I have to admit, I fell into a typical beginner’s trap when I first started meditating.
After filling my mind with all kinds of ideas from books and movies about psychic abilities, out-of-body journeys and altered states of mind, I went after those experiences like a dog chasing the tyres of a moving car.
I read all of Carlos Castaneda’s books, among many others, more than once, and meditated doggedly, hour after hour.
I was filled with expectations. Any day now, I was going to break through to the other side, and have that ‘special’ meditation experience.
As you might have guessed, I was disappointed..
That disillusionment was also a turning point in my journey with meditation. The moment I realized that chasing after a particular kind of experience was counterproductive, I suddenly became open to what was already there. Or I should say –already ‘here and now’. And that’s also when the real magic happened.
The Mystic Nature of Everyday Reality
Meditation on its own is utterly empty. After all, it’s just sitting there, doing nothing, thinking nothing.
It can, however, help us open up the doors of perception without having to use mind-altering drugs, or any other artificial methods.
It’s not unheard of for meditation to trigger transcendental experiences, especially for those who have a certain temperament, and a deep willingness – a thirst even – for that kind of thing. In fact, it was just such an experience that led me to meditation in the first place.
It can be a life-changing event, as if the veils have dropped from your eyes, and you suddenly feel as if you’ve woken up from a sleep that you’ve been submerged in for many years. You’re transformed, filled with insight, and an overwhelming sensation that defies explanation. You begin to see the tiniest details of everyday life as being supercharged with meaning, wonder, and love.
That’s the exception, though, and not the rule. For most people, meditation is something else entirely – and the unfolding of truth happens gradually, consistently, and steadily, though the effect is no less remarkable.
The point is, chasing after such an experience makes you tighten up, and force things – and that doesn’t get you anywhere. The real magic lies in the last place you’d expect. Forget the mystics and the gurus: The practicalities of everyday life become your teachers, and the way to alter your reality.
Learning from Real Life
As an example – I used to have a real problem with waiting in queues, or being stuck in traffic – a common enough experience for most of us. It used to make me feel I could climb the walls, or scratch out my eyeballs.
Meditation changed that. I actually look forward to queues these days. Now I use that ‘wasted’ time to go deeply into my inner world, into the present moment, and to refresh myself.
Instead of standing there, resisting what I can’t change, I relax completely, and go inwards towards a meditative state of mind. And it’s as if people around me can sense it. They sometimes feel drawn to me, and strike up a conversation. “You’re so relaxed,” they might say.
Angry people have also become like gurus to me.
When I started to learn to hold on to a meditative state more permanently, things that would before have ruined my day became opportunities for enlightenment – and fun.
Dealing with disgruntled, closed-up and angry people no longer makes me feel so negative. I can more easily see the humour in it, and there’s more compassion in me.
Meditation created a gap in my usual reactive thinking process, and gave me a window of opportunity. If I’m alert enough, I can use that gap to alter reality – perhaps not in the way I first hoped, but in a much more practical, useful, and satisfying way.
I slowly started to learn how not to instantly identify with those negative emotions, or internalize them –to merely observe them – and suddenly that anger wasn’t my problem anymore. How could it be?
It isn’t a problem at all. Instead, I can now more often transform the situation into a positive one. If I can’t – I can simply walk away, smiling inwardly to myself, untouched by it all.
The challenges in all relationships, especially intimate ones, are some of the best teachers.
In this way I learned that an ‘altered state of reality’ had a much deeper – and at the same time, a much more familiar meaning. It meant seeing the natural beauty, potential and wonder in each and every situation, every person, and every place. It meant discovering the natural joy of life everywhere, always.
Nature, especially, started to come alive to my senses as never before. Sometimes the sheer beauty of the plants, animals and landscapes on our planet could feel so vibrant, so full of wonder that it became almost overwhelming. How could I have missed it before? My reality changed.
The same principle applies to every ‘problem’ in life. Meditation trains your mind to become loose and free, instead of being stuck in a tight, tangled knot. You’re able to overcome the destructive mental habits of the past, and create new, positive ones.
If you would like to learn more about meditation, and how it can improve your life – why not check out the eBook and guided meditation course offered by Colours of Nature here.