Why Meditate

Meditation is not a separate something from daily life… meditation is a form of understanding one’s relationship to the world and one’s relationship to nature…(We are) enquiring into the whole nature of thinking, enquiring into the nature why human beings are behaving in this way, enquiring into or probing into the depth of life, what it all means, if there is something beyond the ordinary daily monotonous wearisome life. To enquire if there is something sacred. – J. Krishnamurti

The greatest unrealized truth is that meditation is essential to modern humanity, and what is also clear, since meditation is not realized as essential, is that we are in serious difficulty. We are too many and too powerful to continue along in the same basic consciousness as we have for thousands of years, building our civilizations, our monuments to human specialness and competition, our abstractions of what it means to be alive on this planet. We must realize some basic truths. We must face the truth of our relationship to the world and to nature, to the depth of life, to find out, as Krishnamurti said, “if there is something sacred” in this life. The one inescapable truth is that only meditation can do this.

But this search for the sacred is not how we live. We are primarily concerned with our very secular selves, content with fictions about the sacred. We are living in a daze, superficially, trying to avoid anything we consider unpleasant or inconvenient, while stirring up misery and drama unnecessarily, creating as much significance for ourselves as we can, engaged in a never-ending, never-accomplished “pursuit of happiness.” We thoughtlessly believe the purpose of life is to acquire more and more “security” through possessions and status, to seek more and more leisure and entertainment, to accumulate more superficial relationships, and to live as if this will give us happiness, and we are completely mystified that it doesn’t. We never question.

We just up the ante. We work harder, we play harder, we buy more stuff, we stir up more drama, asserting that this gives meaning and importance to our lives. We declare what we do as important and necessary, as the only way to be. We may seek personal improvement through therapies, continued learning, even spiritual practices. We may actually want to be better – or not. The end result still seems only marginally different and improved.

We take more pills that promise relief from depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, gastric distress, headaches and sexual dysfunction. We invest more and more in insuring longer, healthier, more financially secure lives without really knowing what to do with the lives we have. We go to churches and we take up spiritual practices because we are told that in them we will find meaning, and they, like television or other diversions, temporarily relieve our isolation. They stimulate and entertain us; and do give us contact with others who also seek the same meaning we long for. We may actually find some meaning, some sense of touching something infinite, although we don’t exactly know why. But none of it ever changes the basic problems of our lives or the problems of humanity.

What we do as individuals, we likewise do as collectives that have lives of their own: nations, governments, religions, corporations. There is no thought to the implication that these entities lack conscience or compassion while they have resources that give them access and voice a thousand, a million-fold over any individual. Human suffering and the degradation of the planet rolls on.

And we watch our society become one big market place with everything for sale, everything with a price-tag, including our leaders and our laws. What ought to be basic rights like education and health-care have become commodities available only at a price, increasingly out of reach for many. Access to nature now frequently comes with an admission fee. Banks stand looking like temples, as is appropriate to their status in our society. Corporations seem to own everything. We have little morality, but more and more laws and “ethics,” violations of which will swiftly bring law suits, but there is little justice or fairness. No one is responsible for their own foolishness, yet everyone is accountable for any infraction of the rules (except those with influence).

This is actually nothing new. Religions, political parties, nations, ideologies have long functioned as super-individuals (egos), causing untold harm and suffering, pursuing their interests to the exclusion of the interests of those who are not the “we.” Thousands of years of this. With the passing of centuries, the dynamic only becomes increasingly energetic, increasingly concentrated, abstract and sophisticated, causing more harm and suffering, now threatening the balance of the very ecosystem humanity depends on for life, and we seem incapable of the fundamental change that we all know is necessary.

Like an over-indulgent, long-suffering mother, the collective of life and the collective of the planet has indulged this self-centered, self-indulgent childish spoiled behavior. And like a spoiled child who only pursues its own pleasure, the child is not happy, does not know what happiness is, yet acts out even more, seemingly incapable of any insight into its own behavior as the source of its unhappiness. The mother is now exhausted, has little left to give, but the pampered child, in complete denial of its situation, expects the pampering and spoiling to go on indefinitely. The situation is insane, and what is the most insane is that this is what is considered completely “normal.”

Does this seem like an overly harsh and judgmental assessment of the state of humanity? A deeper consideration (meditation) will show the truth of it, and it is the deeper consideration that we are incapable of without being directed to it. We are just caught in the momentum of thousands of years of conditioning to consider all this dysfunction as “normal.” For all of humanity’s technological progress, even its political and philosophical progress towards recognizing the worth of the individual and the universality of some basic rights, we fail to see the basic flaw that comes from living within thought structures that tell us we are separate, self-interested individuals living within separate, self-interested collectives. Compassion is relegated to arcane religious teachings, rather than realized as an essential psychological necessity. We experience the consequences of this delusional consciousness, but we fail to recognize the flaw in the consciousness that is the cause of the consequences.

We believe that we are these separate self-interested entities because our culture has told us that we are. What we fail to realize is that this is nothing but a thought; and a very bad thought at that, and it has been responsible for every war, every act of insensitivity, every abuse, every exploitation, every prejudice, every division and conflict, every inequity that has plagued humanity as individuals and collectives. We fail to realize, to feel, the one indispensable insight: that we are one collective that is life, and so we humans, as individuals and as collectives, fail to act as one collective that is within and dependent upon the greater collective that is life. We fail to realize that we each are akin to the individual cells that make up the individual organs of a human body that act as one collective that supports the organism, a human being. So too, we will be unable to function with real harmony and happiness as individuals, as collectives, as the human species, until we realize the consciousness that is the collective Life on the organism/planet Earth as who we are.

Will this make us unthinking automatons? No. It will allow us to apply our intelligence, our creativity, our individuality in the service of Life, in the service of harmony and happiness, and just like a child who realizes spontaneous, cooperative, kind play is far more rewarding than conniving, selfish, hurtful behavior, we can then discover what true happiness and human productivity is.

But to find this, we must go deeper in consciousness than the programmed thought structures of competitive individual selfishness that human civilization has conditioned into us for thousands of years. We must – as Krishnamurti talked and wrote about – engage in a total inner revolution – a turning over of what we accept as normal – to see what is real. This seeing what is real in the universe of our minds and the universe around us is what meditation is, and only in the silent awareness of true meditation can we look at, see and feel the truth of who we are, what is real and what is unreal. Then, we can discover that there is something sacred, and it is life, and it is you and me and all humanity and all fellow creatures and every moment of this precious experience that is human life and existence.

Then we can rebuild this human civilization in the honoring and celebration of every life and all life. And along the way, each of us as individuals will discover real happiness and creativity and meaning. This is why we must meditate.

Bill Walz has taught meditation and mindfulness in university and public forums, and is a private-practice meditation teacher and guide for individuals in mindfulness, personal growth and consciousness. He holds a weekly meditation class, Mondays, 7pm, at the Friends Meeting House, 227 Edgewood. By donation. Information on classes, talks, personal growth and healing instruction, or phone consultations at (828) 258-3241, e-mail at healing@billwalz.com.

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