Last week I spent 5 days sitting in silent meditation with Sharon Landrith, a teacher of Adyashanti's lineage. There is something in me that wants to drink and drink and drink of that deep silence and stillness, and I keep going back for more.
When my kids were younger we went to a Sunday gathering that our neighbor hosted. It was a spiritual gathering, and I remember at some point the leader said if you wanted to find a teacher, and open to something deeper in your life, light a candle every night for a month, and look into it for 30 minutes.
His words triggered rage. I thought 'this guy is obviously retired, and he's got the time. Some of us around here actually have to WORK!!' I was SO pissed.
How could he have the audacity to tell me that there was that kind of time to be had? He didn't know! Locked into the identity of an organic farmer pulled up by my own boot straps, my life was built on devotion to non-stop work, and had been for years. I honored no space for contemplation.
Looking back I see I yearned for that quiet candle gazing so so badly. The depth of the rage was equal to the depth of the yearning.
Several years later when life started to up heave I remembered his guidance. I sat every night with a candle, gazing into the pure beauty of the soft flicker. Within a month I found my first teacher.
It is a journey to really trust and honor the call for quiet and stillness. Our culture does not support it. Value is placed on doing, achieving, and building up a life. We are not taught the sacredness of quiet stillness and keen listening for the whisper of God. If the yearning is there, heed it. It is the voice of God calling you home.
Spiritual inquiry is different than asking questions and trying to figure out the answers in the way that we usually do. Usually we pose a question to ourselves and begin to worry it over and over with thinking. We are sure that if we just think about it enough, research it enough, ask enough people about it we will figure it out.
Spiritual inquiry is much different. It does not use the mind to figure out the answer to a question.
In spiritual inquiry - also called meditative or contemplative prayer - the mind poses a question, rests this question into the heart, into God, into the absolute, and then patiently abides until the answer yields into form.
When these answers come, they come with an energy that is instantly recognizable as the truth. The truth does not need qualification or justification, and once this truth is experienced inside a person, they know it on a level deeper than mind. A person who has experienced the truth does not need external validation because they simply KNOW.
It is with this experiential insight into truth that abiding shifts in behavior and habitual patterns of thinking can occur. This is the beauty and power that The Work has to offer us.
When the mind sincerely asks the heart a question, and brings all of its pain and confusion to the door of the heart and lays it there in patience, and then waits in that sacred land of not-knowing, the heart will yield up an answer from a place beyond thinking, a place of truth.
The Work of Byron Katie, presence, and spiritual inquiry all beckon to this domain of the heart, of the absolute, of God. These modalities aid in our descent into the unknown, into the only place from which real insight, transformation, and creativity can arise.
This place is beyond time and space, and it is self-authenticating. This place is in everyone, and is available to anyone willing to suspend all conditioned beliefs and take the sacred plunge into the divine.
Have you ever had the thought "I'm not supposed to be here"? Have you had that thought anywhere - in this moment, at a particular juncture in time, or even existentially. It's effect is the same no matter where it gets set loose in your life.
"I'm not supposed to be here" flows under my day, deep deep down where I don't notice it. It's subtle, resounding impact on my moment to moment life is profound. How do I know the thick pervasiveness of this thought? How do I know how it is woven into the fabric of my unconscious? Because I've done The Work on it and I have seen it in action.
On the fly I can now simply say "I'm supposed to be here" and because I have often done Work on this thought, the words themselves resonate inside as true, and the world opens, if ever so briefly, to gentleness and indescribable sweetness.
The Work shows us exactly how a thought permeates our life, influences our actions and colors our emotions at every turn. That is one of the gifts of meditating on question 3 "How do you react, what happens when you believe this thought?" By meditating on this question you are SHOWN the horrors of believing a thought. That sounds extreme, but if you get close enough and subtle enough in your looking, the affects truly are nothing short of horrific.
I have a wonderful teacher in The Work who relates, after years and years of practice, that he can notice a thought float past and he has so thoroughly seen all the ways that thought wrecks havoc with his life that there is absolutely nothing in him that is tempted to latch onto it ever again. Now that is freedom.
That kind of freedom comes from really clearly seeing just what a thought does to your life, to your world. Without this clear seeing there will always be some part of you that figures it's a good idea to believe it.
Here's something else this same teacher once said (I really love him). He said that thoughts are like tools. As simple and as non-emotional as that. Thoughts are tools that we pick up and use every day.
Now think of some tools. If you pick up a hammer it's a good idea to know what it will do if you swing it, right? And need I bring in the image of a chain saw? Backhoe? We sure as heck want to know what happens when we power these things up. The same is true for thoughts.
Every single thought has it's own exact and particular affect when we pick it up and turn it on. The Work gives a way to clearly see what thoughts do when we fire them up and start using them (often willy-nilly) in our life.
"I'm not supposed to be here." Let's look. What kind of world do we live in when that thought holds complete sway? What's that life like?
Hell. I am always an outsider. Something else is supposed to be happening, and I need to figure out what it is. In a world where "I am not supposed to be here" is true I live with an energetic edge that forever keeps me outside of now - like the push that two magnets create - that energetic push is between me and the world, me and other people, even me and the chair I'm sitting in.
There's a sad, ashamed quality of looking that comes through my eyes. I feel fear. There is no rest. I am the Little Match Girl, always looking in, separate, freezing and forlorn.
That is the world that we live in when the thought "I'm not supposed to be here" is in power. When that thought is king look at the country he rules. Really look at it. What is that kingdom like? I'm not supposed to be here. Do you want to live there?
Now for a moment imagine that you are walking into a world where this thought is absent. In fact, no one in this entire world has ever even heard the thought "I'm not supposed to be here." What is that world like? Take a moment. Sense into it.
There is a deep coming home. A sense of indescribable joy begins to rise through me that cries 'can I be this lucky? Can it be this good'? My being begins to sink into here, to fuse and join with what is here. And I can hardly believe that I get to live here. The joy is almost to much to bear.
This is the world we live in. We are supposed to be here. You are supposed to be here. See what happens when you let that in.
A couple of years ago I was at a silent meditation retreat with Adyashanti. During one of the morning talks he spoke about throat clearing and weight shifting during meditation. His basic message was that these things are usually not necessary, and in fact are a way to bleed off nervous energy.
He went on to say that if the body remains still, and lets the nervous, shifty, want-to-do-something-about-it energy just be, eventually the energies release and integrate into the stillness. The commitment to stillness actually provides a physical example of calm that the nervous energy can map onto.
My ears perked up at his words. I had been experiencing a hard painful lump in my throat during the week of meditation, and figured it was a good idea to swallow in order to help move the energy. I trust Adyashanti, so when he spoke about keeping still and not bleeding off the energy I decided to try it.
Then things got a little crazy, and a perfectly fantastic 40 minute meditation ensued.
I decided right as the meditation bell rang in the session that I was not going to swallow for 40 minutes. Did you swallow even just reading that? I have no idea where this commitment came from, it just bubbled up fully formed as that dang bell rang.
Not only did I commit to not swallow, I simultaneously committed to rest my attention on my throat the entire time. That is to say I would be doing nothing to distract myself away from whatever sensations arose there. Yes, I committed to sit in a tortuous hell for 40 minutes.
Allow yourself imagine that scenario for a moment. Is spit starting to fill your mouth? Is the urge to swallow mounting in your throat? It is if you're anything like me.
So I sat. For 40 minutes, absolutely still, and completely focused on being present to my throat. Let me tell you, it was something else.
The urge to swallow would mount to an all consuming absolutely-have-to-do-it level, convincing me that it was by-God beyond a doubt true that I had to swallow. And right there, at the peak of intensity I would commit, just for that millisecond, to not swallow.
The urge to swallow came in waves, and each time at the peak I would hold out, and then the urge would slowly back off for a bit. And mount again. And so it went for the entire time. I got so close to giving in, and I didn't.
There was something that just absolutely believed it was a FACT that I had to swallow, and time and again it turned out to simply not true. I never HAD to swallow, despite almost everything in me telling me that yes, yes you do.
I can't say there was a resulting amazing shift in the painful lump in my throat. This surprised me as that was what I anticipated would result. Instead shifts came about in ways I didn't expect at all.
One was this clear, moment to moment repeated experience of totally thinking I had to swallow, followed by the simple not-trueness of it. To be shown over and over that something everything in me was saying was true actually wasn't was a deep lesson.
The other gift that came from the Spit Meditation, as I have come to call it, was shown to me several days after I came home. It was evening and my children were whining just before dinnertime. I felt the same sense of mounting intensity that said I HAD to do something to stop them from whining. The sense of urgency and if-I-don't-make-this-stop-I-will-go-insane was exactly the same as the sensation in the Spit Meditation.
I was able to see this very clearly, and in that had the capacity to ride out the wave. For the first time I fully appreciated how powerful the intensity of those kinds of moments were with my children. Of course I had noticed them before, but the Spit Meditation gave me a relentless experience of sitting with that kind of energy, so it became much easier to spot it when it happened elsewhere in my life.
I also realized a profound respect for just how powerful the intense energy was, and from that realization a compassion towards my self was born, as I saw how frequently it coursed through my day to day life.
I don't have a sweeping conclusion to The Spit Meditation, yet I have seen it's far reaching impact on my life, and I am thankful to whatever bubbled up in me that day several years ago as the meditation bell rang.