Before leaving for Denmark where I taught a course at Kaos Pilots, Aleksandra and I recorded a 10 minute chant and meditation, which I have included below. One morning before dawn we sat as usual on meditation cushions. Aleksandra held an iPhone up to her mouth and chanted this two stanza poem.
An earlier version of the poem came to me while I was in Aarhus preparing to teach last year’s course at Kaos Pilots. I have since revised it again and again. Yet it was only Aleksandra’s final revision, on that morning when she intoned these words, that brought out the poem’s simple, intoxicating beauty.
I want to describe the ‘stages’ or ‘states’ of meditation that I have gone through. To do so, I won’t be relying upon doctrine, only on lived experience and on metaphorical language (such as ‘states’ or ‘stages’). The latter is necessary since any non-discursive experience will have to enter into language in order to be intelligible. Drawing on metaphorical language, therefore, enables me to make sense of such an experience. In addition, it may assist as well as enhance my practice.
I will argue that I have experienced three ‘states’ or ‘stages’ of non-ordinary consciousness, and I have had intimations of a fourth. In what follows, I will be especially interested in the transitions from one state to another.
1. Preliminary Struggles. Posture is uncomfortable, breathing irregular, the perceptible world quite present to awareness, and thoughts angled toward memories, anticipations, and interests. One feels strain, effort, struggle, fight. Typically, some technique has as its aim that of moving one beyond these preliminary struggles.
Transition: One comes to–and quietly affirms–a weak metaphysical view according to which there is a real elsewhere that is other than and distinct from the ordinary reality of the perceptible world. This ‘elsewhere’ is at once an ‘other than…’ and a ‘more than…’ One senses that this ‘elsewhere’ is worth exploring to find out what it is and what it is like. What it is = what it is like.
Continue reading “‘Stages’ of meditation”
The following two meditation techniques are intended to give new conversation partners and philosophical friends in my philosophy practice some ‘handles’ on how to get started meditating. When I write that it is necessary for you to meditate for at least 30 minutes before any philosophical conversation with me, you might wonder why this is necessary and how to do so.
One answer to the ‘why?’ question is that it prepares the mind to be put to the philosophical question. By virtue of meditation, the mind is trained to become alert, supple, and calm. In the following, I supply two answers to the ‘how?’ question.
Vipassana (Mindfulness Meditation)
Source: Sam Harris, Waking Up
The Water Method of Daoist Meditation
Source: Bruce Frantzis, Relaxing Into Your Being: Breathing, Chi, and Dissolving the Ego. The Water Method of Taoist Meditation: Volume 1.
I recently read Chapter One of Sam Harris’s forthcoming book, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion and found myself thinking, ‘This may not end up being an excellent book, but for all that it is an important and prescient one.’ (You can read Chapter One here on his website.)
Harris’s principal question, which goes unstated though is everywhere assumed, is as follows: how is it possible to experience a form of non-ordinary consciousness that is (a) ‘north’ of ordinary consciousness, (b) consistent with our best scientific understanding, and yet is (c) ‘south’ of religious doctrine and dogma? This seems to me one of the most pressing and vexing questions of our time. This is why I called the book important and prescient.
Based solely on what I’ve read so far, I believe there are three sub-questions that I’m not sure he can suitably answer:
Continue reading “A review of Chapter One of Sam Harris, Waking Up: Preliminary questions”
Words that came to me during morning meditation moments before a philosophical conversation:
Release the eyes,
the twitching wrists,
the furled mouth.
Free the neck
and go timeless.