This past weekend I was at the Seattle Green Fest helping to man a booth for Fern Life Center (my wife’s Ayurvedic and Functional Medicine health center). Naturally, I couldn’t resist talking meditation when passers-by expressed an interest. Time and again, people told me they had tried to meditate in the past, maybe even had taken a class, but found they just couldn’t do it, and so they stopped. “What was the difficulty?” I asked. Inevitably, the answer came, “I couldn’t calm my mind. I just have too many thoughts.”
How many earnest would-be meditators have run aground on this one issue before they have even launched their meditation career? Yet the answer is so simple: Naturally we have thought; we have minds. That’s what minds do, think. Once you accept the inevitability of thoughts in meditation, and I mean really accept it, you stop resisting thoughts. When you’re not resisting, you let go. When you let go, the mind can effortlessly settle into its natural state of pure Being. Voila! Suddenly thoughts are not an issue. You find yourself deep in meditative peace and silence.
Every insomniac knows that when you try to fall asleep, you’ll toss and turn, that blessed state of unconsciousness ever eluding you. Only once all trying stops, when you completely forget about falling asleep, do you find yourself waking up the next morning, refreshed. You don’t even remember falling asleep. You didn’t do it. Nature did it.
It’s the same story for meditation. As long as you’re making an effort not to think, you won’t be meditating. You’ll be resisting what your mind does naturally. And let’s face it, pick a fight with nature, and you’re bound to lose! No wonder people who think they shouldn’t think thoughts during meditation can’t meditate. They can’t. But it’s not their fault. It’s not due to any inherent lack of ability on their part. They’ve just been sorely misinformed, or poorly taught. With the proper understanding that thoughts are a natural activity of the mind and a natural part of meditation, they will stop resisting and are now ready to fall into meditation, effortlessly.
There is a verse in the Bhagavad-Gita that says, “In this world, there is nothing so purifying as knowledge.” (4: 38) This has many layers of meaning to it, but the obvious meaning certainly applies in this context. Without the proper knowledge, attempting to meditate, you would almost inevitably resist thoughts, as so many people have done, and so never taste the sublime grace of effortless meditation. You will either valiantly struggle to meditate for years or give it up. What a shame! With just a few words of instruction, you can meditate effortlessly, deeply, right from your first sitting.
To get a feel for what I mean here, try this experiment. Pick up something on your desk (something not too easily broken). Now hold it a few feet above the floor and let go. Just as automatically as that object falls to the floor, your mind can be taken into its depths during meditation. There is a force of gravity in the world, and there is a similar force of gravity in the mind (more on that in another post). Just as gravity draws an object to the earth, the laws of nature governing the mind will bring it to rest in Being, if we only let go, with skill.