Gautama Buddha taught a Noble Eightfold Path culminating in Samma-Samadhi, or “right absorption.”
To receive the benefits outlined in the Eightfold Path — to be delivered from dukkha, to know life without suffering, to reach enlightenment in this very lifetime — one must meditate as the Buddha (and Patanjali, and other mystics from every religious tradition down through the ages) taught, releasing oneself into ever-ascending stages of samadhi.
Many on the spiritual path have been dissuaded from these teachings, or have received them in watered-down form, as though the very idea of meditative absorption is somehow antithetical to a skillful negotiating of one’s spiritual unfoldment.
Truth is, the absorption phenomena described by the Buddha are present amongst contemplatives in today’s world. They cannot be suppressed, they cannot be ignored, they cannot be somehow chided away by religious (or “spiritual”) authorities who find them inconvenient, uncomfortable, disrespectful and/or threatening.
They can, however, be harnessed in a rigorous and skillful way, leading to a validation of the Buddha and all the other mystics who’ve been marginalized over time.
What happens when these phenomena are harnessed and maintained?
When one builds her or his entire life around a three-hours-minimum daily meditation practice, and when that practice gives rise to meditative absorption such that one is saturated 24/7/365… changes are bound to occur.
Changes in one’s perception of reality.
Changes in one’s presence in relationships.
Changes in one’s attitude toward life’s ups and downs, ins and outs, warps and woofs.
* * *
While in midday shivasana yesterday, an insight arose regarding a specific change that has come about after all my years of meditation — and especially since switching to a “meditation retreat” daily schedule over 4 years ago.
This insight centered around the idea of ego identity, and how our moment-to-moment thinking is typically enslaved by the dramatic minutia of our lives — the little detached threads that inform our belief that life is a continuum, that it has an auspicious beginning, an adventurous and busy middle, and a nebulous end that we’d just as soon not think about just yet.
Our neuroses are based on these little detached threads. We worry about that thing we can’t really remember, but it won’t go away, it just lurks there in our unconscious for seemingly days and weeks. Or, we look forward to a hike in two days. The thought brings happiness, but we know we’ll need to do a load of laundry first, go to the store to buy snacks… and, of course, there are two more days of work between now and the hike, can’t forget about that… and did you hear what the boss did to so-and-so? Did I remember to set the DVR to record that show — what was that show again? I really wanted to watch that show, it’s about India… I really want to go to India before I die… they have great incense there, can’t buy that stuff in the States, most of the incense we get here I’m allergic to — oh, that reminds me, I need to get a prescription for allergy pills… did I take anything down from the freezer for dinner tonight?
And so it goes inside our minds, all day long, all night long, seemingly from cradle-to-grave.
What occurred to me yesterday, and what’s been occurring to me in seed form for a few months now, is that the continuum has become disrupted in me. Not just in meditation, but throughout each day, even at work when I’m typing numbers onto the screen for hours on end — there’s the realization that the present moment is not connected to the previous moment, nor to future moments.
This is not an intellectual concept. This is not something I read in a U.G. Krishnamurti manuscript and applied to my belief system.
This is definitely, beyond the shadow of a doubt, something that has happened slowly — ever-so-slowly — during these thousands and thousands of hours steeped in meditative absorption.
Something about the overwhelming power and grace of the ascending levels of samadhi, each one driving “normal” consciousness into something deeper, something more unified.
Something about this process assumes the function of disrupting the continuum, leaving one’s awareness isolated in the present moment.
* * *
Having worked in a metaphysical bookstore for years during the 90’s and early 00’s, and having read all sorts of spiritual instruction, I always assumed that “living in the present” is a good thing, a sign of spiritual awakening. Perhaps it is.
As time goes on and the process of becoming isolated in the present moment deepens, however, there is the further realization that there is no turning back.
This is for real.
Those old familiar handholds of linear thinking, back when I assumed that all those thoughts had something to do with getting along in the world — that’s all going away.
This is disorienting, my friends.
Shouldn’t I be worrying about… well, about all those things over which I have no immediate control?
Shouldn’t I be stressing over money, love and obligation?
Shouldn’t I be freaking out over what others think about me?
Meditative absorption and the resulting saturation in a field of bliss, joy and ecstasy — they are more than an escape, they are more than a replacement for all our normal addictions.
Meditative absorption and the resulting saturation in a field of bliss, joy and ecstasy — they are the basis for removing us from the frantic continuum that has terrorized our minds all our lives.
They isolate us in the present moment.
They remind us that the present moment is IT, there is nothing more.
They invite us to get used to it, to live our lives here and now, and to let this be the consciousness platform through which life expresses itself.
Meditative absorption and the resulting saturation in a field of bliss, joy and ecstasy are accessible attainments for the rigorous and skillful contemplative. Once attained, they must be cultivated and maintained over time, so that their deeper benefits may be realized. Among these deeper benefits is the disruption of the dreaded continuum, which releases the mind from the tyranny of useless thoughts, freeing the contemplative to dive ever deeper into the Dhamma (Path) — until such a time that the contemplative realizes that she or he has been fully consumed by an unstoppable pilgrimage back Home.