The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Seven-Level meditation

Yesterday’s conversation about Mel Gibson struck a note with me.  Shall we forgive? Forget?  And if we cannot forgive others, how can we ever forgive ourselves for our own failings?  And yet if we forgive too much, aren't we exposing ourselves to danger?  Are we at the most basic level good? Or evil?  Can we perfect ourselves, or is that the province of God’s Grace? 

I confess that when it comes to such questions, I know I have no actual answers, and probably never will.  I do, on the other hand (as you may have noticed) have opinions.

And the core opinion I have is that if you juxtapose thoughts on these matters from around the world, there do seem to be consensus points.  Where these different points of view agree, that is where I concentrate my attention.

To me, good and evil are largely created by human perception.  In other words, during the Crusades, a great Christian warrior would be described as “angelic” by his own side, and “demonic” by the Moslems.  No, there are certain behaviors: child murder or abuse, for instance, that are ALMOST universally considered “evil,” but does that make them so?  I know I consider them to be, but I remind myself that there are contexts where almost any behavior, no matter how heinous, could be considered appropriate.  Humanity has agonized over these questions for quite some time, and I’m not likely to be the one who arrives with the solution.

But we have to have a place to start, and I know what the foundation of my own personal practice is.  Do I believe that, without Grace, I can perfect myself?  No.  That sort of spontaneous awakening or enlightenment resists conscious, deliberate ego-driven effort.  But it also seems quite true that there are roads and action-streams that lead one to a life of contribution and love, and that it is in the process of living such lives that we have our best chance of touching the spiritual realm.

For me, this entails a morning meditation program.  It shifts and varies a bit in detail, but the core of it remains the same.  It is this practice  that stirs up my inner muck, clouding the waters in my soul.  If I can then run my “filter”—writing, speaking, praying, right action—I notice that, from day to day, things get clearer in there, and my daily actions are more direct, compact, efficient, and joyous.  I act spontaneously in accordance with my deepest beliefs, and everything in life seems more elegant and effective.

It starts when I sit up in bed in the morning.  Close my eyes, steady my breathing.  I start with the miracle of breath.  This is First Chakra: “I am.”  For one more day, life is mine to live.  Such an incredible gift.  I balance breath, movement and structure.  When those are flowing into each other nicely, I envision a mirror before me.  There are various games I play here, but the last few mornings I have envisioned a perfect, enlightened Steve.  Perfect body, perfectly clear aura, calm and centered mind and heart. 

This is where things can get painful.  I climb up the chakras, one at a time, and note where my own mental poisons have crippled my ability to fully manifest that perfected Steve.   Here are a sample of the issues:
Survival. Where have I allowed existential fear to influence my attitudes and behaviors?
Sex.  Have I behaved with complete compassion and awareness in all of my sexual interactions?  This arena has pretty much cleaned itself up since my marriage to Tananarive, but from time to time those flirtatious interactions can be confusing and distracting.  I ain’t perfect.
Power.  Where do I crave more than Knowledge, Service, and Self-Expression?  Where did I covet the success of others, or seek to be someone or something other than who and what I am?  It is not for me to determine how the outside world sees me—the determinate of all external success. Insanity and deep, deep emotional dysfunction lurks here.
Emotion: Do I come from love in all interactions?  God knows this one can be a killer.  Do you really love your enemies?  Is that even possible?  Have I made the deepest heartspace connection to my family? Do they truly know that every action I take, I take with them in mind?  Do I start with love for myself, and then extend that out to every human being, plant and animal I encounter all day long?  Do I live in such a manner that, if all men and women felt and acted in a similar way, the world would be a good place to live?
Expression and learning: am I honest with myself and others? Am I continually learning and growing?  When I speak and write, do I seek to communicate those things that words alone cannot contain?
Intellect: do I examine the perceptual filters through which I view reality?  Anyone with powerful political or religious beliefs would be very well advised to examine their filters daily.  How do I organize thought?  What is my world view, and how exactly did I come to believe in it?
Spirit: No matter what the books say, no matter how elegantly or eloquently priests, ministers or shamans speak, I cannot KNOW what lies on the other side of death.  I can have faith that I am right, and find a Way to live life, but cannot KNOW in the same way “knowing” operates in the Newtonian realm.  I cannot apply the Scientific Method to the existence of God.  So I must live my life such that, if at the moment of Death, I see there is Nothingness, my life has been lived to pass alone the greatest light and love to those left behind.  And if at that terrible, wonderful moment I see that there is indeed a living, personal God, I am prepared to stand before him and say honestly that I did my best to live according to His laws, as I could understand them.  Life lived in the context of our inevitable death must be prepared for either—I refuse to be disappointed, and to the degree that it is possible, I will face that moment without fear.

Creating a being of Light in the inner mirror, and then examining all the ways I have “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” places responsibility for my earthly existence squarely on my own shoulders, and one day at a time I seek to carry that burden honorably along the Thousand Mile Road. 

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