The Natural Contemplative

Ask the animals and they will teach you

 

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Natural Meditation

Natural meditation involves bringing attention to every aspect of life and realizing the sacred.

CDs of Natural Meditation are no longer available. The CD included recorded natural sounds that complemented and enhanced the narration.

I have stopped producing and distributing Natural Meditation because my perspective on meditation has changed significantly in the past few years. The track called Waves of Stillness, is closer to my current understanding than the rest of the CD. My essay on Contemplative Ecology is also more current. Also, at the time I created Natural Meditation, I did not know that the term is used by some Buddhist groups to describe a meditation technique substantially different from what I had in mind.

The realm of meditation has become problematic. For most people, meditation is a systematic attempt to silence the mind. Practice diligently and some kind of freedom is promised at the end, the ideal being a mind without any conscious thought. But in my experience, either freedom is recognized as present at the beginning, or meditation is mechanical and stultifying and wrapped up in beliefs and practice rules and the pursuit of absurdities. It destroys the open freedom of simply being aware and alive, attuned to the whole movement of Life. Even worse, meditation has become a means to greater efficiency and productivity, as if it were just another corporate commodity. I expect a meditation App to appear shortly.

None of this so-called meditation has anything to offer on the subject of the wholesale destruction of the Earth that is our greatest challenge.

However, for a limited and uncertain time, the CD tracks are available for download.

The original podcast version of Natural Meditation is also still available.

 

Introduction

I have been practicing meditation for more than 30 years, and it has been a good companion. It has been a reliable way of connecting with the deep wells of life. However, I do not practice the way I was taught. A new approach to meditation has emerged for me over the years and has grown organically.

I call this approach "natural meditation," because there is nothing esoteric about it. It does not involve trying to attain an extraordinary state of consciousness or quietness, nor does it take extraordinary concentration or training. It is a natural way of being that is inherent in every person. I also call it natural meditation because it is an essential part of every animal's life, and is therefore an elemental aspect of living in the natural world. So it reveals the unity of two worlds that are often held apart: our spiritual nature and our animal nature.

Most approaches to meditation are forms of concentration. They involve trying to focus on one thing to the exclusion of everything else. So, for instance, one might be taught to focus attention on the breath or a mantra, and if any other thing comes along, a sound or a thought or a feeling, one is taught to set that thing aside and return attention to the point of focus. There is nothing wrong with this approach. It is a good relaxation technique, and has certainly helped many people toward deeper insight into their own nature.

In my experience, however, it misses many important truths. It can lead to an attitude of resistance to the activity of the mind, rather than a deep understanding of the mind. It can lead to an ideological pursuit of silence, rather than a discovery of the silence that can not be taken away from you! It can become an end in itself, the pursuit of a perfected technique. It can bring inner peace, but that peace tends to be lost when the practice is stopped, or soon after. It doesn't translate so well into daily life. It can give you the impression that what you achieve in terms of quietness or insight is a result of your own doing, and in that you miss the fact that you already have what you seek. All you have to do is notice what is already present.

Most damaging of all, focused attention on the breath or a mantra misses everything that is going on in the natural world, of which we are an inextricable part. We can't fully understand ourselves unless we listen to the birds (and everything else) as well. Given the ecological crisis - the threat of extinction - every method of self-improvement must be evaluated in terms of how it supports the well-being of the whole movement of life on Earth. Otherwise it risks being irrelevant at best or a significant part of the problem at worst.

Natural meditation involves quite simply being present to whatever is happening in the moment. Some people refer to this practice as contemplation, a word I also prefer since it means "to observe carefully."

Natural meditation is not a method or an institution. It is the realization of something that is natural and present in everyone: open awareness of the whole movement of life. Anyone can pay attention at any time in any place, inwardly and outwardly. This is so simple and natural that it almost does not need to be called meditation. Call it being alive. But we have become so narrowly focused in our attention, and so destructively devoted to the products of our own minds to the exclusion of all else, that we have to call it something to talk about it and bring our attention back to it. So I call it natural meditation.


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