Martin LeFevre: A Persistent Meditative State
A Persistent Meditative State
Two mallards, a multi-colored male and a rather plain brown female (except for a dazzling blue chevron on her wings) drifted downstream. They were completely at home and at one with each other, communicating through subtle movements where to go and what to do.
The male had a florescent green neck, a rich brown breast, and various shades of blue and white accenting his wings and tail feathers. All in all, they formed the most aesthetically pleasing patterns of color. After both ducks foraged for a bit in the sedges along the shore, the male paddled out into the strong current toward a small, cut log in the middle of the stream.
He came in from behind the obstacle, where the current was weaker, swam up to it, and in one seamless motion walked up onto the log. The female soon followed suit, at which point they preened for a while next to each other. The domestic bliss was suddenly interrupted when the male abruptly took off, chasing another female upstream as she flew by. Comically, they returned and flew just above the water downstream, while the deserted female did not even ruffle a feather.
A few minutes later he was back, flying upstream again past his unperturbed partner, before floating downstream and performing the same deft maneuver to get back up on the log to rejoin her. A moment later the female tucked her head in her wing and went to sleep, not moving even when I got up and walked down the back to the water’s edge.
The intent in sitting, to my mind, is to end and empty thought, including the content of emotion, such as anger, fear, and sorrow. Philosophers tend to think too much, and if I’m not careful, a lot of time passes cogitating on all sorts of things.
It’s instructive how the word cogitate is synonymous with the word ruminate, which has two meanings. The first meaning of ruminate is to regurgitate partially digested food and chew it again. The second meaning is to think carefully and at length about something. So too thought is continually regurgitating memory; and even intentional thinking is often simply chewing the cud of experience.
Do you take the time to sit quietly alone, after work and after you have played with your children, if you have any? Is there a spot of nature in your backyard or nearby where you can sit and observe without being interrupted, or besieged by too much noise and human activity? A bit of daily space and silence are so important, not just to awakening so-called higher states of awareness, but simply to keep one’s head above the sewage of society.
One has to set everything aside, especially one’s problems. We all have them, and they’ll be there when you return. So why not take a break from them for a half hour, and see if you have a fresh perspective? Besides, as intellectuals can attest, non-stop thought and thinking wears on the brain.
Of course it’s not easy to completely set things aside. One first has to generate some semblance of order; otherwise the mind keeps chewing on things. I find it helps to jot down things that come up, with the intent of allowing space in the mind so that the brain can breathe. Initially this process may release painful, difficult, or disturbing emotions, but if one holds to the feelings while at the same time letting them go (admittedly a paradox), even the most intractable and intense emotions begin to dissolve, and clarity ensues.
Most people, at least in North America, seem to have decided that it’s better not to feel at all, but usually that is a subconscious decision. And the price is very high—the deadening of all feeling, and the formation of a yawning emptiness. Disturbance is the easiest feeling to avoid, repress, and deny; indeed, even acknowledging disturbance is taken as weakness. It’s actually the opposite however, and allowing oneself to feel disturbed is the gateway to understanding.
Negating the observer and time are the two hallmarks of the meditative state. As far as I'm concerned, meditation does not begin until the separate observer and psychological time end.
If one really wants to go beyond thought and awaken the state of insight, one has to bring attention to the habits of mind of the observer and time. Obviously, these habits are very deeply entrenched, and probably as old as man. Awareness grows and deepens through attention, and attention in turn is gathered through undivided observation.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.