Thursday, March 11, 2010

Watching the Mind

The mind does not like being watched.

I recall my morning meditation, which has taken place just about every morning over the last 6 years, with some lapses. It is a kundalini meditation taught by my guru. As you might expect, at some point during the meditation one...well, meditates. The mind watches itself. And I find that it retreats like a self-conscious child, aware that he is being watched at play. It prefers to be a soundtrack, white noise, that perpetual background always running but not really noticed. Unlike white noise, one could compare the effect of the mind on our daily actions to that of a subliminal message--we accept what it says unconsciously, without any kind of awareness.

Today I am at MAAR (The Mid-Atlantic American Academy of Religion meeting) in New Brunswick, and I'm writing this at lunchtime. It is a reasonably nice day, so I walk across the street from the hotel to look at the headstones in Christ Church Episcopal churchyard. Just before, I take a quick walk around this section of the city, passing Rutgers students in conversations, open trucks with burly men yelling to each other as they unload them, honking horns, and the roar of cars. It is noisy, as any city would be noisy in the middle of the day. So, I am struck when I walk into the churchyard and it is suddenly quiet. I do hear the occasional roar of a truck, but it is remarkably quiet for a place so unprotected from the roar of the city.

It is at this moment that I understand the lesson of meditation, of watching the mind. The churchyard has become a metaphor. When we withdraw to a sacred space within ourselves, it is quiet, regardless of how noisy the world is around us. I had an experience once of meditating during a visit from one of Amma's Swamis. There was a period of meditation after puja, and when it was finished, everyone else got up to start preparing dinner, running around, starting social conversations. I continued meditating--I couldn't help it. It was though I was blanketed in silence--I could hear others chattering and moving on the periphery of a circle that had me at its center. But they were far away, it seemed; I was perfectly silent. The churchyard at this moment was a materialization of that event, with one exception--this experience brings me words. For the meditation experience, I had no words.

Later, when the day's sessions are over for me, I walk over to the Harvest Moon Brewery for dinner. The Rolling Stones song, "Let's Spend the Night Together" is blaring from the stereo speakers while I am reading through a copy of Tertullian's "Ad Uxorem" ("To My Wife"--a treatise from the pre-Nicene Church father to his wife about chastity, abstinence, and not re-marrying after he dies). The irony of this is not lost on me.

Tomorrow I will start going into detail about the highlights of MAAR's sessions. So far, there have been many...

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