I thought I would write a few words about my meditation history, and I’ll include a brief mention of other spiritual practices since they go hand-in-hand.
In my childhood, I was fascinated by yoga and meditation and wished to explore both but I couldn’t find anyone who could guide me. Not much was going on in my little town in Norway at the time. (These days, it’s easy to find.) The closest I came was doing yoga from a book I found in the library.
During the observer-observed shift when I was fifteen, I remember trying some forms of meditation based on what I picked up from a movie I watched, but it didn’t make much sense and wasn’t very satisfying. (I think it had to do with focusing on a candle flame.)
TAOIST, CHRISTIAN, AND BUDDHIST PRACTICES
When I was sixteen, there was a shift into oneness that turned everything upside-down and inside-out. This sparked a more intentional exploration of my nature and the nature of existence. (And also of healing since my human self was still quite messy and with lots of trauma.)
It led to first engaging in the Taoist practices described by Mantak Chia, which felt natural to me and I could sense the energies moving. It led to getting involved with a local Tibetan Buddhist center in Oslo and the Ngöndro practices. It led to exploring Christian practices like the Heart/Jesus prayer and the Christ meditation (visualizing Christ in the six directions and the heart). And I also did Tai Chi and Chigong.
I had a passion for these practices and did them for at least two hours daily and often longer. Just like drawing and painting, it didn’t require discipline. Something in me wanted to do it more than anything else.
I should say that the Taoist and Christian practices felt very familiar and natural to me, and I loved them completely. I also loved the Tibetan practice of Tonglen and did it daily for long periods of time.
Some of the other Tibetan practices were more challenging since they seemed to encourage the energy and attention to go “up” and made me feel more ungrounded, and the teachers I talked with about this didn’t seem able to relate to it and didn’t give me helpful pointers.
During this time, I also discovered the books by Jes Bertelsen, which I deeply loved since they incorporated Depth Psychology, Taoism, Buddhism, and Christianity, and I did also explore and engage in the practices described in some of these books.
When I was twenty-four, I went to Salt Lake City to study psychology, moved into the Zen center there (Kanzeon Zen Center, Genpo Roshi), and lived there for about three years. Here, I obviously engaged in basic Zen practice. (Training more stable attention, Shikantaza, Koan practice.) If I remember correctly, I think the official meditation practice was 3-4 hours a day during quiet periods and double or triple during more intensive periods. Although I loved my time there and the practice, the more formal practice did feel constricted and constricting compared to the previous Taoist and Christian practices. It felt less alive.
THE BIG MIND PROCESS
After a while, Genpo Roshi developed the Big Mind process which I also loved since it incorporated what had revealed itself during the initial oneness shift and my passion for psychology and parts/subpersonality work. (I was there when I first came upon it and started developing it.)
MORE FOCUSED ON COMMUNITY
After my marriage and moving to another state, it was difficult for me to engage in my inner exploration as I had before. Instead, I got far more involved in community projects – mostly related to sustainability. This lasted for about five years and was deeply rewarding in its own way. (We used a solution-focused and partnership-oriented approach, and I was the coordinator for the organization.)
RETURN TO PRACTICE
In my early- to mid-thirties, my passion for exploration returned.
I trained in Breema, practiced Breema daily for years, and also instructed.
I got back into training a more stable attention.
I found and loved the Headless experiments.
I continued exploring the Big Mind process for myself and with others.
After a few years (2-4?) of these explorations, there was another shift. This time, into a sense of complete absence of any separate self. It was all just existence experiencing and living itself, and this human self somehow living its own life as a small part of that. (The shift itself was triggered by doing one of the Headless experiments, likely supported by all the other practices.)
And this was followed by a collapse of my health and a dark night of the soul that has lasted years. (I have written about this in other articles so won’t go into it here.)
A NECESSARY SHIFT
After my health took a dramatic turn for the worse (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome later combined with Lyme disease), I had to shift how I engaged in these explorations.
Before this, I had relied on my passion and fire. And now, I had to find a more gentle and effortless way of exploring and noticing. (Which is a blessing.)
For instance, I had to use a distinction in basic meditation more intentionally. Basic meditation is to notice what’s here in my field of experience and allow it as it is. And really, it’s to notice it’s already allowed and already noticed. Noticing what’s already here is more effortless and easier, and it’s also a bit closer to reality.
I continued with The Work of Byron Katie, did two “Schools” for The Work, and did most of the certification process. I continued with Ho’oponopono. I got certified in Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) and the Living/Kiloby Inquiries. I did each of these daily or close to daily for some years, with some overlap. (The Work, Ho’o, and TRE during the same time, then Kiloby Inquiries and TRE.)
I had taken some pride in my practice, ability to keep a stable focus almost indefinitely, and ability to meet my experiences with some intention and equanimity. All that went out the window when the dark night started several years ago. (It came following my health crash.)
My ability to meet my experiences with intention and equanimity went out the window, and a huge amount of unprocessed psychological material came to the surface. It was the most difficult period in my life, and it’s still here to some extent.
How do my exploration and noticing look these days?
It’s more a natural part of daily life. I rarely sit down with the intention to practice. I also know that sitting meditation has many benefits and wish and hope to get back into it.
I notice that what’s here in the field of experience is already allowed (by life, existence, mind) and that it’s already noticed (by mind and before consciously reflected upon).
I notice that the world, as it appears to me, happens within and as what I am.
I notice that my more fundamental nature is as capacity for any experience, for anything appearing in my sense fields.
When I notice it would be a helpful medicine, I engage in ho’oponopono, prayer, TRE, and similar practices.
WHAT’S THE EFFECT OF THESE PRACTICES?
I am honestly not sure.
I notice some are quick and eager to point to all the beneficial effects their practices have had in their life. As for me, I cannot say I know. I only have this one life. There is no control group or comparison. I don’t know how my life would be without it.
What I can say is that training more stable attention certainly seemed to have an effect. I had laser attention during the time I practiced this daily, and that supported many activities and my life in general. (The stable attention also came with the initial oneness shift and the transformations that followed.)
The heart-centered practices certainly seem to have an effect when I do them. My orientation shifts.
I have discovered a lot through the different forms of inquiry.
The essence of the Big Mind process and the Headless experiments, combined with the oneness shift in my teens, makes noticing my nature close at hand and effortless.
Have I somehow transformed through these explorations? I don’t know. With the dark night, my capacity to relate intentionally to what’s here was reduced and a lot of unprocessed material has come to the surface. It’s easy to think of this as a backward step, although it’s equally an invitation for deeper healing.
A FEW WORDS ON MEDITATION AND OTHER SPIRITUAL PRACTICES
WHAT IS MEDITATION?
The word is used to refer to several different explorations.
Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s already here in the field of experience, notice it’s already noticed and allowed, and rest in and as that noticing and allow it to do whatever it does with us. Here, there are also some insights that tend to come over time. For instance, we may notice that attention tends to get distracted, and it does so whenever thoughts have “glue” on them and what they tell us seem real and important. And that any and all content of experience comes and goes, including who or what we think we are. If that too comes and goes, what are we more fundamentally? What are we in our own first-person experience?
Training a more stable attention is also often categorized as a meditation practice.
Inquiry is an exploration of what’s already here, and is often done as a meditation. As is several forms of body-oriented practices like Tai Chi and Breema.
WHAT’S THE PURPOSE OF MEDITATION AND OTHER SPIRITUAL PRACTICES?
That’s a good question. Mainly, it depends on the practice and the person.
Heart-centered practices help us shift our orientation and relationship with our experiences. (AKA ourselves, others, life, situations, and parts of ourselves.)
Training more stable attention supports a wide range of activities, our life in general, and also other spiritual or healing practices.
Inquiry helps us see how our mind creates its experience, and it can help us see through the misleading quality of many of our mental representations.
Some forms of inquiry can also help us notice our nature. (Headless experiments, Big Mind process.)
The purpose of basic meditation is especially interesting here. On the one hand, the purpose is to notice the changing nature of our experience, find ourselves as what it all happens within and as, and also allow that noticing to work on our human self and psychology. On the other hand, there is no purpose. It’s just resting in and as what we are.
WHY WRITE ABOUT THIS?
Why did I write about this here?
It’s partly because I may find helpful insights, pointers, or reminders for myself now.
And it’s partly because it may be helpful to others on a similar path. I have often learned a lot from others. (That includes reminders of what doesn’t resonate with me which clarifies my own path.)