By Nagarjuna Campello
Meditation has many aspects, or faces, but if I were asked to define it, I would be inclined to say that it is the journey of exploration, or investigation, into the very nature of human consciousness. Most refer to it as the search for God, truth, or enlightenment. But what is it all about? Is it not the discovery of who we already are?
Once this process of investigation starts, in most cases the meditator is introduced to what are called meditation practices, or techniques. Since meditation is a state of being, and not a technique of any kind, all the different practices or disciplines are tools, or approaches—what you might call “meditation techniques.” But they can bring about the experience of the “state of meditation.” In the very initial stages the meditation practice can be in the form of intense physical shake-up, also called physical or active meditation. This dynamic approach has been introduced mostly to the Western world in response to the fact that most Westerners have not been fit for the more direct forms of meditation practice, such as vipassana.
Generally speaking, the Western mind is extremely restless and under the tyranny of all kinds of mental impressions left behind from past experiences, in this life and past ones both. The mind rebels against and denies silence. It keeps using all of its mental processes in the same way that the powerful influences of nature can turn a calm ocean surface into an unpredictable chaos.
Therefore, in the initial stages, physical exercises can be a necessary precondition to meditation. Exercise temporarily releases tension and stress from the human organism and allows the meditator to have a taste of that beautiful space that usually involves suspension of mental processes, expansion of consciousness, and the peace, bliss, and love that always come with it.
Therefore, meditation is not a technique, but a mystical state of consciousness.
Once having had a real taste of it, the spiritual seeker, in spite of being compelled by the forces of all his or her past mental impressions to want so many conflicting other things, still has the opportunity to remember the experience, and he or she starts wanting it more and more. A stage comes in natural spiritual development at which he or she starts finding more direct ways to access that space, no longer having to engage in the old, intense, arduous, physical exercises. This is all part of a process commonly known as purification of the mind.
Basically speaking, two spiritual paths can be adopted—the one of investigation into one’s own mind, and the one of love, or devotion to God. I am inclined to believe that the path of love or devotion is the one that comes about most spontaneously and effortlessly in the single life of the individual soul. In its more advanced stages, it could be described as a natural way of life at which the devotee effortlessly finds beauty and divinity in everything and everyone around. God is felt to be omnipresent, and love for all is a constant experience.
On the path of knowledge or investigation, the meditator finds a variety of different paths, but I would like to bring to light the two different qualities that I consider a common ground for all different methods: One is the female, and the other is the male quality.
The female has more of the quality of being passive—just being there as the subjective consciousness, passively watching with no preference whatsoever as to what comes to his or her field of awareness. The goal is to establish a clear-cut line between the subjective consciousness of the observer and the objective world, which is made up of any and everything that can be objectified. With time, patience, humility, and great persistence, the earnest seeker eventually finds him- or herself immersed in great peace, love, and the deep silence and bliss of pure consciousness.
The male aspect is mostly characterized by an active approach, in which the mind is the subject and is put to work by staying fixed or focused on a chosen single object of observation. It can be a mantra, the image of the guru, the vital breath movement, or any subjective affirmation such as: “I am an ocean of love.” The goal is to bring the mind to full control rather than having it going right and left, past, and future. Anything can be used as the object upon which to fix the mind, but of course the deeper the spiritual aspirant moves in the spiritual process the more subtle or sublime his or her object of meditation becomes.
Among all active methods of silent meditation, the one I consider the most direct is the one that objectifies the very subjectivity of human consciousness. By that I mean that the mind of the meditator is put to work by fixing its attention on its own source. Rather than observing whatsoever is out there, and rather than being fixed on an object outside itself, the mind turns upon itself and searches the deeper realms of its own consciousness.
It can be put into practice by fixing the mind on its original thought, the thought that first came to life during those initial years in the life of the child and that then developed into the vast complex mental structure of the adult. After all, regardless of the paths one takes on the journey toward self-realization, they all eventually lead the seeker to those final and most vital questions: What is this consciousness? Who is enjoying this peace? What is this love? What is this I?