Covid has spiked so badly in the USA that we’re receiving emergency warnings on our cell phones not to go out. The necessity of physical isolation makes daily contact with nature all the more imperative.
The winter rains still haven’t started California. They’re nearly six weeks late. Climate change is undeniable here. Rain is predicted in the next few days, but with only about a 50% chance.
The color has faded from the parkland, and most of the brown leaves are down. I meditated for an hour and a half at creekside as sunlight drained from the treetops, and dusk descended on the short day.
The stream of thought cleared and quieted, and once again one could feel the truth beyond words, “Be still and know that I am God.” One doesn’t seek stillness and sacredness; one simply enjoys sensory awareness and attentiveness in nature, and stillness and sacredness flood in.
After all the years of meditating, it’s still a wonder how simply observing the movement of thought and emotion in the mirror of nature, and not interfering with judgment or choice, the mind spontaneously falls silent and the heart instinctively knows peace.
The secret to daily peace and renewal is ending the continuity of thought and emotion. No effort or concentration can bring about the silence and peace of being. There is no ‘how’ to doing so, and all methods and techniques of meditation prevent the phenomenon of meditation from occurring.
One simply passively observes the movement of thought and emotion without the observer, that is, without judgment and choice. Attention gathers within one, and acts on the ‘me’ and all its contents, quieting the mind and opening the heart.
Into the spaces between thoughts flows direct perception and insight, which illuminate and extinguish the psychological movement of thought. All that is true, good and holy flows from stillness, silence and emptiness.
Teilhard de Chardin’s cliché quote notwithstanding, that “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience”, the problem of time and temporality remains unaddressed.
Psychological time is continuity, and continuity is psychological time. There is no continuity in nature as such; there’s only perpetual beginning, ending, and unfolding--birth, death and creation.
One can develop a proprioceptive sense for time. Proprioception has to do with the position and movement of the body, as when you close your eyes with your arm held out and know where it is.
One can learn to feel the movement of psychological time in the body. Thought-time is subconsciously assumed to be real and fundamental, but it’s a construct, not an actuality. Experience is the continuity of time; experiencing is seeing, feeling and being in the present as it is.
Of course most intellectuals, by virtue, or rather vice of being intellectual, dismiss such a proposition out of hand. Never having experienced a state beyond experience (a paradoxical but not contradictory statement), they insist that the human brain is incapable of experiencing life unmediated by symbols, words, images and memories.
However moments of ‘immaculate perception’ are not only possible; they have become essential to surviving and thriving as a human being.
Watching and remaining with thoughts and emotions as they arise without trying to change or end them, the movement of thought, emotion and time suddenly and spontaneously ends.
Emotions are residues of experiences that persist largely unseen in our limbic memory. Whereas feeling, whether it is painful or joyful, sad or ecstatic, is of the present.
Most people don’t want to feel anymore, and make themselves numb one way or another. But to not feel is to be inwardly dead.
Like with other things, Teilhard got it backasswards. We are temporal creatures with latent spiritual potentialities. To be a human being means awakening our spiritual potentiality while living in this temporal world.
It isn’t our lifespans that make us temporally bound, but rather the illusory continuity of psychological time.
Meditation begins by asking oneself, ‘Is the observer operating?’ and watching its infinite regress until it stops.
Meditation flowers in asking, ‘Is time operating?’ and watching and feeling the movement of time in the mind and body until it suddenly stops.
Then there is simply the strangeness and mystery of being.
Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue. email@example.com
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