Towards the Within
We must surely acknowledge that in reality we do not know ourselves. What is more, the mistaken belief that we do know ourselves is the very obstacle which prevents us (since we think it pointless) from undertaking the work which in fact we need the most.
We live in a hostile universe that cares very little about us. Human beings appear and then disappear and this goes on and on. Yet, deep within us there is a tiny spark. There is a call to something far greater that we cannot comprehend. This light is a culmination of all human history. It is of the earth itself. Perhaps, it is even as old as the universe.
I realize that I know very little about my life. I realize that my intellect, my emotions and my body is useless in attempting to approach this. The intellect is capable of extraordinary things in life. It is a wonderful machine but, it is not enough. I often feel very powerful emotions and yet, they are not enough. With the body it is the same. It is as though I have been called to battle and I am told at the last second that all of my weapons are useless. There is a possibility for a new way of being, but only when theses centers are operating harmoniously. When there is wholeness.
I can become aware that there are two different worlds. It is as though I am on a balance beam. I try to have a contact with a current of energy within myself. One moment I am tipped towards identification and the next, completely lost to myself. I’m taken by the external world. The next moment, there is an awareness; a presence to myself. There is a sensation of being more alive. Then, with the next passing moment I am taken again. I need to observe, without any judgement, these inner movements.
So what is meditation anyway?
Q: It seems to me that we don’t always know what the words that we use mean. For example, everybody uses the word “meditation.” What does it mean–not only its definition, but what is included in that word; to what does it correspond?
A: Rinpoche would like to make it clear that the term “meditation” is used in the English language–but, personally, he has no idea what it really means. He is just repeating the word he has been taught by some translators. In Tibetan, the word corresponding to meditation, “sgom,” actually means “becoming familiar” or “familiarizing.”
–A Conversation with Jamgön Kongtrül, Rinpoche
What keeps me from experiencing this current of life in myself? What stands in the way? I often find that one of the barriers is physical or emotional tension. If there is tension something is closed in me and energy cannot enter whereas if I am open and relaxed I am more available. I see that I need to work with my tensions; to learn to relax the face, the neck, and the shoulders. I should look at myself in mirrors and see exactly how I am in the moment as I pass them. I should begin from there. Without attention my thoughts rule over me and drive me around. The mind, the body, and the emotions have no connection with each other and no relationship. There is no understanding because they all speak a different language. My head may stay in its corner saying, “Oh, I’m not going to be affected by that person,” and yet the emotions are affected and they cannot understand the language of the head and so I am stuck there in that corner.”
So I find myself caught in a circle that just keeps going around and around and around. I have the same thoughts, the same feelings over and over again. It’s like being swept down the river at a tremendous speed. What can I hold on to?
Sometimes I am able to stand just outside of it for a few moments and then I find myself enmeshed in it once again. Everything is cyclical. I have my “good days” and along with them come certain attitudes, certain thoughts and I have my “bad ones” as well. This goes around and around continuously. I need to study this. Spiritual work is not about achieving some great state but actually it is about returning over and over again to a sense of one’s self, to wholeness, it is a constant returning to the here and now; to presence.
Even when I am busy in my daily life, at work or whatever, I can still have a sense of myself, however subtle that it may be. There is always an opportunity to really see myself in the midst of life.
We all have the capacity to be musicians but first we must know our instruments. I must become more aware of my body, mind and emotions. I need to learn to tune these “instruments” so that they are working in unison. The most important thing to work with is to be aware of sensation in the body. The body and mind are seldom related. The body does not speak the same language as the head. They do not understand each other. It is only through sensations in the body that there can be a relationship, an understanding between the two. The mind may have the wish to Work but the body has no interest in it at all. Why would it? It is hungry or tired. It desires. When one places attention in the body to try to “feel it from the inside out,” the body becomes interested. It values relaxation and rest. Once the body becomes quieter with focused attention the emotional centre also relaxes layers upon layers of tensions that become exposed. The mind also becomes more tuned to the stillness.
What is this focused attention? Quite often in life we are called to a higher degree of attention or awareness. An example would be when we need to look after a sick child or a dying parent. We do not think about it. There is just a subtle shift within us. One becomes more open to the need. An unknown source of energy that can only become manifest when we are open to it – mind, body and feelings. An illumination occurs where one can bend and adapt to any changing need.
So where do I begin? What’s the starting point?
The search begins with now. It begins now. Now is all I that I have.