I would like to begin this chapter with the following scene from Anna Karenina, which is based on one of Tolstoy’s personal experiences.
After lunch Levin was not in the same place in the string of mowers as before, but stood between the old man who had accosted him jocosely, and now invited him to be his neighbor, and a young peasant, who had only been married in the autumn, and who was mowing this summer for the first time.
The old man, holding himself erect, moved in front, with his feet turned out, taking long regular strides, and with a precise and regular action which seemed to cost him no more effort than swinging one’s arms in walking, as though it were in play, he laid down the high, even row of grass. It was as though it were not he but the sharp scythe of itself swishing through the juicy grass.
Behind Levin came the lad Mishka. His pretty, boyish face, with a twist of fresh grass bound around his hair, was all working with effort; but whenever anyone looked at him he smiled. He would clearly have died sooner than own it was hard work for him.
Levin kept between them. In the very heat of the day the mowing did not seem such hard work to him. The perspiration with which he was drenched cooled him, while the sun, that burned his back, his head, and his arms, bare to the elbow, gave a vigor and dogged energy to his labor; and more and more often now came those moments of unconsciousness, when it was possible not to think what one was doing. The scythe cut of itself. These were happy moments. Still more delightful were the moments when they reached the stream where the rows ended, and the old man rubbed his scythe with the wet, thick grass, rinsed its blade in the fresh water of the stream, ladled out a little in a tin dipper, and offered Levin a drink.
“What do you say to my homebrew, eh? Good, eh?” said he, winking.
And truly Levin had never drunk any liquor so good as this warm water with green bits floating in it, and a taste of rust from the tin dipper. And immediately after this came the delicious, slow saunter, with his hands on the scythe, during which he could wipe away the steaming sweat, take deep breaths of air, and look about at the long string of mowers and at what was happening around in the forest and the country.
The longer Levin mowed, the oftener he felt the moments of consciousness in which it seemed not his hands that swung the scythe, but the scythe mowing of its own, and as though by magic, without thinking of it, the work turned out regular and well-finished of itself. These were the most blissful moments.
The Turn Within
This happiness and the refreshment that we enjoy when we recognize and surrender to pure consciousness is true meditation.
Meditation is your own thing.
Just like sleep is our capacity to turn within, it does not belong to some religion or country. Sleep is our own state. The three states - deep sleep, dreaming, and waking - are witnessed by you. The Witness, pure consciousness, is the fourth state.
Meditation is being the Witness only.
It’s not something new, which has to be learned, nor is it something old and exotic. The capacity to focus the mind on one point is common to us all. And the joy that arises from within when the mind is still is also common to us all.
Be the Witness only.
Not escaping, not desiring, not avoiding, not complaining.
Notice your experience of this moment. The moment is so elusive and so brief that we can’t even think about it before it has gone. Reality has already departed before thought reaches where it thought it was.
Our experience is nonintellectual. This moment is always here, since we know no other moment than the present moment. Experience is always being born, always new, emerging rapidly from that complete unknown which we call the future.
We are seeing that our experience is momentary, it is being preserved in the present and it is always dying, dissolving, always becoming the past, more rapidly than imagination can conceive. Thinking about it almost makes you breathless!
Yet there is continuity in this process. The uninterrupted existence of the essence of this moment is you.
Be the Witness only.
Not thinking, not experiencing, not separate, not gaining.
It is consciousness itself which makes experience possible. It’s like daylight, which makes everything visible while itself remaining invisible.
So consciousness is present in every experience, yet is not an experience. To recognize your Self is not an experience. It is the discovery of the timeless space – the eternal now – in which every experience takes place.
As 14th century mystic Meister Eckhart said,
“The now-moment in which God made the first man, and the now-moment in which the last man will disappear, and the now-moment in which I am speaking are all one in God, in whom there is only one now.
Look! The person who lives in the light of God is conscious neither of time past nor of time to come, but only of one eternity. Therefore he gets nothing new out of future events, nor from change, for he lives in the now-moment that is, unfailingly, ever new life.”
We look to the future because the present seems empty. We want more and more time to go on searching, ever hopeful of satisfaction just around the corner.
Experience now the place of deep peace within yourself.
Be the Witness only.
Not seeking, not changing, not empty, not satisfied.
Meditation is easy. It’s been working for people since the beginning of time. Meditation easily and spontaneously leads you to focus your mind and allows you to reach a calm center inside. A great source of happiness and peace lies right inside you. You can discover a new dimension of yourself and approach your life with great calm and joy.
Meditate on the one who is meditating on you all the time,
Now, as you sit erect, breathing regularly and slowly, just sit erect, breathing regularly and slowly. When there is a thought neither accept it nor reject it. Then you will find yourself to be what you are, the Witness.
Meditation allows the mind to become still, then the bliss of the Witness manifests by itself. It’s very difficult to take mud out of water but if you let it be, it will clear by itself.
The art of living meditation is neither careless drifting on the one hand, nor fearful clinging to the past and the known on the other. It consists in being completely sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.
Your True Identity
There is a Chinese story of one who came to a great sage, saying, “I have no peace of mind. Please pacify my mind.”
The sage answered, “Bring out your mind before me, and I will pacify it.”
“These many years,” he replied, “I have sought my mind, but I cannot find it.”
“There", concluded the sage, “it is pacified!”
Be the Witness only.
Not full of mind, not knowing, not attached, not stressful.
Realize yourself as the ocean of consciousness in which all happens. This is not difficult. A little attentiveness, a close observation of yourself, and you will see that no experience is outside your consciousness.
Mind is intermittent, full of gaps. Yet there is a continuity of identity. What is this sense of identity due to, if not something beyond mind?
There is no need to change anything. The mind is changing all the time anyway. Look at your mind dispassionately. This is enough to calm it. It will settle down and recover its purity and strength.
Your true identity is very subtle, but your mind is full of gross thoughts and feelings. Calm and clarify your mind and you will know yourself as you are.
Knowing by Being
From the Mahanarayana Upanishad:
“By dedication to the practice of meditation comes mental power.
From mental power comes sense withdrawal (pratyahara). This makes deep reflection possible.
From reflection comes calmness of mind. This leads to illumination or conclusive experience of truth.
This illumination intensifies remembrance of truth.
This remembrance produces continuous remembrance, continuous remembrance leads to unbroken, direct realization of truth.
By such realization one lives as pure consciousness.”
There is only one waveless and profound ocean of pure nectar, sweet through and through, blissful everywhere. That consciousness is the Witness of the rise and fall of all beings. Know that to be the immortal state of supreme bliss.
Be the Witness only.
Not “I”, not embodied, not resisting, not even understanding, but only Being the one who is the Witness.
When you are practicing meditation, don’t try to stop your thinking. Let it stop by itself. If something comes into your mind, let it come in and let it go out. It won’t stay long.
When you try to stop your thinking it means you are bothered by it. Do not be bothered by anything.
It appears as if something comes from outside your mind, but actually it is only the waves of your mind, and if you are not bothered by the waves of your mind, gradually they will become calmer and calmer.
Be the Witness only.
To know by being is direct knowledge. It is based on the identity of the seer and the seen. The primary purpose of meditation is to become conscious of and familiar with our inner Witness. The ultimate purpose is to be this source of life and consciousness.
To know, you need a knowing mind, a mind capable of knowing. But your mind is ever on the run, never still, never merely reflecting.
Know who you are. Don’t ask others. Don’t let others define you. Look within and know.
True happiness cannot be found in things that change and pass away. Pleasure and pain alternate. Happiness comes from the Witness and can be found in the Witness only.
Be the Witness only and all else will come with it.
Meditation leads directly to realization by removing the obstacles which make you think that the Witness is not already realized.
Context vs. Content
I still practice on 18th Street in New York City under the guidance of Shihan Yamada Sensei. I now live on the West Bank of the Hudson River in Hoboken. We are coming up on the 10th Anniversary of my own dojo here in Hoboken. I am currently reading David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D., who reports from his own experience in Power vs. Force:
“The question then arises: How does one know what’s being experienced by the mind? By observation and introspection, one can witness that thoughts have no capacity to experience themselves, but that something both beyond and more basic than thought, experiences the sequence of thoughts, and that something’s sense of identity is unaltered by the content of thoughts.
What is it that observes and is aware of all of the subjective and objective phenomena of life? It’s consciousness itself that resonates as both awareness and experiencing, and both are purely subjective.
Consciousness itself isn’t determined by content; thoughts flowing through consciousness are like fish swimming in the ocean. The ocean’s existence is independent of the fish: the content of the sea doesn’t define the nature of the water itself. Like a colorless ray, consciousness illuminates the object witnessed, which explains its traditional association throughout world literature with 'light.'
Identification solely with the content of consciousness accounts for the experience of self as limited. In contrast, to identify with consciousness itself is to know that one’s actual self is unlimited. When such circumscribed self-identifications have been surmounted so that the sense of self is identified as consciousness itself, we become ‘enlightened.’
Enlightenment is said to be relatively rare, not so much because of the difficulty of following the necessary steps to get there, but because it’s a condition of interest to very few, particularly in modern society. If we were to stop 1,000 people in the street and ask them: What is your greatest ambition in life? how many would say: To be enlightened?"
Our practice is centered on meditation because the goal of meditation is to realize the inner truth, not just to relax a little and get some peace. I would like to close with these clear words from Dr. Hawkins.
“Ignorance does not yield to attack, but it dissipates in the light, and nothing dissolves dishonesty faster than the simple act of revealing the truth.
The only way to enhance one’s power in the world is by increasing one’s integrity, understanding, and capacity for compassion.
The initial effect of taking responsibility for the truth of one’s life is the stepping stone to higher levels of consciousness.
The Courage to face truth leads eventually to Acceptance.
This in turn leads to Love.
Knowing our own, and everyone else’s, human foibles gives rise to Forgiveness, and then to Compassion.
Compassion is the doorway to Grace, to the final realization of who we are and why we’re here, and to the ultimate source of all existence.”