Each of us, in our own way, is seeking liberation. We want to experience the rapture of reality. We have been taught to pursue this through addition, not subtraction. We think we need to add happiness, prosperity, love, success. However much we add to ourselves, however much we achieve or experience or possess, still we are not whole, and we know it. We can never experience the rapture of reality through addition, because what we want to enhance – our separate self – is that single condition which keeps the rapture of reality away. We only experience the heart-piercing light of reality through subtraction, when “we” disappear, when we empty ourselves of everything, including “us.” In this ending of ourself, there is silence. There is love. If “we” do the seeking, if we try to experience the rapture of reality, we will fail. We are in the way. One’s own separate self is the barrier to love. One’s own separate self is the disappointment, the sadness, that is at the end of each rainbow of hope. We can’t do anything about it, because if we do, we will only strengthen an image of “me.”
We can only see that the separate self is a facade. When we see through the facade of the separate self, it collapses; it has no support. Meditation is the eye that can see this. Meditation opens the window to the rapture of reality.
At first, meditation is a practice that teaches us to focus our attention on a single point, perhaps the breath or a mantra or the space between two thoughts. As we focus, we are amazed to discover how many thoughts we have. One begins to see that the mind is nothing but thoughts about things and thoughts about thoughts, and thoughts about thoughts about thoughts. In meditation, we can see directly the chaos of the mind as it races without order or purpose from one thing to the next, careening from the past to the future while barely touching the present moment. We also see that all of these thoughts are self-centered; everything we think about, our whole internal experience, is qualified by this central thought, this image of “me.”
As we continue to focus the mind on the object of meditation, we begin to observe the stream of thoughts and emotions without getting lost in them. We see that thoughts and emotions arise in numberless waves within the mind. That which observes the play of thoughts is not the mind, but the awareness from which the mind itself is born. We can see that this awareness is qualitatively different than thinking. It has a depth and silence to it. It is not tied to an image of “me.” Awareness refers to itself.
We begin to perceive the world, not through our patterns of thinking, but through this awareness, whose integrity is never compromised by thinking. We begin to perceive in silence, without thoughts and images and symbols. Reality is not represented, but emerges directly and immediately in its pristine state. We see thoughts and images arising and subsiding in a vastness about which nothing can be said or known. Our own self-image, our sense of “me,” becomes transparent. Suddenly there are no hands to hold anything, no firm ground to stand upon, no “me” to know and worry about.
Meditation opens the window to silence, and in this silence is love. This love dissolves the anxiety of self-centeredness, because the separate self has merged into silence, into love, into the sky of pure awareness. In this awareness, the true Self is liberated from conditions. Rumi tells us that “reality is a rapture that takes you out of form. You are the unconditioned spirit trapped in conditions.”
The appearance of this silence marks the end of meditation as a practice and the beginning of meditation as a state of being. It isn’t practiced; it isn’t attained. It doesn’t belong to anyone. We all belong to it.
As this awareness grows within us, we experience peace. Our chronic restlessness subsides. A way of seeing and knowing, different from thinking, is aroused. We might say it is the intuitive umbilical cord to the sacred, a capacity of perception that is wholistic and instantaneous. It is not fragmented and chaotic. We experience directly that we are not our thoughts, but that thoughts occur within us, as clouds appear in the sky.
Each of us longs to be free from all limiting conditions, from compulsive thought and worry, from the disappointment of self-centered pursuits, from the burden of striving for security and happiness. Who hasn’t stared out the window and searched the sky for an answer, for a moment of peace? In that moment we are refreshed by the wholeness of the sky which embraces everything. Our breathing becomes deeper. Our thoughts become quiet. It happens to each of us, almost every day. We seem to be searching for something finer, more subtle, than the usual tension and pressure of our lives. A voice we hope to hear. A light we strain to see.
We have to become very still to be able to see and hear and sense this subtlety that we usually glimpse only in rare, unguarded moments. This subtlety is covered by the cacophony of our thoughts. We perceive this subtlety of life, not with thoughts, but with awareness. When we begin to see with subtlety, we begin to sense a pervasive presence, about which nothing can be thought. When we try to know it, it recedes; when we simply allow it to be, it emerges. There’s no longing; there’s no clinging; there’s no struggling; there’s no persistent effort. There’s simply an opening in which this subtle pervasive presence emerges. Even our thoughts appear in the midst of all of this, but they no longer obscure that presence.
This state of merging with the subtle presence is called natural meditation. Natural meditation is the atmosphere of the sacred hub. It is known in silence. It is who we are. Silence is a release within oneself of all self-centered concern. It is, in fact, death, but a death of smallness, pettiness, and fear. It is the death of the repetitive cycle of desire, fulfillment, and disappointment that is the hallmark of self-centered living.
Meditation dissolves the mental images with which we have identified. Meditation is a fire that consumes the names and forms and conditions with which we have become fascinated. This fascination with the content of the mind creates the sense of being bound and alone and separate. The radiant presence which animates the whole of this universe, the Self, is suppressed by the tyranny of thought. Meditation liberates the Self from its apparent obscurity.
We don’t attain anything through meditation. We don’t become whole through meditation because we already are whole. Meditation does not fulfill our wishes and dreams: it ends wishing and dreaming. It is the supreme awakening. Meditation reveals the illusion of separation and all of the loneliness and sadness and fear that attend alienation from the Self. Meditation breaks our fascination with the alluring images of the mind. We come to see what those images are and how they come into being. We see this as meditation ripens. We see how all of the effort associated with self-centeredness is so unnecessary and destructive.
Meditation allows us to see that we are not, essentially, defined or limited by our bodies, our minds, or the various patterns through which our senses perceive the external world. We are able to see that we are, essentially, is the hub from which all these forms and ideas arise and around which they revolve. From the sacred hub, we can see a glowing presence, a shimmering light, around everything. This emanation of energy, of presence, of consciousness, saturates each cell, each plant, each mountain, each person, each universe. All of these things are the spokes of the sacred hub, the Self.
This energy of consciousness is revealed in silence, and it is completely beautiful, full of love. In this beauty we fall in love with all things. It is not possessive love. It is not dependant love. It’s simply a quality of that consciousness that emerges from silence.
We will never be truly happy unless we return to this source. If we would just sit quietly by the open window of our heart for a few minutes each day, soon the light of that consciousness will be evident.