Thursday, January 31, 2008

Opening to receptive awareness

The great sages of China say that all things comprise the constant interplay of yin and yang — the feminine and masculine forces of the universe. Well, if concentration is the yang of meditation (focused, powerful, penetrating), then receptive awareness is the yin (open, expansive, welcoming). Where concentration disciplines, stabilizes, and grounds the mind, receptive awareness loosens and extends the mind’s boundaries and creates more interior space, enabling you to familiarize yourself with the mind’s contents. Where concentration blocks extra stimuli as distractions to the focus at hand, receptive awareness embraces and assimilates every experience that presents itself.
Most meditations involve the interplay of concentration and receptive awareness, although some more-advanced techniques teach the practice of receptive awareness alone. Just be open and aware and welcome to whatever arises, they teach, and ultimately you will be “taken by truth.” Followed to its conclusion, receptive awareness guides you in shifting your identity from your thoughts, emotions, and the stories your mind tells you to your true identity, which is being itself.
Of course, if you don’t know how to work with attention, these instructions are impossible to follow. That’s why most traditions prescribe practicing concentration first. Concentration, by quieting and grounding the mind (enough so that it can open without being swept away by a deluge of irrelevant feelings and thoughts), provides a solid foundation on which the practice of meditation can flourish.

No comments: