A couple of days ago, I was invited to give a talk on meditation at a company whose offices are located in one of the skyscrapers of downtown Oakland, with beautiful views over Lake Merritt. It was an informal chat with a small group of engineers and secretaries who stayed without their well-deserved break of mid-morning to do something different from usual. We chatted about various topics related to meditation, and I thought to write a post about it.
Western society –and today almost the whole world– teaches us to produce, make, build, manufacture, but does not teach us to rest, relax, unwind, let alone transcend. This part is not supposed to need to be educated, and that is a very serious mistake. We cannot be efficient in the active side of our lives if we do not know how to deal with our passive side, from where creativity is born, as well as the ability to regenerate ourselves and to transcend the limitations of our limited rational mind and the ego that controls it.
We are much more than what we ordinarily think we are, but nobody has taught us that. Religions have become a stronghold of traditions disconnected from their true meaning and purpose. We pray to God outside hoping to help us, but we are unable to look inside ourselves to reconnect, to re–ligare (the etymology of religion), with the true principles that we intuitively know lead to a fuller and happier life.
We are so busy with work, family and entertaining that we never find time to unwind, to give us time to ourselves, where we do nothing, which means not becoming zombies in front of a screen, or sleeping. There are many ways to disconnect the mind while staying awake, and one of the most effective is meditation. Why? Because when we leave the body still, the only thing that moves is the mind, giving us the opportunity to study its behavior.
With some practice, we can discover and develop a mental capacity that we all have and is vital for living more authentically, and that is the ability to detach from our mental processes. We are not our thoughts. This statement, in a civilization based on the “I think therefore I am” of Descartes, is quite an outrageous affirmation. We could even say that meditation states just the opposite, “I think therefore I am not,” because our thoughts are just a processing of concepts from which emerges the sense of an illusory self.
Our true mind is not limited to our brain and thoughts, but extends beyond and transcends spatial or temporal discrimination. Meditation is a tool to discover what the great mystics of all spiritual traditions and epochs did ahead of us. This realization is not easy, but is doable, and every minute we put on it counts, because the way is also important. Only on the road is where we really can learn and test what we have learned.
Once the break was over, everyone returned to their chores. I left the building and headed to Chinatown, to the Vietnamese restaurant where I usually stopover to have lunch when I’m in Oakland. Tacky, without pretense or annoying music, just cheap and tasty food served by friendly people. I always end with a refreshing glass of tapioca with coconut milk. If I had to say how meditation tastes to my mind, perhaps I would say that’s its flavor… or that of a glass of water taken from a mountain fountain… or, sometimes, as a spoonful of castor oil… but this I should not say.