The Pattern of Meditation

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article on the pattern of meditation is really a summary of one of the big themes that has come out of the last two meditation workshops that I have done in January. I think if we understand this basic principle then it really helps to gain clarity on the what and the why of meditation.

Yours in the spirit of healthy patterns of consciousness,


The Pattern of Meditation

Each of us has three different facets of our fundamental, moment to moment experience:
1.       Our experience of physical or sensory awareness, and the objects within it.
2.      Our experience of mental awareness, and the thoughts, images, feelings and emotions within it.
3.      Our experience of awareness itself and the experience of inner spaciousness that it gives rise to.

If you think about your mental and sensory worlds as being like clouds, and the experience of spacious awareness itself being like the open sky, then this gives you a good image to work with.
If you think about your spacious awareness as being the water in a huge ocean, and the physical and mental appearances as being like the waves on the surface of that ocean, then that gives you another good image. One of the interesting things about this second image is that the waves are made of the same substance as the ocean. In terms of our analogy this hints that the mental and physical appearances to our mind arise from the ocean of conscious awareness itself, rather than being something separate.

For a non-meditating person, their consciousness tends to move to and fro between the first two types of awareness. It goes from attention to body to mind, from physical awareness to mental awareness, from thinking to doing. The only time that such a person really rests deeply in their experience of spacious awareness is when they are asleep, which they can’t remember, and so it is not much use to them!*(see note at bottom) As a result of this basic pattern of consciousness, most people remain totally identified with their body and mind as their ‘self’, and are unable to enjoy, rest in and leverage upon the third type of consciousness; spacious awareness.

The fundamental task of someone who meditates is to change the pattern of their consciousness so that it no longer goes only from body to mind, body to mind, body to mind, but rather alternates evenly from body to mind, to spacious awareness in equal amounts. The integration of spacious awareness into the consciousness pattern of a meditator enables them (amongst other things) to:

  • Relax regularly and deeply even when in the midst of busyness and stress
  • Overcome neurotic over-identification with their body and mind (or thinking and doing)
  • Become responsive to life rather than reactive
  • Become much more spontaneous and creative in their life, and think outside of the societal programming that they have been brought up with

Beginning to Integrate Inner Space into Your Life
To begin integrating spacious awareness into your life all you need to start doing is to notice that in each moment of your awareness there are three things available to you; what appears to your physical senses, what appears in your mental awareness, and the spacious awareness that surrounds and contains the first two. Just for short, regular periods of your day pay attention to this and, rather than focusing upon your body and thoughts, just rest in the experience of spacious awareness, focus on the sky itself, rather than the clouds.

*Long term meditation practice does include developing conscious awareness during sleep, and thus leveraging on the natural deep spacious awareness of the sleep state.

© Toby Ouvry 2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website


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