May 19, 2008
I just received an email from a woman who said: ”Most importantly, your guidance also helped me recognize that I already knew how to meditate, but that I just thought of it as ‘being still’ or ‘paying attention.’ ” Eureka — that’s it! When we experience a meditative state during meditation, we tend to think it’s something special that happens only in meditation. In fact, it’s something we all experience from time to time outside of meditation, but don’t notice. We could actually think of it as the mind’s “natural state”. It’s a very simple form of awareness, uncomplicated by the mind’s habits of judging and comparing. It’s a state that’s there when we are neither resisting or trying to change what is naturally coming up in our experience. It’s a state of “simply being”.
Much of the time, we are “simply being” but don’t make note of that, because the mind isn’t in the mode of standing apart and observing our experience at that time. Sometimes, however, we’ll notice a dramatic shift into the simply-being-mode. As I mentioned in the previous post, meditation often happens spontaneously when something we see or hear or touch jars us out of the preoccupation with the past and future. The sight of a hummingbird at my feeder always does it for me. What does it for you?
March 25, 2008
I’m calling our latest podcast episode “advanced” because to experience the love that the meditation points to requires that your mind be settled enough to notice some subtle experiences. The meditation prompts you to become aware of tendencies to resist what is happening in your thoughts and emotions, and even further to the feeling that underlies those tendencies — a sense of things being not quite right. It’s a sense of not being alright as you are. It’s a sense of life not being alright. It’s at the core of the suffering which is part of the human condition.
Of course, we all like some feelings and experiences more than others. That’s natural. But suffering results when we feel that things should be different, that we should be different — that we should feel differently than we do. When we are able to let go of the resistance to how we feel and stop trying to make ourselves be or feel something else, then what is left is love.
I’m not talking about love in the way we usually think of it. When we say love, we are usually referring to a sentiment or feeling. The feeling of love can be mixed with affection, respect, gratitude, infatuation, passion, all sorts of things. What we usually identify as love is something we feel in response to someone or some thing. The love I am talking about is not an emotion, and it is not dependent on anything. It is the very essence of our existence and reveals itself when we let go of resistance and attempts to manipulate our experience. It is the natural state of our own awareness, of our “beingness”, which is always there in the background but is largely ignored. My hope is that with this meditation, you will be able to recognize and enjoy it.
You may need to use this meditation a number of times before this love is clearly experienced. If you are new to meditation, it might help to try the podcast episode one (Relaxation Break) or the Breath Awareness Meditation until you are able to settle down enough for this meditation.
I’d love to hear your experiences with this meditation. The feedback we’ve received here and at the meditationoasis.com website has been really helpful. And, as always, we welcome your questions.
March 10, 2008
We named our podcast Meditation Oasis. The name came to Richard early on. Then we spent a lot of time brainstorming to find the “best” name, but Meditation Oasis stuck. We didn’t realized that the name would have a life of its own. I recently did a search on iLike.com in order to “claim” our artist pages. Not only were we listed as Mary and Richard Maddux and Mary Maddux, but Meditation Oasis was there as well. When we started a page on MySpace a couple weeks ago, the only kind of page we could fit into was a “band” page and now we’re a band called Meditation Oasis on MySpace!
Instead of just “going with the flow”, I found myself saying hey, whoa, is this really the name we want? Let’s sit back and think this thing over. Maybe there’s a better name. It’s something about how I was raised. It’s always been a challenge for me to buy the first thing I see. I can find the perfect pair of jeans right off, but end up having to try on all the rest “just in case”. I measure my progress sometimes by my ability to go with the first thing that comes along when it feels just right. But this one really challenged me — the name our work is coming to be known by. Life once again is challenging me to walk my talk (or I should say follow my own meditations!)
As Lennon and McCartney once sang it, “Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream…”.
February 15, 2008
And now for a more “up close and personal” answer to Erica’s question (on the About page of this blog)…
Erica asked about my philosophy of life, and my dilemma is that I don’t really have one in terms of having a set of fixed beliefs. At the same time, it’s fair to say that I’ve spent a good deal of my life philosophizing. After taking a vocational aptitude test in college, my advisor scratched his head and said, “this indicates that you’d do best at being an armchair philosopher”. I love to think about the nature of life and look at things from all sorts of angles. I love to question things. I’ve also had a love of asking the question “why” which doesn’t really have an answer, and I suppose much of my journey has been to give up the need to know answers and to be able to embrace lovingly what is here in this incredible play of life, with all its contradictions and paradoxes, and with all its joy and pain.
So it’s difficult to say what my philosophy is, but I can say something about what’s behind my guided meditations. Behind them is a quest, a quest for greater acceptance, peace and to be more fully alive. My guided meditations are as much for me as for those who listen to them. It’s not like have a specific philosophy to share. It’s more like I see us all on a journey together. Along the way on my journey I started meditating, then teaching meditation and eventually leading guided meditations. It’s in my nature to communicate and share what I learn and experience.
When I create a guided meditation, I close my eyes and drop into a meditative state and see what comes. I am literally meditating with you, and the meditations speak to me in the same way they speak to those of you who enjoy them. What they speak about for me is trust in the natural flow of life and relaxing into that. For want of a better way to describe it, I view life as a flow of energy, much like a river. That flow is governed by the same natural laws as those that move the river along its path. Everything that we do and experience is a part of that flow. Events are a part of that flow, as are our reactions to those events and all of the thoughts and emotions that arise within us. My path has been one of developing trust in that flow. Relaxation is a reflection of that trust.
Some of the guided meditations I lead are simply about that — about relaxing into life as it naturally unfolds. The Relaxation Break, Simply Being, Effortlessness and Letting Go are examples of that kind of meditation. When I first started leading guided meditations, I thought that was all that I would do, because that is the kind of meditation I had always taught. But things evolved and I found it was useful to sometimes direct the attention in ways that helped to create balance and enhance fulfillment in life.
So there are meditations about healing, the chakras, nature, etc. I enjoy the process of creating these new meditations, and a lot of this is happening thanks to the podcast and the requests and feedback I receive. I decided not to restrict myself to just one kind of meditation. All the other meditations, however, are based on starting with a relaxed, open state of awareness. That’s why they all start out in much the same way. Then the meditations that have a specific focus will be much more effective if one starts with that non-resistant, going with the flow, state of awareness. If we are tense and fighting with what’s happening within us (or noise or something going on around us), then all our energy goes to that and we can’t direct our attention in other ways.
As for my background, it’s been very eclectic. At first I learned and taught meditation in a style from India. I was trained in a very specific technique and the essence of that technique was effortlessness. This had a great deal of influence on me. After years on one path, however, I began to study with some other teachers and learned other practices and was exposed to a number of philosophies. I also studied and taught energy healing for a number of years and that too has shaped my meditations. I also worked as a counselor in mental health and hospice, and the insights and understanding I gained from that certainly influence the meditations I create.
I’d have to say that my guided meditations today are a synthesis of all of these different influences. Of course, this synthesis is unique because I am a unique individual just as we all are. Ultimately, everything that has happened in my life contributes to the meditations, because everything in life is a teacher.
It’s interesting that people often recognize their paths in my work. Erica asked about whether I have a background in Buddhist Vapassana meditation and I don’t, although often people have found that in my work. People have also found similarities to Christian centering meditations and other traditions. I think that’s because the same principles and concepts are arrived on many different paths.
Often as I am creating a meditation, I am surprised at what comes out. It will not be quite like anything I’ve heard before. That’s part of the fun of it, and part of the reason I don’t relate too much to tradition and what’s gone before. What’s really alive is what is fresh in this moment, in the infinite creativity of the life force as it expresses itself here and now.
October 12, 2007
We’ve just published our latest podcast episode, Beyond Pain. It was hard to come up with the right title for this one. The experience of pain is so complex. If we are speaking of physical pain, the pain itself is just a sensation in the body. Unless you are someone who enjoys pain, and there are some people who do, pain is much more than “just a sensation in the body”. It can create enormous suffering.
What makes the sensation of pain so difficult? Besides the fact that it can be so strong that it grabs our attention totally, making it difficult to focus on anything else, there are many ways that we suffer with pain. Much of the suffering comes from the thoughts and emotional reactions that we have along with the pain. It may trigger fear, sadness, anger, or frustration depending on our past experiences and beliefs. We may start to wonder how long it will go on, what it means, where it will go, and whether or not we’ll be able to endure it.
There may be some underlying feelings about the pain that are very subtle and not so obvious, like the sense that it is a punishment or due to our failings. It can bring up a sense of abandonment or betrayal. Pain can bring up all sorts of feelings. Next time you are experiencing pain, you can investigate what comes along with it and also whether the suffering you are experiencing with the pain is from the pain itself or everything else that it brings up.
The purpose of the Beyond Pain meditation is to bring about a greater sense of ease with the presence of pain. We may tend to tighten up and resist pain which in fact makes it worse. The meditation encourages you to relax into the pain, and to let go of the involvement with all the mind’s stories about the pain and the emotional reactions to it. It can help you come to a place of peace in spite of pain. Whether or not the feeling of pain becomes less, the suffering that comes with pain can be released.
We’d love to hear about your experiences with this meditation and invite you to comment!
August 10, 2007
Someone found this blog by searching on “letting go meditation”. Letting go is an essential element of all of our meditations. While many of them have a focus, such as the breath or awareness of the body, the focus always occurs on a background of letting go, so it made sense to do a meditation with this theme. Even though it’s a variation on other themes I’ve used, such as “simply being”, each theme gives us a slightly different angle and allows us to refine our meditation experience.
Letting go has to do with allowing whatever happens to happen. It has to do with not resisting thoughts, noise, emotions, sensations — not resisting anything. It gets tricky, though, when we try to allow things to happen. If we are in meditation with the intention to allow, chances are we will be manipulating our experience in some way. Everything will be buffered through the filter of the idea of allowing. It’s more a matter of noticing when we are resisting what is happening or trying to manipulate our experience in some way. When resistance or manipulation is noticed, it can be let go of quite naturally.
The value of guided meditation is that it can allow us to let go more, because we don’t so much have the sense that we are steering the process. It can allow us to relax more into the meditative state. Of course, guided meditations can have many different styles and approaches, so I am speaking about my own. Hopefully once you’ve used these meditations for awhile, you will be able to enter into a similar process on your own. If you are meditating on your own, you can always go back to the guided meditations anytime if meditation has become difficult and you need a refresher.
We’d love to hear about your experiences with meditation. Please feel free to comment on the blog!
February 28, 2007
I was listening to a CD of Adyashanti and he talked about meditation as our “natural state”. He defined it as a state in which we are not involved in manipulating our experience in any way. I love that description. My sense is that suffering and lack of ease with living comes from resistance to what is happening, whether it is resistance to events or to our own internal process. That resistance leads to constant attempts to try to change what’s happening — trying to change the way are or the way we feel or even what is taking place. In meditation, we run away from some experiences and try to create or hold onto other experiences. It is such a relief when we can let that all go and be in the “natural state”!
From another angle, though, absolutely everything is our natural state. Whatever happens is happening naturally, spontaneously, even the resistance to what is happening. We really can’t be out of our natural state. That’s the trouble with trying to talk about what meditation is! There may be a word or phrase that for a moment captures something and causes an inner “aha”, but it slips away when we start to pursue it with our minds.
When I lead a guided meditation, I don’t really have an idea in mind about what meditation is or what people should or shouldn’t experience. I do encourage freedom and much of what I say has to do with letting go of resistance to the natural flow of experience. But the experience that someone has when listening to my meditations has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them. If someone becomes very relaxed with my meditations or goes very deep, it is because that was ready to happen for them.
For me it’s all a mystery. How did it come about that I lead guided meditations and now have CDs and podcasts and people listen and meditate with me? It’s all about the Life that holds us all in its embrace and brings us together in the most interesting of ways! When I lead a guided meditation, it is as much for me as for those who listen. Even though I “teach” meditation, I’ve come to know that I don’t teach anyone anything. We’re all in a process of learning together.
Again and again as I write this blog, I realize how impossible it is to talk about meditation and say what it is. It’s at once a state of being and a process. It’s a word that means many different things to different people. For me, it has many meanings and meanings that change over time. Defining it as the “natural state” feels good today and certainly started off an interesting stream of thoughts for me. What does the “natural state” mean to you?
February 18, 2007
It’s hard to imagine that anyone who has ever meditated has not felt this at one time or another. We are sitting in meditation and everything feels so perfect. We may describe the experience in different ways — peace, calm, silence, bliss, love — but whatever we call it we want it forever! We want it every time we meditate. And then we sit to meditate and begin to look for it and when it’s not there, we try to get it back. Perhaps we have a theory about how we “got there” before, and yet despite all our efforts, it isn’t happening.
We feel we’ve lost the knack. We’re failing. Yet the more we look for that special experience and the more we try the worse we feel. Apparently all our best efforts can’t get us back there. And if we can see the obvious, we’ll see that our efforts didn’t get us there in the first place!
So many times in my local guided meditation group, people will say something like this — “When I started meditation it seemed like I’d never settle down. It seemed hopeless and I said to myself, ‘oh well, this just isn’t going to work today’. The next thing I knew, I went so deep!” Once they had given up, the mind shifted into a meditative state on its own. And that’s the “trick” of it. A meditative state happens when we stop trying to make it happen. It happens when we let go of attachment to “good experiences”. It happens when we are in a state of non-resistance, not trying to stop whatever is naturally happening and not trying to create something in its place.
How do we stop trying? We certainly can’t try to stop trying, but a kind of backing off can happen when we see that we are caught up in the effort of trying to get somewhere. As we practice meditation more and more, self awareness can grow. Having guidance can help, and guided meditation can be helpful as well.
What has been helpful for you? Share your experiences and comments!