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Noisy homes, woofing dogs, and meditation

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  • Swami J
    ************************ Swami J s Newsletter ************************ October 18, 2001 Dear Friends, Below is an article that includes a fun story of a
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 18, 2001
      Swami J's Newsletter

      October 18, 2001

      Dear Friends,

      Below is an article that includes a fun story of a friend's home
      and the many distractions that seem to get in the way of meditation.
      The article is written for a spiritual newspaper to go along with an
      announcement of an upcoming retreat. I'm sending you this because
      you may identify with, and find some humor in the description of one
      person's challenges with meditation. I hope you enjoy the story.

      In loving service,

      Swami J

      "THAT, I can do!"

      By Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati

      We are like a lamp with many shades. Each of the lampshades adds a
      subtle level of coloring to our light, while at the same time, the
      light itself remains purely uncolored. The lampshades over
      consciousness are the many levels of thought patterns of the mind-
      field, the currents and crosscurrents of the energy level of our
      being, and the solidity of the temple called body, in which our
      eternal aspect seems to temporarily reside.

      In meditation, we become aware of each of these lampshades, or levels
      of our being—-first the gross, then the subtle, then the subtler,
      and finally the subtle-most. It means sitting still, closing the
      temple doors called senses, exploring and going beyond the body,
      inward to and through the level of energy and breath that drives the
      body, encountering and letting go of the many subtle levels of the
      mind, and finally to the silence beyond, deeper than, or within the
      senses, body, breath, and mind.

      The process is not so much like removing the lampshades, but turning
      opaque lampshades into lampshades that are as pure as the finest

      Some see this process as one of self-exploration, self-awareness,
      self-training, and self-realization, or enlightenment. Others see it
      as a religious process. Still others blend the two together, such
      that their meditation is a marriage of self-enquiry and religious
      fervor. The beauty of the practice of yoga meditation is that it can
      be equally effective for all people, with whatever their
      predispositions or preferences.

      Yoga has become known as a physical exercise program, although it is
      actually an ancient process whose purpose is solely to lead one to
      the silence, stillness, and insight of the center of consciousness,
      by whatever name you call that center. The word "yoga" means
      "union." It means uniting the various aspects of our being,
      although they were never divided in the first place. This means
      integrating senses, body, breath, and mind into one well-functioning
      whole, such that a state of equanimity allows the deepest truth or
      reality to come through.

      Anyone can do these practices of self-awareness. The basic tool of
      yoga meditation is that of attention, along with its companion,
      attitude. It means training the mind to be able to direct its
      attention where and how we choose, rather than being dragged around
      by the vagaries of the thoughts arising from the unconscious, or
      triggered by the stimuli coming in through our senses. It means
      lovingly developing an attitude of letting go of those other thoughts
      or stimuli at our own wish and will, a process of non-attachment,
      which is very different from suppressing or repressing thoughts and
      emotions. Meditation is a gentle process of systematically going
      forward, through senses, body, breath, and mind, utilizing these
      tools of attention and attitude. The resulting process of letting go
      will bring a gradually emerging sense of peace, happiness, and bliss.

      A few weeks ago I was with a friend who is a student of meditation,
      and we were talking about this "letting go." She said she
      wanted to get away from it all—-work, family, life, you know,
      "stuff." It sounded like the coloring of her lampshades was
      pretty thick at the time. She wanted to get away, travel to some far-
      away place for an extended spiritual retreat, but felt she could not
      do that right now—-maybe next year.

      I asked if she had some time period of about 4-5 hours, maybe on a
      Saturday or Sunday morning, when she could be alone to give herself a
      little retreat in her own home. She could take an hour for exercise,
      a long shower or hot bath, spend some time reading a favorite
      spiritual book, and spend some time doing breathing, relaxation, and
      meditation practices.

      She just laughed, and then laughed some more. "You don't know
      what my house is like," as she went on to tell me about the
      busyness of her home, and her husband and children, all of whom she
      loves very much, despite their noisiness.

      "Maybe 2 or 3 hours?" I asked. And what do you think she did?
      Laughed! Again, she reminded me of her house and its noise, and also
      told me about her two woofing dogs and the pesky cat. At least she
      was getting a good laugh from our talk!

      Now, I know that an advanced meditator can relax and let go of
      their "stuff" right in the middle of chaos, but what about
      everybody else, who are not quite so advanced, yet? "Okay,
      then..." I said, "what if we go to the beach, get a hotel, and we
      have a retreat right here, only one night, 24 hours, and other people
      in the same boat can come along? We'll have a 24-hour retreat that's
      focused on guided meditation practices, not a bunch of theory, and
      with lots of breaks to walk on the beach."

      She stopped laughing. Her body loosened up—-I know it did, because
      I could see it happen. "THAT, I can do!" she said with a big
      smile on her face. I think some of the lampshades lost a bit of
      coloring in that moment.

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