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Oct 12, 2012

Keeping still

Our species evolved to do something – run away from danger, find food, hunt, fight – to solve problems. Our languages evolved to help with doing: we have categories words for objects and for their qualities and actions. We are not very good at dealing with situations when there is nothing to do and nothing to solve; nothing important to say. Those include death of someone we love, despair, love, natural disasters, and many, many others. We live in an unpredictable and chaotic world, and we only learned to control a small part of it. We like to pretend that we can do more, but it is not true – the most important things like life and death, we cannot control.

In some traditions, meditation keeps the mind clear of all language-derived thought. In other traditions, including many Abrahamic prayer practices, the technique is to repeat the same words to the point where they lose literal meaning. Those are the things we do to overcome our propensity to always do and say something. The abilities to act and to speak are hindrances as much as they are assets. Humans are perpetually frustrated with their inability to solve problems – from love to death, from justice to beauty. Sometimes it is good, for it makes us move. However, it also causes us to suffer when no solutions can be found and none should be sought.

People’s experience with meditation and prayer are different from each other, but collectively different from those of every-day life of work, leisure, action and speaking. Otherwise, it would be difficult to explain the universal spread of spiritual practices among people of different religions or no religion. Keeping still and stopping our brains from the constant search for solutions is good for us. With some practice, we reach Bodhi (awakening) or are able to see the divine light/the Holy Spirit, which is essentially the same thing. How “real” that is depends on what you mean by reality and, even more importantly, why you need the concept of reality. The point of these practices is exactly to get pass the real/imagined dichotomy, so it would be unfair to measure something with what it is trying to overcome. People who ask if this is real miss the point. 

I can sometimes see the objects and people around me starting to disintegrate. It is as if the whole world is painted on glass, and someone from the other side of the glass is slowly hosing the paint down. The paint is very strong, but I can see some spots washed away, and white light shining through. I cannot see the light directly; I just know it is there. 

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