A Gift Of Our Humanness
Meditation as it relates to awareness has almost as many definitions as people who practice it.
Meditation is a way of paying attention. A generic and probably uncontroversial definition of definition would be focused attention
(on a physical object, a thought or mental image, or even awareness itself).
The practice of meditation can involve many variations on this generic definition of focused attention.
Attention can be focused on a single object. It can move at will between a singular focus, and a release of focus back to an observer state. It can be a simple focus on the stream of consciousness within an observer state, or it can be an even more simple focus of attention on the emptiness of the observer state itself.
Why Traditional Meditation is Bad for You
Traditional meditation is every form of meditation you have known or practiced. Such practices limit awareness.
With focused attention as a working definition, there is no difference between meditation and concentration, since both require focused attention.
Even if you could find a distinction, I would argue it is of no practical importance. Whether you call it meditation or concentration, when you focus attention you limit awareness. When you limit awareness, you limit all that comes from awareness, which includes:
• Creativity and imagination
• Adaptability to new, challenging situations
• Ability to get along with others
• Ability to love
• Ability to achieve goals
The list could go on ………….
Awareness is a gift of our humanness. It is freely available to any and all human beings.
Anything that depends on awareness, which is almost anything a human being does, is limited and diminished by regular practice of focused attention (meditation or concentration).
It is worth noting that the only way to control something that is freely available is to limit or stop it, thus creating scarcity. Once you can create scarcity for anything, you can exploit others who need or want access to it.
A False Sense of Scarcity
Our brains control our reality.
How we pay attention, how we become aware, controls which brain we rely on most to create our reality. When we limit and control awareness, we create a reality that manifest as scarcity in ourselves, in our lives and thus, in our world.
Our reality is largely created by the cranial brain, which is largely controlled through constant resort to focused attention.
The benefits of focused attention are limited but well known and highly exploited in modern societies.
Psychologists have noticed that, in modern societies, as children get older (more practiced in focused attention) the breadth of their interests and intelligence generally decreases while the depth of their interests and intelligence increases.
This means that as we get older, we get better at fewer things.
In other words, we become specialists: our attention, interests, and intelligence become specialized, focused, limited.
Living Inside A Box
Specialization of intelligence is at the root of the stereotypical academic or egghead who is highly intelligent in his/her area of expertise, but lacks common sense.
Such a person also quite often lacks social skills such as the ability to understand others, be understood by others, or empathize with others (understand the world from their perspective).
Such specialisation becomes how we organize the world around us.
For example, it forms the basis for industrialization and all modern economies, which are based on the organization of highly specialized tasks that require skilled workers with narrowly focused duties.
In production work, for instance, the pace of production requires a high degree of concentration to keep from falling behind.
Focused or limited awareness creates a world defined by self-interest and a loss of community. We are less aware of others and our selves. We are self-absorbed.
As awareness, interests, and intelligence all diminish, our lives become defined by the one constant in our life: self.
We become separated from others if only by a diminished awareness and interest in them. Interest in others is often a way to get what we want for ourselves. Any interest in or awareness of others ultimately serves only self-interest.
Concentration/meditation is not all bad. What is bad about it is the limited awareness that results. Concentration/meditation, however, is useful in limited circumstances.
The modern world is largely the outcome of focused attention tempered only slightly by rare beings with a capacity for unfocused, or generalized, awareness. Such people are free thinkers with rare gifts for creative imagination. It is left to others, who can focus their attention, to take the output of such creative people and turn it into something practical.
This analysis is highly instructive. Notice what has happened.
Focused attention is a way to limit awareness, and so keep intelligence, ambition, etc. inside a box. That box defines the scope of who you are, and your reality. Within the box of reality, focused attention allows us to do many useful things.
But focused attention has no capacity for creative imagination, which requires going outside the box of reality.
Focused attention does not lend itself to originality, only to productivity. It lends itself to exploiting the possibilities within an existing box (or reality).
Focused attention gives you many variations of the same thing. Differences are an illusion that vanishes on close inspection. Everything is the same thing. Everything changes while everything stays the same.
Concentration/meditation has another major defect.
It controls awareness.
Control and limitation are words that not only describe the effect of concentration/meditation, they describe the larger world those habits create.
We live in a world that is both controlled and limited, typified by scarcity resources of all sorts.
For example, once you acquire the habit of controlled and limited awareness, you have also learned to accept the control by others. After all, you learn to focus your attention and effort toward a single goal by complying with the demands of others to stay on task. You learn to exercise authority or control over your self by submitting to the external authority of others, usually your parents, but society generally.
Controlled attention is not natural. It is a natural capability, but not a natural habit, like daydreaming.
It is instructive that daydreaming (uncontrolled attention) is never taught in school. Rather it is punished. It is unproductive!
Daydreaming is an escape from the demands of a tightly controlled and controlling reality and life. What is being promoted through a social agenda of focused attention is a world populated by robots, human machines, fit to do the mechanical and repetitive work demanded of them, and no more.
Notice that if you can control your attention, then others can control it too. You might think of self-control as an antidote to control by others, but it is not so. When controlled awareness is how you relate to others, it is also how they relate to you. Others control your awareness the same way you control it: repression.
Controlling attention is how we manage relationships to serve our interests. But the only way to resist the control of others is to limit your awareness of them: withdrawal. This does not resist the control of others. It simply allows their control to continue unabated in your absence. The alternative to withdrawal is overt resistance (struggle).
Our freedom is now limited to two choices: to fight or take flight. Controlled/limited awareness creates a world that divides itself into those who control (fight) and those who are controlled (take flight).
Struggle does not end the control of others in your life. It simply puts different people in control of your life, or you in control of their lives.
Either way, the habit of a world managed by control and scarcity continues.
Self-controlled attention expresses a sense of self as authority. Self-controlled attention promotes the primacy of individuality, of self as sovereign. This is not a bad thing again, in a limited context, but when it becomes our primary, sometimes our only, strategy for relating to others, it clearly inhibits our ability to work in teams, to get along, to promote a common good. Where the self is sovereign, there is and can be no common good.
Effects on a Personal level
Controlled or limited awareness leads to a lack of personal insight about one’s self.
It leads also to emotional rigidity and stereotypical or repetitive behaviors. It promotes an inability to change your self or your behaviors because you lack the awareness and insight to even know where to begin. You also lack the flexibility of mind to make change.
You do have the ability to stifle awareness, however, and so self-control and traditional meditation become a way to repress unwanted thoughts, emotions, and memories.
And when that does not work, the alternative is to control the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of others. Instead of changing your self, you struggle to exert influence on other people hoping they will change so you don’t have to.
Mutual inflexibility and struggle.
Freedom of Mind and Creativity
There is nothing you can do to control the mind (attention and awareness) that does not limit its abilities. When you limit the functions of the mind, you limit everything in your experience: everything you can think, feel, imagine, and do.
Control of the mind is antithetical to freedom and creativity. It is entirely consistent with conformity and acquiescence to authority. Mind control is antithetical to health of body, mind, and spirit, personal and societal.
Traditional meditation is just another form of the larger habit of controlled awareness through focused attention. Look around at the traditions that promote meditation and decide if they offer a real alternative to the unhealthy world in which we all live or are simply different versions of the same basic adolescent paradigm of control and scarcity.
What is it we are missing?
Since limited awareness creates a false sense of scarcity, we should ask what is it exactly we are missing, especially where spiritual and religious traditions are concerned?
The answer is that we are missing the experience of the fullness, the intelligence, beneficence, joy, and abundance of life.
Traditional meditation limits and so controls your experience of the inherent ecstasy of life. And the means to accessing that experience of life is controlled by spiritual and religious traditions, teachers, gurus, leaders, and saviors.
The means you are given to access the fullness of life is the very thing that limits your access to it. The result is a struggle to achieve what is freely available: a full and healthy life and world.
Return from "Awareness" to "Techniques of Meditation"