Effortless Meditation

March 4, 2013 | By | 3 Replies More

Peter Russell, Spirit of Now
Waking Times

You may be surprised to hear that meditation should be effortless, that no striving or concentration is needed. I know I was. When I first became interested in meditation, back in the mid-sixties, I was repeatedly told that it took great mental discipline and many years of practice. Indian teachers had likened the mind to a wagonload of restless monkeys that needed to be tied down and kept quiet.

And my experience appeared to confirm it. My mind was full of thoughts, and try as I may, I could not keep them at bay. Like many others, I naturally assumed that I was not trying hard enough; I needed greater mental discipline, not less.

Then I chanced upon Transcendental Meditation. Its teacher, the Maharishi of Beatles fame, challenged the whole notion of trying to control the mind. The monkeys, he pointed out, were wanting something–more bananas perhaps. Give them what they want and they will settle down of their own accord. So with the mind; it is restless because we are seeking something. And what is it we are seeking? In the final analysis, we all want to feel better–to be happier, more at peace, at ease, fulfilled, content. He argued that if we give the mind a taste of the inner contentment it is looking for, it will be attracted to it and begin to settle down of its own accord.

This made more sense to me than what I’d come across so far, so I learned his practice. And it worked. I found my mind becoming quiet without any effort. Indeed, as soon as I inadvertently started trying to control the process, in the hope that I could somehow help my meditation along, it did not work so well.

Now I am not suggesting that this applies to every type of meditation. Techniques designed to cultivate particular mental skills or states of mind, may well involve a degree of concentration or mental discipline. But when it comes to the basic skill of relaxing into a quieter state of mind, effort generally turns out to be counter-productive.

A quiet mind is not a state of mind to be achieved. It is the state we experience when there is nothing to be achieved. It is the mind in its natural condition, untarnished by fears and desires, and the thoughts they create. When everything is OK in our world, we feel OK inside; we are at ease.

Or rather, that is the way it should be. Yet, even when all our physical needs are met, and there is no immediate threat or danger, we seldom feel totally at ease. More often than not, the very opposite. Leave us with nothing to do, and most of us start getting bored. If someone upsets us, we may hold a grievance days, weeks, or even years later. Or we may spend hours worrying about situations that could occur, but seldom do.

Along with such feelings come an almost endless procession of thoughts. Most of them boil down to worries about how we can be more content; yet, ironically, a worried mind is, by definition, discontent. This is the sad joke about human beings. We are so busy worrying whether or not we are going to be at peace in the future, we don’t give ourselves the chance to be at peace in the present.

Given how easily such thoughts spring up, it is easy to assume they must be subdued and controlled. But that approach stems from the same belief that created them–the belief that we need to be in control of things in order to feel at ease.

Thus the advice that occurs repeatedly in a variety of meditation traditions is:

  1. When you realize you have been caught in a thought, accept the fact. Don’t judge or blame yourself. It happens, even to the most experienced meditators.
  2. Instead of following the thought, as you might in normal life, gently shift your attention back to some experience in the present moment. In TM that may be the thought of a mantra, in mindfullness the sensation of the breath, or in other practices perhaps a visual image, or a feeling of love.
  3. Let the attention rest in that experience. Don’t try to concentrate or hold it there. Ah yes, you will be sure to wander off again. But the practice is not so much learning how to stay present, but how to return to the present. If you wander off a hundred times, that is a hundred opportunities to practice gently returning your attention to the present.

Even then, trying and effort can arise in subtle ways. Maybe if I just added this or focused on that, it would be easier. Some of it is so subtle that we don’t even notice we are doing it. A faint resistance to an experience perhaps. Even a slight wanting to have a good meditation can get in the way.

Over my forty years of teaching meditation, I have found the greatest challenge for students is to let go of all effort. They can’t quite believe that they really do not need to try at all. Sometimes, even the most experienced meditators, with years of practice, may still put a slight effort or control into their practice. Once they let go completely they begin to appreciate how effortless it can be, and find themselves dropping even more easily into a state of inner silence.

Recently, I’ve been exploring ways to weed out and dissolve even the subtlest levels of wanting, effort, and expectation in meditation. Encouraged by the enthusiastic response these new approaches have received from both complete beginners and people with many years of practice, I am now making them more widely available online at http://www.peterrussell.com/meditate.

~~ Help Waking Times to raise the vibration by sharing this article with the buttons below…

Tags: , , , , , ,

Category: Ideas, Inspiration, Meditation, Mind, Resources, Self

Comments (3)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. alex says:

    *I can absolutely resonate with the quiet ‘awareness’ in this article as TRUE…regain your own personal oasis… without the ‘contrived’ flood of this ‘connived reality’…seeking the enslavement us all.
    ..Be gentle with yourself & BE the loving & compassionate individual you were born to be…cheers

  2. halderon says:

    Of course meditation is an effort-anything worthwhile usually is. The author suggests,”that you just clear your mind, and not let thoughts intrude”Easy to say-difficult to do. If I told you not to think of a boat,what is the first thing that comes to mind-a boat? right? So can we conclude that it is indeed an effort to clear your mind,and I am not so sure that I could do it or want to do it. The constant chatter that goes on between neurons is the process that keeps us alive.Ir was this chatter that allowed us to realize that the external is really the internal-that we are what we believe and perception creates the world around us-that there is no absolute reality. That we create our own. And that took great thinking to understand. Meditation has great value, but let no one say that it is easy-it may be for some, but not for beginners like myself.

  3. I particularly liked “But the practice is not so much learning how to stay present, but how to return to the present.”
    A very perceptive article.

Leave a Reply

Must Watch Videos

This Discovery Makes Bee Die-Off Problem That Much Worse

This Discovery Makes Bee Die-Off Problem That Much Worse













Heather Callaghan, Contributor
Waking Times

Many arrows point to the bee decline. A Harvard professorrecently warned that Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is only the beginning for us. The ripple effect from new classes of pesticides is just getting started.

But there’s more…

The problems they face can be compared … More

August 28, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More
People are Proving That ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease is Reversible  – No Need to Waste Ice Water

People are Proving That ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease is Reversible – No Need to Waste Ice Water













Heather Callaghan, Contributor
Waking Times

I mentioned the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in a recent article highlighting the social guiding that came with all the “disease awareness” we’ve been involuntarily immersed in via the media in the last few weeks. ALS meaning Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as … More

August 26, 2014 | By | 4 Replies More
Back-to-School Vaccines: Know the Risks and Failures

Back-to-School Vaccines: Know the Risks and Failures













Barbara Loe Fisher, Mercola
Waking Times

As summer comes to an end, the drumbeat promoting back-to-school vaccinations grows louder and louder in America. Unlike children in Canada and the European Union,12 our children must get dozens of doses of vaccines or they can’t get a public school … More

August 26, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More
New Anti Police State App Helps You “See Something, Say Something” in Real-Time

New Anti Police State App Helps You “See Something, Say Something” in Real-Time













Waking Times

Recent studies have shown that police are held almost completely unaccountable by the current systems of governmental oversight. Perhaps this is the reason why you are 9 times more likely to be killed by a law enforcement officer than a terrorist. Rather than wait for bloated bureaucracy … More

August 25, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More
Vitamin D for Depression, Dementia, and Diabetes

Vitamin D for Depression, Dementia, and Diabetes













Dr. Mercola
Waking Times

Vitamin D research has repeatedly shown that vitamin D can improve a number of brain disorders, including depression and dementia—the most devastating form of which is Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin D receptors appear in a wide variety of brain tissue early in the fetal development, and activated … More

August 21, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

Activism Works

Food as Medicine: How One Hospital Is Using Organic Produce to Help Heal Patients

Food as Medicine: How One Hospital Is Using Organic Produce to Help Heal Patients













Coach Mark Smallwood, EcoWatch
Waking Times

In 431 B.C. Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”

More than 2500 years later, we are inundated with advertisements boasting the latest, greatest cure-all super drug. From a young age, we learn that it doesn’t matter how or … More

August 23, 2014 | By | 3 Replies More
As Keystone XL Dominoes Fall, Time to Arrest Tar Sands Industry

As Keystone XL Dominoes Fall, Time to Arrest Tar Sands Industry













, EcoWatch
Waking Times

We’ve got this.

Thanks to the courageous and indefatigable efforts of pipeline fighters everywhere, the tide has finally turned on Keystone XL. As it becomes increasingly clear that Keystone XL’s northern leg is not going through, it is time to set our sights … More

August 4, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More
Seizing Control of Our Destinies

Seizing Control of Our Destinies













Julian Rose, Contributor
Waking Times

In 1381, at a time of great repression for the British agricultural work force, an extraordinary people’s revolutionary named Wat Tyler sprang to his feet and announced, “England should be a nation of self governing communities,” to which he added, “ No lord shall exercise … More

July 28, 2014 | By | 5 Replies More
Triumph For Citizens in Florida As Hughes Oil Company Drops Fracking Project

Triumph For Citizens in Florida As Hughes Oil Company Drops Fracking Project













Julie Dermansky, DeSmogBlog
Waking Times

On Friday morning, Dan A. Hughes Oil Company and the Collier Resources Company agreed to terminate their lease agreement, with the exception of the Collier Hogan 20-3H well, next to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Florida.

Hughes Oil dropped its plans to drill … More

July 14, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More
A Forgotten Community in New Orleans: Life on a Superfund Site

A Forgotten Community in New Orleans: Life on a Superfund Site













Julie Dermansky, DeSmogBlog
Waking Times

Shannon Rainey lives in a house that was built on top of a Superfund site in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

“I bought my house when I was 25, and thirty years later, I still can’t get out,” she told DeSmogBlog.

Rainey’s … More

June 23, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More