Meditation again

It is difficult holding the attention on the cusp of focus on the body (sitting, breathing etc.) and focus on awareness, without drifting off in a train of thought or fantasy. It is difficult to maintain this balancing act because it is non-eventful, often boring, with nothing happening. Habituation quickly takes place and attention drifts. I am beginning to understand the frustrations and agonies of meditation, especially as so much more time is invested in an activity that seems to yield so little benefit. The trouble with daydreaming, trains of fantasy thoughts, is that the mental world is just as real, sometimes more real, than the physical here and now. If the physical here and now is colourful, pleasant or exciting, if it grabs the attention, then of course it dominates. If, however, the physical here and now is dull, uneventful and boring, then the mind displaces it with fantasy. This is why the purveyors of fantasy, soaps, videos, Mills and Boone etc. are so popular. Most people want to escape from the lives of quiet desperation that they lead. Unfortunately the truth does not lie in this mental fantasy world. It can only be found in the physical here and now.

How to penetrate the physical here and now and see it for what it is? How to see beyond, behind, through (whatever the appropriate adverb is) it? There are so many hidden assumptions that have to be uncovered. There is one’s particular worldview that has to be seen as relative rather than absolute; there is the mode of being of the seer himself. This last depends on the previous two, but also on self-understanding and perceived need.

Kolakowski p. 38 on Buddhism.

If, instead of employing our intelligence in satisfying our needs – a vain effort anyway, since the mounting spiral of needs never stops – we try to suppress them and to realise that both the world and the self are an illusion, we can achieve a state of plenitude wherein no imaginary beings imprison us in our apparent exclusivity and separateness from the divine.

I agree with the first part. The second part is badly put. It is not so much that the world and self are an illusion, rather, that neither is as we often understand it. The world is real but it is not an external, fixed and permanent stage on which we act out lives. It is an interactive process of which we are part. The self is not coterminous with the ego but, again, is an interactive process involving other selves and the world. Quite what these processes are, how they relate and where they are going I don’t fully understand – yet. Nor do I agree that the suppression of needs is the right way to proceed. It is the other extreme from gratifying every need. So, back to patient process of practicing simple awareness of being present to oneself, present to others, to the physical here and now, to the Spirit within.

[Kolakowski, Leszek;Religion, Fontana, London 1993]

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