From the Golden Thread Magazine Volume 1, No. 2, January 1987
A Profound Silence
By Rev. Eugene Larr
In our discussion of awareness and the increasing of your ability to be aware of a great many things (ed. - article in previous issue), I touched upon what I consider step number one: meditation. Now, in order to understand this we must first do some defining because there are many different approaches and techniques that are called meditation, and some are, in point of fact, not meditation at all. The kind of meditation we are talking about, the development of your ability to gain knowledge and to gain awareness, is one that is defined in zazen: total stillness of the mind.
Let us look very briefly at a couple of other so-called meditations that you may be aware of. Transcendental Meditation (TM) is, in point of fact, a type of concentration in which the mind is forced to pay attention to a mantra, or a chant, or some verbal substitution. This produces, of course, many beneficial effects. It has a great effect on rejuvenating the body; to help the body rebuild from being tired after a day of activity. This does not, however, produce the kind of mental control that is necessary to achieve total stillness.
Other various forms of meditation, for instance those of Yogananda, have you concentrate upon a part of the body. Either a physical part of the body (like the center of the forehead) or, for instance, to pay close attention to your rate of breathing and thus controlling your breathing. It is quite easy to see that, here again, these are points of concentration, not meditation. All of these are excellent. I do not in any way want you to discontinue your activities in any of these practices.
But I want you to use these techniques, if they are already yours, as an adjunct and a prelude to developing total stillness.
I have used a couple of times now, a phrase that has become, at least in the last few years, a frightening situation; namely, mind control. The upset, of course, that many people rightly have about mind control is where someone else controls your way of thinking and your approach to looking at things. Of course, it is very interesting that we usually see these accredited to the so-called "cult" community. I would remind you, however, that even in such established religions as Christianity we see the mind being controlled by dogma that may or may not, as time passes, be proven to be right.
But, in the case we are discussing, the mind control I want you to achieve is you controlling your mind. And incidentally this makes true stillness, in the form of meditation I would like you to participate in, so very difficult. For there is no one to blame for you not reaching the meditative state, except yourself. And, we as human beings do not like to be placed in such a position. But, the meditation we are after here is one in which the mind obeys your command to simply shut up and stop thinking. Many people will tell you that this is impossible. But those people who are telling you it is impossible are not Zen, or Mahayana, Buddhist priests. Both of these sects practice total stillness of the mind, at least twice a day in their exercises.
Let us look at how we are to approach doing this so-called simple technique. First of all, as is always the case, you must be in a comfortable position. Number one on the list, remove any clothing that may be binding (shoes, belts, ties, undergarments that are uncomfortable); remove them and get comfortable. Of course, no music, or recorded chants or prayer, of any kind.
I am often asked, how should I sit? Be seated comfortably. If you are going to be seated in a chair, use a chair that has arms so that you might rest your forearms, and with your feet resting on the floor. Please don't get carried away with some of the idiotic directions about what you are supposed to do with your physical body in preparation for meditation. I have met a great many people in the modern Spiritualist movement who say it is impossible to meditate if you cross your legs, or your arms. I would remind all of you that the finest meditators are Buddhists, of one sect or another, and they always meditate in either a half- or full-lotus position, with their legs crossed.
Here is one of these excellent examples of where thoughts are things - if you think you cannot meditate, because you are seated wrongly, you will be unable to meditate. It is simply as true as that. But, get comfortable, sit in a chair resting your arms on the arms of the chair, and with your hands just simply hanging over the end of the arms, in a comfortable position. If the chair you elect to use has no arms, simply rest your hands in your lap. Do not be concerned whether the palms are up or down or sideways, or that your fingers are in some magical configuration. These again are parts of the dogma that have crept into Buddhism and Yoga and, in point of fact, are of no value at all. The exception is, as I say, thoughts are things; so you think it is, that is exactly what it is!
Place yourself in a room that is neither pitch black, nor is fully lighted by the sun. You want your eyes to be shut - lightly shut, not squeezed tight, so that they are comfortable. Again, notice I am using this word "comfortable" many times, for this is the key. If you are not comfort able you will not be able to meditate. It is as simple as that. Also, you must avoid distractions at all costs. I recommend being seated in a chair, instead of lying down, because it is so very, very easy to go from a meditative state into sleep. Many people will do it so quickly and so smoothly that they do not notice a transition has occurred. So, now we have an averagely lighted room, and we are seated comfortably in a chair. Now, what do you do?
The first thing to do is start eliminating the things you are thinking about. If a thought crosses your mind, about something that happened during the day, pay attention to the thoughts that go through your mind. At the end of each 15 minute period, try to write down as many of the thoughts as you can remember. In addition to these specified periods, throughout each day, try to make note of the thoughts occurring at other times. Especially while you are doing some familiar task (e.g., brushing your teeth, driving to work, eating dinner, etc.)
At the end of the two weeks, look over your notes. As you do so, pay attention to:
a) How often did you think about something in the past, which has no relation to the present moment?
b) How often was what you were thinking about related directly to what you were doing at that moment?
c) How often did you think about possible future situations that you have little or no control over?
d) How often did your thoughts lead to a feeling of worry, anxiety, anger, fear, etc.?
e) How often do your thoughts distract you from the task at hand so that you had
to repeat some steps, or correct a mistake?
f) And, overall, what percentage of your thoughts were truly beneficial and productive?
It will likely amaze you to realize just how many thoughts you entertained which had nothing to do with the present moment, did little or nothing to change or improve the present situation, or were idle, time-filling nonsense. Worse yet, you may realize how often your "upsetting thoughts" led you to experience a headache, muscle tension, upset stomach, etc. And, what value is there in that? One of the predominate issues we, as individuals, face in our society is that of personal identity; our self-image. While there is more to this issue than controlling the mind (thoughts), it nonetheless goes a long toward affecting our view of ourselves.
If your mind is continuously filled with unnecessary thoughts, you are more apt to make mistakes and to have accidents. This in turn can erode your confidence in your ability to do certain tasks or, in general, your ability to cope with life. If you allow your mind to dwell upon thoughts which add to your feelings of anxiety, worry, stress, this in turn erodes your physical health. Which, in turn, dampens your mental/emotional health, which in turn affects you physically, and so on. Indeed, it is true that, "thoughts are things." It is equally true that, “so you think, so you are." The person whose mind is clear and in so control finds his life is the same way: in control. By the same token, the person whose mind is cluttered and not in control will find the same is true with every aspect of his life. A cluttered mind clouds the awareness. This in turn prevents a person from recognizing that it is his own thoughts which led to the actions which, in turn, led to the consequences he is now having to deal with.
There is a lot more to controlling the mind than just controlling one's thoughts. But this is something we all can practice and it is crucial to our fully enjoying life. It is an important first step on the path to full awareness and control of one's life. And, if you so choose, you can take those additional steps beyond controlling your thoughts. You can learn to expand your awareness; not only sharpening your physical senses, but developing your psychic senses, as well. You can also open yourself to the help, knowledge, companionship, and joy of spirit communication.
You can learn to heal yourself and others. You can learn to move objects, materialize them, or levitate yourself. All of this you can learn to do by first learning to control your mind.
The techniques for doing all of the things I have mentioned, including mind control, have been known for many, many centuries. While modern science is only just beginning to "discover" some of the mind's potential, wise men have been practicing and teaching these techniques to those who were willing to learn.
In this issue, and in future ones, we will be covering many of the techniques which will enable you to take control of not only your mind, but your entire life, as well.
Copyright 1987 by Awareness Press (a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chapel of Awareness Spiritual Church Corporation -a California non-profit religious and educational corporation.) The right to copy portions is granted to individuals who purchase and use a copy for personal use but not for sale or distribution. Chapel of Awareness, 560 Third Street, Encinitas, CA 92024. www.chapelofawareness.org.