Beyond the Cushion


I value and teach a rigorous and skillful three-times-daily meditation practice, insisting that the fruits of ecstasy are worth far more than the mundane pursuits we would otherwise engage.

I must, however, acknowledge that there are another 21 hours in a day.

I must also acknowledge that life-circumstances sometimes prevent us from putting in a full three meditation sessions during a given day.

While we may manage to practice “sleep yoga” during the night cycle, there are still another 15 hours in a day. Some of that time may be spent driving, riding bike or walking; sitting at a work desk or performing some other task in support of financial survival; preparing and eating food; cleaning body and home; and so forth, even as the clock spins round and round, swallowing time like a baleen whale.

What, then, is the skillful way for an ecstatic contemplative to harness the fruits of his or her practice, putting them to work when formal meditation is not an immediate option?

The key is in the concept of saturation.

Saturation happens when absorption never quite subsides.

The process of moving into and out of meditative absorption, over and over during months and years of ecstatic practice, gives rise to saturation. While deeper levels of jhana/samadhi typically diminish when we come out of formal meditation, the bliss, joy and ecstasy that have been generated begin to hang around at all times.

So, rather than dwelling in fourth jhana, wherein we barely notice our physical body and are approaching maximum shakti levels of energetic intensity… our experience of saturation becomes more attuned with first or second jhana (or third jhana, in the case of contemplatives who give rise to daily absorption over a period of many years) — even while moving across the stage of mundane existence: waiting for a bus, grocery shopping, watering the lawn, paying bills. Jhana nimittas continue to manifest, such that, in my experience, there is always a general euphoria bubbling just below the surface, emitting from the third eye, swirling about my entire being.

Perhaps different nimittas arise for different contemplatives — charismatic ringing in the ears, various visual phenomena, etc.

In saturation, these things become persistent and insistent, as though some intelligence within us wants us to pay attention, so that the nimittas may blossom into full-blown absorption.

Throughout the day, it is good for us to grab a moment here, grab a moment there, always in the interest of silently and consciously acknowledging the nimittas that persist through saturation in the charisms (i.e., fruits of ecstatic practice).

Riding on the bus, we may close our eyes, and we may settle into ourselves while the nimittas do their thing.

Sitting on the porch after work, same thing — close our eyes, watch the inner flowering of bliss, joy and ecstasy.

Anything we can do to shift our attention from the external drama and consciously direct it to the saturation within which we exist, we should do it — frequently, for as long as possible, without regard for the fleeting diversions that our egos constantly seek to entertain.

Releasing into saturation, we “steal” more contemplative time amidst the chaos of contemporary life, and the more time we spend in skillful contemplation — bathing in the energy of absorption — the more exposure we have to a self-arising spiritual power that leads to healing, transformation and inner destinations that would otherwise escape our ability to conceive.

Shifting attention to the phenomena of saturation is a no-brainer.

We only need to avail ourselves of it.

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3 responses to “Beyond the Cushion

  1. In the inspirational Orthodox Christian book, “the Way of the Pilgrim,” the Pilgrim sought “uninterrupted prayer.” That uninterrupted prayer is none other than the “saturation” with the sacred that Michael speaks of. This samadhi or jhana is none other than the contemplation that Saint John of the Cross wrote about, and being saturated in that ecstatic contemplation 24-7 is uninterrupted contemplation of the sacred, and it is the same as being in the presence of the Holy Spirit 24-7.

  2. One thing I’m becoming more and more aware of, Jeffrey, is that there is a LOT of material out there that would appear to allude to the subject at hand. Much of the literature had to be presented in allegorical form, for fear of bringing down the wrath of the priesthood — and, yet, if we filter sacred writings through direct experience of the Sacred, we begin to see what a universal inheritance this is. It is there for the taking.

  3. I agree, Michael, there is good evidence that every religion has suppressed its mystics, but a very small number of those mystics have gotten the word out in code, and we find that code through intuitive, revelatory insight, when we meditate deeply.

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