Structured practices include concentration practices, such as counting or focusing on the breath, reciting a mantra, or visualizing the guru, and they are used for gathering the scattered mind and developing the ability to focus the mind in one place. They are useful practices in that they initially show the seeker how very active the mind is. They will frustrate the seeker at first; he will be sure he is not doing the practices correctly because his thinking keeps interrupting his focus on the object of concentration.
Over time, concentration practices do quiet the mind, and they have been shown to have benefits in reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, and bringing moments of calm into a troubled life or a restless mind. If these are the goals, they are quite useful. If you are a seeker of the Truth that frees one from one’s ‘self,’ however, they may or may not lead to liberation, since the ‘meditator’ may continue to feel separate from the meditation.
Unstructured meditation is an invitation to simply sit without attempting to control anything that arises. It is an invitation to be – to be the silence, not the one who is trying to be silent; to be the awareness, not the one who is trying to be aware. It is not about controlling experience or maintaining a certain state of consciousness. True meditation reveals what IS before any ‘state’ of consciousness. There can be moments where there is no thought, no ego, and no time. We are conscious, if even for a moment, of being what we ARE.
This type of meditation occurs when consciousness sinks into the unknown, into the depths of silence, where there is no ‘meditator.’ It is a deep listening to silence. Whether thoughts appear or do not appear is not a concern. We are not efforting to maintain a ‘state,’ but rather coming to rest in our natural state. This form of meditation does not engage the ego, as do so many structured meditation techniques. Of course, in the beginning you will encounter the noise of your ‘narrator,’ but you are not engaged in battle with your thinking. In fact, as consciousness comes to rest in its home ground, we discover that thought cannot interrupt the awake silence we eventually discover is our true nature. It is just another phenomenon that comes and goes in the Heart of Awareness.
This kind of meditation can render the ego more and more transparent, since we are no longer striving to make something happen. It is a beautiful opportunity to unhook from our digital and virtual worlds, from our goal-oriented minds, and simply rest as what we are. We begin to see that when we are not struggling against our thoughts or feelings, something knows how to realign itself with its true nature. In this type of meditation, we also come to connect with the deep well of silence and wisdom into which we can drop our most important existential questions. Into this depth of knowing, we can inquire: Who or what am I, really?”
Dorothy Hunt. “Ending the Search. From Spiritual Ambition to the Heart of Awareness.” Sounds True, 2018.
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