This article could have just as easily been titled “The Power of Witnessing.” The concept is the same. It was Jiddu Krishnamurti who wrote the following quote: “To observe without evaluating is the highest form of ‘Intelligence’.” When I read that and began to explore it, the effects were like an explosion in my consciousness. First, he is completely redefining the nature of intelligence. Further he is turning it on its head. He is taking the common notion of intelligence and affirming the notion that what transforms our consciousness is a completely different approach to what is it to be human and open to a new way of ‘Being.’
This approach was a surprising idea, but as I began to talk to people about it as well as other ‘meditation systems’, I realized something else. Many people have the underlying belief that if the mind becomes quiet, or even silent, that we will be in a state of stupidity. We won’t be able to do math, solve problems, and live in this complex world of today. Perhaps, logically this makes some sense. But to know for sure that this would be the result, one would have to take up this form of meditation and find out if that is really the case. What shook me though is that I felt I had come across a bias that the modern mind has against meditation. Maybe it’s not a conscious bias, but a real one nevertheless. Further that each of us may need to explore whether or not we have this belief system buried in our own unconscious.
I know that many of my readers will not share this view, but as I began to teach meditation, I learned that meditation evokes a level of fear that is not easily explained away. In fact, the fear can be great enough that people who enroll in a meditation class often find themselves dealing with the resistance to meditate at all. This may not make sense at first, but it actually does make sense once one realizes that meditation exposes an entire area of fears. Moreover, these fears seem insurmountable, once they have been seen or made conscious. Many years ago when I began studying meditation through a Buddhist organization connected to Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche, I read his books most of which had to do with how a person can deal with fear. He, like many others, emphasized having a ‘warrior’s spirit’ as a necessary aspect of going into this practice.
There is the view that meditation has the purpose of quieting the mind. Of course, this is a perfectly understandable motivation. But before that can happen, we must discover tools that help us deal with fear and other negative emotions, such as anger, frustration, hatred, etc. Otherwise, meditation can evoke so much fear that one might have a hard time even starting.
What is the first response to coming up against fear when we start sitting in the midst of our chaotic mind? For many, it is to try to stop the mind and its fears and negative emotions. The feeling can be so overwhelming that we feel the need to escape the encounter with these emotions. What we discover is that the fears get even bigger. The more we escape the larger they become.
Now we get to the title of the article. What we may decide to try and what in my experience does work, is to simply observe and accept whatever has come up of its own accord. This is the formula that seems to work. It may seem to be counter-intuitive, but it is worth attempting. One reason it works is because of the fact that our thoughts are not our own or ‘who we are’.
Yes, we are not our thoughts. We may consider that we are, but one can experience this truth. So, as we get ‘distance’ from our thoughts, which is what occurs when we simply observe our thoughts without evaluating, they begin to become less important and that leads to even more distance to where we see that we are not the thoughts at all. That’s the theory of how and why it works.
There is another tool that can help us and is why I teach meditation. It can be helpful to work with others as we learn how to meditate and confront our fears and negative emotions. My classes are more than just about learning technique. I go deeply into the barriers to meditation and how we can work with them in a constructive manner. Also, it helps us when we see that the issues we are having are also shared by many others. We take every obstacle less personally and that helps us get more distance and we can approach the way we deal with the contents of our mind in a new way. In other words, we find that the tool of observing impartially works and we become confident that we can go deeper into repressed material. This enables us to become fearless and this is what leads to having a truly quiet mind. What we seek is freedom from not only our superficial thoughts, but also our deepest belief systems many of which remain in our unconscious. Freedom from these deep seeded fears is how we transform our consciousness and awaken to our real essence.
I will soon be announcing a free introductory lecture so I can describe more on how I approach teaching meditation. I also will go into other techniques that can be very helpful additions to a meditation practice.