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Practical Meditation Pointers...That Cut Across and Illuminate All Techniques

By Acharya Shambhu

The heart is the most sacred of all places, go there and roam.” Bhagavan Nityananda

I have pursued a spiritual path and have meditated for almost 20 years, most of which I spent doing non-dual Tantric practices. Reflecting on my experience in the context of Bhagavan Nityananda’s sage advice for one to seek the shortest and most direct path to Shiva, I can’t help but notice a few insights that might be helpful to fellow seekers – this is the humble purpose of this contemplation. None of the content here is meant to be soundbites, but an invitation to truly, deeply, explore these pointers in one’s own practice.

Shiva candles with textFor me, this is a journey to and into the Inexplicable. The essence of the Inexplicable is the Enduring Revelation of Presence - my mouthful preferred term to Enlightenment, Liberation, Self-realization, etc. I use this term to reflect that from the highest perspective, the only thing we need to do is to remember. That’s it, it is all very simple. Presence is always there, it is revealed and stabilized permanently in our moment-by-moment experience through the pointers discussed here. These pointers fuel our capacity for pure insight (pratibha), which cuts through the veils of duality, ultimately revealing the Inexplicable.

During the journey, I have fallen into multiple traps – obsession with doing the techniques perfectly, the belief that the journey is a slow grind, unconscious separation of spiritual life and everyday life, spiritual bypass, unconscious over-reliance on the guru versus having and strengthening my own connection to the Divine, etc. Note how each of these traps reinforces duality with varying subtlety, in effect making the path itself an obstacle. This insight has been a major revelation for me, completely changing my practice, allowing me to go much deeper than ever before.

I realize now that there are several crucial pointers that naturally resolve these traps, illuminate any meditation technique, and allow one to accelerate the journey. These pointers make the journey much less mechanical and much more personalized, allowing the seeker to have increasingly deeper heart-to-heart with that which is being sought, until the slightest distinction between seeker, means of seeking, and the sought, is completely dissolved.

The salmon has no choice but to journey back home, because the beacon (grace) is always calling. Enduring Revelation of Presence inevitably arises. Freedom is inevitable. But, how can we make the journey at least a bit faster and more natural? We are all familiar with this amazing statement by Archimedes: “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” Lifting this statement (pun intended) from the great Archimedes into a spiritual context, suitably puts together the pointers I am trying to describe below in a coherent practical framework:

“Give me surrender long enough and stillness on which to place it, and I shall move the Universe, to reveal the Inexplicable.”

I truly believe, based on my humble experience, that all these pointers can and should be applied to any meditation technique. Without these pointers, not only secret treasures will continue to be lost in the field of duality, but most importantly not found. DO NOT TRUST ME, trust your own experience, try these pointers, and see what happens.

1) INTENTION. Intention is the focusing of our life force to seek the highest purpose of our life, to move the Universe to reveal its source, pure Divine Presence. Intention gives us direction. Initially, intention feels like a booster of a spaceship that allows us to rise above the gravitational pull of the ego. In every meditation, and every day when we open our eyes first thing in the morning, set the intention to tune into the home beacon. Just take a breath in the heart center and feel that call (grace) to go back home. If you can’t feel grace, say silently in the heart center a few times whatever mantra works for you: “Show me the truth,” “Show me what is Real,” “Help me open my heart,” “I wish to grow,” etc. Wait until some openness happens. Then do your meditation or go about your day and hold onto that intention. Swami Rudrananda made an incredible statement that the wish to grow for a human being is the most powerful force in the Universe. Our intention, at its deepest, is pure Divine will seeking to remember its Source, expressed at the level of the individual. Devotion is another way to describe this self-referential power – it arises from pure Consciousness. Bhagavan Nityananda said: “As is your devotion, so is your liberation.” That’s why intention is so powerful. To put it in practical terms, do not seek the object of your longing, seek its source. In meditations, sense intention as a field of subtle energy or awareness, feel deeper and deeper inside it, until all distinctions between seeker, means of seeking, and the sought, just go poof. Ironically, holding onto intention at its surface layer, reinforces the distinction between the seeker and that which is being sought. We end up creating another sticky identity: “I am a spiritual seeker.” You are the one you have been looking for all along – discover this mystery in your own experience by feeling deeper and deeper into the energy/awareness of intention.

2) SURRENDER. Surrender leads us from the experience of us doing the work to a point where the Divine takes over. All of a sudden, the Divine begins to do the work, we are being worked. We have moved into effortless effort. It is important to reach the point where the big boss takes over, otherwise we are stuck in an illusory loop of us doing something to get somewhere, reinforcing duality. There are several important aspects of surrender.

      A) BE WILLING TO DROP THE CRUTCH. We have to realize that the meditation technique is just a crutch. The crutch is not the end, it is just a means. Abhinavagupta said in Ch. 4 of the Tantrasara, translated by Christopher Wallis: “None of the ‘Limbs of Yoga’ are a direct means to the goal, though they may support discernment. Accurate discernment & insight (sat-tarka) alone is a direct means to that [goal of awakening & liberation].” Also, we can drive ourselves crazy with and get lost in the rich menu of powerful meditation techniques the ancient Tantric masters have bequeathed to us. The crutches range from external (rituals, chants, etc), the body, the senses, the breath, mantras, energy centers/channels, awareness, etc. These masters are saying that anything is a way to go back home, and how can it not be, when everything is an expression of Consciousness. To prove that anything can lead to immersion, for example, I have had meditations of simply feeling the tension in my jaws, and soon after pure awareness is revealed inside the physical tension. Try this – in meditations, follow the crutch until there is a shift in your awareness or some energy openness, then drop the crutch, abide in whatever is being revealed. Do not spend the entire meditation trying to perfect the technique. If after some time practicing the technique, it does not bring you to a point where you feel a shift in energy or awareness, drop it altogether, it does not work for you, try another technique. Simpler techniques seem to be more effective. The quicker a meditation technique brings about a shift, the better it works, as it allows one to spend the majority of meditation surrendered into a new level of awareness where one can allow revelation to happen, rather than expending a lot of effort trying to get there. Any meditation technique is just a bridge, do not stay on the bridge, the view is way better on the other side. Be willing to drop the crutch, be curious, find out what is beyond the prop. Another way to look at this is to view the crutch itself as the end and let go into it so deeply that it naturally evaporates into its source - the Sky of Consciousness.

     B) TRULY ACCEPT WHERE YOU ARE, FEEL INTIMACY WITH WHAT IS. Human beings have a natural tendency to avoid pain and seek pleasure. We also apply this pattern in our meditations. We try to change an uncomfortable state into a more acceptable state, we try to be alchemists transmuting base metal into gold, not knowing that the metal is already gold! Being an alchemist only reinforces duality, as we are imposing our will, actually strengthening our sense of separation, rather than loosening it. Start the meditation and your day just “feeling into” whatever state you are experiencing, do not try to control or manipulate it. Do not struggle with the mind, i.e. thoughts and emotions. Feel intimacy with what is, with whatever is arising in your awareness moment-by-moment. Nurture child-like curiosity, dig into all experiences, feel the juice in everything that arises in your awareness. This process frees our ordinary object-based awareness to melt into awareness being aware of itself (vimarsha). There is a natural shift to simply being, there is nothing to do, but to deeply feel the still nature of awareness (see Adyashanti’s book True Meditation for a great discussion of this topic). Only from this still place we can understand the dynamic creative aspect of awareness. My experience is that it is more beneficial to “go inside” i.e. truly feel/listen to/sense whatever is happening in awareness/body/emotions/thoughts, no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable. This leads directly to the source of the experience – it can be said that we are following whatever has arisen or arising in our awareness back to its source. Taking the stance of being with what is, resolves a major trap for many seekers – spiritual bypass – and naturally addresses non-attachment. We are fully embracing what is, embracing every way the Goddess Shakti has chosen to express her creativity. In the process of immersion into what is, we develop the capacity to feel the source of everything as opposed to being caught in the surface waves of external creation and ego. Where is attachment in moment-by-moment experience when we are anchored in the Source of everything, drinking the nectar of life, basking in the glow of life?

     C) SURRENDER ALL YOU KNOW, ALL YOU THINK YOU ARE … AND MORE. Human beings are incredibly complex – we have bodies, senses, emotions, thoughts, mind, egos, memories, stories, beliefs, patterns, etc. In meditation we have to reach a point where we are willing to drop the laundry list of our complexity. The telltale sign we are approaching that point is the emergence of resistance or fear. These are the moments where we have to really let go and simply go into the resistance or fear. At some point it just falls away. Swami Rudrananda said it beautifully: “Life is profound only in its simplicity.” We have to surrender all we know and think we are so that the light of Consciousness (prakasha) can illuminate our limited understanding. In meditations, keep on surrendering until there is no sense of you as an individuated consciousness. This is called Samavesha, being absorbed in, or penetrating into Consciousness. Imagine there are two candles burning and shining, always-on. One is the candle of absolute knowledge of God Consciousness. The other one is the candle of God’s Love. Which one will you choose? Pause for a second, reflect on this question. In Sutra 59 of Bhatta Narayana’s Stava Cintamani (The magical jewel of devotion) translated by Swami Lakshmanjoo, Bhatta chooses the candle of Love. Why? Because when there is knowledge, there is something to be known. Some shades of darkness are bound to appear, as there are still traces of two, a seeker and that which is being sought. In the candle of Love, there is no possibility of any darkness, because Love just is. Drop everything you know, just drop it. If you have to, use this mantra: “I don’t know shit.” We ultimately have to surrender the illusions that we are the doer, that we are different, and that we are separate. To achieve the latter, we have to drop our will at the feet of Shiva. We are one step closer to this ultimate surrender by dropping first all we know. Wait a second – why don’t I just drop my will; wouldn’t this be a shortcut? This might be a good idea. Why don’t we give it a try? Give up the idea that we have to be martyrs and hobble our way into the source, it does not have to be a grind, it can be and is the joyful journey back home, the joyous offering of our limited will into the arms of Shiva. In meditations, feel your identity (stories, patterns, etc), actions, knowledge, and will as energies/awareness, let them go into the heart center/other stillness points or central channel, bathing them in higher energies and awareness. This has been a huge revelation for me – that “me/I” is an energy field/an idea/a thought and if I can just let go of it, I do not die, I get re-born, baptized in the flow of the river of life, whose source is the Inexplicable.

3) STILLNESS IS THE LEVERAGE POINT. This is a much more nuanced topic, but to simplify it, it can be said that the energies of life have two directions. One is external direction, which is object-based. Shakti, the power of Shiva, is exploring endless creative possibilities at the level of form. The external forces are gravitational and magnetic, they are designed to draw us out of our center, the form-based concealment power of Shakti. Internal direction is subject-based, where the subject processes both the external and internal energies. The subject on a more superficial level uses the energies of the mind (thoughts, intellect, emotions), and on a deeper level accesses the energy body where the subject begins to “feel” everything on a non-conceptual level. There is a still point in between external and internal directions that stabilizes all movement of energy, revealing the source of all energies - Consciousness. In my experience, stillness is the gateless gate. Stillness, per my teacher, Swami Khecaranatha, is the resonance of Presence. In his book, Depth over Time, there is a wonderful chapter on stillness where he discusses stillness of breath, awareness, desire, and will. Swami Khecarantha illuminates, “We open the door into inner stillness and Divine Presence by finding a place of profound simplicity within ourselves.” There are multiple still points that are dimensionless and timeless – they are the entryways into the Enduring Revelation of Presence. One of them is in heart center, another one in the center in the head, yet another one at the upper Dvadasanta. The innermost thread in the central channel also resonates with stillness. By grace, there are multiple entryways into Paradise. We might experience all our energies and awareness condensing and resonating into one of those still points. At other times, there is an opening on the other side of the still points into pure Presence. It is our willingness to surrender deep enough in our practice and during the day that allows us to tune our awareness into the still points. In my experience, stillness is not achieved through concentration or effort, but through total letting go.

4) CLOSE THE LOOP, IT’S A TWO-WAY STREET – BRING SPIRITUAL INSIGHTS INTO EVERYDAY LIFE. So, we have used our intention, have surrendered deep enough, we are anchored in stillness, we have moved the Universe to discover Presence, and are resting in the Self (vishranti). Sounds peachy, right? Well, yes, kind of. There is a reason we are human beings – we are here to serve and love and be part of the play of Consciousness. If we do not allow our experience of Presence to percolate in our daily life, we have done a lousy job – there are probably still some traces of dualistic Consciousness. We have to allow Presence to inform our intention, knowledge, and actions in everyday life for Revelation to stabilize. I have found out that when at the end of my meditations I “descend the ladder,” it is easier to carry meditation insights into everyday life. Let’s say we have had a good meditation moving through body to emotions to thoughts to heart to pure presence and we are immersed in awareness. At the end of the meditation, allow that awareness to inform your heart, mind, and body, feel how they all are born out of awareness. Swami Lakshmanjoo said (I cannot remember where I read this) that a great yogi is able to navigate all the levels of awareness (tattvas) in both ascending and descending directions. He also counsels: “While walking you are dissolved in Lord Shiva's state, while talking, while doing, while kissing, while doing, while going to the cinema, you are always centered in God consciousness.” Another even more powerful message from him from his Kashmir Shaivism, the Secret Supreme, book: “If you were to continue your practice of contemplation for just fifteen minutes while walking, the benefit will be the same as you would acquire if you were to continuously practice contemplation in your meditation room for two or even three years." I also love this quote by Adyshanti,

“In my case, which I think is similar for many, many people, the greatest solvent for ego is found within our lives—the fabric of our existence, the grit of what’s actually happening in our everyday experience. I find that this is often overlooked within the context of spirituality. Many of us are using our spirituality as a way to avoid life, to avoid seeing things we really need to see, to avoid being confronted with our own misunderstandings and illusions. It is very important to know that life itself is often our greatest teacher. Life is full of grace—sometimes it’s wonderful grace, beautiful grace, moments of bliss and happiness and joy, and sometimes it’s fierce grace, like illness, losing a job, losing someone we love, or a divorce. Some people make the greatest leaps in their consciousness when addiction has them on their knees, for example, and they find themselves reaching out for a different way of being. Life itself has a tremendous capacity to show us truth, to wake us up. And yet, many of us avoid this thing called life, even as it is attempting to wake us up. The divine itself is life in motion. The divine is using the situations of our lives to accomplish its own awakening, and many times it takes the difficult situations to wake us up.”

The mundane has to become Divine. All aspects of our life have to be immersed in Presence. All is One.

MAY ALL BEINGS ACHIEVE THAT WHICH IS THEIR BIRTHRIGHT – ABIDING IN DIVINE PRESENCE

 Shiva with text for website