By Craig Hamilton (a summary by Pat Evert)
• Meditation as a gateway to awakened consciousness
Meditation was originally practiced and taught with one goal in mind: spiritual awakening. And it is to clarifying this supreme endeavor that this book is devoted. Spiritual awakening is the radical realization that our true nature—who we really are—is not separate from the most sacred thing in the universe. We are awakening to the knowledge that all of reality arises from and is permeated with this sacred perfection. Our cosmic essence, our super nature, is now free to express itself in this world because we’ve made room for it, embraced it, and allowed it to come forth. And it changes everything. When we approach meditation as a spiritual practice, we are making a practice out of inviting this profound consciousness to reveal itself within us. We are practicing opening ourselves up to allow awakening to occur.
• The myth of the quiet mind
Meditation is not about quieting the mind. Nor is it about training the mind to only think good or spiritual thoughts. It’s about cultivating the ability to no longer identify with the mind, so that we can discover who we are beyond the mind. Meditation has the potential to liberate you from the mind, which means that no matter how much thought is present, you’re not lost in it, you’re not compulsively believing it, you’re not at the effect of it, you’re not afraid of it. One of the things that will happen as you meditate in this way is that you’ll start to discover that you are not your thoughts, and that you are not even the generator of most of the thoughts you experience. Our true nature is already free even when our mind is in chaos. And as we awaken there is a profound shift in our way of knowing. You discover the possibility of being free of your mind no matter what it’s doing, which is ultimately much more liberating than merely “turning it off.”
• Why inner peace is so hard to find
The contentment that meditation points us toward, the radical inner peace that authentic spiritual practice brings about is a contentment of a completely different order. It’s a contentment that is there no matter what we’re feeling. It’s an equanimity that is here whether we are feeling upset or angry, deeply sad, ecstatically joyful, bored to tears, or anything else we could possibly feel.
The profound contentment of spiritual awakening emerges when we discover a wholeness and fullness of being—an unconditional, uncontainable freedom that is present no matter what’s happening. That’s the radical possibility of enlightenment, of spiritual transformation. And understanding this can serve as the basis for a very different kind of meditation practice. In this practice, we make room for any and all feeling experiences to come and go during our meditation, without preference or resistance. It’s about finding a part of yourself that is already deeply content with what is, even when you have a busy, active mind, even when you’re feeling a lot of emotional reactivity going on, even when there’s physical tension in the body. Indeed, this practice runs counter to just about every human instinct we have. But spiritual awakening is not about being emotionally content. It’s much deeper than that. It’s about being existentially content. You are content with existence as it is, without prejudice. Imagine the freedom in remaining consistent no matter how difficult or uncomfortable circumstances become—a relationship to your feelings that is unconditional.
• How to avoid falling into a meditation rut
Meditation for your mind and spirit is in some ways like exercise for the body. If you perform the same exercise repeatedly at the same level, it will cease to challenge you or produce results. Experimenting with different gateways into the depths of meditation is part of what supports us to forge a deeply fulfilling relationship with our practice. I encourage an approach to meditation that always includes a balance of newness and variation. When you “cross-train” your meditative mind, you can create a meditation practice that truly feels like an adventure because it is always leading you forward into the unknown.
• The misguided quest for peak experiences
Peak experiences can be a trap for any of us on the spiritual path—particularly if we mistake these experiences for the true goal of enlightenment. When we have these experiences, we feel temporarily connected to a much greater reality and this can build our faith and compel us to be more wholehearted in our spiritual practice. We can see that when we’re experiencing these higher states, we tend to behave in more enlightened ways. When we feel spiritually elevated, we tend to have more perspective, be more caring, and navigate challenges more easily. Simply, we notice that when we feel good, it’s easier to show up as our highest self. Meditative states, like any other state of consciousness, are inherently transitory, passing states. They always change in response to what life brings our way. When we get back into the complex realities of our daily life, our state of consciousness will inevitably change once again. That’s simply the nature of being human. When we try to permanently “lock in” or reproduce our higher states, we’re disappointed. Rather than pursuing a special state of consciousness, when we meditate, we’re seeking to discover the enlightened, liberated consciousness that’s always already here no matter what experience we’re having.
• The trap of practicing with a future goal in mind
We take up a practice which we imagine will gradually move us closer to that goal. At first glance, this goal orientation seems to make sense. Anyone who has even a glimpse of awakening realizes that it is only about discovering the sacredness and wholeness of this moment right now, and that any investment in a future moment of enlightenment is missing the entire point. It’s a denial of the fact that our true self is already enlightened.
• Meditation 2.0, the practice of direct awakening
Genuine spiritual awakening has always been the pinnacle of human aspiration – a life filled with meaning and purpose, in which you have access to a seemingly limitless well of inspiration, wisdom, love and creativity. Instead of doing practices designed to bring about a future moment of awakening, we simply need to learn how to practice “being awake” right now. The practice of Direct Awakening is a practice of directly recognizing our Enlightened essence or what is often referred to as “awakened awareness” or “awakened consciousness.” It is a practice of being Awake right now. Of being Enlightened right now. This is possible because Enlightenment is the discovery of who we already are. It is to rest in our true nature which is always already Awake. It does not grasp after certainty. It does not identify with thoughts and feelings. It does not react mechanically to circumstances. And it is naturally aware of the vast open field of consciousness itself.
We practice letting go. We practice letting things be. We practice not clinging on to the mind, not grasping after certainty and not identifying with thought.
We practice simply being present, awake, and aware and not in reaction to what’s happening. We practice not holding out for a better future, not looking for enlightenment or fulfillment somewhere other than in this moment. Your ego can’t do any of the practices I just described. But you can. You can do this. It doesn’t have to take a lifetime to wake up.
• Opening to the miracle of awakened awareness
“Can I really elevate my consciousness and my life into a consistent, sustained expression of the profound depth I’ve glimpsed in my most sacred moments?” Is it possible, in other words, to be truly free, unconditionally awake to the sacred depth that is our own true nature beyond the mind and ego? My hope is that what I’ve shared in this short book will give you faith that the highest possibility you’ve glimpsed, the most glorious potential you’ve sensed, is not a figment of your imagination but a real, living possibility. And in this transformation, it’s possible to discover an unimaginable and abiding liberation from the suffering of the confused, neurotic, separate sense of self. It’s possible, in other words, to be truly free. Insights come and go, but there is the knowledge that “I can’t hold onto any of this,” and so there is no grasping onto certainty. Yet in moments when clarity is needed, it miraculously appears, integrating all of our knowledge and lived experience in a flash of intuitive knowing.
Spiritual experiences come and go, too, but there is no longer any clinging to ecstasy, bliss or love. We have discovered the source of all these things, and so feel no compulsion to cling to them. And at the center of our being is a burning passion for evolution and transformation, a calling to transform the world into an expression of the great perfection we have discovered to be its source. There is a deeper essential supernature that already exists within each of us fully formed.