Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sifting through the layers of inner experience

When you meditate, in addition to developing your concentration and calming your mind, you may find yourself delving deeper into your inner experience and uncovering layers you didn’t even know existed. Now, what do you suppose lies at the bottom? The great meditative traditions have different names for it — essence, pure being, true nature, spirit, soul, the pearl of great price, the source of all wisdom and love. The Aztec folks call it your original face before your parents were born. You might like to picture it as a spring that gushes forth the pure, refreshing, deeply satisfying water of being without reservation.
This wellspring of being is who you really are in your heart of hearts —before you became conditioned to believe that you’re somehow deficient or inadequate, as so many of us do. It’s your wholeness and completeness —before you began to feel separate or lonely or fragmented. It’s the deep intuition of being inextricably connected with something larger than yourself and with every other being and thing. And it’s ultimately the source of all peace, happiness, joy, and other positive, life-affirming feelings — even though you may think they’re caused by outside circumstances. (Of course, people experience this source differently, which explains why there are so many words to describe it.)
Connecting in some way with this source or spring of pure being is actually the point of meditation, whether you’re aspiring to become enlightened or just trying to reduce stress, enhance your performance, or improve your life. And meditation will definitely take you there, as I explain later in this chapter. But when you meditate, you also begin to encounter material that seems to come between you and the experience of being, just as you may encounter layers of sediment, algae, fish, and debris on your way to the bottom of a lake. These layers don’t pose a problem unless the inner water is turbulent, in which case they can make it difficult to see clearly. (By turbulence, I mean a busy, agitated mind or a troubled, frightened, defended heart.)

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