Jul 292010

driving Like many people, I never seem to have the time I’d like for meditating and spiritual development. I’d like to begin each day with spiritual practice, but sometimes I’m running late and don’t get to it. Since I have a long commute, I’ve sometimes tried to listen to meditation tapes while driving, but this can be dangerous. Wayne Dyer’s Japa meditation CD, for example, had me in such an altered state that the physical world I was driving through lost importance – which is not a good state for driving.

This morning I tried something different – adapting mindfulness or walking meditation to driving. This seemed like a good match, since it actually makes you MORE aware of your surroundings. Rather than going within, your focus is on being fully present in the situation.

The technique is very simple. Start driving. Turn off your radio or music. Focus entirely on the sense impressions of driving. Be fully present in the experience of driving your car, and don’t focus on any inner dialog or thoughts. If you become aware that you are thinking about something other than the experience of driving, gently return your focus to the road in front of you. Don’t judge yourself for your thoughts, but keep returning your focus to the road, the car and your driving.

Naturally, you should continue to check your mirrors, watch your blind spots and follow good driving practice. In fact you should be more intently aware of your surroundings than usual. Be aware of the road and your surroundings with the same calm intensity of a cat watching a mouse hole. This is probably a better technique to practice on a routine drive, like a commute, than when you are trying to find a new location, although it would probably work with any kind of driving.

No two meditations are alike, and no two meditators are alike – so don’t judge your own experiences. What you experience is what you experience, and it’s fine. But here are a few observations on my own meditation this morning. First of all, it was a bit tiring. Being mindful in a complex situation like driving can be slightly overwhelming. The trick was to relax and be aware of all the experiences in general, rather than trying to shift a laser focus of awareness between all the various things going on.

I also discovered that I have a habit of giving myself verbal mental directions while I’m driving, telling myself where to turn and when to shift. That was a bit odd. But at times during the meditation I felt a wonderful sense of joy. Life seemed so good. Happiness was staring me in the face, waiting for me to shut up long enough to notice it. During these times, I had the odd sensation that I was driving on a route I had never seen before. I actually wondered for a moment if I was lost. The truth is, I suppose, that I had NOT seen it before – not really SEEN it. In fact, the day before this experiment, I had one of those frequent experiences of arriving at a particular turn on my route and being unable to remember how I had arrived, because my driving was on autopilot while I was lost in thought.

The experiment seemed like a success to me. At the very least, I think it won’t hurt my driving at all. It may improve it. Give driving meditation a try and let me know how it works for you.

Nov 102009

eckhart_tolleIf I had to recommend only one book on spirituality, it would be Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.  As I mentioned on my page on Eckhart – I first encountered him on CD’s.  But after hearing him, I quickly picked up his first book. I have since bought many copies and given them to whoever I think can benefit from him.

His message is simple, and has a lot in common with other spiritual teachings throughout the ages. But the beauty of Eckhart’s presentation is that he has distilled it down to the bare essentials.  But like the Tao Te Ching and similar spiritual classics, every word resonates with profound meaning.

The focus of the teaching, as the title suggests, is the present moment – that magical space in which all reality arises. Our mind and our ego attempt all sorts of tricks to keep us away from focusing on the present moment. We may be obsessed with our past, and play over past events (good or bad) again and again in our minds.  We may focus on the future and the plans we have for ourselves. We may construct alternate present moments where things are “better”. But all of these keep us away from the one reality – the present moment of time.

The reason the mind and ego are so determined to keep us away from the present moment is that in this moment, if we fully immerse ourselves in it, we realize the fundamental unity of all being. This is a realization that greatly weakens our individual egos. The stories and identities we construct for ourselves become unimportant in the light of the present moment. And so we flee from it. We tell ourselves we are looking for happiness – but in fact we flee from the only place where REAL happiness is to be found – the reality of the now.

In a simple question-and-answer format, Eckhart Tolle investigates our reluctance to embrace the reality of the NOW, and gives us exercises for learning to be at home in the present moment. Along the way, he discusses the mind, the ego, our life stories, our relationships and many other aspects of being and happiness.

One unique principle in Tolle’s teachings which I have not seen elsewhere is the concept of the “pain body”. He introduces this concept in this book. A “pain body” is a collection of negative emotional energy which feeds from our own unhappiness and pain. This energy can completely hijack our conscious mind, acting almost like an alien invader, in the attempt to produce the negative energy that it craves. Once Eckhart explains this concept to you, you immediately begin to see it at work in the lives of those around you, and (if you are conscious enough) in yourself.

Buy this book for yourself or for someone you know who is seeking. It is the PERFECT introduction to spiritual living.

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