MEDITATION, AND A BILLION-YEAR-OLD SENSE OF BEING
I enjoyed a recent piece on meditation by poet and spiritual teacher Jeff Foster. He is not talking about a traditional practice regime – whether of a mindfulness, pathworking, or energy-focused kind. Rather, he describes an encounter with the sacred in everyday life. Initially, this meditation attends to the flow of ordinary, embodied experience. It is informal, and not dependent on a dedicated environment or special conditions. As it develops, it sets free a healer in the heart, who stands by and resources the meditator rather than fixing their problems.
Meditation becomes as a ‘field of love, an ever-present ground of safety, presence and stillness’. It is personified through references to a ‘loving friend in the breath’, a ‘mother in the motherless places’, and a ‘billion-year-old sense of Being’. This is not meditation as generally understood. But I notice that I am nourished by Foster’s recommended approach, and I find myself responding to his impassioned language. Part of me wants to resist such intensity, but then happily melts on immersion in the process. Here is his piece in full:
“Meditation is not about getting yourself into altered states. Altered states do not last. It’s about becoming intimate with this state – this present moment, this day, this Now, its textures, tastes, vibrations, contractions and aches.
“Meditation is not an out-of-body experience. It’s the opposite. It’s a full experience of the body and its ever-changing sensations, its amorphous clouds of shivers, tickles, undulations and pulsations, throbbings, fizzles, its pain and its pleasure, its opening and closing, its ever-changing form.
“Meditation does not always make you feel ‘good’. In meditation, you feel exactly as you feel, and you learn to love that, or at least to allow it, or at least to tolerate it a little more than you did yesterday. Meditation makes you feel more like… you.
“Meditation is not about getting anywhere. It’s about discovering that there is nowhere to get to. That you are already home, and your body is the ground of all grounds. It is about discovering true safety in the feet, in the hands, in the pit of the belly. It is about finding a sanctuary in your chest, a sacred shrine between your eyes, a loving friend in the breath, a mother in the motherless places.
“Meditation is not something that you do with your mind. In meditation, the mind relaxes into the heart, seeking relaxes into finding, and even the most intense anxiety finds its home. You cannot make it happen, but you can fall into it.
“Meditation is not for experts, or the ones who know. Meditation is for absolute beginners, those who are willing to face their present experience with wide open, curious eyes.
“Meditation is a field of love, an ever-present ground of safety, presence and stillness, that you remember, or forget, or remember again.
“Meditation never leaves you. It whispers to you in the stillness of the night. And even in the midst of an activated nervous system, a full-on panic attack, suffocating claustrophobia or the urge to get out of your body… meditation is right there, holding you, loving you, gently kissing your forehead, willing you on.
“It will not abandon you, and ultimately, you will not abandon it.
“And closing your eyes to sleep at night, meditation is there, snuggling right up to you.
“Your soft pillow, the rising and falling of your own delicious breath, a light breeze coming in from the window, that billion-year-old sense of Being…
“You are safe in your own body, my love. You are safe.”
– Jeff Foster http://www.lifewithoutacentre.com/
That’s a beautiful and accurate picture of what meditation can be – would you say it is a reductionist view? I have just read ‘Am I Dreaming’ by James Kingsland – all about psychedelics and mental health from a scientific perspective. Despite his reductionist stance he has explored all aspects and compared to mystics and monks’ experiences of meditation. He likens it to a kind of placebo effect- that is psychedelics as medicine used with spiritual practice. My faith means I think there’s more to this mind stuff than just chemicals…
Thanks for this comment, and for the James Kingsland reference. I am not sure about Jeff Foster and reductionism. There’s a kind of ambiguity there. His background is in consciousness first non-dualism – Awareness is our true nature – and so not scientific materialist.