Spiritual Paths, Meditation, and Self Honesty
Updated: Jun 16
In the beginning it is almost impossible to stop thinking during meditation, and the spaces between thoughts are normally a couple of seconds. In order to help a person stop thinking, meditation systems have some kind of focus on their body, because focussing on your body diverts the mind into observing rather than thinking. It is like beginner awareness training. For example, a lot of Buddhist systems focus on breathing. Some methods employ counting to keep the mind occupied, but self talk is not the ideal way. Zazen focusses on having the perfect posture, and Taoist meditations often focus on feeling the energy in your body.
The thoughts that come up when a person tries to stop thinking are actually required for spiritual growth, they are an essential part of the spiritual path. In the beginning, thoughts that come up are mostly about what happened to us recently or what we expect we will do, or what is to come For example, what someone said to us, what we said to them, what we would like to say to them now, what we need to do tomorrow, our shopping list, or how we feel about the news. It is a never ending list, so it seems. Sometimes the same thought comes around and around, like a little toy electric train going around on a circular track. After a lot of meditation, a person learns to be more spontaneous, so those kinds of interrupting thoughts dwindle and the spaces between thoughts gets longer.
Later the thoughts that come up are more disturbing. We remember things that we did further back in the past, things that are embarrassing or that were unkind, and this is where self honesty becomes important. When we recall something embarrassing, we need to accept it, forgive ourselves, and let it go, and it can take several times to accomplish the letting go. When we recall something we did which was mean or selfish, we need to admit that and accept it. If we feel remorse for something we did then that itself is a big part of spiritual growth. It requires self honesty, because denial won’t work. For example, imagine someone who has slapped their child. If the person is in denial they will tell themselves they aren't really the kind of person who would slap their child, that it happened for some reason that was out of their control. In other words, it was the other person's fault. When a person does this, then there is no problem, nothing to fix, so there is no possibility of growth.
On the other hand, if they admit to themselves that they really are the kind of person that would slap their child, because in fact they just did it, then they are admitting the truth. By admitting there is a problem, they know it can be fixed. They become motivated to fix the problem, and further meditation gives insight into the cause of the problem. Seeing the source of the problem and being motivated to fix it results in eventually solving the problem. Another thing is it makes them aware of triggers, so in the future they can see it coming and defuse it before it happens. Looking honestly at your emotional problems requires bravery, and the process is sometimes likened to a person entering a dark cave of fear.
As you can see, self honesty is the most important ingredient required for spiritual growth, and those who tend to be in denial, which is most people, will quit real meditation and instead go for guided meditations and the trinkets of spiritual traditions. The self honest person will feel remorse, which encourages healing, while the person who is in denial may feel guilt, which does not result in healing. Feeling remorse and feeling guilt are not the same thing. remorse comes from honesty, and guilt comes from denial.
Little by little, over a period of some years, the meditator will end up reviewing every single embarrassing and mean thing they have done in their whole lives. They end up understanding and forgiving themselves, and loving themselves in spite of their inperfections This is why it is said that enlightenment does not come by striving towards the light, but rather by processing the darkness.
Another important part of meditation is looking for and releasing tension in our bodies. You will find that there are deeper and deeper levels of tension that become apparent as the more superficial layers of tension are released. Eventually you discover the tension at the core of your being and work on releasing that.
Since there is less and less to review, the spaces between thoughts gets longer and longer. There are fewer thoughts, and there is more peace. Once at this stage the meditator stops focussing on their body because the focussing itself causes some tension. Eventually the meditator gets to a point where thought stops for extended periods, it becomes peaceful blissful state, and they tend to lose track of time. This is called samadhi in some systems. Thinking can be stopped simply by willpower, or it just happens spontaneously.
Non thinking meditation is not a trance state or a hypnotic state. it is the opposite, it is a state of hyper awareness which is made possible due to the cessation of thought. Thinking and awareness are mutually exclusive, the more a person thinks, the less aware of their environment they will be. A person becomes acutely aware of all the sounds in their environment, and Taoist energy cultivators become aware of the energy flowing in their bodies. They also can become aware of the energy in their environment and are able, for example, to sense people approaching who are sometimes far away. The awareness will eventually encompass psychic abilities so they become aware of the spirit realm and what other people are thinking.
A fast spiritual path is one that requires a lot of quality meditation and energy cultivation, and it works better for younger people, because they usually have less darkness in their past. The fastest of all paths are ones in which the meditator is locked in a cave and sees no one for several months.
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