Thought provoking Article by guest writer – Arizona
“Meditation is one of the greatest arts in life – perhaps the greatest, and one cannot possibly learn it from anybody. That is the beauty of it. It has no technique and therefore no authority. When you learn about yourself, watch yourself, watch the way you walk, how you eat, what you say, the gossip, the hate, the jealousy – if you are aware of all that in yourself, without any choice, that is part of meditation.
So meditation can take place when you are sitting in a bus or walking in the woods full of light and shadows, or listening to the singing of birds or looking at the face of your wife or child.”
“Can you teach me meditation?” Um, no. I can create a space where you are sitting quietly, calmly. I can ask you to observe yourself. This is all I can do for you.
How does one watch oneself? Self-awareness is a key distinction between people, a distinguisher of people. One who is self-aware has great power. That person has the power to change.
The Angst of Self-consciousness
Self-consciousness is an interesting term. It first emerges in the teenage years, as a name for that awkward feeling when you think people are looking at you all the time. The post-pubescent paranoia that is part of growing in to a new body and exploring a mind newly shaped by those funny molecules that trigger all sorts of primal and reactive behaviours far beyond the impulsiveness of a child who cannot think past the present moment to future consequences. So much confusion about the ‘why’ of other people’s behaviour and reactions that obscures any ability to question or understand one’s own behaviour, and limited availability of a reference point or baseline in the changing landscape. Embodying. Embo-dying. I wonder what the prefix ‘embo’ means. The -dying part seems apparent.
It seems a long path to self-consciousness from there, of being aware of, conscious of, the true nature of the self. The path is self-awareness. Awareness of one’s own behaviour, reactions, patterns. One needs a perspective to view this from, which is where the detachment part comes in, as well as embodiment. These seem contradictory but are in fact complementary.
The Proper Order of Detachment
I see many who are not aware of their bodies. I think this often comes from abuse, which takes many many forms. So many people are their own abusers, in addition to those who have been subjected to violence of any kind at the hand of another. Detachment-abuse-detachment cycle. A denial that something hurts, a denial that there are consequences for self or other. Denial-detachment, instead of complete awareness-detachment. Detachment needs careful definition, and careful ordering. Care and love totally. But do not be attached to outcome and reactions. If detachment arises from not caring about self or any other, a natural detachment to outcome will arise but there will be little awareness of reactions; self-awareness is not forthcoming. If total care and love are present, but also attachment to outcome, again the reactions come, and fear of the future.
Embodiment through Asana
This is where a yoga asana (asana = a posture adopted in performing yoga) path has such value to those who are disembodied and not-caring-detached. If one is not aware of where, in space, one’s arms are, or one’s head, how can one be truly aware of oneself? By gently revealing to a person how to feel into a body, how to use every muscle to locate limbs, torso, neck and toes, this awareness forms a solid foundation for more introspective observation. Further revelation of what causes physical discomfort in the body, where one’s limits of range of motion are, and discovering the link between thought, belief and physical movement is the next piece of the puzzle. It is a gentle empowerment, realising that thoughts can be chosen, that thoughts impact on the body, and that the body can and does change. The desire to harm oneself or perpetuate self-abuse falls away as the body becomes fully inhabited with awareness of sensation and proprioception.
Self-awareness arises through observing the impact of external factors on the state of the body, and therefore the mind. The more engrossed in asana a person is, the more that person will notice the effects of external factors such as a heavy meal, a cup of coffee, or a heated conversation on their asana practice. Life is a constant experiment in understanding this link between the external environment and the body. Eventually the penny drops – these external factors affect the mind which in turn affects the body. The asana focuses the mind on caring for the body by being aware of what impacts negatively upon it, be it external factors or from within the mind. It is this crucial first step of caring for self that allows total care and love to radiate outwards into the world. Awareness is therefore necessary in order to allow the external factors to be perceived and their impacts upon the body/mind to be appropriately filtered or managed. This sharpened awareness, concentrating fully upon each thing that is encountered, is the meditation that Krishnamurti speaks of. From there, one has the possibility of becoming aware of the impact of one’s own behaviour upon this external environment.
Who is in control?
It is a natural progression from there to begin to observe the mind. Through the asana, it becomes apparent that the mind impacts on the body, and that the body is under the control of the mind. But who is in control of the mind?
Oh that’s quite a question.