on the wall, but there was nobody in the building but me. I realised that I could, if I chose, look at the pictures, but that it would be more beneficial to ignore them for now and simply enjoy the quietness and space of the cavernous, empty rooms.

This was helpful and enjoyable, but after a minute or two I knew I needed to gently push this visual away. 'Chi Scenery' is nice, and often useful, but it makes sense not to get too dependant on it as it can become another trap of the ego.

Eventually, as I knew I would, I 'arrived' at the point of Stillness. Of course Stillness is always there, it's just that it sometimes takes a concerted effort to make the Long Journey to the Centre of Your Mind before you get to enjoy the Peace that is on offer.

The trick then is keeping this Stillness with you throughout your day, but that's another story!

Flow Like Water...


Blogger A.V. Michaels said...

It reminds me of a quote from my favorite poet, Rabindranath Tagore (who in my opinion definitely surfed the Tao): "I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I served and saw, service was joy."

12:28 pm

Blogger Implicate Order said...

My Sifu and Guru both mentioned about "resistance leads to persistence". The story goes like this --
An aspiring meditator asks an old master about "How to meditate" -- and the old master says -- "You have to learn to "not think about Dancing Monkey". Once you can "Not think about Dancing Monkeys -- meditation is a piece of cake!"...

The mind I've seen is like a layered onion -- peel deeper and you get yet another layer. Ego is entrenched very far and deep. It's frustrating to deal with it. Your observations about it are very true. Also there's always a confusion between "Ego" and "Self-respect" normal, everyday situations... How do you deal with this dichotomy?

3:48 am

Blogger Seamus "Moose" Anthony said...

Thanks for the comments peoples. Love both the quotes/stories.

As for the ego question, my only answer is that I accept the demands of my ego when they are acceptable or useful, and reject them when they are not.



Flow Like Water...

2:13 pm

Blogger Zen Unbound said...

Manual Trackback. This post is cited in Blogmandu, Roundup for Apr 9 - 15, 2006.

4:46 am


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