“Thoughts” includes EVERYTHING

“Thoughts” includes EVERYTHING

I’m lucky to live in one of the most creative and alive cities in the world, Bristol. I’m further blessed to have a wonderful walk from where I live in to my office, along the harbour-side. This morning as I walked in it was raining with the soft rain of a September day that was mild and warm, yet carried the inescapable news of autumn . And what was I doing as I walked?  I was thinking of this post and what to say in it! What a waste of a beautiful morning.

Such random attention to other times and places is just useless junk-thinking. Ubiquitous, universal; useless. Much of what people think of as “meditation” is calming down this useless mentalising. This is often easy, by attending to here-and-now body experiences and sights and sounds, or by classic sitting meditation.

But the radical meditation definition of thought is very wide. EVERYTHING is a thought. And radical meditation confronts, befriends, and changes your relationship with every single one of them. Just a sketch list of for-examples:-

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  • Emotions both “positive” and “negative” – anger, grief, joy, delight – are thoughts. Who is the one who feels those emotions? Who do those emotions happen to?
  • All the dark and secret places, shared with no-one, where you hate yourself or feel small or weak. Who would you be, if you felt truly safe to show every part of yourself to some loving person?
  • Any plan or design that your future must be a certain way, is a thought. You might ask yourself, “Who am I if the future that must happen, does not happen?” (I’m not saying you should not plan for tomorrow. But mostly we are so tied up in planning tomorrow that we lose track of the right now. The trick is to go into the plans when useful, set them aside until later when they are a distraction.)
  • All the imprints and distortions, all the traumas and childhood pain, imposed on us by the past, are thoughts. We are hugely identified with these. You can ask, “If the past that shaped me had not been, who am I?”
  • All limiting beliefs. All “I can’t do this”, all “I mustn’t do that” which is based on unfortunate childhood experiences or authority imposed against your integrity, when in fact you do possess the underlying capability. There is a ton of excellent books and websites on self belief, so for many people this is the easiest and most familiar opening towards radical meditation.
  • All the things that we do only because our friends do them, are thoughts. Who is the one, who is swept along by the crowd?
  • Anything that you think because you were born in a particular century, place or family, are thoughts. The same as before, Who is the one that you would still be, if you had been born in a different era?
  • In the unconscious mind, the deep hidden core beliefs (often a core of buried pain, fear or rage) that form the structure of personality are thoughts. (For example “the world is not safe / my needs will not be met / I’m invisible, no-one can see how strong and beautiful I am etc). What are those hidden beliefs, and who is the one who holds them? If there are times when you act out  in ways later regret – Who is the one who lives that repeating script?
  • … and more, indeed – everything! The thought “I need to survive”, the thought “death is bad”,  “This body is part of me” … everything.

Fear not. You have to tackle all these things, these specific things, or in sequence, or as any kind of programme. These are just for-examples of mental ideas that we think are fixed, but are in the final understanding only experiences that had a beginning and will have an end, floating in the sea of our consciousness. Some of these categories I know clearly from my own meditation, “This is not me”, others I have a sufficient glimpse of understanding to give a conviction that it is so.

It is not necessarily the case that the conditionings and programmings change with meditation. Some things drop completely. Others remain, but your relationship to them changes, or they get lighter. Meditation is not about becoming a superman or superwoman. It’s about relaxing deeply in being the man or woman that you are.

The proposal of radical meditation is this: that there is something extraordinarily valuable within us which is behind all of those thoughts. You might call it “being”. Whatever you call it, it is something vast, spacious, infinite, enduring; blissful and infinitely peaceful and serene. Enlightenment is the state of being permanently in contact with that state, as we go about our normal everyday lives. Have I reached that state? – no. Have I had convincing experiences of it? – yes, profoundly nourishing ones. Have I met people who I consider have reached that state permanently? – yes.

Not many people start to meditate with such a comprehensive intention, and there is no need. It is perfectly fine to start from wherever you start from, whether curiosity, the desire to beat depression. wanting some calm space in your week, or whatever else. Some people stay doing twenty minutes of relaxation meditation exercise a couple of times a week, other people find they are attracted to a more radical exploration. It’s all OK.

Provisos, disclaimer and reassurances plus index page for meditation posts

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