You have at this moment many constellations of thought, each composing an identity: sexual, social, cultural, educational, economic, intellectual, historical, philosophical, spiritual, among others. One or another of these identities takes over as the situation demands. Usually you are lost into that identity when it dominates your thoughts. At the moment of being a mother, a father, a student, or a lover, the rest are lost.
If you go to a good movie, you are drawn into the story line. When the house lights go up at the end of the film, you are slightly disoriented. It takes a while to find your way back to being the person sitting in the theater. But if the film is not very good and it does not capture you, then you notice the popcorn, the technical quality of the movie, and the people in the theater. Your mind pulls back from involvement with the movie.
The quietness meditation brings your life is like pulling back from the movie. Your own life is the movie, its plot melodramatic: Will I learn to meditate? Will I become enlightened? Will I marry, will I have children, will I get a better job? Will I get a new car? These are the story lines.
The autobiographical part of the book Be Here Now was initially called His-Story. Each of us has his story. History. To see your life as His-Story or Her-Story is to break the attachment to the melodrama of your story line. But be careful. This doesn’t mean to push it away, to reject or deny it or consider it trivial. It merely means to surround the events of your life with quiet spacious awareness.
It is not that you erase all of your individuality, for even an enlightened being has a personality marked by all sorts of idiosyncrasies. An enlightened being doesn’t necessarily have beautiful hair, sparkling teeth, a young body, or a nice disposition. His or her body has its blemishes; it ages and dies. The difference is that such a being no longer identifies with that body and personality.
Another way to understand the space you approach through meditation is to consider dreams. Perhaps you have never experienced awakening from a dream within a dream. But when you awaken every morning, you awaken from a dream into what? Reality? Or perhaps another dream? The word “dream” suggests unreality. A more sophisticated way of saying it is that you awaken from one relative reality into another.
We grow up with one plane of existence we call real. We identify totally with that reality as absolute, and we discount experiences that are inconsistent with it as being dreams, hallucinations, insanity, or fantasy. What Einstein demonstrated in physics is equally true of all other aspects of the cosmos: all reality is relative. Each reality is true only within given limits. It is only one possible version of the way things are. There are always multiple versions of reality. To awaken from any single reality is to recognize its relative nature. Meditation is a device to do just that.
– Ram Dass
Photo by Rohit Gowaikar via Flickr. Used under the creative commons license.