On Trusting Your Instincts

Meditation is a built-in ability. Your body already knows how to do it, as part of your survival instincts. The ability is there, in your nerves and muscles and metabolism, always ready and waiting for you to access it. There are thousands of techniques for meditating, which means there is something for everyone.

Meditation is riding the instincts into your inner world. The instincts — hunting, homing, grooming, feeding, mating, exploring, resting, healing, adaphing — are the wise motions of life. Meditation techniques access the instincts in infinite combinations and permutations. The most important techniques are as simple as paying attention to your breathing. Find something interesting about your breath and hang out with it.

Meditation techniques are things people invented or discovered going on within themselves, then systematized and put into a formal system. But they emerge from an extremely informal, intimate way of being with life. The techniques the meditation traditions have so diligently collected and preserved over the millennia are there to remind you to create your own system. Always remember this. Coaches and teachers can help you to access your inner knowledge, but the basic skill is already there inside you. I advocate an instinctive, passionate, and natural approach to meditation as the best way to begin and continue.

The four six books I talk about on this site - Meditation Made Easy, Breath Taking, Whole Body Meditations, Meditation Secrets for Women, Meditation 24/7, and The Radiance Sutras - are tools you can use to begin meditation, and if you already are meditating, sustain, enrich your practice.

Feel free to email me any questions you have about meditation experience. The first time you send me an email, it's a good idea to put MEDITATION in the subject. Once I have heard from you I'll put you in my address book and then your email will go into my inbox. I've been on the internet for 12 years or so, and because of this I get dozens of spam emails every day, so I configured my email program to automatically put them in a spam folder. The email program is pretty good about marking real-looking email (such as from you, the first time) in a different color so it's easier for me to spot. I look through it once a day to see if some innocent person's mail is in there. If you don't hear back from me in a day, mail again in a week or two. I might be out of town.

Spontaneity and Technique

Even though meditation comes from inside and can happen spontaneously, there are aspects that are technical. Whenever you are beginning a new practice, or beginning again, it is useful to look at these details. You could consider 3 elements of a meditation technique:

1. the style of attention you are attending with,
2. the senses you employ, and
3. the instincts you address.

Attention has many tones - the senses have many submodalities, and the instincts that power meditation have many discrete impulses. Attention can be loving, skeptical, neutral, inviting, wary, and many other modes or tones.

Each sense, let's use hearing as an example, has many subtleties. A sound can have volume, direction, resonance, vibrato, echo, stereo or mono, harmony, and tone. Sounds and music also vibrate our bodies, causing kinaesthetic sensations in the belly, heart, throat, forehead, and elsewhere. There are dozens more submodalities just to hearing, and a meditation technique can include touch, smell, hearing, vision, balance and motion sensing. Each of these primary senses and nuances enriches our meditative experience and makes it irresistable.

The instincts that guide meditation and provide the energy include the homing instinct, hunting, tracking, feeding, bonding, mating, resting, nesting and exploring. These are the motions life is always engaged in, to coin a phrase, "wise motions of life."

When our love relationships and/or our meditation seems arid, lacking life, it is often because we are limiting our range of attention, sensing and instinctive variety.

If you want to get the most benefit and enjoyment from meditation, customize it to suit your individual nature, which means your attention, your senses, and your instincts. When you match your meditation style to fit your inner, natural style, it's ecstatic. Like finding a shoe that really fits your foot. There is such a release of energy. That's what my work is about - the skill of how to follow your instincts. Most of the people interested in my work are rebels, who want to meditate but don't want an authoritarian hierarchical structure. And if you are not going to follow a guru, you need to make a close study of your internal guidance system. All my books are about this.

Another confounding issue is that when meditation works well, you tend to outgrow your technique. The reason you were meditating, the need you were seeking to fulfill, is met. So you have to begin again. You are in beginner's mind again. This is actually great, but it usually is a challenge to figure out all over again what meditation is and how to do it. I often have no idea what I am doing. Then when I use the approach I am describing here and in my books, life teaches me what's up.

Whenever meditation seems boring or you just don't want to do it, or whenever your outer life seems in need of enrichment, ask yourself, "What am I leaving out? What kind of attention, what senses, which of my instincts am I ignoring or deleting?

In one-to-one meditation sessions, what I do mostly is listen to people. People come and talk about their meditative experience, sometimes for half an hour to an hour, and I just listen with my whole being and ask a few questions. My attention is called to what's missing, what part of themselves they are leaving out. The questions I ask direct them toward those parts. Sometimes people with ten, twenty years of experience to come by in order to refresh their experience of meditation.

A man came over recently who has been meditating for 15 years with the Transcendental Meditation Technique. He is a computer programmer and highly articulate. I said, "I am curious that someone who is such a consistent meditator would come for a session." He said he felt a certain arid quality to his attention and his sense of life, and wondered if he could do something about that. We meditated for awhile, and then I asked him to tell me how he experiences the mantra, the sound he listens to during meditation. He talked for awhile, and there was a flavor there of concentrating well but not being open to pleasure, a forced feeling. So I asked, out of the blue, "Do you hear the silence?" He closed his eyes and tilted his head a little, and maybe 5 minutes went by. He opened his eyes and said, "Yeah, I hear the silence and I also feel it, a palpable vibration in my body, flowing silence."

I said, "Well, you know, this is where mantras come from and where they lead to. You have this in range of your senses, you just don't go there. That's what's missing. It's a habit you have, of excluding the good stuff of life. No wonder you have been depressed."

Then he said, "You know, I've never experienced that before," and he looked at me curiously, as if to say, what are you doing to me. I said, "I'm not doing anything to you, I am just inviting you to explore your own experience." He smiled for the first time, and then closed his eyes and seemed to really be enjoying himself.

Then I asked,"What would happen if you didn't repeat the mantra, if you just listened to whatever is there, the vibration of your own being, your thoughts, the universe?" Then we both closed our eyes and had an incredibly rich, melodic, harmonious meditation for a long time, maybe half an hour.

Looked at as attention, he was limiting the kind of attention he was paying - he was too dutiful, too diligent, not allowing of fluctuation. He was always the one paying attention. He wouldn't let go and experience attention as something attending to him. There is a self-luminous quality, a self-existing quality of attention you discover when you allow it.

In terms of the senses, he was limiting the range of sensing he allowed, and not letting himself enjoy the whole cross-play between hearing, seeing, feeling, and motion. He wouldn't let his sense of hearing fully dissolve into silence.

Looked at instinctively, he was doing that plod, plod, plod thing you do when following a trail, but he was not using his tracking senses, the hunter within, the pure explorer. He wouldn't let the instinctive tone fluctuate according to his cravings, from mating to nesting to feeding.

Because he was in the Yoga tradition (or the Sanatana Dharma, you could say, sometimes called Hinduism) I framed what I had told him as the
4 Levels of Vak.

Then, because his tradition is quite authoritarian - if he told anyone that he had been to see a non-authorized teacher he would not be allowed to go to advanced courses or meditate in the Golden Dome - I erased myself partially. I reframed the process by saying, "There is nothing wrong with your meditation practice per se.* The slightest hint from me and you awaken to this huge range of experience that you have been denying. This means that you are awake on those levels, you just don't allow them to come in and enrich you. The problem isn't with your depths, it's with your surface. It's as if you decided to voluntarily impoverish yourself. The correction for you has to come on the level of conscious decision, in the waking state. I think you are being faced with the decision to come out from your cave, face your fear of life and of intense vitality, and really live. You went into meditation for refuge, respite, and healing. You got that. The next part of your adventure is to let yourself really live life, and deal with the incredible challenge of being as sensitive as you are. When you decide to live, decide to embrace life, then your meditation will follow."
*In a way, I lied to him. His issue was classic in terms of meditation technique. All my books are about this sort of experience. I just framed it this way in order to avoid provoking a crisis. He gave no indication that he was leaving his tradition, or questioning it. He just wanted some feedback on his meditation technique and he did not ask about anything else. What I was attempting to do here was to be ethical, and stay within a really tight boundary: give him some tech support, and not invade the authoratarian space within which he was practicing meditation. I don't know whether I overdid it with this reframe.

Thought for the Day:

Life refreshes itself through fluctuation.

For better or worse, we don't come with instruction manuals. Or you could say, the manual is written in the myelination on your nerves - there for you to read if you will learn the language.