“Meditation doesn’t involve transcending your humanness. It entails recognizing and living from your essential nature, which is already and always unbounded, whole, loving, compassionate, awake, and perfect just as it is, in the midst of the circumstances of your life. True meditation enables you to recover and experience your innate sense of wellbeing, and supports you in welcoming and responding, rather than reacting, to every moment and situation of your life.” –Richard Miller, PhD, Founding President of the Integrative Restoration Institute, and author of Yoga Nidra: A Meditative Practice for Deep Relaxation and Healing
I read this quote from Richard’s website sometime ago. What stood out to me is that it contradicts most of what I learned from my study of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The way I understand it, Patanjali believed that we use meditation to transcend the duality that exists in reality. His theory states that the whole sum of reality is created by the thoughts in your head and that only you are responsible for your experience, be it positive or negative. As we ascend the levels of meditative states, we eventually experience ‘nothingness’ – no darkness, no light, no good, and no bad.
For example, if someone hurts you, it’s because you envisioned and, ultimately, created the experience of suffering and pain for yourself. Patanjali stipulates that if you want to surpass that pain, you have to accept the idea that the person who you believe hurt you exists exclusively inside your own mind. By realizing that, you won’t be in pain any longer because you can rid yourself of the thought, and the person. This is an egregiously narcissistic viewpoint of the world and I have always struggled with finding agreement with Patanjali, and a meditation practice, because of this. I, for one, do not believe that the sum of the Earth resides entirely in my head – even though there are days that I talk mostly to myself.
Then, I came across this quote and learned others also believe bliss isn’t something that happens when we leave this life, but rather can occur while living IN it. The Bhagavad Gita describes this as “chitta prasadanam”, or sweetness of mind. Meaning that your meditation practice should be used as a way to overcome your self-defeating thought patterns and replace them with more life-affirming thoughts. We do not meditate toget out of life, but to live more fully while we are in it.
Often times, when life becomes difficult, we find ways to distract ourselves and to cover up the pain. A meditation practice helps us become more observant of the most difficult parts of life. The practice aides inour ability to sit in the ‘storm’ (be it thoughts or real events) and then, walk calmly through to the sunlight on the other side. Clear focus on both good and bad will empower you to make healthy decisions to support growth and happiness in your life, rather than trying to transcend (i.e. run-away from) what is there.