Meditation Myth #3
In this week’s blog, River discusses Myth #3. Whether you’re new to meditation or an old pro, you’ll want to read what River says about Samadhi. Thank you again, River, for shinning a light on meditation’s myths and for being my teacher and friend.
By: River Cummings
Myth #3: Samadhi is the ultimate state of union/peace/bliss. It’s the goal of meditation, and it’s something you should be able to work toward. If you’re not in samadhi, well, you’re not good at meditation yet. (Or maybe you’re just not meant to be enlightened in this lifetime…)
Huh? Now, wait just a minute! That can’t be a myth! Samadhi’s what it’s all about, right? Um… Wrong. Before you ask for your money back, hear me out…
This is a real doozy, and an attitude that unfortunately stops many fledgling meditators in their tracks. As I mentioned above, the only stage of the meditation practice you can control is dharana. You can choose where to put your attention. But what happens after that is anybody’s guess. It’s a mystery! If you’re curious to discover what that mystery might have in store for you, you keep on with your dharana to find out what will happen. The yoga tradition does give us some clues, though.
As the puppy of your mind begins to get in a bit of a groove with the training, some amount of what is called dhyana is likely to arise. Dhyana means you begin to understand the object you’re focusing on a little more deeply. You get a little closer to it. It’s not quite as foreign, as separate, as it once was. This just makes sense, right? If you concentrate on something, at some point you begin to have insight in to it. A relationship is formed. Just the same way as when you’re forming a relationship with another person and over time you begin to know that person a bit better. We say you “get closer” to that person. The same begins to happen with whatever you are focusing on in meditation. The way it is expressed in the Yoga Sutra is that the mind “takes on the shape” of the object of concentration (another good reason to choose your object carefully!). Of course, like a relationship between two people, this process varies from person to person and object to object. Also like with another person, you need time and consistency for the relationship to grow.
As you continue to practice your dharana, you may notice the relationship, dhyana, begin to deepen. It will just happen naturally, at its own pace. At certain points you may feel so close to the object of your dharana that you “lose yourself.” It’s as if the twoness of separation disappears and you’ve become one with the object. In the yoga tradition this is called samadhi, and we’ve all experienced it in our lives from time to time. When we become so engrossed in something that we totally forget about ourselves, lose track of time, and tune out everything else, that’s a kind of samadhi. In the yoga tradition the state of samadhi is described as a state in which “only the object shines.” Artists get lost in “the creative process,” athletes enter “the zone,” thinkers have “flashes of insight.” These are everyday samadhi experiences and, as you know, they come and go. They are not something that can be forced, something that can be practiced. You just keep on with your activity and enjoy the bonus of those special samadhi moments when they arise.
The same is true with meditation. You just keep up with your dharana, keep enjoying being with your puppy. Sometimes you may have moments of stillness amid the flowing thoughts. Sometimes insights may arise, sometimes you may lose yourself completely and enter samadhi with the object of your attention. Know that the puppy will eventually bound off after a butterfly or want to chase a squirrel, and be prepared to patiently guide him back. If you continue to attend to your dharana practice with gentleness, consistency and curiosity, you are sure to have interesting experiences. As my teacher’s teacher, Mr. Desikachar, was fond of saying, with a twinkle in his eye, “if you do the practice, I can guarantee you that something will happen…”
What will that be for you? You won’t know until you try. Who knows… that muffin top may even disappear.
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