Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Meditation 6. Shambhala Meditation

An easy way to bring joy into the practice of meditation is through the use of the imagination. Our imagination does not just represent a childish state of daydreaming, it is the language of our soul, and is rich with symbols and deeper levels of meaning. We are each entirely responsible for our own imagination as it belongs to each of us individually. Nobody else does our imagination for us, we don’t mimic it, and each person’s imagination reflects who he or she is on all the levels of their being. Imagination holds an authenticity that gives us information that is specific to our worldview and our individual reality. It is moulded and changed through the layers of consciousness it moves through as it arrives at our level of reality. If we are angry or suffering, our imagination is likely to reflect that. But it also holds deeper levels of meaning and significance that can guide us to interpret our reality in a different and more wholesome way. We can teach our imagination to see things in a particular way, and this perception will eventually filter through all the levels of our consciousness and change the matrix of who we perceive ourselves to be.

If meditation is about being open to the experience of this present moment, it might seem that imagination is an escape from what is happening here and now. Sometimes it’s very hard to stay present; sometimes this moment is so awful we don’t have the will or the stomach to stay with it. Finding a space of peaceful inner stillness and equanimity can assist us to turn back towards that which is difficult, and to face it without flinching. Let us call the state of inner peace ‘coming home’. Let us imagine that this state is our True Nature that is always unchanging at the core of our being. It is so, but if we don’t know it experientially yet, then we can initially imagine it to help us understand it better. For ease of reference let us call this place of coming home ‘Shambhala’. Shambhala is the archetype for Heaven on Earth. We access Shambhala through imagining ourselves merging with the stillness, the joy, wisdom, love and peace of a heavenly place. Shambhala can either be conceptualised as a place which exists on a different dimension to our third dimensional experience on Earth, or as an archetypal symbol for a heavenly state of being that we have the potential to access whilst on Earth in human form. In either form Shambhala represents deep within our psyches that place of wisdom, understanding and love where we are not separated into lonely beings struggling to be heard, seen and acknowledged in a frighteningly careless world.

This meditation process is one of turning things back to front initially. It often seems that the experience of life is one of harsh suffering for innumerable beings a good deal of the time, interspersed for some of us, with moments of joy. If we are to believe that our external circumstances are a reflection of our internal state, or to put it in new age jargon, that we create our own reality, then the possibility exists that we are causing life to be like this. So, the suggestion is, to kid ourselves initially, by imagining a different reality whilst experiencing this one. We imagine as fully as possible - with our minds, our emotions, our felt sense and our bodies - an archetype of heaven on earth, so as to begin to change how we feel inside. Having done so, we can turn our attention back to the experience of this present moment with a broader sense of spaciousness and a deeper level of commitment to stay calm and present to it.

Initially it therefore seems like we are deceiving ourselves by imagining a perfect heavenly realm on earth. However, if we can become peaceful, we have more resources with which to manage our conflicts. If we are spacious and non judgmental, we can see things from a broader perspective. If we are loving and compassionate, people respond differently to us. 

Stillness within creates stillness without. If we can be still and spacious and receptive to our boundary-less nature, then an inner trust begins to manifest externally. Sinking into the stillness, creates the conditions for it to percolate into our external world. Meeting the external world from the space of stillness, rather than busyness and distraction, changes our relationship with the world.

Not only do we become open to embracing all experiences, but as we do so, the experiences themselves align with our inner state of being and become more harmonious, reflective, and loving. If we can be still in the face of external hardship, we transmute into beings that are more substantial and reliable.

As a vision:
Shambhala is a place of caring, of calmness, of spacious peace. 
As a practice we:
  • ·       Imagine Shambhala as a place – the colours, smells, sounds, and perceptions of how it would feel to be there.
  • ·       Then we draw the quality and the feeling of that vision deep into our bodies to experience it as a physical sensation.
  • ·       Ultimately we allow that energy to flow out from us into the world.
Anchoring the felt sense of Shambhala into our experience destroys our illusion of being separate and alters our concept of ourselves in relation to our world, so that we can recognise that we are One.

We simply focus on the highest level of consciousness we are capable of imagining, and feeling and merge with that in the most embodied way. We can feel the beauty and light of this in the cells of our bodies, and it creates a sense of awe, of love and of bliss to emerge.

Settling into that place of stillness within, we let go and allow it to do its work of transforming us unimpeded. All we need to do is to trust and let go. As we do so, we become wiser and more loving. Peering out into the world through the eyes of a higher level of consciousness, we not only perceive it differently, but we also gain access to wider and deeper levels of wisdom, that weren't available available to us before.

This wisdom informs our outlook and it also anchors through us into the earth at large and transforms the collective consciousness, to a lesser or larger extent, depending on the level of consciousness we are accessing.
If we want to change the world we can only do it from within. As UNESCO claims,
Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.

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