Category: Meditation


Try this exercise to develop mindfulness by meditating on one’s thoughts…

Perhaps at some time you have sat quietly by the side of an ocean or river. At first there is one big rush of sound. Listening quietly, you begin to hear a multitude of subtle sounds: the waves hitting the shore, the rushing current of the river.

In that peacefulness and silence of mind you experience precisely what is happening. It is the same when you listen to yourself. At first all you can hear is one “self” or “I,” but slowly this self is revealed as a mass of changing elements, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and images, all illuminated simply by listening, by paying attention.

You remain alert, not allowing yourself to become forgetful. When you develop mindfulness and concentration together, you achieve a balance of mind. As this penetrating awareness develops it reveals many aspects of the world and of who you are. You see with a clear and direct vision that everything, including yourself, is flowing, in flux, in transformation. There is not a single element of your mind or body that is stable. This wisdom comes not from any particular state, but from close observation of your own mind.

Joseph Goldstein
gives the following instructions for developing mindfulness by meditating on one’s thoughts:

Meditation on the Mind

To meditate upon thoughts is simply to be aware, as thoughts arise, that the mind is thinking, without getting involved in the content: not going off on a train of association, not analyzing the thought and why it came, but merely to be aware that at the particular moment “thinking” is happening. It is helpful to make a mental note of “thinking, thinking” every time a thought arises; observe the thought without judgement, without reaction to the content, without identifying with it, without taking the thought to be I, or self, or mine. The thought is the thinker. There is no one behind it. The thought is thinking itself. It comes uninvited. You will see that when there is a strong detachment from the thought process, thoughts don’t last long. As soon as you are mindful of a thought, it disappears. Some people may find it helpful to label the thinking process in a more precise way, to note different kinds of thoughts, whether “planning” or “imagining” or “remembering.” This sharpens the focus of attention. Otherwise, the simple note of “thinking, thinking” will serve the purpose. Try to be aware of the thought as soon as it arises, rather than some minutes afterward. When they are noticed with precision and balance they have no power to disturb the mind.

Suzuki Roshi in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind writes: “When you are practicing Zazen meditation do not try to stop your thinking. Let it stop by itself. If something comes into your mind, let it come in and let it go out. It will not stay long. When you try to stop your thinking, it means you are bothered by it. Do not be bothered by anything. It appears that the something comes from outside your mind, but actually it is only the waves of your mind and if you are not bothered by the waves, gradually they will become calmer and calmer… Many sensations come, many thoughts or images arise but they are just waves from your own mind. Nothing comes from outside your mind… If you leave your mind as it is, it will become calm. This mind is called “big mind.”

Just let things happen as they do. Let all images and thoughts and sensations arise and pass away without being bothered, without reacting, without judging, without clinging, without identifying with them. Become one with the big mind, observing carefully, microscopically, all the waves coming and going. This attitude will quickly bring about a state of balance and calm. Don’t let the mind get out of focus. Keep the mind sharply aware, moment to moment, of what is happening, whether the in-out breath, sensations, or thoughts. In each instant be focused on the object with a balanced and relaxed mind.
Source: Spirituality Health

Unlock The True Power of Your Mind

Your mind is an instrument, a tool. Thoughts are there to be used for a specific task, and when the task is completed, you lay them down. As it is, I would say about 80 to 90 percent of most people’s thinking is not only repetitive and useless, but because of its dysfunctional and often negative nature, much of it is also harmful. Observe your mind and you will find this to be true. It causes a serious leakage of vital energy.

This kind of compulsive thinking is actually an addiction. What characterizes an addiction? Quite simply this: you no longer feel that you have the choice to stop. It seems stronger than you. It also gives you a false sense of pleasure; pleasure that invariably turns into pain.

Why Are We Addicted to Thinking?

Because you identify with thinking, which means that you derive your sense of self from the content and activity of your mind. Because you believe that you would cease to exist if you stopped thinking. As you grow up, you form a mental image of who you are based on your personal and cultural conditioning. We may call this phantom self the ‘ego’. It consists of mind activity and can only be kept going through constant thinking. The term ego means different things to different people, but when I use it here it means a false self, created by unconscious identification with the mind.

As you grow up, you form a mental image of who you are based on your personal and cultural conditioning. We may call this phantom self the ‘ego’. It consists of mind activity and can only be kept going through constant thinking. The term ego means different things to different people, but when I use it here it means a false self, created by unconscious identification with the mind.


The Nature of The Ego

To the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only past and future are considered important. This total reversal of the truth accounts for the fact that in the ego mode, the mind is so dysfunctional. It is always concerned with keeping the past alive, because without it – who are you?

It constantly projects itself into the future to ensure its continued survival and to seek some kind of release or fulfilment there. It says: “One day, when this, that, or the other happens, I am going to be okay, happy, at peace.” Even when the ego seems to be concerned with the present, it is not the present that it sees: It misperceives it completely because it looks at it through the eyes of the past. Or it reduces the present to a means to an end; an end that always lies in the mind-projected future. Observe your mind and you’ll see that this is how it works.

The ego constantly projects itself into the future.

The Present Moment Holds The Key to Liberation

But you cannot find the present moment as long as you are your mind. I don’t want to lose my ability to analyze and discriminate. I wouldn’t mind learning to think more clearly, in a more focused way, but I don’t want to lose my mind. The gift of thought is the most precious thing we have. Without it, we would just be another species of animal.

The predominance of mind is no more than a stage in the evolution of consciousness. We need to go on to the next stage now as a matter of urgency; otherwise, we will be destroyed by the mind, which has grown into a monster. I will talk about this in more detail later. Thinking and consciousness are not synonymous. Thinking is only a small aspect of consciousness. Thought cannot exist without consciousness, but consciousness does not need thought.

What Is Enlightenment?

Enlightenment means rising above thought, not falling back to a level below thought; the level of an animal or a plant. In the enlightened state, you still use your thinking mind when needed, but in a much more focused and effective way than before. You use it mostly for practical purposes, but you are free of the involuntary internal dialogue, and there is inner stillness. When you do use your mind, and particularly when a creative solution is needed, you oscillate every few minutes or so between thought and stillness; between mind and no-mind. No-mind is consciousness without thought. Only in that way is it possible to think creatively, because only in that way does thought have any real power. Thought alone, when it is no longer connected with the much vaster realm of consciousness, quickly becomes barren, insane, destructive.

We can only think creatively when we oscillate between mind and no-mind.

The mind is essentially a survival machine. Attack and defense against other minds, gathering, storing, and analyzing information – this is what it is good at, but it is not at all creative. All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness. The mind then gives form to the creative impulse or insight. Even the great scientists have reported that their creative breakthroughs came at a time of mental quietude. The surprising result of a nation-wide inquiry among America’s most eminent mathematicians, including Einstein, to find out their working methods, was that:

[thinking] plays only a subordinate part in the brief, decisive phase of the creative act itself.

So I would say that the simple reason why the majority of scientists are not creative is not because they don’t know how to think, but because they don’t know how to stop thinking!

It wasn’t through the mind, through thinking, that the miracle that is life on earth or your body were created and are being sustained. There is clearly an intelligence at work that is far greater than the mind. How can a single human cell measuring 1/1,000 of an inch across contain instructions within its DNA that would fill 1,000 books of 600 pages each? The more we learn about the workings of the body, the more we realize just how vast is the intelligence at work within it and how little we know. When the mind reconnects with that, it becomes a most wonderful tool. It then serves something greater than itself.

What Is Meditation?

Source: UPLIFT

Master Thich Nhat Hanh is a global spiritual leader , poet and peace activist,  revered for his powerful teachings .He speaks about the power of mindfulness and meditation practices.


Published on May 26, 2017

The Knower can never be the object of experience; no higher knowledge than to know the nature of ‘I’; following the thread of ‘I’; awareness is like a hologram in which objects appear and out of which they are made; as experience we always change, as awareness we never change.
From the seven day retreat at Buckland Hall, May 2017. For access to the full recording see link: http://non-duality.rupertspira.com/wa…


Take a comfortable seat and close your eyes. Together, let’s take some long, deep conscious breaths, taking in the love of everyone around us and exhaling that love out into the world. Inhale and exhale, slowly and deeply.

In your mind’s eye, envision the faces of people around the world, on continents far away, in topography that may be new or different for us, in mountain villages, rainforests, high desert regions, and cities we may have only seen in photos.

Bring into your awareness your highest vision of perfect health. See it infusing your own body; you, perfectly healthy, vibrant, and full of joy.

Take that feeling of perfect health that surrounds you and send it along this network of unity, so that everyone feels the nurturing sensations of your vibrant love.

Let’s form our intention that the vitality and joy we have experienced throughout this journey benefit the entire global community.

Published on Apr 30, 2017

Did you like this meditation? Join our Ananda meditation community and create your own customizable meditation experience at https://www.deepakchopra.com/7DTRS

You are made of love, joy, and powers as mighty as all of creation. You are a radiant spirit, full of light, and worthy of all good things. As we release our day and prepare our bodies to rest and start fresh tomorrow, know that you are loved. You are encouraged to dream big – to let your light shine for all to see.

Each day is a new opportunity to start over, to let go of past mistakes, and to open our arms to new adventures. If you made mistakes today, it’s okay. You can correct them. Don’t be hard on yourself; making missteps is all a part of learning and growing, and tomorrow is a new day. If a test didn’t go well, or if you got into an argument with someone… even if you just felt “off” today, you can gently let it go now.

Each day also brings so many wonderful things to be thankful for – our family and friendships, our home, our warm bed… You probably have many more to add to that list, so let’s stop for a moment and think about three things you are grateful for today. You can say them quietly to yourself.


Forgiveness begins with the recognition that actions perceived as hurtful or wrong are the perception of the ego, not the higher self.

The ego moves us to seek justice or revenge to right a perceived wrong. The higher self, however, knows that the universe will rebalance all actions at the appropriate time, in the appropriate way in accord with the whole cosmos, not just the view of one person’s hurt feelings.

When you forgive, you are allowing that process to unfold instead of holding on to your ego’s point of view. Forgiveness is a courageous act of trust and compassion, one that comes with the bountiful reward of healing, love, light, and liberation for our bodies, minds and spirits.

When we find that we are holding on to pain or resentment connected to a person or situation, we are, in essence, holding onto memories from the past. On this journey we are now choosing to live love in every moment. Love exists, not in the past, but in the present moment.

The beauty of this choice is that as we forgive another we are actually choosing freedom for our own soul. Through forgiveness, we free ourselves from attachments to the past and we clear encumbrances that constrict our heart, helping to expand our ability to love and be loved.

As we embrace the practice of forgiveness, we recognize that this natural process brings us closer to our essential nature and is part of our spiritual evolution.


It is important to remind ourselves that we are already complete, created by universal intelligence, to be a divinely loving, lovable and loved being.

We are the total, complete package. Looking outward for our good is a desire of the ego, which craves validation from outside sources, mainly opinions from others.

Going within, and reconnecting with our Higher Self, reaffirms that validation comes from the inside, the home of pure love and acceptance.

Our sense of wholeness must come from self-referral, which is, using our soul as the reference point instead of seeking approval elsewhere.

Sometimes, in order to find love, we believe we have to have a fit body, perfect skin and fashionable clothes. Chasing what we are told is perfection is an exhausting exercise that takes valuable time and energy – energy that could be spent contemplating and living our magnificence.

The love we are looking for is looking for us – inside of ourselves, in the very core of our being.


Getting to the source of any pain, whether it is physical, mental, or emotional, is how healing begins. Often times, our pain is the result of events from long ago, and the hold these memories have on us keep us stuck in life patterns that are no longer serving us. These past events limit our ability to be fully present and at peace with ourselves. Once we can identify these “wound-producing” stories, we can then reframe them so healing can occur.

Recognizing that our pain comes from an unmet need opens the possibility of how we can consciously get our needs met now.

Shifting our awareness, seeing ourselves with new eyes and listening with new ears, is the secret to all healing.

Our inner silence is our greatest teacher, our greatest tool for healing. In the noise and din of the outside world, it is almost impossible to hear the voice of spirit, of the universe, of our Higher Self saying, “You are loved. You are loved.”


To truly experience pure potentiality it’s important that we spend time in the splendor of nature. By observing nature, we can witness the orchestration of its vibrant elements, the astounding forces of life, and the unity of all things.

So, let’s take a trip into nature together and experience this feeling for ourselves. Close your eyes, and sitting comfortably, just breathe.

See, in your mind’s eye, a lush, verdant forest. It’s very moist under the tree’s’ shady canopy, and you can smell the rich soil


Published on Apr 30, 2017

Did you like this meditation? Join our Ananda meditation community and create your own customizable meditation experience at https://www.deepakchopra.com/7DTRS

Through meditation, we have a variety of experiences, but one that offers the greatest benefit is that we find ourselves in that place between our thoughts, called “the gap,” pure consciousness. In the gap, we can plant the seeds of our most heartfelt intentions and take from it the stillness of the true Self back out into activity. And, we do all this without effort, simply by closing our eyes and repeating our mantra.

So, today, as we prepare to meditate, let’s set our own personal intentions for perfect health. It can be anything you want, but make it as specific as possible. For instance, if you want to incorporate more exercise into your life, your intention could be, “I intend to walk 20 minutes every day.” Whatever is important to your wellbeing, create that intention and then release it into the womb of creation before you begin your meditation, and watch how it manifests in your life.


Published on Dec 21, 2016

Presentation given in Nov 2016 at Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah at the World Parliament on Spirituality 2016.


Published on Mar 24, 2017

This meditation poses questions that elicit the recognition of the infinite nature of awareness as well as the feeling/understanding that awareness is the substance of all objective experience.
From the seven day retreat at Garrison institute – October 2016.


Published on Mar 20, 2017

This clip is an excerpt from a collection of yoga meditations taken from Rupert Spira’s new box set Transparent Body, Luminous World: The Tantric Yoga of Sensation and Perception. The box set includes a set of six mp3 CDs with over 30 hours of guided yoga meditations; and a paperback book of the transcriptions of the spoken meditations.

The 24 yoga meditations explore the experience of the body and world as a continuously changing flow of sensations and perceptions appearing in, known by and made of awareness. These direct and penetrating contemplations discuss and facilitate the gradual alignment of the non-dual understanding with the way the body and world are felt and perceived.

Endorsements

‘Under Rupert Spira’s precise and loving guidance, this esoteric teaching becomes an actual, felt experience… As you follow his pointing-out instructions, body, thoughts, sensations and sounds start to reveal themselves as arising inside a borderless Awareness. In time, you begin to feel your entire experience as saturated with Awareness, made of Awareness, dancing inside Awareness. Connecting to the Presence flowing through Rupert’s words, you literally catch the awakened state. Rupert’s pointing-out instructions can free Consciousness to recognize itself, so that gradually – or suddenly! – your body and the world around you become transparent to the knowing Presence that is experiencing itself as you.’
– Sally Kempton, author of Meditation for the Love of It and Awakening Shakti

‘Rupert speaks from within a field of infinite tenderness, mind and heart joined in awe of the mystery of existence. This is a voice from inside the truth, creating fresh language, a lovingly crafted stream of revelation. This is a voice of infinite gentleness speaking through space and time from the Awareness beyond space and time, reminding us all of our own essence. I am stunned by the beauty and clarity here.’
– Lorin Roche, author of The Radiance Sutras: 112 Gateways to the Yoga of Wonder and Delight and Meditation Secrets for Women

‘Rupert points out that it’s one thing to think the separate self doesn’t exist, quite another to actually feel it. Here, in extraordinary depth and clarity, we are taken through a series of explorative meditations to allow us to feel and experience directly our real nature – unnameable knowing – beyond all boundaries of time and space.’
– Billy Doyle, author of Yoga in the Kashmir Tradition: The Art of Listening and The Mirage of Separation

For more information or to buy go to: http://www.sahajapublications.com/boo…


When people allow themselves to connect with what their spiritual life is about for them—what their deep questions are, what their deep yearning is—then they have all the vitality they need

Born in 1962 in Cupertino, California—with the given name Stephen Gray—Adyashanti is a well-known spiritual teacher devoted to serving the “awakening of all beings.” Although he often sounds as though he might belong to the Zen or Advaita Vedanta traditions—and, indeed, he practiced Zen for 14 years—Adyashanti attracts students from all backgrounds and says that his teachings are “not confined within any religious point of view, belief system, or doctrine.” He is the author of The Way of Liberation, Falling into Grace, True Meditation, and The End of Your World.

He recently spoke with S&H from his home in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains.

You’ve spoken openly about having awakening experiences. How would you describe enlightenment?

Enlightenment involves waking up to our true nature. One way you might describe it is that it’s like having a lucid dream, the experience of suddenly becoming aware that you’re dreaming. All of a sudden there’s another dimension of awareness that is conscious of the dream while you’re in it.

When you’re not conscious of the dream, you think that everything that’s going on in the dream is completely real and significant. It can be all-consuming. But as soon as you realize that you’re dreaming, there are two different qualities of consciousness. One is that you’re aware of whatever is happening in the dream. But then there’s another quality of consciousness, which is when your awareness recognizes itself.

Is that moment of recognition typically a big, wild experience?

Enlightenment is usually talked about almost exclusively in those terms. As a teacher, I found that the bigness or wildness of any kind of awakening experience has very little to do with what may be going on with a person five years after the experience. Sometimes massive spiritual openings are transformative. Other times, after a year or two, it’s almost as if nothing ever happened. Both of those different outcomes can be the result of the same fundamental insight.

In that sense, I think enlightenment exists on a sliding scale. How well have you integrated those insights into your life? That process of integration is an endless journey and it doesn’t necessarily happen after big spiritual openings, as people often think it does. We think, I’ll have an awakening experience, and then I’ll just know by some miracle how it all functions. Often, we don’t know how enlightenment functions, at least not in the beginning.

How can we meaningfully integrate the insights that come from big spiritual openings into our daily lives?

It’s difficult because in those moments you realize that you are, essentially, something quite different from what you might have imagined yourself to be before that. I think the way we approach the integration of that insight into our daily lives is often misguided. We might think that the integration is going to mean living in a particular state of experience. But it’s more of a question of how will revelatory moments actually trickle down into the way we move through life? One way this happens is that you can become more aware of when you’re out of alignment, let’s say. You can be in the middle of a conversation and feel very overtly the moment you say a word that’s not completely true. I don’t mean that you’re lying or deceiving, but there’s the feeling that one word wasn’t quite right. You feel it in your body, like somebody just put a little poison in it.

In other words, it’s not so much what we do as it is what we notice. Someone who is really attending to integration will notice, right in the middle of a sentence, where they’ve moved away from saying the truest thing. At that moment, they’ll have the opportunity either to just keep plowing forward or to just stop for a moment.

Let’s take a step back. Before we can integrate spiritual insights into our daily lives, we need to experience the insights. Do you recommend or teach people specific techniques to help them awaken?

Sure, there are all sorts of techniques. The two fundamental ways that I go about all of this are meditation and inquiry. Meditation is just taking the time to be still and quiet. When you’re meditating, you’re noticing that which is always still and always quiet. If you pursue stillness and quiet, it will usually disquiet you. So it’s more effective to simply notice what is always still and quiet.

Inquiry practice is directly engaging with the existential questions of life: Who am I? What is life? What is God? What is death? In other words, I don’t necessarily recommend a formulaic question. I want to know: What’s your question? What’s the question you have that seems so big that you almost don’t even want to engage with it because it seems so big? Those are the existential questions we all have. Inquiry practice is when we engage with those questions.

Let me give you a quick example. If a person starts to explore the question, Who am I? the first thing I often ask them to do is to slow down so they can see what happens when they search for an answer. Generally, what happens is we start to look inside. Consciousness does this little U-turn and it looks for you. Often, if it can get back behind the ideas and the images you carry around with you, which it actually does very quickly—there’s something there that’s noticed in a split second that most people turn away from. They get the answer immediately, but they turn away from it because it’s not what they expected.

When you look inside to find you, you expect to find something or someone. If you don’t find something or someone, you might say, “I don’t know the answer to the question because I looked and I didn’t find what I was looking for.” Okay, maybe not finding the answer is the beginning of the answer. You expected to find something and you didn’t. What if you just stopped with that? “What am I? I don’t know.” Well, what’s that experience like? That might not be the fullness of the answer, but it certainly opened the doorway. It just happens in a split second.

You’ve said that after you had an awakening experience, you were able to abide in it and no longer needed a daily practice. Can you say more about this?

Yeah, I didn’t need to do anything to keep it going. A lot of false conclusions could probably get made out of that statement. It’s not like I never practiced again. I had my first opening at 25—and other openings after that—and it’s not like I just stopped practicing entirely.

But it’s true that after those openings my practice—if we can call it a practice—shifted a lot. All the goal-driven part of the practice just disappeared. Even the ways that I understood meditation underwent a transformation. No longer did I think I needed to be meditating to be in a clear space. I realized that I didn’t need to be doing anything in particular to be in that space. That doesn’t mean I stopped practicing all the time, but that sometimes I was sitting in a traditional form, and sometimes it was just waking up in the morning and coming down and having a cup of tea while sitting on a chair on my porch for an hour.

So, awakening is not like a car that you have to keep maintaining so that it will run. How do you know when you’ve arrived there?

I think what happens is that you stop referencing “there.” Whatever “there” is for you, you realize, that was an idea I baked up. If you open up books or listen to teachings, you’ll see that even spiritual teachers define enlightenment in different ways. Which of those ways is going to be the way you measure yourself by? What convinces you that the yardstick you’re using is more relevant or more true than some other yardstick that someone else may be using?

The best thing I ever did was to start jettisoning my ideas about what enlightenment was and just made it into an open question.

Earlier you referred to meditation as taking time to notice “that which is always still and always quiet.” Can you say anything more about silence?

Silence is the foundational aspect of our nature. As soon as we stop talking or thinking, life always falls into silence. All life exists within the space of silence. In that way, silence is really a profound part of our own being and our own nature. Meditation is one of the most profound spiritual practices because it is literally simply listening to silence.

The silence I’m talking about isn’t the silence that we can manufacture through really strong concentration. There is that kind of silence, which is a contained silence. That’s the silence of a prisoner with their hands shackled and a piece of tape over their mouth. We do that through concentration. There’s a time for that and a space for that. But the silence that I’m talking about is the silence that’s with you all the time. It’s simply a silence we notice. Silence is a part of life. It’s the aspect of your own consciousness that’s totally and absolutely quiet, even if there’s a thought or a feeling. They’ll all rise within the space of silence.

I’ve found that we can always tell what we truly value in life through what we give our time and our attention to. If we give time and attention to silence, whether we’re in meditation or driving down the road, then it will grow. And if we just sit around thinking about that idea for a lot of time, we’ll just have lots of interesting thoughts about silence, which will just contribute to the noise.

What’s the relationship between silence and what you’ve been referring to as our “true nature”?

Silence is an aspect of what we really are. It’s not the whole definition, of course, by any means. But it’s part of our nature. It’s a much better way to define yourself than by your memories and all the ideas you’ve ever had. Sometimes I ask people, What survives your not thinking about it? Just be as quiet as you can and notice silence for five seconds. What survives? All the thoughts, ideas, opinions, judgments, the past, even defining yourself as a man or a woman or a son or a daughter—all that may have a relative reality to it. But you see that it doesn’t exist when you’re just being quiet. How real can it all be?

But whatever you are, you don’t disappear when you’re silent. The world doesn’t disappear when you’re silent. The glass of water doesn’t disappear when I stop thinking it’s a glass of water. The reality of life actually exists whether we’re thinking about it or not. I think it only takes those five seconds to see where most of us are actually living our whole life.

Does noticing silence mean we’re ignoring everything that doesn’t seem to exist when we’re in silence?

The silence I’m talking about is the natural silence of awareness before we go into a dreamy place, before we disconnect. It’s prior to all that movement of mind. One of the things that I often emphasize when teaching is that it has to be a vivid silence. If you feel spaced-out and dreamy internally, it’s like you’re leaning too far back. And if you just lean forward a little bit, it comes back into view.

Everything that you’re saying rings true in a way, but I also have this sense that it’s slipping through my fingers as you speak. Can you say more about how noticing silence can take shape in our real, day-to-day lives?

What’s important is where your attention is. Is your attention on this ceaseless narration or dream my mind is having? When you’re talking to yourself, have you ever asked yourself, Who do I think I’m talking to, anyway? Are there two of you? Is there one who’s talking and one who’s listening?

In the context of your daily life it just means noticing the underlying quietness in which your life happens. And that can happen anytime, anywhere. As I said, you don’t have to be meditating to do it. Meditation sort of helps kick-start it because you’re undistracted. But it’s also just noticing what is already there.

Quietness isn’t the goal, but it can be a step in the right direction. What comes next? I always figure that when I’m teaching, I’m talking to adults. Often in spiritual pursuits, people start to think like children. What do I do? How often do I do it? What should I be asking? My response is, “I don’t know. What do you want? Why are you here? What is this to you?” Don’t act like a child. You can actually be an adult, believe it or not, even with a spiritual teacher.

It sounds like people need to define their own spiritual goals. Couldn’t that process easily be coopted by a person’s selfish tendencies?

What I have found over the years is that when someone really allows themselves to connect with what their spiritual life is about for them—what their deep questions are, what their deep yearning is—then they have all the vitality they need. All of a sudden, the direction of their whole spiritual life starts to become conscious. We don’t get there, though, as long as we’re too stuck in thinking, What’s the prescription? How often should I be meditating? As I often say, “I don’t know. How often do you think you should be meditating?”

Yes, most people are really well served if they spend some time in silence and meditation every day. It’s a great thing. Even if you’re not involved in spiritual pursuits, it’s good for you. But unless you’re connected to the deeper issues—asking, “What is this about for me?”—it’s not going to be meaningful to you. Once you get your question, you have all the vitality that you’ll ever need.

Earlier in this conversation you mentioned enlightenment existing on a sliding scale. How do you know where you are on the scale?

That has to be a living question inside yourself. What is enlightenment at this moment? That takes away all of the measuring yourself against an ideal. There are a lot of ideals in the spiritual world. People will tell you it’s going to look like this or that. I think it’s much healthier if we just admit from the very beginning, “I actually don’t know what it is.”

That way the answer can change, grow, and become something different over time.

It matures as you mature. It’s not just the answer that matures, but the question matures. The question can become more and more simple as the ideas of what we think we’re supposed to be like fall away. This is a process of discovery. You’ve opened the door and it’s raining. What happens, in your experience, when you let go of your opposition to the rain? It’s a question you’re asking rather than a directive to do something.

Sam Mowe is a regular contributor to Spirituality & Health. He splits his time between Brooklyn and Garrison, New York, where he lives and works in a former monastery on the Hudson River.

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