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The Test for Meditation in Action

--by Shinzen Young (May 03, 2011)


When we first come into this life we form a self in order to cope with the world. The baby has a rather scant self and commensurately little ability to deal with the world. We develop a self to deal with the world, but we also develop the habit of solidifying that self, and that solidifying habit congests the flow of nature, leading to suffering.

The process of going from infancy to adulthood could therefore be called the process of forming a solidified sense of self. Some adults decide to start growing again, that is, to go from being an adult to being a super-adult. In order to do that, one has to learn the process of unsolidifying the sense of self.
 
The unsolidified self (which could be called the big self or the no-self) begins to arise within the super-adult. That no-self has to gradually learn how to deal with more and more complex aspects of life, just as the solidified self did.
 
At the beginning, the no-self may not be able to do anything except sit there --or maybe chant. Gradually the no-self learns how to do more complex things, like, maybe, sweep the yard. Eventually it learns how to talk, how to drive a car, how to carry on contract negotiations, and anything else that needs to be done. But, just as for the self, it takes a while for that no-self to learn how to do things. Eventually most of ego's activities get taken over by the no-self activity. The no-self knows full well how to get out of the way of trucks.
 
There are two ways that people can fool themselves. One is "I have to sit in a certain posture, and have the body absolutely aligned perfectly in order to meditate".  The second is "I don't ever need to sit in a posture like that; I meditate in daily life".
 
The way that you know if you're meditating in action is to see if you can stop on a dime any time you want. You should be able to go, at any time, into an absolutely stable, motionless state without struggle if you're really "meditating in daily life."
 
--Shinzen Young, from an Interview with Charles Tart


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17 Previous Reflections:

 
On May 8, 2011 Luke Willson wrote:

I meditate when ever i feel unsettled or down about life, weather its involves loved ones, work or just a shit day......... I mediate that the only thing making the situation bad is how i perceive it. the more i do this the more automatic it kicks in creating calm in all aspects of life.. Breath Beautiful people, life is not as serious as most of us think! ; )



On May 4, 2011 Travis wrote:

I don't find "no-self" to mean no "I am."  Quite the oppsite actually.  In my experience it is reduced somewhat to "Am", but material existence does not depart when identification as an existing form goes.  Once the walls of the lie of identifying as a separate individual self collapse the existing form is free to actually live this life.  There is no loss of this life when it is seen that this life is not the sum total of what we truly are.



On May 4, 2011 Manisha wrote:

Thank you for sharing these simple, elegant words. I'm still reflecting on it, but what has become apparent to me thus far is the difficult process of going from the solidified self to the no-self. They are opposite forces; the former pulls me into old habits that keep me within my constructed boundaries whereas the no-self opens me up to a natural flow of energy. Straddling between the two is unsteady. Perhaps each being can only house one self: either the solidified self or the no-self. At any given time, I can choose which self to be and my thoughts, feelings, and actions will follow accordingly. But as soon as the walls of the solidified self begin to crumble down and I experience what lies beyond, there is no desire to build it back up again. The whole wall must be brought down so that only the no-self exists.

I like the term "no-self" because without the self, there is no "I am"; only empty space for all possibilities.



On May 3, 2011 Ellen wrote:

In the 30's a man named Lou Austen discovered an interesting method to change from "solidified self" to Meditating Self, which he called the little me and the Great me. Simply breathe out the little me and breathe in the Great me. He taught it to his children, and then at their behest when adults, wrote a darling book for their children. With it, you can simply teach very young souls "and solidified adults" how to step from lower self to Higher Self. ALso he gives tips on how to tell which one is in charge.  

I have taught hundreds of children this method,and who  have never forgot that there is more to themselves than the "solidified self" 



On May 3, 2011 Travis wrote:

Great piece.  But, I think the term "super-adult" is a bit generous.  Most people simply never make it to adult. They remain children with lots of experience and perhaps some hard won wisdom.  Actual adults are few and far between.  As much in the world of spiritual seekers as elsewhere.



On May 3, 2011 Ganoba wrote:

 Meditating is as simple and natural as breathing.

The experts have a way of making it appear complecated so they can attract a following by promising to make it simple.

I HAVE PROMISED MYSELF THAT I WILL STAY AWAY FROM THE EXPERTS.



On May 2, 2011 richard wrote:

Yes. It took me a long time to begin to understand something about the extent of the problem here.



On May 2, 2011 Pancho wrote:

Hermano Viral asked us: "What is your own test for meditation in action?"

Putting meditation in action --outer service-- is when  my courage and kindness are aligneed and in great timing with the Universal Love.

 



On May 2, 2011 Ricky wrote:

As I move through the day on the high school campus, surrounded by the daily drama, angst, miscommunication, bullying, posturing, depression, and extraordinary focus on ‘doing’ rather than ‘being’, meditation in motion has become a ‘reality’ on how to personally cope with the exchange of energy.  With each step, with each breath, I am reminded and aware of the experience that lays before the Big S Self, and that all of this can be viewed as a ‘dream’, according to the Toltec tradition.  My mantra daily is I am enough for the students who need me today.  This way I do not get overwhelmed, overstimulated, overly saddened, and stressed.  Since practicing and teaching yoga over the past three years, I have connected to and experienced santosha-contentment with the Big S Self (no-self) by becoming aware with each mindful breath, and at my advanced age have been challenged to seek moksha-liberation on a more regular basis.&n  See full.

As I move through the day on the high school campus, surrounded by the daily drama, angst, miscommunication, bullying, posturing, depression, and extraordinary focus on ‘doing’ rather than ‘being’, meditation in motion has become a ‘reality’ on how to personally cope with the exchange of energy.  With each step, with each breath, I am reminded and aware of the experience that lays before the Big S Self, and that all of this can be viewed as a ‘dream’, according to the Toltec tradition.  My mantra daily is I am enough for the students who need me today.  This way I do not get overwhelmed, overstimulated, overly saddened, and stressed.  Since practicing and teaching yoga over the past three years, I have connected to and experienced santosha-contentment with the Big S Self (no-self) by becoming aware with each mindful breath, and at my advanced age have been challenged to seek moksha-liberation on a more regular basis.  This in no way means I have reached some sense of enlightenment as pursued by the ancients, and I have enjoyed the journey immensely!  For me, I can’t imagine a day without mediation in motion (action).  Our words are powerful and right speech through observing silence is necessary.  Our actions are our responsibility, and right action is required.  Our dedication to service is the world’s hope, and becoming connected to our gifts for this service requires a quieting of the mind and deep listening with our hearts.  To be fully awake means to practice meditation in motion-action.  These are extraordinary times.  I intend to be present and experience them to their fullest.   

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On May 1, 2011 madhur wrote:

 There is so much of learning in this space, especially from the comments of our thoughtful, genious readers. It opens up a new world and different perspective to an old world :)

Living the life of no-self is a marvellous idea but needs regular practice through several ways, listening and observing are extremely important and trust in God and his creation is the ultimate need for becoming peaceful and truly happy. Some of us may have lost time earlier and may need to re-build ourselves. The soul however remains unaffected and through cleansing and recycling from a created self may need some effort it's never too late to begin. As pointed out by readers above I couldnt agree more.

Much gratitude for your honest , heartfelt thoughts and comments which bring so much enlightenment.

thanks.



On Apr 30, 2011 Edit Lak wrote:

I completely got lost in Shinzen’s reading that I forgot the Question;  "What is your own test for meditation in action?"   Test – Test?  If one has to test self, then there is limited amount of trust to belief in ‘own-true-self’ So I replace 'Test' with ‘Trust’ - Trust, listen and allow of giving ‘life’ to real ‘self’   Over time I have learnt to listen, and still learning to listen to my internal self, so there is freedom of speech, freedom of acknowledging ‘self’ in my  life... So it doesn’t matter if I am sitting in the lotus position, sitting on a bus, train, or just laying down on the grass with my true self, self is not discriminatory as to where a moment of quiet time is to be, self is just ‘there’. When the true self is driving this vessel, I know ‘I am’ safe in the passenger’s seat, For, that 'trust' leads and teaches me p  See full.

I completely got lost in Shinzen’s reading that I forgot the Question;

 "What is your own test for meditation in action?"
 
Test – Test?  If one has to test self, then there is limited amount of trust to belief in ‘own-true-self’
So I replace 'Test' with ‘Trust’ - Trust, listen and allow of giving ‘life’ to real ‘self’
 
Over time I have learnt to listen, and still learning to listen to my internal self, so there is freedom of speech, freedom of acknowledging ‘self’ in my  life...
So it doesn’t matter if I am sitting in the lotus position, sitting on a bus, train, or just laying down on the grass with my true self, self is not discriminatory as to where a moment of quiet time is to be, self is just ‘there’. When the true self is driving this vessel, I know ‘I am’ safe in the passenger’s seat,
For, that 'trust' leads and teaches me peace in conflicting times, heals me when sick times, warms me in cold times, and loves me – when I forget
 
Even if that trust leads one on a journey you don’t want to have – The lesson will be phenomenal!!!!
 
No matter where, when, or how – just try and trust self’s request for meditation, even if it is a quiet meditation moment, you are paying a courtesy to ‘self ‘to rest in that moment.. 

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On Apr 30, 2011 Edit Lak wrote:

You cannot improve on this perfection.  Sinzens’s passage is of pure ‘Wisdom’ in the highest form...   Each paragraph has eternal meaning of great reverence   Paragraph (1) reads as: When we first come into this life we form a self in order to cope with the world. The baby has a rather scant self and commensurately little ability to deal with the world. We develop a self to deal with the world, but we also develop the habit of solidifying that self, and that solidifying habit congests the flow of nature, leading to suffering. Digesting that reading ‘Explodes’ in the senses of body and mind “For we come into life as our own innocent and unique self, with so much to give from pure love. But we quickly see the troubles before us, and we swiftly shield our-selves with ‘outer-self’ to cope with the world… That self made harness of sodifying our entire life, then turns into the quest of enlightenment and  See full.

You cannot improve on this perfection. 

Sinzens’s passage is of pure ‘Wisdom’ in the highest form...  

Each paragraph has eternal meaning of great reverence
 
Paragraph (1) reads as: When we first come into this life we form a self in order to cope with the world. The baby has a rather scant self and commensurately little ability to deal with the world. We develop a self to deal with the world, but we also develop the habit of solidifying that self, and that solidifying habit congests the flow of nature, leading to suffering.
Digesting that reading ‘Explodes’ in the senses of body and mind
“For we come into life as our own innocent and unique self, with so much to give from pure love.
But we quickly see the troubles before us, and we swiftly shield our-selves with ‘outer-self’ to cope with the world… That self made harness of sodifying our entire life, then turns into the quest of enlightenment and consciousness, to find our pure innocence and the truth that we started with in life anyway”…. Astonishing and incredible this truth is…
 
And the journey of growth of self, into self, from innocence and love, to develop continues in each and every wonderful paragraph...   Marvellous, truly marvellous...  
Its perfection
 

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On Apr 30, 2011 Conrad wrote:

Thank you so much. This is excellent. I learned much from it. I notice that I am still too much of a self. I  am more inspired now to grow up. I am most a non-self  when I am mindful and kind.
 As Seng-Ts'an said: "The more you think and talk, the more you lose the way." That fits well with the monk Thomas Keating, who said: "God's first language is silence. All else is a poor translation."Warm and kind regards to all readers. You all have my gratitude.



On Apr 30, 2011 KT wrote:

What a timely passage once again. It's amazing how people create their solidified self in an attempt to "protect" themselves or to become "strong" and "successful"  and do not even recognize the consequences of the choices they make. What am I doing in order to make me what I perceive as solid? What will happen to me in the long run once I am what I perceive to be as solid? I recently realized how badly I have treated myself for so long, starting at a very young age. When I was younger I had a lot of pain and sadness in my heart; I was extremely depressed. In order to be able to function and move on, be it day by day or looking towards the future, I used the "energy" that was in the pain and sadness (which actually brought me down and sapped me of true energy) and turned it into anger. It became a whole new type of energy and I told myself that the anger was actually positive; it was aiding determination which is "movement." Now,  See full.

What a timely passage once again. It's amazing how people create their solidified self in an attempt to "protect" themselves or to become "strong" and "successful"  and do not even recognize the consequences of the choices they make. What am I doing in order to make me what I perceive as solid? What will happen to me in the long run once I am what I perceive to be as solid?

I recently realized how badly I have treated myself for so long, starting at a very young age. When I was younger I had a lot of pain and sadness in my heart; I was extremely depressed. In order to be able to function and move on, be it day by day or looking towards the future, I used the "energy" that was in the pain and sadness (which actually brought me down and sapped me of true energy) and turned it into anger. It became a whole new type of energy and I told myself that the anger was actually positive; it was aiding determination which is "movement." Now, as a "successful" and "functioning" adult, I see how that transformation of the pain into anger has affected me. It has cost me so much and it has become all consuming; the biggest challenge for me, an actual fight for my life. In an attempt to work this out and attain "no-self" I have been meditating again. I had stopped for about 5 years. I could never tell you why; I don't know. I am pretty sure FEAR had become my best friend. I am finding it easier to take situations, feelings, worries.... moment to moment. I am finding strength in not being "solid" because I realize that the solid person was bound up in pain and misconceptions and lies. In sitting regularly again, and it's not been long, I witness moments throughout the day when I want to ball up and re-solidify and protect myself, but I am able to stop myself and breathe and use the sitting meditation activity in practice in a "meditating in daily life" way. I feel that I am more committed to the sitting meditation now more than ever because I realize that this act will then provide me the ability to live life in meditation and, to me, that means true freedom and a life worth living. :-)

Thank you. 

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On Apr 29, 2011 Prasad Kaipa wrote:

 Wherever I go, there I am -- this statement pretty much reflects the test for meditation for me. It is as if my doing and being are reflections of each other and whenever I become aware of my being, doing shifts and vice versa. For example, i was on tennis court today and found myself playing just the way that reflects how I am playing in my real life. HOw I move on the court, how I receive serve from the other, how I serve, how I hit the ball back and forth, how I get angry or how I feel happy -- everything reflected what I have been doing with my life off the tennis court. How I initiate, how I respond, my moods, emotions, thoughts, awareness, observation, attention, action and reflection are showing up again and again on the tennis court, in my walks, in my talks, in how I deal with email messages and finally and most importantly, how I deal with others in my life. It is all one and the same drama, same energy, same ego, same intensity and so on. My being is continually being  See full.

 Wherever I go, there I am -- this statement pretty much reflects the test for meditation for me. It is as if my doing and being are reflections of each other and whenever I become aware of my being, doing shifts and vice versa. For example, i was on tennis court today and found myself playing just the way that reflects how I am playing in my real life. HOw I move on the court, how I receive serve from the other, how I serve, how I hit the ball back and forth, how I get angry or how I feel happy -- everything reflected what I have been doing with my life off the tennis court. How I initiate, how I respond, my moods, emotions, thoughts, awareness, observation, attention, action and reflection are showing up again and again on the tennis court, in my walks, in my talks, in how I deal with email messages and finally and most importantly, how I deal with others in my life. It is all one and the same drama, same energy, same ego, same intensity and so on.

My being is continually being reflected in my doing and vice versa. But my thinking and feeling are flowing together in alignment with my being/doing, I have integrity and everything is effortless and there is magic, grace in life. When there is misalignment, there is blindness, deafness and am completely unaware of what is going on and life becomes endless loop of suffering.

Have you noticed it? When you are eqanimous, non-attached but engaged with life fully and fearlessly, magic happens all around you and inside you. When you are not, magic stops and ego suffers.

What if life is actually a meditation in process and when we stop meditating, when we suffer, we show up and life disappears?

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On Apr 29, 2011 Ashish wrote:

 I've often compared the sobriety test (walk a line) and a subsequent failure, to, observing my breath and the subsequent wandering of my attention. In the former, one gets slapped with a DUI (driving under the influence) and in the latter, I concluded, I am 'Living under the influence'. What I am 'Living under the influence' of, is an interesting question in itself. The 'stop on a dime' reminded me of this. Thanks for sharing this thought.



On Apr 29, 2011 susan schaller wrote:

Meditating in action, in daily life, seems impossible.  Then again, so does performing Shostakovich or juggling.  If I practice every day all day, eventually, I begin to learn how to disengage from my squirrel brain which feeds on fear and drama, and respond from the bigger Self, the connected Self more often, instead of react.  At first, I could only notice my habitual, solidified reactions and could not change them, then I was able to stop them in midstream, then I began to be able to prevent the outburst or reaction. Of course, the next day, I needed to practice again.  I know it is no longer impossible to draw upon deeper resources.  Eknath Easwaran has certainly helped with his tools of repeating the mantram, slowing down, putting others first, being one-pointed, training the senses and feeding mind and psyche with good reading and fellowship.  Each practice connects to each other and weaves meditation into each day. Thank you all for sharing, helping  See full.

Meditating in action, in daily life, seems impossible.  Then again, so does performing Shostakovich or juggling.  If I practice every day all day, eventually, I begin to learn how to disengage from my squirrel brain which feeds on fear and drama, and respond from the bigger Self, the connected Self more often, instead of react.  At first, I could only notice my habitual, solidified reactions and could not change them, then I was able to stop them in midstream, then I began to be able to prevent the outburst or reaction. Of course, the next day, I needed to practice again.  I know it is no longer impossible to draw upon deeper resources.  Eknath Easwaran has certainly helped with his tools of repeating the mantram, slowing down, putting others first, being one-pointed, training the senses and feeding mind and psyche with good reading and fellowship.  Each practice connects to each other and weaves meditation into each day. Thank you all for sharing, helping me to continue my practice, practice, practice.

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