This is a transcription of a lecture that was given live and unscripted at the 2014 Gnostic Retreat in Europe. You can download the audio lecture here: Beginning Here and Now: Meditation and Comprehension
It has come to my attention that although we are gathered for a meditation retreat, some of you do not know what meditation is. So I thought it would be a good idea to talk about why we meditate, why meditation is important, why we always talk about it in this tradition, what it is, and what it is not.
It also occurred to me to point out that in this tradition we do not teach from books; we do not teach from a syllabus or a pre-designed plan. In other words, this lecture is not scripted. Instead, we teach from our experience. Compared with a pre-planned, scripted teaching, our approach is much more alive, much more vibrant, and much more responsive to the needs of the moment. So for example, on retreats we have many practices that we do and we have lectures that we give. But we do not plan the lectures. We do not plan what is going to happen, what we are going to do or say. In that way, we are very responsive to the needs of the moment. That approach is born out of how Gnosis actually works as a living experience. Gnosis is about being in the moment, and being responsive to the reality of each moment. You cannot plan for that. You can only be prepared and aware. In this tradition we learn how to live that way, being here and now, in the moment, therefore we also teach that way.
This tradition is not dependent upon a codified system, outline, syllabus, or something that is written down, something that one has to blindly and dogmatically repeat. That is not how spirituality really works. You cannot find real spirituality written line by line in a book, like an instruction manual or paint-by-numbers coloring book. Likewise, you cannot find it by being a spiritual tourist, hopping from school to school, group to group, idea to idea, or movement to movement. You cannot find spirituality that way, although you might be entertained, fascinated by all the things you will see and experience with that sort of approach. But wandering around like that you will never, ever find what real spirituality is, because real spirituality is not in the outside world, in books, groups, schools, or countries. Instead, it emerges out of one’s heart, through experience. It is found through understanding the science of being awake here and now.
Real science, as everyone knows, is proven through experimentation; not through theory. In fact, real science states that nothing should be accepted until it is proven empirically, fully, and completely without any doubt. Until something is completely and fully proven and repeatable, it should only remain as a theory; not accepted or rejected, but simply posited as a possibility. Isn’t that true? Isn’t that the way science is supposed to work? Modern science does not work that way nowadays because people just accept science the same way they accept religion. They just believe in it, although few people have proven any of it through their own experience, or they have proven very little.
Gnosis is a science in the full and truly genuine sense of the word. It is a science that one has to approach as a scientist: to prove it in one’s own experience, to confirm it, to repeat what has been presented and to confirm for oneself whether it is true or false.
From that point of view, we can state without any doubt that none of us is “Gnostic,” not one. We might be interested in Gnosis. We might be curious about Gnosis. We might have spent many years studying Gnosis. So we can be called students of Gnosis, but we cannot be called true Gnostics until we have proven it. That proof is not external, it is not visible to anyone else. It is proof that one has lived in oneself, in one’s heart and mind and body.
So a real Gnostic is one who has experienced what Jesus taught. If we present it that way, there would be very few who would say “I am one of those.” There would be some who would say that. However, we do not know whether they are telling the truth or lying. So it is irrelevant if someone says that or not. From my own point of view, the claims of others truly mean nothing because those claims have no bearing whatsoever on our own soul and the status of our own soul. So to be a Gnostic and to study what Gnosis is are two different things.
Gnosis itself as a word, as a term, really means knowledge. But it means knowledge that one has experienced for oneself. That is knowledge that one has confirmed.
At the most basic level, we can presume that all of us have some Gnosis of being alive. We can confirm to some degree that we are here and now. We have a physical body. We experience nature. We experience sensation physically, emotionally, and mentally. That is all a level of Gnosis. It is the level of Gnosis of an intellectual animal living in a mechanical life. But that level of Gnosis or experiential knowledge is very limited in its reach and its power. We experience those limits every day. We have no power over most of what really concerns us, what really affects us. We have very limited power and very limited knowledge. To change what is more important, we need more knowledge.
We would love to be able to know what is going to happen later today, tomorrow, next week, or next year. All of us have that longing to know. “When am I going to die? How long do I have? Where is my true love? What will become of me? What is my purpose? What is my future, my mission? What is my true talent?” These are questions that we all have. Having the questions implies the existence of an answer. Isn’t that true? Isn’t it true that if you have a question, it must mean that it is answerable? Yet the answers escape us continually.
Whatever pursuit that we chase in the material world, whatever religion we follow or belief we follow or education that we chase, still those fundamental questions escape us. Although we acquire degrees, status, money, power, wealth, and fame, although we acquire whatever it is that comes to us in this physical world, still the questions remain unanswered. This is because the tools that we are trying to use to answer them are the wrong tools.
The answers are not found in books, in beliefs, in so-called masters, not in movements or groups or schools, not in any belief system or theory, not in possessions, not in wealth, not in even knowledge, the way we commonly think of knowledge. We spend our day to day life seeking and seeking and seeking and all the while the answer is right here in our own heart. We simply have not learned how to listen. This is why in this tradition we learn to meditate: to hear the answer. It is quite simple, really, and beautiful. The interesting thing is that the founders of all the religions said the same thing. All of them in their own words said the same thing: that the answers to our questions and the solutions to our problems are found in ourselves, in our own hearts.
“Seek ye first, the kingdom…” [Matthew 6:33]
We know that in Hebrew that word “Kingdom” is Malkuth, which is the physical body. The kingdom of God where God resides is within us.
“Jesus said, "If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is within you and it is outside you.
“When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty.” - Gospel of Thomas
To seek that kingdom, in other words to gain knowledge of that kingdom is to acquire knowledge of ourselves and to see how divinity operates through our life.
It is so obvious, when you see it in this way, that this is what was meant all along. Sadly, people have been taught that the Kingdom of God is somewhere in the clouds, and thus they do not know how to seek for it. They think it is something that is merely theoretical or that it is so distant that we cannot confirm it as real. But you can confirm that your physical body is real. You can confirm that it holds many mysteries. With some effort you can confirm that your own Divinity works through your physical body, if you simply pay attention.
Meditation as a word encapsulates many things. Unfortunately, in the modern era, this word has become terribly misused and terribly misunderstood. It seems to refer to a whole range of really often silly things. For example, most people in the West now think that meditation is to sit in a really awkward posture with hands on your knees and your fingers making an O shape, or sitting on your knees, with your back looking like it is about to break. It is a very uncomfortable looking position, and they think somehow that is “meditation.” That really makes no sense. Meditation has nothing to do with the posture of the body. Meditation is a state of consciousness, not a physical position. As we have explained on this retreat, your posture needs certain characteristics — namely relaxation — but one should not have a posture that is uncomfortable. For most Westerners, the lotus posture depicted by most so-called meditation schools is very painful, thus it is actually the most inappropriate posture for them to use.
When you understand where the word meditation was translated from into different languages and you understand the science that is conveyed through those traditions, you realize that the modern idea of meditation is very far from reality. That is sad.
Now we see people talking about meditation on talk shows and in popular books, and telling people to do superficial and frankly useless types of exercises. They think that is the extent of meditation. We need to understand that this modern notation of meditation is completely off base. It has no real relationship to the actual meaning, the actual science of meditation.
Jesus went into the desert to fast and to meditate. He did not go out there to sit in the desert and put his fingers together and “space out.” He did not go out there just to be alone, or to escape his problems. He went to reach comprehension of his problems. He went to pray, and understand.
People think meditation is an escape. Or they think it is a way to have some sort of psychedelic experience or some super physical sensation, some kind of incredibly powerful overwhelming pleasant sensation. It is all wrong. None of that has anything to do with meditation. When we look at that and study that and we look at different religions, we realize that really humanity has not understood much at all about its own religions. That is really sad.
Most of humanity is missing one of the most beautiful gifts that God has granted to humanity, and that is the ability to communicate with the Divine. Ironically, everybody wants that ability. Everyone wants to listen to God and talk to God and talk with the Angels and Masters and Buddhas, and have communication with higher beings. But instead of having the actual communication, people fantasize about it, and think that their fantasies are real. They read books and go to lectures and watch movies and TV shows about these fantasies about higher beings and masters, while all of those are lies, inventions of people who know nothing about reality. All the while, the ability to actually talk face to face with an Angel or Master or Buddha is right there in their heart, yet they have never learned to use it. For those who study the true science, this is what inspires them to teach. They want to share, to give that gift to others, so that others can then say, “Wow, I’ve been missing this my whole life, and I have been carrying it with me all along.”
Meditation as an art of consciousness is an ancient, precise science. There are many names, many lineages, and many ways of talking about it. In the same way, if you look at any tree or plant in the garden, there are many names for those trees. Any given tree can have hundreds of different names in different languages. If members of various cultures and races came here and said, “That is such and such tree,” someone else would say, “No, it isn’t. That is such and such.” They are both right; they are just using different words. Meditation is the same; it is the tree. You can talk about it with different words, you can describe it in different ways, but it is one thing; it is unchanged and it will never change, because it describes laws of nature. Those laws do not change. The descriptions change. Our understanding of the law can change. But the law itself, the science, the way energy moves, is always the same. It always has been and always will be.
The Art of Meditation
When I say art of consciousness, let me explain what art is, because we think that art refers only to paintings; that is incorrect. In this tradition we study four pillars. These are four pillars of knowledge. Really, they are all one thing. All the knowledge in the universe is one united knowledge. In the same way, we talk about the tree of meditation as the science, as one tree and we have many names for it. The same is true of all the laws of Nature. No matter where you go in the universe, if you go anywhere in the third dimension and you find gravity, you will find many different names for gravity. But the law of gravity remains the same. The same is true of the way the air moves, and way that fire burns. The earth has its own mechanism. Nature works the way nature works. So knowledge is like that. Knowledge is one universal science. It is true everywhere. But the way we approach it, the way we study it can vary.
We talk about knowledge as having four fundamental aspects and we understand that those four are really one thing. To make our little brains understand a little better we divide knowledge into four, and they are: art, science, philosophy and religion. Like I said, these are one. We talk about them as four in order for us to comprehend because they are really one vast knowledge, science. Religion, philosophy and science encode, explain and describe the laws. They provide the structure. Art is what communicates that understanding. So real art is communication. It is expression. That can take any number of forms. Painting, when it is conscious painting, when it is real painting, communicates knowledge. So if we study the art or the painting of a great master, that painting communicates knowledge to us, but it only communicates what we are capable of accessing in it. That depends on our level of consciousness. So if we study a symphony of Beethoven and we listen to it in our current state of mind, we will gain whatever we are capable of gaining. But if we have an awakened consciousness and we know how to concentrate and relax and imagine and pray, we can extract a lot of knowledge from that symphony, not with the intellect but with the heart. The same is true of great paintings. The same is true of great sculptures. The sculptures of the Greeks, the Egyptians, and the Aztecs encode enormous knowledge. But it is knowledge for the heart. It is knowledge that one has to know how to access. So those are art forms that communicate.
Meditation is an art of consciousness. It is the way we receive the knowledge that is encoded in those places. It is the way we receive the knowledge of God. We have already explained to you that by receive we mean something very specific. We do not mean just the sort of superficial level of the word receive, in the way that you get a letter in the mail. That is easy; you do not have to do anything for that. It just comes in the mail. But to receive knowledge, especially divine knowledge, higher knowledge, is not as easy as that because of the current state we are in. If we were the way we should be, it would be easy to receive it. We would simply look at it and we would get it. We, unfortunately, over the course of many existences, have damaged ourselves so much that now we look at that art and we do not get anything. We might feel, “I know it means something but I don’t know what.” Or we get a dream or a vision and we feel “I know there’s a meaning there but I don’t know what it is. I had this dream and all these things happened…”, and we go to our friends and talk to our teachers and we go to everybody and talk about our dreams. But we do not know the meaning. That is because we do not have the art developed in us. We need that. That is why we learn to meditate. Meditation is that way of reception; the way we receive knowledge.
These words that I am using are very specific. They are not accidental. We are very careful with how we use words in this tradition, because the meanings they can bear are extremely precise.
To receive in Hebrew is kabel, which is the root of the word Kabbalah. Those of you have studied with us for some time know that we talk about Kabbalah a lot. That is because Kabbalah is the reception of knowledge: science, philosophy, religion. Kabbalah is an art of consciousness, because it is a form of communication.
When you have some grasp of Kabbalah, at whatever level, it helps you organize and comprehend what you receive. So studying Kabbalah by itself is good. It teaches you many things. When you study Kabbalah alongside developing your meditation practice, that is spirituality. Meditation practice is how you open yourself to receive the messages of God. Kabbalah helps you interpret it. So you need both.
There are many who learn to meditate. They receive visions, they receive messages but they do not know how to understand them. Conversely, there are many more who study esotericism, religion, philosophy, and all of the various ways that spirituality and religion and mysticism are available now to humanity, but they do not meditate. They may think they meditate, but they are not receiving knowledge in meditation, so they are not really meditating. Thus, they remain confused. They have a lot of beautiful theories and beautiful beliefs, but no knowledge, Gnosis, from their own experience. So this is why we meditate and we study Kabbalah. We want to have equilibrium.
We all have Divinity inside. Divinity is our root. All the scriptures tell us that divinity is inside of us. All of us have our Inner Being, the root of our very existence. Our Inner Being is always attempting to communicate with us. We simply do not listen. We are so caught up in our own mind stream, in our own projections, that we never listen to what God, our Inner Buddha is saying. But the messages are there. Every once in a while, we remember a dream or we have some sort of mystical experience and we feel shocked and surprised and maybe upset about it or anxious or excited. That single experience can be in our memories for years, lifetimes, but we never know the meaning. We go to every dream dictionary and on the Internet trying to find the meaning yet we never really understand it. How much better would it be if we have had some understanding when the dream occurred? Because really messages come when they do for a reason. Wouldn’t it be better if we were capable of receiving and understanding that when it was given? Wouldn’t it be better if we could not only receive it but also understand it? The amazing thing is that is possible. Everyone here has evidence of that. Your very scriptures that you study are evidence of that. Whoever wrote that scripture received that knowledge from the Innermost and wrote it down. The Pistis Sophia was knowledge given and written down. The Bible, the Koran, the Sutras, the Tantras, all of that was knowledge given, received, written down. Was it interpreted properly? That is another thing. That is something else entirely. Nevertheless, all of us have that same capability because we have a being inside of us, we have God inside of us. That is, all of us have access to all the knowledge of the universe. It is simply a matter of learning to access it.
Meditation is that science of receiving knowledge. It takes work to accomplish that. It is not an easy thing to do. But the ironic part is, the state of meditation itself is beautifully simple and easy. However getting to it, for us, is not. It’s not easy because of what we have done to ourselves, because of the state of our consciousness. The saddest part is that we are making it worse every day because we stick to our bad habits.
In this tradition, we are intensely psychological because that is the nature of the work. You cannot hope to comprehend your Inner Being, the nature of life, and the answers to all your questions if you do not change how your mind is working. The reason you cannot hear the answers now is because of how your mind is functioning. So to get the answers you want, you have to change.
The change we need is not a superficial change. It is not a change that you can get by listening to the advice of someone else, or by reading a book. It is change that you have to recognize in yourself and make it because you want it. You make it because you know you need it. It is personal.
Someone may tell you, “You know what, you need to change A, B and C. I can see this ego in you, and this defect, and you need to change D, E, F, and G…” You cannot find the real changes you need by listening to this sort of advice from others, because no one can see your mind the way you can see your mind. External people can only see your external appearances, so you have to learn to see your own mind for what it is.
There are stages to meditation and to the work. They are exact, they are unwavering, they have never changed, and will never change.
Meditation is a science, not a theory. Let me state that one more time, because it is something that is easily overlooked. Meditation is not theory. It is proven already, and has been proven for thousands of years. However, you have not proven it yet. For all of us, it remains a theory. Now we need to prove it. We need to test it. We need to work with it. We need to determine for ourselves what is real, what is true, what is meditation, what is consciousness, what is mind, what is the body, what is emotion, what is thought, and what is self? You will face all those questions when you learn how to meditate properly.
So let us talk about what meditation is, and then we will talk about how we will get there.
Intoxicants and Meditation
I have already hinted that meditation is a way of receiving knowledge. Primarily, it is a way of investigation. It is directly contradictory to what most people think what meditation is. Most people think meditation is like taking a drug. People think meditation is like taking a mushroom, peyote or any drug and then you have some sort of super-physical experience, and you have great visions, and you feel awesome. Afterwards you tell all your friends and they feel envious of you and think you are cool because you took those drugs. They think meditation is like that. That is not meditation. It is nothing like meditation. Meditation has nothing to do with any of that.
As a side note, there are many people who think that using drugs as an approach to spirituality is genuine, and will take them to “experience God.” Sadly, those people are being deceived. The only results from that path are addiction, an increase of desire, and a very weak mind.
When we look at ourselves and we study our minds and we study our experience of life, it is not hard to confirm that we are trapped in habitual tendencies: anger, pride, greed, gluttony, laziness, and lust. We often do not want to feel those things or act on those things, but we do. We perform harmful actions, and then we realize our mistake and we say “That wasn’t me. I don’t know why I did that. I don’t know why I felt like that but that wasn’t me.” But it was “us. “That conditioned state is precisely the reason why those artificial substances can never take us to divinity. The only way we can reach divinity is to become free of the conditioned state. No plant or drug can free you from your ego.
The alcoholic drinks alcohol to “escape his problems.” All the people who are addicted to alcohol run to that substance because they want a break from “real life.” Reality is too hard for them, and they have many problems. They have traumas and pain, so they go to drink. The drink makes them feel euphoric for a time. Then, afterwards, the reality sets in: they become addicted. The deeper the addition becomes, the stronger the euphoria, the stronger the dependence, the stronger the visions. They start to see things. They start to experience some other reality that they see. They “hallucinate.” They lose their humanity. All of their other defects become empowered, pronounced: they become thieves, liars, violent, etc. Why? What happens?
The same process occurs with the person that is addicted to heroin, the user of mushrooms, the user of cocaine, the user of all of the various substances that humanity has discovered, without questioning how they were found, where they came from.
What occurs when those substance are ingested? Yes, drug users experience visions, altered perception, heightened senses, etc. Those substances do awaken consciousness. There is no question about that. However, psychotropic substances awaken conditioned consciousness. Our consciousness is trapped in all of our mistaken perceptions. Each of us is filled with psychological defects we are unaware of. Psychotropic substances activate the consciousness that is trapped in those defects. That is why some people who drink alcohol becomes angry, while others become very sad, or violent, or depressed, etc. No one becomes clear headed. None become capable of interpreting scripture, healing the sick, etc. They do not become more beneficial to humanity or themselves. They become sick, very sick. It is true in all these cases. In fact, the opposite is true: addicts become leeches on others, they become a problem for others. They become weak, dependent upon their substance of choice, and utterly under the control of it. Even so called “shamans” are merely puppets of forces they are totally unaware of, led along like a donkey following a carrot on a stick.
Observe the groups of people that follow those approaches to spirituality. They all claim that the use of the substances they promote is the way to God. Universally, they all do. There are many who claim that alcoholism is mysticism; they worship wine, or tequila, or some other alcohol. Others claim that “real mysticism” is to take ayuhuasca,yaje, mushrooms, peyote, or whatever different types of substances. They also have many beautiful theories, and love to talk about nature, the divine mother, the corruption of the modern world, etc.
When we examine this scenario, we see there is really a contradiction here. We see two poles, two forces that are opposed to each other. On one side we see those traditions that promote all these Aquarian sort of new age ideas about drug use and sexuality, shamanism, and all the elements that are mixed up in it. All of this has been very popular since the sixties. Contrary to that side, we see the meditation tradition that rejects all intoxicants. In every genuine meditation tradition, there is a fundamental precept that the practitioners will not take intoxicants of any kind. Which traditions? Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, just to name a few. In all of those traditions, this is one of the first vows that even a lay person must take: to take no intoxicants, no alcohol, no drugs, etc. Why?
Observe this difference. Both sides claim to reach the same place. Both claim that by following their paths you will receive visions, receive knowledge, and receive spiritual development. Both claim the same thing! How do we know which is true? Naturally, most people think, “The drugs sound cooler, faster, and more fun. I am going to do that.” That is the way of thinking of the vast majority of people. They do not investigate these things, even if it is without spiritual interest. They want to have those visions and those experiences, those sensations to feel good and feel ecstatic. Most people go that way. That is an easy path, and is very easy to find and enter. Yet, who ever said that becoming an angel or a Buddha was easy?
Do we ever find an example of a drunkard Saint or a drug-addict Buddha? Not even a single one! Instead, all of them rejected intoxicants. Yet, if we study the lives of the Saints, the Buddhas, the Master, every single one of them was a master of meditation.
Can we find an example of a drunkard demon? Yes, many. Can we find an example of a drug-addict demon? Yes, many. What about a demon who is a master of meditation? Doubtful! Why? Because mastery of meditation is mastery of consciousness. A demon is bottled in conditioned consciousness, trapped in his karma. A real master of meditation is also a master of karma, and is thus capable of entering all of the levels of existence at will. A demon is trapped in the lower worlds.
When we talk about meditation, often we bring with us the education we had from other groups and schools who think that the end results of whatever it is that we are pursuing would be some sort of ecstasy; some sort of ecstatic sensations where we would feel like we are merging with universe, and universe is one, and we love all our brothers and sisters, and all that other New Age stuff. You might have experiences like that. However, that is not why we meditate. That has nothing to do with why we meditate. We are not looking for power. We are not seeking sensations, we are seeking knowledge. What we want is really what all of the people pursuing all these different paths really want even if they do not recognize it: we want to overcome suffering. You cannot overcome suffering by clinging to any substance, to any physical matter, to any chemical, or any belief or theory.
All a chemical can do is produces sensations, which are impermanent anyway. It can also produce consequences that you may not even see. For example, in all the cases of drug use, alcohol, etc., those substances produce traumatic consequences. First, at the physical level it is quite obvious. They destroy the brain; they destroy the liver; they destroy the heart; they destroy the lungs. This is proven. Drugs can kill you. Meditation will not kill you. I know it feels like that sometimes [laughter] but you will not die, not from meditation.
I am presenting these contrary points of view because many of us carry with us, even if we are not aware of it, these subtle thoughts that perhaps meditation will lead to these types of ecstasy and escape from our problems; or that when we sit to meditate we can just space out and we lose touch with the world. That is not meditation. That is just spacing out.
What is Meditation?
So how do we get there? How do we get to that state? How do we experience that? What is the result of that experience?
Properly said, meditation is a state of consciousness. The nature of consciousness is to perceive. So, meditation is a state of perception. It is a state of perceiving something beyond what we would normally perceive. That is an important point to understand. It is not a loss of consciousness. It is not what you might call an altered state of consciousness. It is rather an expansion of perception. That perception can extend beyond physicality, but it begins here in the physical body.
In other traditions, there are many terms that refer to meditation. A popular one is Samadhi. This Sanskrit term means “to hold unwaveringly, to be firm, to be fixed.” It does not refer to something rigid; rather it refers to something permanent, something that is. Samadhi in that sense, is like a type of perception that sees reality, that sees past the illusion that we see now.
The way we perceive now is filtered. As we have been working with these different practices, we have been talking about how the body works, how the senses work. That is the first layer of filter that we have to deal with: the physical senses.
Meditation and the Senses
We have five physical senses which are quite obvious, but which none of us really ever pay attention to. Most the time we are just caught up in the drama of our thinking. Very rarely are we fully aware of what we are perceiving through our senses, physically speaking.
Everything we experience physically is filtered by those senses. This is why in most traditions the beginners start with learning how be a watcher of the senses. Krishna talks about this in the Bhagavad Gita in a very beautiful way.
As I have mentioned previously, in Asian philosophy and mysticism it is said that there are not just these five physical senses, there is a sixth one, which is the ability to be aware of the mind. In the same way that we perceive through our eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin, we also perceive thought and emotion. That is the real sixth sense: to sense thinking and feeling.
Although we are not aware of how we do it, we are generally caught up in thinking and feeling. Whatever is going on with us physically and externally, we are not that aware of the physical senses, because we are more caught up in this drama of what is happening in the mind in relation to what is happening in our perception of the external world. We are going from room to room, conversation to conversation, we hear the words that are said and we are reacting in our mind and thinking about what to say. That whole exchange happens so quickly that we are not really aware of it. We do not perceive all the energetic transformations that happen there or the consequences of those transformations. Yet that is precisely what has created the mind that we have now.
We see a person, and we make an immeditate evaluation of that person. We build an entire profile of that person in our mind. We assume they are a certain way. We hear a certain word from them, we interpret it according to that profile without any awareness that we are doing all of this. We judge people like that. We judge ourselves like that. We judge everything like that, in relation with our desires. So you see how complex things have already become, and we have only been talking about this a few minutes. When you really observe yourself, you discover how complicated this process really is. It is complicated. So how do we get to this point? Because we do not pay attention. We are just reacting and reacting. We are not cognizant of what we think and feel and sense.
We start training by learning to watch the senses, learning the expand awareness, learning to be here and now, learning to be present, learning to observe the three brains: the body, the heart, the intellect.
Through that type of observation we start to receive. Really, truly, this is the beginning of meditation. We are not even in a meditation hall. We are not sitting on a cushion or at home in our quiet room with our candle burning. We are at work, we are at school, and we are with our friends, our spouses, our parents. At the same time, we are observing our three brains, receiving all the impressions through our six senses and digesting them right there, understanding them right there. We receive impressions and respond consciously rather than mechanically. This creates a fundamental change in not only our experience of life, but our experience as a being, as a person.
When we sat outside and we did practices that worked with the five senses, we could see how different we felt. We experienced a totally different kind energy simply by paying attention. If we learn to apply that in our daily lives when we eat our meals, when we walk to work, when we drive in our car, and in everything we do, if we take that same approach of receiving consciously, we feel different. The consequences are different.
In our normal day to day life, we get home from work or school, we feel exhausted, we feel overwhelmed and we have many residual bubbling thoughts and worries and anxieties, unresolved problems. When we approach life in this way cognizantly with awareness that changes. When we go through life mechanically, all of those impressions come in to us mechanically and get stuck in the mind. When we were angry with someone, that anger just ferments in our mind and heart. We think about that anger, we feel that anger and it just ferments. It gets darker and richer. But when you receive that impression of whatever might have irritated you in former days and you receive it consciously and you transform that impression, you realize that the person that was angry, who was saying harmful words, was really just in pain. “I do not need to be angry with them. Really, I need compassion for them because they are suffering.” We are no longer angry. When we go home that anger is not bothering us. This is a simple example, but illustrates a big difference.
These impressions pile on top of each other in layers after layers after layers: in our mind are piles and piles of untransformed impressions. So when we go to meditate in our current state, having had lifetimes of improperly transforming impressions, we now look inside of our mind and we see an absolute chaos. The mind will not sit still. It is like a raging sea. We feel frustrated, disappointed, defeated. We feel like meditation is impossible. This is what most people experience, so they walk away. The vast majority of people who want to try to learn meditation give up immeditately. They blame the meditation tradition. They say “that school is no good. That teacher is no good. That teaching does not work. It is too hard. I want something easier. Give me a drug. Let me buy a pill that will awaken my consciousness. Let me go pay some shaman some money and he will awaken my consciousness for me.” That is what we think.
Meditation is work, because we have to fix the problems that we have created. Our body digests food on its own; our lungs digest the air on its own; but our mind cannot transform impressions on its own because our consciousness is asleep. If we awaken our consciousness and keep it awake, we start to digest impressions. That means the information that comes in is digested. We take from it what is important and useful and we throw out the remainder. This is how we acquire information. Right away, just from observing ourselves, we start to learn. We learn about ourselves and learn about others.
Going deeper, once we have established that continuity of awareness, we start to meditate at home. That continuity of awareness is what allows us to go deeper in meditation. We take the same exact skill: the continuity of concentration and of observation, but now we close all the senses and we observe only the sixth one. We shut down the body and all the five senses and instead we simply observe the mind. It is the exact same process, the exact same tool. It is just applying it in a specific way. Does that make sense? It is not complicated.
So during the day, if you were using all your senses and observing everything consciously, this is harder because you have got to observe six senses. Meditation is easier because you only have to observe one. If that is so, then why we are saying meditation is hard? This is interesting, isn’t it? We are saying meditation is hard because we are not really observing all six senses during the day. If we do that all day, then meditation is easy. If we have been preparing for meditation all day long, then when we go to meditate, it is easier. We just need to turn the five external senses off, and focus on the one that perceives thoughts and feelings.
So this is the very first aspect to understand about the process of meditation. That is simple, practical outline of how it works. What happens when you actually do this? What happens when you go to meditate and you shut off those five external senses? You are only observing the one interior sense. This is where the magic begins. This is where you start to discover who you really are. You start to realize that you are not the body. You start to realize that you, as the soul, exist separate from the body and can function separated from the body even better than while you are in the body. In this way, we see that consciousness is beyond the body and beyond the senses. So when we meditate, we forget the body.
Meditation and the Physical Body
Notice the difference here: during the day, and during preliminary types of exercises, we work to really be aware of being in the body. Then when we sit to meditate, we forget it. These two aspects are very different in this way; both use attention, but are attentive in a different way.
If in your meditation practice you are focused on your body, you will become stagnant as a meditator. Focusing on the body will keep you inside the body. If you want to leave the body and go out into other dimensions, you have to leave the body behind.
When we do preliminary practices like observing the breath (annapanna), or working with certain vowels or mantras, or other types of techniques like runes, we are working very much with the body, to be aware of the body. But when we want to comprehend something, when we want to meditate on something, we have to forget the body, we have to abandon it. This is because the consciousness does not belong to the body.
The body is just the “clothes” that the consciousness wears. Every living being is like that: multi-dimensional. All of these plants and animals that are outside, all of them leave their bodies at will. For them, there is no confusion about that distinction, because they are awake: they perceive it. For us, being so asleep and so attached to materialism, we do not understand that we are not separated from the body. We think we are the body, and we are afraid to leave it. When you learn to meditate, you will learn about this. You will learn that the consciousness is not the body. It is separate.
Meditation and Other Dimensions
Many students come to meditation schools and they want to learn how to have ecstatic experiences. Often they heard about astral projection or mental projection. They want to know “How can I go out into these other dimensions and experience these other dimensions?” They always point over “there” or up to the sky. They want to know “How can I go out over there? How can I experience that place that somewhere up there? How can I see the elementals? How can I experience the Angels? Where are the Buddhas? Are they over there somewhere, in Nirvana and some other place?”
Let us understand something clearly so that we can understand meditation properly: all of the dimensions are right here and now. We just do not see them. They are not somewhere else.
- 3rd dimension: physical world
- 4th dimension: vital or energetic world
- 5th dimension: emotional (astral) and mental world
- 6th dimension: world of willpower, causes, consciousness, and spirit
- 7th dimension: the Absolute, the Emptiness, the Primordial No-thing
Students in this tradition learn about the physical body and it has the superior component which is its energy. The energy of the physical body is called the Vital body. That exists in the fourth dimension. So then people think “The fourth dimension must be up there somewhere.” It is not up anywhere: it is right here. It is the very energy of your physical body. You can feel your physical body. You can sense it. You can feel its relative degree of energy. Obviously, you have energy to be active, perceiving, thus we are all “awake” to some degree right now. Also, there is the energy moving in us. That is the energy of the vital body. It is right here.
Students also hear about the astral body, which is more subtle, in the fifth dimension. All the students are very interested in the astral body. They want to know “How can I travel in my astral body? Where is it? I want to experience my Astral body.” If you are here and now fully and completely, your Astral body is also here and now. This is because the Astral body is your body of emotion. It is emotion. That emotional energy is your Astral body. It is not somewhere else. It is right here, if you as a consciousness are here and now.
The same is true of the mental body. If you are here and now and your mind is focused on this topic, not distracted, then your Mental body is also here and now. But if during the course of this discussion, your mind wanders and you start remembering “In the kitchen I left something out and it is on the table. I really need to call somebody.” Your mental body left and went home and it is in your kitchen trying to figure out how to put that physical bowl back in the refrigerator. You are imagining those things: thus, you sent your mental body there. Your mental body left your physical body here in the chair. That is interesting, isn’t it? That is how it works.
Integration Leads to Meditation
When you are distracted, you are disjointed. That is we why we emphasize being HERE and NOW, in all three brains, being in your body, concentrated, and relaxed. In this way we become integrated. In meditation, this is even more essential. If you want to experience meditation and gain knowledge from your Being, it is impossible if you are not integrated. This is the problem that most meditators have. We sit to meditate and we start chanting our mantras but our mind is at our job. The physical body is saying “Om...Om...Om” but the mind seeing itself tapping at the computer at work and thinking about that co-worker who is evil. The heart is thinking maybe that handsome young man down the aisle will come and say “hi” to me today, or maybe that pretty girl will respond to me saying “hi” to her. Meanwhile, the physical body is there saying “Om…Om…Om." Therefore, we are not integrated. We are longing for some experience in the astral world, when we are already busy in the astral world, but asleep, not integrated; we are dreaming in the astral world. We send our astral body off chasing some fantasy about some other person. We cannot have any experience of God when we are attempting to meditate like that. It is impossible. We cannot comprehend the scripture or receive knowledge or understand the Kabbalah when the different parts of ourselves are all at different places, it is impossible.
Fundamental number one: be integrated; be here and now. That is why we emphasize it. I am explaining in this way because there is a transition that has to happen here. I want it to be clear for you so you can understand this. Physically speaking when we go through our day we have to be in a state of being here and now. We call that self-observation, self-remembering. Self-remembering means to remember that we are here in the body, observing ourself, being aware. That is what it means to be integrated; it means not being distracted and not fantasizing but instead being here and now completely. When we start our meditation practice we need to start in that same manner, to be fully here and now.
Why is this important? As we said already, if our heart and mind are elsewhere we cannot be integrated and therefore we will not be able to accomplish our goal. Let us fully explore that and understand why it is true.
All of us want to have knowledge. We want to understand the other dimensions. We want to experience the astral world and the mental world and the causal world. We want to experience the Absolute and all the things we talk about in Kabbalah. However, we do not achieve what we want. This is precisely because of this exact transition.
We need a precise balance of forces in meditation, a balance of being integrated, of being concentrated, and of knowing how to utilize imagination effectively. When we are distracted and fantasizing, we are using our imagination, but we are using it in mechanical way.
For example, when we are meditating and we are hungry then we are only thinking about what we are going to eat for dinner. So in our mind we have these images of the food that we would like to have. We are not integrated. We are using fantasy to build that image in our imagination.
If on the other hand we know how to be fully present and integrated, to be focused in that meditation practice, relaxed, prayerful and concentrated, if we were imagining our object of meditation then we could enter into it consciously and leave our body and go into the astral world consciously with awakened consciousness. That is not hard. Every plant and every animal all around us does that all the time. Babies do that all the time. It is easy, natural, and normal. We cannot do it because we are disjointed, because we are asleep, and because we have so many conflicting desires and wills in us that we cannot even integrate ourselves for those few moments to produce that state of meditation.
However, the actual exit out of the body is very simple. It is natural. It is a law of Nature. It happens on its own. If the forces are balanced in just the right way, it happens on its own. There is no force involved. It is like if you pour a glass of water, the water pours out onto the ground. In the same way if our consciousness is in exactly the right position, it will leave the body. It just goes out. We do this every time we fall asleep physically, but we are not aware of it because we are so distracted when we fall asleep. We are dreaming; we are fantasizing; we are caught up in the dialog in our mind. Therefore, we are not aware when that transition occurs, even though it happens to us every day.
Let us state that once more with clarity. The transition we want to reach in meditation is something that we already know how to do. We do it every day when we fall asleep. All we have to learn is to do it consciously. That is why we sit upright in meditation so we can keep a little bit of wakefulness. You will notice if you lie down to do this, you will have some cognizance for a little while, but then the dreaming will overwhelm you, and you will sleep. Suddenly you wake up wondering what happened. There may remain a few memories of a dream, but there is no cognizance.
When you learn to meditate properly, you will learn to go out of the body consciously. That is why I am saying it is simple: because it is natural and it is normal. What is abnormal is the state of our minds. If we keep putting foreign substances, chemicals, drugs, bad impressions, bad energies, bad thinking, and bad actions then we make it worse. If we keep saturating our consciousness with negativity, we only trap it further; we enslave it. Meditation is really about liberating ourselves from that cage. In simple terms, that is how meditation works.
The Practical Value of Meditation
Really, meditation is about gaining clarity and perception. What does that mean in practical terms? Let us consider a practical example. Suppose you have had a bad experience with some person. They have hurt you and you feel a lot of resentment. No matter what you do you cannot seem to deal with it. That resentment is very strong. You find yourself thinking about that person in a harmful way and negative way. Naturally, if you just go about things in a mechanical form, then this problem will never be resolved. You will carry that anger with you forever. Even if it becomes less of an influence in your moment to moment life, it will nevertheless remain in your subconsciousness because it was unresolved.
If on the other hand you decide that you want to apply these tools to deal with that resentment, you say “I am going to meditate on this. I really want to understand this. I want to change this quality. I want to understand this resentment to stop feeling this way.” So you would apply these principles.
Firstly, of course, you would have to be managing your daily life with watchfulness, with wakefulness. You would also have to be transmuting your energy and saving your energy. You should not waste your energy on foolishness like sexual escapades, like abusing chemicals or any other type of behavior that can harm you physically, emotionally or mentally. Of course, you would have to be working daily with meditation practice.
So each night you would come home and reflect on your experiences of the day. That is, you perform the retrospection practice we have been teaching you here at the retreat. By reviewing the facts of the day, you then realize that you always have that resentment bothering you; and you see, “Wow, all day long I kept thinking about this person and I was really angry.” So you would visualize what you experienced, and relax. You would pray for help to whatever divinity you want to pray to. Ultimately, it is the prayer that matters, the attitude of the heart. Then you would start to relax deep into your meditation. Then you would concentrate on the facts. It may be that you want to concentrate on the thoughts and feelings you have that specific day. It may be that you want to meditate on the event that started it all. Regardless of what you choose to focus on, you would visualize the facts of what happened, not what you thought happened, not what you were told happened, but what actually happened. Sometimes we get mad because we were told something happened. If that is the case, we would meditate on the person telling us that. What I am pointing out is that you have to meditate on the facts, not on what the mind thinks, not on speculations, not thinking, “Maybe it was like that, maybe it was like this. Maybe they did not mean to do that.” It must not be like that at all. You must meditate on the exact facts of what happened to you; not what happened to others: to you.
In meditation you are visualizing that event, you are picturing it and you are imagining it. Then you are getting drowsy and you are praying and you are concentrating. You are getting drowsier, more and more relaxed, more and more concentrated. You see? You are balancing the four principles:
Thus, gradually, you abandon the physical senses completely. You are only using that sixth sense, which is to be aware of the mind, to be aware of what is going on in your psyche. The body is forgotten. The body is there in the posture you chose. The body is relaxed. It is basically going to take a nap. That is essentially the type of relaxation you want.
So in observing the facts of that event, you visualize it. You can be praying at the same time that you are visualizing. You can even use mantras. You can even use pranayama to feed yourself energy. There are many ways to utilize this technique. The fundamental basis is to visualize. As you do so, as you relax, you are approaching that same doorway that you approach when you go to sleep. However, you are doing it consciously, and you are doing it holding an image, an event, a factual thing that happened that you want to understand. If you can manage to keep that combinations of things in a delicate balance, then suddenly your inner senses will open. If so, you will see that event in a way that is more real than what you experienced when it happened physically.
Imagination, Visualization, Clairvoyance
In our current level of being, when we imagine something, our inner vision is not very clear. If right now we were to say “let’s all imagine an apple,” you can imagine an apple, even with your eyes open. You can imagine an apple in your mind. Everybody can do that. That is the imagination that we are talking about. That is exactly the same ability we are going to use in meditation. It does not take force. If I ask you to imagine the shoes that you were wearing, or to imagine the room that you are staying in, or if you were to imagine the food that you just ate for your last meal, all those images come naturally, easily. That is how we use imagination in our practice. You do not have to clinch your eyes and clinch your fists and force it. Real imagination is not like that. Your visualization should be very relaxed and natural.
Now, the image is still somewhat hazy, isn’t it? That image might appear and then it goes away. If I say “imagine a monkey,” you probably get a little picture in your mind, and then it is gone. With a little effort, you can still sort of keep the image of the monkey. Somewhere up here (in the head) is the monkey picture, but it is difficult to sustain. However, as you develop your meditation practice, that skill becomes much more vibrant. It starts to become more solid, more real, and more consistent. It lasts longer. It is normal. It is natural. It is nothing spectacular. It is nothing shocking. It is nothing surprising. It is nothing supernatural. This is because the nature of the consciousness is to perceive.
So in our meditation practice, gradually, we will start to perceive more, and brighter, clearer. Sometimes, we see lights, we see obscured visions, partial things, letters, and symbols. Often what we see does not make any sense. Eventually, as we develop, we will understand.
In this tradition we focus very strongly on developing imagination, because that is how we reach comprehension. We utilize the natural power of the consciousness to understand things.
In the previous example we were discussing meditating on an event in our life that we want to understand. We visualize it, and at first it is hard to see, and it is hard to remember. As we try to remember it, the mind says, “No, it wasn’t like that. It didn’t happen like that.” The mind tries to change our memories. Does anyone experience that? We try to remember and meditate on something that happened, and our mind is always saying “No, no, no, it was much worse than that.” Our ego likes to be dramatic, and is always trying to modify memories. So we emphasize that we must stick to the facts.
Little by little, as we work with this practice, the ability to visualize becomes stronger, clearer, and lasts longer, until eventually we close our eyes and we simply see. We sit to meditate, we close our eyes, and images appear easily. We then visualize the situation we want to investigate and we work with it. At that point, we are no longer projecting an image. In the same way that I said “imagine a monkey” and we call up an image of a monkey. It just appears there. Eventually, we will no longer need even that; we simply close our eyes and we see.
This is an important point to make, because imagination is a polarity. One polarity of imagination projects fantasies, images from our own will. The other polarity is the reception of images from outside. That is the topic of another lecture. The point is that is there is a point of transition through which we start to receive genuine knowledge. That knowledge does not come from the physical world; it does not come from our brain; it comes from the internal worlds. The difficulty is that our own internal worlds are very corrupted, because they are our own mind. So we cannot trust what we see, especially in the beginning, but also in the middle, and even at the end. Because the ego also works with these images. The ego also tries to communicate through visions, through dreams. The ego also wants to satisfy its desires and can easily trick us.
Therefore, having visions, having insight and having clairvoyance is good, it is normal, it is natural, and it is needed, but it is also very easy to be deceived through those skills. So just because you start to see things, do not feel special. Even a badger and a rat can see images with his imagination. That ability does not make them special. It just means we are starting to recover what we have lost.
At that juncture where we start to see things, that is really where the work begins. It is at that point that we can really start to investigate the ego and investigate ourselves and really investigate anything that is of concern to us. It is at that point that we can start to comprehend and to understand the nature of suffering. The point is to understand how we made this mess, and how to fix it.
In the example we gave above, there are many types of knowledge that we could obtain. We were meditating on that event that caused resentment and anger, and we might perceive in that vision that the other person did not intend to hurt us. Maybe it was a complete misunderstanding. Maybe it was a recurrence of some kind that was a kind of karma that we needed to pass through. Maybe there is some other reason that we do not know. We think we know everything, but we never do. There is a lot of information that we do not have about the things with which we are concerned. If we knew everything, we would feel very differently. It is good to remember that we do not know everything, especially when we are transforming impressions.
So, the purpose of meditation is to acquire comprehension, to start to understand ourselves. In that way, we can start to behave better, and understand each other better, and become better people.
We use this same tool to meditate on the scriptures and to meditate on dreams. For example, you may have had a dream and you know it is full of significance, but you cannot resolve the meaning. No book can give you the real meaning, because your inner divinity does not read that book. Our inner divinity uses symbols to communicate. Symbols are the language of the internal worlds. To understand those symbols, we have meditate on them.
When we meditate on a dream, know that God is not going to come to us and say “Ok, here is what your dream meant. Firstly, the colour red means this and that…” That is not going to happen. Instead, when you meditate on a dream symbol, your Being is going to give you another symbol, and then another symbol. Little by little, you will start to understand them. The symbolic language of the internal worlds is a beautiful language. It is much better than English. It is much deeper and richer and much more profound. It can never be written down. As beautiful as languages in the physical world can be, none of them compares to the language of God. When God communicates, we do not use English or French or Spanich to understand that communication. Instead we have to learn a new language; that language is Kabbalah. You can call it by other names, but it is the same language. It is symbolic.
All of us who study spirituality are interested in dreams and in the meaning of dreams. We are also interested in the Astral world and in Astral projection. Understanding those things is part of Kabbalah, because Kabbalah is the language of the inner worlds. In order to understand those experiences, we meditate.
To use a similar example, after you have a dream, you will then meditate and you visualize that dream. You have to relax and forget the physical world completely and concentrate on remembering exactly the image you saw in your dream. You visualize that image and you concentrate, relax, and pray. Little by little, as you sink in and start to approach the door between wakefulness and sleep, a vision, and the insight of it can occur. Does anyone notice when you start falling asleep then you start seeing visions? That is the door to Samadhi.
Let me give you a clue: work with this every single morning in your bed. In the first moments of waking each morning you are right at the door; you have just come out of it. So turn around and look back through it. But do not move your physical body. As soon as you become aware that you are on your bed and you realize “Here I am. I just came out of that state but I want to learn about it so let me turn back around and recover a little bit of that drowsiness. Let me meditate. Let me visualize the dream I had or the event I had that is bothering me. Let me comprehend this thing that I need to understand.” In those instants you are right at the door and in the perfect place to get more knowledge. Your body is already perfectly relaxed. You already do not care about the physical world at all. You have got just the right amount of drowsiness. This happens to you every single day and you can take advantage of it.
Questions and Answers
Question: I have an observation, a comment and a question. Observation: I listened to your series about Meditation without Exertion and I found them extremely useful. […]. Observation: I’ve had some experiences with entheogens. I’ve travelled to Peru and I’ve been in Costa Rica. I believe there is some usefulness in these tools, to help us to clear out a certain space within our mind and our subconscious and I know of personal examples of people who have overcome very serious addictions. […] very clear. To me, they’re useful tools but last time I drank, I said “ok, it’s time to move on. You’ve graduated from kindergarten.” My question to you is in the Gnostic tradition, is there a concept similar to enlightenment, as you find it in the Buddhist tradition? I know you’re well versed in that. Are there any correspondences? Are they different? I presume there’s some commonality. What would distinguish them?
Answer: The word enlightenment, in Tibetan Buddhism specifically, is used in a variety of ways. But it is often not conveyed well in translation. The word enlightenment in the crudest sense means comprehension. So you can read some stories about teachers or students who received the lesson and the scripture said “such and such found enlightenment.” Most readers think that student, who was just a student, all of a sudden became a completely realized Buddha in that moment. That is not the meaning. Rather, it means that the student gained comprehension. To be enlightened means “to have light.” Isn’t it true that when we get an idea or suddenly understand something it is like a light bulb goes on in our head? That is enlightenment. It is when we have an understanding of something, a sudden breakthrough of some degree. In Tibetan Buddhism that is the meaning that the word enlightenment implies, and in classical Buddhism as well. However, it gets misunderstood and mistranslated in the various traditions.
There are two fundamental forms of enlightenment. There is a temporary or transient type of enlightenment, which is like a sudden understanding or sudden realization. But when we use the word enlightenment to refer to full enlightenment that means that one has completed the path. That is only done when one has paid all of one’s karma. In other words, the term enlightenment is used in different ways. In the Gnostic tradition, we use the same terms and in the same ways. In Zen, you find the same.
Typically in Gnosticism, when we want to describe temporary or transient enlightenment, we usually use the words comprehension, understanding, or realization. Those are also the sorts of words that you find in Hinduism. They mean the same thing.
It is too bad when people hear “suddenly he reached realization.” And the students think, “Wow the guy became a complete, fully developed Being in that instant,” which is, by the way, impossible. It is like saying a tree sprang into complete development from a seed in an instant. That does not happen in anything in nature. But especially with the consciousness. A Buddha or Master does not break any law of nature. A Buddha or Master is the greatest result of existence; such a being does not spring up spontaneously out of nothing. Instead, they are the result of a very long and difficult process.
Full realization, full liberation, full enlightenment, are all synonymous terms. In this tradition, we call it resurrection. To be a resurrected master is to be fully enlightened. That is to be at the level of Jesus, Buddha, Moses, and Krishna. It is very high. Along the way to that there are many realizations, many enlightenments, many liberations, but they occur in levels. The full and complete development is very difficult to reach.
Question: What is the difference between consciously suffering the ordeal and feeling that we are gaining experience and knowledge because we are conscious of the ordeal even though it’s painful, and actually sitting down and receiving the knowledge. Is one better or worse? And do we still have to sit, like sit and meditate, if we are having really rough storm and ordeal?
Answer: Real comprehension is something that is known only in the heart. It is something that is intuitive. It is a type of enlightenment. It is a flash of knowing. To develop and receive full comprehension of something, you must be meditating, regularly. It does not mean that your comprehension will only come during meditation. In the same way, when you get a sudden idea about a job you have to do, you are not only going to get that idea when you are at work. You might get it when you are cooking your dinner at home and then you realize, “oh yeah! This is a great solution for that problem.” The same happens with comprehension. We meditate every day but sometimes the solution or the understanding comes at odd moments. It suddenly appears in your heart “oh, now I get it." Does that make sense?
Question: So when we are having this time that we are suddenly getting it, but we are not sitting still?
Answer: To really get comprehension you have to be meditating.
Question: When you say meditating, you mean sitting still?
Question: So that science is consciously leaving the physical body?
Answer: It does not always involve leaving the body. What I was trying to explain here is something that can come of it. You can leave your body and get more knowledge. But comprehension itself can occur at any time. But it will be a result of the work that you have been doing with your consciousness, always.
Question: Is it safe to say that we may have to have periods of working through the body such as what we were taught: working through the body to work through storms that are manifesting physically, and then once that happens, can you say it is going between the body and the internal worlds, that that is the science?
Answer: The science is to become integrated. So whatever our circumstances and whatever that we are passing through, we need to be working with consciousness. Ultimately, we need to be understanding that the consciousness is not limited to the body. We need to be seeking to understand that more. I put it that way because it is often easy to feel like “I am not capable of experiencing the astral world”; or “I am not capable of astral projection”; or “I am not capable of Samadhi, so I am just going to sit and observe my breath.” Many people resign themselves to practices like that or like you mentioned, the Vipassana techniques. There is nothing wrong with that, it is fine, but it is self-defeatist. Some people who think of it in that way, they are saying “I am not going even to try to comprehend or go out of my body. I am just going to leave myself in my little scenario of pain and suffer through it”, but that is not necessary. It is a choice that person has made. I am not saying that is it your case, but that can happen.
Question: So it is like a description to that one technique whereas Gnosis is knowledge from direct experience and so direct experience must change because we’re not staying in hypnosis and so that’s actually how we are achieving a state of not conditioned consciousness but actually awakened consciousness, eventually and hopefully if we’re blessed enough to experience that?
Answer: Awakening is something that has to happen from moment to moment. It is not a gift that is given; it is a process. As we experienced when we went outside and worked with our senses today, and as you experience when you work with concentration practice and you work with self-observation practice: you yourself provoke changes simply by how you pay attention. That is what provokes awakening. It does not come as a gift; it does not come as a boon from God. In Hinduism, many people look at spirituality that way; they think you are only awakened when the guru comes and gives you that. That is a very common misunderstanding, and unfortunately it is not true. Awakening is not like that. If you study the real masters of Hinduism, they all say that they cannot awaken you. But the followers do not want to do the work, they just want someone to come and give awakened consciousness to them. It is like the Christians thinking that if they believe in Jesus, they will be saved. Awakening is a process, and we are the ones who produce it through our moment to moment wakefulness. Meditation is just an extension of that process; that is all it is. It is not separate from it, it is an extension of it. So if someone is not making the effort to awaken on a continual basis, whether they try to meditate or not is irrelevant; it will not make any difference; it will not do anything for them. That is why we see many students of meditation, they try and try, and never get anywhere, and give up, because they do not understand that meditation is simply an extension of our all-day-long effort to be here and now.
We have explained repeatedly about being here now and being present and being watchful, and today I started to hint at something in addition to that because simply being here and now and being watchful does not help a whole lot when you are getting really angry at somebody or we are identified with any defect. In that case you are just being aware of being angry. That does not do much good. We also have to transform our experiences; we have to transform impressions. That is an additional step beyond mere awareness. We are trying to explain it in simple steps so that everyone can understand.
When you are really observing yourself and you are really remembering yourself and you come home from your job and your spouse is there in a rage because you did not do something, it is very easy to forget yourself and jump right into that argument and match that anger. Anyone who is married knows this. In an instant you can lose the entire day’s work. It is another thing entirely to open that door and have all that anger come at you like a wave and receive that with gratitude and with a smile and with love and with sweetness. That is to transform that impression. It is not easy but that is what we need to do. It is not just to be aware and say, “I am aware that she is yelling at me. I am aware that she is in rage against me.” That is not enough. We have to receive that and digest that and respond to it with virtue: not with anger but with love. That is what it means to transform an impression. Typically with anger, with lust, with envy, with gluttony, and with greed there is a lot of energy to manage. It is not easy. I mention it in this way specifically because a lot of students hear about self-observation and self-remembering and they try to learn those techniques and develop some facility with them but they do not go the next step of learning to transform impressions. Instead we are going through our day to day existence being enmeshed in our egos and reactions to other people and not making the effort to change. We are aware, we are watchful, but we are not changing. Mere watchfulness is not enough. It is just the first part that we have to learn. But the next part we need is to transform impressions. What does that mean? In practical terms, it means that whatever happens we do not become identified; we do not lose our watchfulness, and we learn to respond virtuously to everything. The only way we can do that is if we are very aware of our own egoistical nature.
Let give an example of that. You have heard that someone is spreading rumors about you. Someone is talking about you, some kind of gossip. And they are going around and they are saying, “oh, she is really bad, you should stay away from her. It is bad news. She did this and she did that. And she said this thing. Really man, get out while you can.” So she hears that, and what is the reaction is going to be? Obviously she is going to be hurt. She is going to be angry. She is going to be afraid because her relationship could be in danger. Many types of reactions can emerge. Depending on her own idiosyncrasy and the nature of her personality, she will respond mechanically. However, if she knows how to transform impressions, if she knows that this type of thing will definitely stimulate her ego, then her reaction is going to be, “I see my anger. I see my pride. I feel that. I feel my fear. I feel this reaction in my heart. And I see these thoughts coming. I need to meditate. Before I say anything to anyone, I need to meditate.” So the immediate understanding in that person is that they are aware that their own ego has been stimulated. If they are not careful, they will react and make the situation worse. So inside them they feel the boiling of all those emotions and the surging of all the thinking and the impulses in the body to go and slap somebody around or tell somebody the real story or say, “you guys are lying, you shouldn’t have said this. It wasn’t like this and this.” They want to go out in the world and fix the circumstances. That is a mechanical reaction and an egoistical reaction. The conscious reaction is to meditate. And the conscious reaction is to meditate on the facts of what happened: a rumor, somebody told to somebody else, maybe. “I was not there. I didn’t see it. I didn’t hear it. I was told. And somebody told some body. Who knows what really happened? So why does it bother me? Anyway, why do I care what those people think?” We have to analyze in that way, and to digest it: “Why does it bother me? What does it stimulate me? Why do I care?” The only reason something like that would bother us is if we put value in it. If you do not care what somebody thinks, then you do not care what they say and their words would not hurt you. But if you do get hurt, then you care about their opinions, and if you care, then why? So these are the things that we have to analyze and investigate. The main point is one has to assume, in any circumstance, when you feel something, when you sense something, it is your ego. This is completely opposite of our normal reaction. When somebody does something we always blame them.
Let me tell you something from the point of view of Gnosis: anytime you feel angry, you are wrong, because anger is a demon. Anger is demonic. And your mind will justify it and justify it and say, “Yeah, but you did this, but you did that,” and you have all these reasons but from the point of view of the Being, that does not matter. From the point of view of your Being, that anger is a demon. If you choose to empower it, that is your choice, but you will suffer the consequences.
The transformation of impressions is intimately associated with the type of analysis where we analyze everything we experience in contrast to what the Being is. When we feel lust, we feel anger, we feel fear, we feel resentment or we feel pride, we have to look at it from the following point of view: “No matter what anybody else outside of me has done or said or not done, my experience is due to my own nature, and my nature is corrupted. So I take responsibility for anything that happens. When I come home and my wife is in rage and she is yelling, it is my fault that I feel angry, or I feel hurt, or I feel resentful. It is not hers. I really should feel bad that she is in rage. I should feel sad instead of feeling angry in return, instead of feeling proud, justifying myself, “No you are wrong”, and this and that. I should feel her pain, because I love her. If I see her in anger I should realize that anger is painful, not pleasant. I should recognize that she is in pain, instead of getting angry.” That is transformation of impressions.
Transforming an impression means turning it around on oneself. No matter what anyone does to us, we have to turn it around. We have to learn to only give love to others, patience to others, charity to others, and kindness to others. Never blaming, never criticizing, and never judging. We judge only ourselves.
This is something I very much admire about certain Asian lineages. This quality is so strong in some cultures in Asia. Actually, I find it in America as well, but it is not as prevalent now as it once was. The custom of never speaking poorly of anyone is integral to some cultures. I respect that so much, because it is not like that in the West at all. Here in the West we love to talk negatively about other people. We can do that all day long, and we never get tired of it. Even when speaking directly to someone’s face, we like to point out the things that hurt them. We like to make jokes about each other, and point out faults, and tease each others shortcomings. That is the base of it. It is hurtful, and it is part of our culture, and it is a shame.
Question: So the analysis part is also a level of comprehension because sometimes I feel it’s so easy to comprehend something that I don’t feel is right. I can understand why I reacted a certain way or why I felt a certain way but it is just like almost instantaneous. So is that like the ego tricking me or is it an intuition that I actually have some comprehension? Because I only went through that gate once and wasn’t meditating on the event, it was a dream.
Answer: Let me repeat again that the gateway that I am describing is the gateway that we call Samadhi. Samadhi is not necessary for comprehension itself. It is a way to access very deep comprehension of things. But real comprehension occurs in the heart. Comprehension begins the instant you begin observing yourself. The instant you start to see the reality of your mind and you start to see the reality of your situation, you will start to comprehend. I mean seriously, when you start meditating and you start trying to relax and saying, “ok, now I am going to have a calm mind. I am going to sit to meditate and my mind is going to be a silent.” That’s when you realize that you cannot do that and that your mind is chaos. You immediately say, “Wow, my mind is a mess." That is comprehension. It’s not a deep comprehension, but if you have seen something that is true and real, then it is a kind of comprehension and understanding. The same is true with analysis even on the intellectual level. You can analyze the situation and say, “Yeah, ok, I understand that triggered my pride and my pride was involved. OK.” That is good. But the test of it is, if a similar situation happens and you react the same way, then you know that you did not really comprehend because the reaction is still there. Even if you do not act on it externally, if you feel it, then the ego is still there. So the comprehension has to be deeper. Many people in various traditions think that they can just analyze the ego intellectually, they can make diagrams on paper or sort of structure it out, and that is comprehension, but it is not, it is just a diagram.
Comprehension is proven when our behavior changes. The ego is deep in the mind, and every defect is different, every psychological behavior is different. Some are shallow but most have some depth to them. To penetrate into those depths, we need meditation. This is precisely the reason we teach meditation the way that we do.
If you are learning meditation and you are able to get into a state where you have sufficient concentration to visualize an event that you want to meditate on and hold that event and not forget that you are meditating, then you are capable of comprehending a great deal about yourself. You just need to be patient. For that you just need to be able to sit, observe that scene, and reflect on it. Just sit with it. You cannot force comprehension. It comes intuitively and spontaneously on its own.
Moreover, part of the processes of that is not having expectations. Anyone who is doing this work knows that when you come home and you review the occurrences of the day, you can find five, ten, fifteen, twenty or a hundred things you want to meditate on. So you sit to meditate and you spend five minutes on a certain event, and ten minutes on to another event, and that is all you have time for. You feel like you have not gained anything. Some people just give up because they are expecting that all a sudden they will just go out of their bodies and have spiritual experiences. It is not like that. Comprehension is a slow process in which the consciousness gradually penetrates into things.
Little by little what you are creating is a dynamic energy. That dynamic energy does not begin or end in your meditation practice. Your meditation practice is only part of that dynamic process. All day long, your process of observing yourself is part of that, and so is your process of being asleep at night. Your life becomes a dynamic. All the pieces of what you are doing — your transmutation, your runes, your mantras, your meditation, your self-observation — are all part of one dynamic movement. That is why if you are engaged in that process and you are observing events during the day and you are meditating on them on in the evening and you are doing your practices when you can, suddenly, in the shower, you get it: “oh suddenly I realize it was like this. I can’t believe this was the thing." The insight is simple, so obvious. This is how comprehension can emerge. But it can only happen if that whole dynamic is in place.
Question: So you do not necessarily need to enter Samadhi to fully comprehend something?
Answer: Eventually, to go deeper, you do.
Question: What I mean is that you can still know, you can still understand that whatever you did you are not going to repeat it again. You do not have to comprehend that, you do not need to enter Samadhi for that.
Let me give another piece of this puzzle, because this is a big thing that we are trying to encapsulate into a short talk. There is another piece of this. Let me address it quickly.
In all of these things that we are trying to learn about ourselves, the only way we are going to really understand the nature of the mind and the nature of the ego is if we also understand virtue. In the example of the gossip that is spreading around, what would be the virtuous way to respond to that? Most of us do not know. What would be the virtuous way to respond if someone is saying really hurtful things about us at work or at our church or whatever place and we are hearing this thing about ourselves that people are saying? The mechanical response would be to get angry and go in there and try to set everybody straight. What would be the virtuous response?
Question: To tell the truth, and if the person was doing that then we should be compassionate towards them for feeling that they…
Answer: It might. It depends on the situation. But whatever the case, we have to meditate on that. In our own scenario, in our own scene, what is the virtuous thing to do? Sometimes, it is simply to walk away. Sometimes, you just can’t fix other people; you just can’t. Those people are like that, so just do not have anything to do with them. Sometimes, that is right response. Sometimes, you need to deal with them, with your family or someone close to you, you need to figure out a way to deal with them virtuously.
Question: Real meditation in itself: is it a spiritual experience or is it a result of meditation? I remember listening to one of your lectures in which you said that you were very frustrated because you wanted to have a spiritual experience but that you had a karma to pay. Were you able to meditate? I didn’t really understand the connotation around the actual spiritual experience.
Answer: I have given in a previous lecture an example of a time when I was really wanting a type of spiritual experience, I wanted to be out of my body and experience that, but I was unable to. And your question is: “Is that type of experience somehow different from meditation?” It is a great question; it is very relevant.
Question: When I meditated, I had a spiritual experience. But I didn’t know if it was a spiritual experience or it was regular meditation or real meditation. Would that be a spiritual experience? You mentioned that the ultimate idea of meditating is acquiring knowledge. I felt that I received knowledge but I wasn’t sure if that is qualified as knowledge. For example, I felt compassion for everything, for everyone. I guess that is a kind of knowledge because it’s not something egotistical; it’s a sensation that emerged. There was no me. Is that a spiritual experience? Is that real meditation?
Answer: Real meditation, as I said in this discussion, is to acquire knowledge. We acquire knowledge all the time in many different ways. But the type of knowledge that we are referring to is the type of knowledge that we cannot acquire through a book or some other type of process. We mean the type of knowledge that is related to the soul, experiential knowledge related to the soul. So in that context, you can understand that when you meditate properly, you can acquire knowledge without leaving your body. As long as your consciousness is awake and is active and is actively opening itself and it is receptive to receiving that type of knowledge, it can receive it. It can be as simple as an intuitive grasp of something, an understanding, or it could be simply just saying, “Oh, yeah, now I get it." To the intellect it seems silly. To us we think that it does not have any value to have an intuitive understanding. But intuitive understanding is much more valuable than an intellectual idea because when you understand something, you have peace. That is what we want.
Question: I guess it’s more of a sensation.
Answer: The sensations are really irrelevant. The sensations come and go.
Question: Feeling is not the emotional part either. It is that… it is.
Answer: It is that you know it now because you’ve experienced it.
Question: It is like a truth and you are just accepting or you are just understanding it.
Answer: Yes, it is not the sensation. It is the understanding that matters. I am sorry, it is confusing the way I presented it. What I am trying to show is that, along the way of the process of learning to meditate, eventually you will reach that point where you can leave the body in order to go into the deeper levels of the mind. That is down the road. What we need to do for now is work where we are. To extend our awareness and to learn more about where we are now and to learn to meditate. Little by little, that process unfolds naturally in us. But along the way as we meditate and we reflect and we utilize the consciousness, we will acquire a great deal of knowledge about ourselves and our life, we will acquire serenity, which is hugely valuable. Do not make chasing after sensations or experiences your goal, because you will be disappointed. Unfortunately many people do that.
Question: After listening to that lesson, just during that week I understood many things. I was wondering: do I have to have spiritual experience or do I just have to think of meditation? I was so terrified that I would never have entered meditation or had a spiritual experience. And I remember that you said that one of the most important things is to pray to your Mother. That was one of my main focuses. When I surrendered to her, she heard me. And that is the key. After the experience it was so clear to me that the moment that I lost it, I was so afraid that I am never going to have that experience that I am going to be like trying and trying life after life and not having it. That moment when I just surrendered to her it just came like no problem because I was honest. But I have this fear, exactly.
Answer: Often that is what it takes is for us to fully and completely face the obstacle.
Question: Of course I did the other steps too, pranayama and so on. It was like she was waiting for me to ask her.
Answer: Yes. You see that is comprehension as well. So you had in that both an experience and a comprehension. That is good, that is valuable, but that will not happen every day.
Question: Exactly. But it helps me to realize that it is real. I am not doubting any more. That’s what I needed but the portal is still open.
Question: The Master Samael told us about creative comprehension. What is the “creative”? Is it just visualizing?
Answer: It is exactly what we are discussing. By creative, he is implying using the creative energy. It is the consciousness that harnesses that. So through our process of transmutation, we charge up the consciousness and that is what gives us light to see internally. When we utilize that to focus that energy on ourselves and reflect upon ourselves, it is creative in that way. It creates comprehension.
Question: Regarding the example of the spouse in anger, I would like to find out the difference between reacting by ignoring and reacting with no identification.
Answer: So you mean the difference between repressing and reacting with…?
Question: I’m experiencing that ignoring is not the soul.
Answer: Absolutely. There is a difference. Repression is not an answer in any case. To ignore something or to repress the reaction is not an answer. So as an example, when you come home to an angry spouse, ignoring him or her is not going to make it better. I can guarantee you that. It does not work.
Each problem that we face has an answer. This is the key thing. It is really important to grasp it. The problem is that we never see it. That is because we become identified with our own perception. So in the case of this anger example, all of these qualities are very infectious. When we come to this angry person and all this anger is blasted at us, it is very easy to be infected with that same anger and respond with that same anger. Some of us internalize that and we respond with indifference, coldness. That is how we express anger. We might not yell and scream. We just become a block of ice, but it is still anger. That ignoring can be very painful to ourselves and to others.
The real process of transforming impressions is knowing how to respond with virtue, how to respond properly in any given scenario. Ultimately, what that means is that we have to understand the point of view of the other.
The way that you overcome anger is with sweetness. Sometimes it is very difficult to be as sweet when somebody is angry at you; but that is the way.
The way to overcome envy is happiness for that person. So if you feel a sense of envy in yourself and you are really struggling, “This person has the job I wanted. They got the raise I wanted. They got the house that I feel I should have, and all the things that I should have.” Whatever it is that we want for ourselves, we have to learn instead to feel really happy for them. We need to really contemplate that they need that.
It is like we were saying the other day, we have to “love the Lord, thy God, with all of our mind and heart and strength and soul and love our neighbour as ourselves." When we really apply that, that is the way of transforming impressions. That means that in any scenario, we cannot repress things or avoid things or indulge in them. We have to be in the middle, comprehending, and understanding.