OSHO was probably the most successful meditation teacher to visit our planet. He is estimated to have had 500,000 followers at the time of his death. There’s no doubt that his popularity sprung from his deeply practical understanding of meditation.
You see, for OSHO, the word “meditation” emerges from the word “concentration”. The word “concentration” means con-centrate or toward the center. So meditation is simply a turning inward of consciousness.
One may easily understand meditation by appreciating how we consciously experience ourselves in life.
To begin, we must all understand that the truth of ourselves is clearly defined in the classification used to describe our place in Nature. We are human-beings. Human beings can be understood this way: Human = Doing.
Most people typically identify themselves by what they do. Often, if you meet someone, it’s natural to ask their name and what they do. Many will respond with “I’m Bob and I’m a carpenter or I’m Jill and I’m a nurse.”
This is natural for us and has been integral to how we identify ourselves since the times of tribal societies. In tribal societies, people’s names typically represented what they did in the tribe.
Thus today we still see many people carrying surnames like Smith, which emerged from a family of blacksmiths. Drill emerged from well drillers.
Cook emerged from those in the tribe that were responsible for cooking and Baker from those in more recent tribal and farming communities where they were responsible for baking. Shoemaker emerges from those who made shoes…
Having spent literally thousands of years in a sociocultural milieu in which we think of and represent ourselves as our doings has resulted in the construction of an outwardly oriented self-perspective.
In India, where there has been a significant period of poverty, people have been less able to focus on themselves as their doings and as a result of their Eastern sociocultural reality.
They have had to turn inward as a means of finding meaning and value in life to compensate for the loss of self-identity that comes when people identify themselves solely by their doings.
The result is that in general, people from such regions of the world are typically far less challenged to turn inward.
Today, India is beginning to boom with advanced electronics and computer technology as well as becoming a leader in the service industries.
The result is that they now have a large and growing population of people that appear “successful” to their peers, yet they are already suffering from burnout, ADD behavior or what I call “monkey-mind.”
I’ve now met many such Eastern people that have just as hard a time meditating as the typical westerner does. This is a contemporary example of how a dominant culture can implant another culture with its ideas, for better or for worse.
Continuing with this line of observation of culture and its influences on how consciousness is directed, we can go one step further. Think of events outside yourself as experiences in which we express our doings.
When you weed the garden or do your laundry, you are doing outside yourself. When you are writing your shopping list or task list for tomorrow, you are projecting your consciousness outside yourself yet again…what must I do tomorrow?
The opposite pole of doings is happenings, which we experience inside ourselves. When we become so outwardly directed with regard to our consciousness, we seldom pay attention to the inner-world of happenings unless there is something wrong or disturbing.
For example, when you are in a meeting with friends or co-workers, you are unlikely to pay attention to your inner-state unless someone criticizes you or provokes an emotional response so significant that you can’t ignore it, such as anger or embarrassment.
Then the very people that have a hard time meditating will be unwilling to sit with the anger and ask themselves if it’s really worth getting angry over. They simply react – another outward expression of doing.
If you are doing some building around your house and accidentally hit your finger with a hammer, you experience what happens inside you.
All happenings occur as an inward experience of outwardly directed doings. When you feel the pain of your finger hurting every time you go to use that finger, the experience of pain is an inward experience.
The hammer doesn’t feel anything at all. This, paradoxically, is meditation!
To the degree that you become present with the inward experience of pain, you become conscious of yourself every time you use your hurt finger – you are conscious of your inward state. That is meditation.
In western culture we are overly oriented to doing, so much so that we tend not to become aware of ourselves inwardly until we can’t do something we want to do.
In those cases our inward experience is typically one of a negative emotional tone (for which people tend to seek medication to numb their inner-awareness of the happening or experience of the pain).
A culture that is conditioned to feel and experience through outwardly directed consciousness is highly susceptible to an over-exposure of doing.
The result is a progressive onset of fatigue, which by necessity of survival, often leads to injury. The injury is a necessary means of cultivating inward-awareness.
Many of you will have had the experience of going on vacation and shortly after arriving at your destination you get a cold, flu or other illness.
This occurs because the conscious doing- mind tends to suppress our inner-experience of ourselves until we have the time and space to let down.
The mind, when focused on completing tasks, particularly when under pressure, can and does suppress the immune system.
This occurs because when under stress, we release stress hormones that inform the body that it is under attack, inducing a fight or flight response.
Throughout antiquity, whenever such hormones were present, it was very likely to be life threatening. For means of survival, the immune system will ignore any offensive organism that it perceives to be less threatening under the influence of stress hormones.
Even the immune system can become outwardly directed or doing oriented in such instances.
First Steps To Meditation
The chief reason westerners are so challenged to meditate is because they have little or no experience with directing their consciousness inward unless it is by necessity of survival. When this form of meditation does occur, we want to end it as quickly as possible.
When we continue to direct our consciousness outwardly, we are directing energy and attention outward too.
Then, when we get tired, we either drink more coffee, eat more sugar, or both so we can maintain our pathology – this is pathology because it induces an imbalance in the energetic systems of the human organism. Thinking is very energy consuming.
Physiology texts show that when we are cognitively engaged and thinking about anything, the brain uses about 80% of the available blood sugar.
This is why people feel so tired when learning new tasks or functions, such as how to set up and program a new computer or cell phone, or while attending a professional development course.
When I train athletes, I commonly have to teach them how to feel their inner-reality so they can best determine when to and when not to train hard.
If they simply follow a coach’s program or “recipe” without realizing that the ingredients for success change on a day-by- day basis, they can easily become the best burned out student the coach has!
How To Feel Your Happenings
I will now share some of the awareness exercises I’ve learned and developed for my clients and athletes so that they can begin the process of meditation in a way that is more manageable to the outwardly directed psyche.
Try chewing your food with your eyes closed while feeling, smelling and tasting the food. Chew the food slowly and pay attention to how your whole body reacts.
If you go from a salty to a sweet, to a bitter food, you can easily feel how your entire community of cells reacts by either becoming open to or closed to the experience.
Openness typically results in an inviting sense and encourages you to consume more. A closing experience typically results in the making of funny faces and the desire to reject the foodstuff.
Take your time with your meals, keep your eyes closed and allow yourself to go within and connect to the experience your cells are having as you eat.
Not only is this a form of active meditation, the new found awareness often leads to the realization that for some time, you’ve actually been eating foods that are repulsive to your cells, which leads to illness.
Lay or sit comfortably, comfortably enough that you could fall asleep if you wanted to. Begin breathing slowly through your nose. Pay attention to how the air feels as it passes the hairs in your nose. Feel the tickle as the air rotates through the nasal passages.
Then pay attention to the energy in and around your eyes and face and you will notice that there is a feeling of expansion of your cells and energy field as you inhale, and a feeling of decreased energy or contraction as you breath out.
If you do this for ten or more minutes while breathing slowly and rhythmically, you will eventually begin having moments where you totally forget what you are doing, or even that you are there.
This is meditation. This is what occurs when the conscious or ego-mind is pacified by a single-pointed focus or rhythm.
Take two drinking glasses and put a wooden pencil or a chopstick in each hand. Set the glasses such that you can sit comfortably and tap them the way a drummer would play their drums or cymbals with sticks.
Begin tapping on or just below the drinking rim of each glass with one chopstick or pencil on each glass.
Work upward and downward with regard to tapping speed or frequency until you find a pace that feels soothing to you. Then relax into the rhythm, doing your best to keep your strikes simultaneous so that the tapping of the glasses creates harmony.
Again, you will notice within a few minutes that you have periods where all of the sudden you are both aware and unaware at the same time – your mind stops.
Yet, contrary to what the conditioned mind would expect, as your mind relaxes and stops you become more aware of yourself and surroundings, not less! This is meditation.
One of my favorite tricks for inducing inner-awareness is to have people lay on their back and contract the muscles of one thigh progressively harder and harder until their muscles are as hard as rocks.
Do your best to only contract one thigh and not let the rest of your body tighten up.
Then, after holding a maximum contraction for 3-5 seconds, suddenly let it go and follow alone as the energy released from the electrical activity of the muscle flows to different regions of your body.
Try doing this until you’ve contacted and relaxed every major muscle grouping in your body and soon enough, you’ll find yourself lying there between contractions for what may only be a minute or two though that short time now suddenly feels like a little eternity.
It’s almost as though you’ve lost consciousness or fallen asleep, but you haven’t.
I invite you to begin your meditation practice with these exercises. Try them out, have fun, and let me know what you experience.