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Sally Kempton: Meditation for the Love of It

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How Do We Experience the Inner Self?

The ultimate goal of meditation, of course, is to experience the full emergence of your own pure Consciousness, the inner state of luminosity, love, and wisdom that the Indian tradition calls the “inner Self” or the “true Self” or the “Heart.” (A Buddhist might call it “Buddha nature” or “Big Mind”; a Christian might call it “Spirit.”) In fact, we want to do more than just experience that state. We want to realize that we are that—not just a body or a personality, but pure Consciousness, pure Awareness. By this definition, a successful meditation is one in which we enter the Self—even if just for a moment. Our intention to understand and experience the Self gives directionality to our consciousness. It’s like aiming an arrow. Yet even as we aim our attention toward the Self, we need to remember that we are the Self. As Ramana Maharshi said, “Knowing the Self means being the Self.” When we forget this—that the Self is not only the goal of our meditation but also who we really are—we inevitably find ourselves stuck in one of the countless byways in the inner world.

The most common of these side roads is reverie—falling into the mazy realms of thought and image. You sit down to meditate and end up caught on some irrelevant thought train, letting it carry you from association to association: “Who was that blues singer? He was blind, from the Bahamas. I think his first name was John. No, Joseph. Jonathan would know. ‘Gonna live that life I sing about in my song.’ Jonathan’s wife—Rachel? Roberta? How many children?”

Losing yourself in thought is not the only way you can get distracted. I know people who have amazingly dynamic meditations: cascades of light, beautiful visions, and brilliant moments of insight—expansions of the mind into absolute spaciousness. Yet their practice doesn’t seem to change their relationship to themselves, nor does it help shift the platform on which they live their lives. This is because they treat their meditation like a light show, an entertainment, or an achievement of some kind. They are not looking for their ground, for the Self, for their own essence amid the movement within their meditation. For this reason, despite the gifts they receive in meditation, they don’t feel they have gone deep. They don’t feel peace. They don’t experience satisfaction.

So, to begin your meditation practice, become clear about your goal. Begin to look for, to identify, and to identify with your essence.


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