Meditation – coming home to the place we never left
Meditation allows us to discover our true home, a place where fear has no place to stand, and where we naturally embody deep love and compassion, and to see that we never ever left our true home.
It’s only been a kind of odd dream where some things never quite fit, or we found ourselves at the mercy of ours and others’ moods.
Meditation allows us to live at the edge of reality – if we conceive of reality as what we know and feel and think. In gently allowing the mind to rest as it is, and allowing thoughts and sensations to arise and pass, and by not grasping them or pushing them away, but simply remaining present to them, we are living on the boundary of what we know.
On one side of this boundary is what is comfortably known and familiar, through the activity of the senses, and on the other side is nothing really, an empty presence that is simply aware of the activity of the senses.
Just a clear, awake, empty presence of mind that allows what is known to arise, that allows the mechanisms of how we know the world to freely function without our interference of liking and disliking.
Over time, as we mature in the practice of resting the mind as it is, we have clear and clearer glimpses of this empty, awake presence of mind. We can call it simply “awareness” – but it is simultaneously an awareness of the things that arise in the mind as well as an open, vast field in which what we experience dances it dance and fades, only to be replaced by fresh, new thoughts, sensations and images.
Many spiritual traditions speak of a path that takes us home. Meditations such as resting the mind as it is gently allow us to come home, to a place where we experience the world as fresh and numinous. We come home we come to place where fear cannot find a foothold because home is bigger than fear.
The presence of mind we discover in this meditation allows us to hold a great deal of loss and conflict in this bigger space, forces that usually drive us, often below the level of conscious awareness us, to act in unskillful ways.
And this home is closer that our own nose. The meditation doesn’t create home, it gently allows us to discover the home we never left.
Coming home, discovering the presence of mind, is all about freedom – not freedom from bad experiences, but rather the freedom to be in the experiences of the world but not be at their mercy, as this spacious presence of mind begins to percolate into our lived experience of the world.
Even though home is right here, right now, recognizing and taking this home into our lived experience of the world can involve bearing some initial discomfort. When this presence of mind begins to show itself in our meditation, often we pull away, as our habitual mind may feel fear or a sense of loss, or that we may lose our “self” in this space.
Having a relationship with this silent place may be initially rocky as this really is the place where our identity, the “self” we have worked so hard to be, has no place to stand.
This place may look and feel nothing like home when we first glimpse it. I think what can help is first to know this is normal, and second to have some confidence that nothing bad will happen to us if we let go into that open space.
The poet David Whyte describes how in some of the mythic representations of this journey home the initial encounters are experienced both as a revelation and a violation at the same time –a revelation of the eternal which has always been here, and a violation as the dying of the conditioned self into that openness.
The key is to know everything is always OK.
You don’t actually die, you shed old skin so that the new being, a much larger, nimble, present, and awake being, can emerge. It is this birthing process that needs to your tender care, as in the interval between the old and the new, “we” find ourselves with no place to stand.
We learn, with practice, to take our stand in this place with no ground as long as it takes for us to know this place without needing to stand.
I find (thanks again to David Whyte) in the teaching story from the Native American tradition of the Northwest, as re-told by David Wagoner in his poem Lost, very powerful images of this journey home we undertake in our practice of resting the mind as it is.
“Lost,” by David Wagoner from Collected Poems 1956-1976 © Indiana University Press.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
In our meditation, we don’t go out and find home, we let it find us. All it takes is the courage to truly stand still.
By not taking a step, we relax into our mind as it is. Wherever you are is called here, but this is a here outside of time and to truly get here you must ask permission, as the poem says, of this perfect stranger.
The perfect stranger is our true self that reveals itself in this birthing process of bearing with presence, of allowing it, of, in a way, asking permission of it by not turning away – by simply remaining still in its presence.
The instructions for this meditation could not be simpler – let the mind rest as it is. As we let go of any focus, and release the drive to grasp or reject our inner experiences, we come to see we are already aware of what is happening. This awareness needs no effort and is uncreated.
This awareness is simultaneously aware of our experiences on one side, and on the other it is boundless and open, vast like the night sky in which the planets of our lived experiences travel. Our sole job is to rest the mind as it is. With some sincere practice, the depth of the open side of awareness finds us.
You are not lost and never were.
Presence of mind, the open space of being, numinous, where fear has no hold, where we deeply embody love and compassion, untrapped by time – we just let it find us.
And it will. It already has.
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