"Informal" meditation during the day resembles "formal" meditation in many ways: one has the same struggles of concentration and distraction, effort and "surrender," "mind" and "experience;" and one undergoes the same oscillation between the "realities" of ordinary life and "Guru Maharaj Ji's world."
But the context differs. In "formal" meditation one retires from everything and sits alone, sheltered from distraction and demands. Having entered the meditative reality nothing external prevents delving deeply into it. But in daily life even monastics must work, eat, relate to others, keep healthy, appear sane and law-abiding. What is meditation like under these circumstances, and how do premies induce and maintain it?
Premies call their "informal" meditative effort being "on the Word," or "in Holy Name." They try to remember the "vibration" of "Holy Name" at least with every breath - approximately every six seconds during sedentary activity - and ideally through the course of every breath. In addition they try continually to practice the "nectar" meditation technique.
Being "on the Word" is a central preoccupation of premie life which premies constantly discuss in all seriousness:
My boyfriend really meditates a lot. We'll be walking somewhere, or
eating dinner, or just talking, and I'll look at him, and I'll just realize he's in Holy Name and it'll blow my mind. Because it just didn't occur to me to meditate, I had so utterly forgotten about Holy Name and there he was, remembering. (notes)
and in jest:
Some of us were clowning around in the ashram living-room waiting for dinner. One premie did a strange sort of flip off the couch and landed half on a pillow, half on another premie. Everyone laughed and one girl asked maybe only half-jokingly, "Were you on the Word when you did that?" (Notes)
One comical premie song went, "Life is so absurd when you don't remember the Word."1
"The Word" is a practice:
Sometimes I just sort of wake up, and I realize that hours have gone by and I haven't remembered one breath. And I can't get down on myself about that. I can't get mad at myself, because that makes me forget again, so what I have to do is just to drop everything and start remembering every breath from that moment on. (Satsang notes)
And "the Word" is a state of being:
I took my baby with me shopping, and had to change him in the rest- room and this lady helped me. Normally that's all such a hassle, but I was on the Word, and everything just flowed, it was beautiful. On the Word all day. (satsang notes)
As with "formal" meditation, when the "experience" comes the method is rendered superfluous and in a sense disappears, for the state maintains itself. The method seems almost counterproductive, for the very way it is conceived and practiced reveals a mode of cognition inimical to the meditative state. In no direct way does the method of "remembering Holy Name" lead willy-nilly to the state of "being in Holy Name." Sometimes one falls into the state almost by accident; other times hours of conscientious practice seem to yield nothing. As an extreme example a premie once told me that he had actually achieved the feat of remembering each breath all day long every day for some weeks. And yet nothing had happened, it was mechanical, and his effort never
brought that "experience of Holy Name" which he was now beginning to find. Nevertheless premies practice the method because something about it seems necessary and somehow tends to work.
THE METHOD: ATTENTION
When premies try to stay in "Holy Name" during the day they quickly discover that this practice demands one's full attention: distractions cause one to forget about the breath immediately. One of the Guru's more grisly Hindu stories compares this kind of attention with the attention required of a disciple of ancient times whose master made him carry around a full bowl of oil on his head and threatened to stab him to death the instant the first drop spilled.
For the breath to consume one's full attention one must, as in "formal" meditation, learn to disregard the "chatterings" of the "mind." But premies find that the "mind" chatters even more in daily life than in "formal" meditation. Along with the usual daydreams, worries, moods, and so on, they find that the "mind" continually "reacts" to whatever one perceives.
If I walk down the street, for example, seeing a dog might inspire a whole cascade of "thoughts" and related emotions: 'Will it bite?' (The welling-up of fear.) 'What kind is it?' (curiosity) 'It looks like Sweetie that dog Danny used to have - no, it couldn't be, that was ten years ago, wonder where he is now?' (nostalgia) 'It's lying kind of funny, is it hurt? Nancy's husband is a vet, maybe…' (urge to do good) 'No, it's just comfortable, it likes the sun. Such a warm day, I'd like to go swimming…' (desire) 'Ugh, look at that mess all over the lawn' (disgust) 'They should do something about these
dogs; everywhere you walk …'
In two or three seconds this whole cluster of thoughts and emotions can appear or disappear and spin off a hundred others like them. Then I might see a notice on a telephone pole, a car with a smashed fender or strange license plate, an unusually beautiful garden, an empty cigarette pack on the sidewalk - and each of these objects inspires reactions, comments, theories, categories, wellings-up of emotions of every sort. And most likely many of the reactions concern the sense of "I": "I" is comparing, planning about, fearing what it sees, all in relation to its "self."
Under these circumstances of a "mind" so much more active and "scattered" than when one sits quietly alone, how does one go about devoting full attention to the breath? As with "formal" meditation, premies often find that their first efforts in "informal" meditation often turn out to be "wrong effort," but ultimately that "wrong effort" can instruct.
Instead of concentrating the attention one quickly finds that the effort to remember the breath fragments the attention even further. With the attention already scattered between one's internal "chatterings," one's surroundings, and one's reactions to those surroundings, one remembers about meditation and includes the breath among the things one is trying to keep track of. The attention then divides not only between the breath and one's surroundings but also between ordinary mental "chattering," reactions to surroundings, and the extra "chattering" generated by the meditative effort of spiritual worries, self- congratulation, pep-talking, and morbid anxieties.
THE METHOD: CORRECT MOTIVATION
According to premies this type of "wrong effort" emerges from the incorrect motivation of trying to fit meditation in along with whatever one wants to do:
To live in Holy Name requires a wee bit of courage. It doesn't require a whole lot of courage to watch your breath while you're driving a car, watch your breath while you're eating ice cream, but to go in a little deeper - when you're doing a television interview, when you're playing in a tournament, when you're doing something where something sort of seems to be at stake … well, I better to this thing and then get back to meditation … how willing… ?
This is nip and tuck; we can fool ourselves by saying that while you're doing your actions in the world, that are so important, you can also meditate, but I have a feeling that ain't it. (recorded satsang, Denver, 1974)
"That ain't it" because, practically, insistence on a certain activity creates an inflexible mental posture which seems to hoard the attention. It is hard enough under these circumstances to direct any attention to the breath, let alone all of it. One either loses meditation completely or splits the attention between it and one's activity.
To avoid this dividing of attention premies try to give meditation first priority in their daily life, tailoring their activities to facilitate or at least not interfere too much with meditation. They stress "formal meditation" to tame the "mind," for example, if they find they can't tame it in the haphazard environment of daily life. Then they try simply to maintain the state they gained in "formal meditation:"
Don't get up from meditation quickly. Don't talk to anyone. Get up slowly, fold up your blanket and walk slowly from the room remembering with every step to focus on the breath. Finish up in the bathroom and get dressed, but do it consciously, don't forget the Word for a second. At breakfast don't let anyone take you out of Holy Name. Just breathe. Don't talk unless it's satsang. Just eat quietly, focus on the breath. Then if you walk to work, it's easy to make an association that every time I take a step, that will put me back in Holy Name. If you take the bus you can just sit
there and focus your eyes on one point so your attention doesn't wander. Then when you get to work and see your boss, good luck! (satsang notes)
In addition, sometimes premies take "meditation breaks" during the day, stealing away to the restroom or behind some boxes at work, or dropping everything and sitting quietly at home. But stopping to meditate all the time makes for inefficiency. Even the premie headquarters in Denver discontinued use of a meditation room in their offices because premies disrupted their work too much going there, and sometimes they feel asleep instead of meditating. But without meditation breaks and after awhile, if one is not careful, the effects of a solid "formal" meditation may begin to wear off.
To retard this wearing-off process premies sometimes go about their daily activity very slowly. Before any motion they seem to wait for another breath to be sure they haven't forgotten it. Simple, manual tasks lend themselves more easily to staying in meditation because little attention is required and one doesn't have to think or imagine anything.
Slowing one's activity in this way it almost seems as if one engages oneself not only with the breath but with a general feeling of stillness in the room, in the air. Wanting to stay with that inner and outer stillness, one acts so as not to disturb it. One goes at a pace which fits in with the sense of stillness. One doesn't let the activity become fast or important enough to distract one's attention from absorption in that stillness. It almost seems that one acts in a way so as to minimize one's own presence altogether, to let one's breath speak for one's presence but otherwise to remain unobtrusive, yielding to the stillness.
To maintain this sense of slowness a premie frequently will
pause in whatever he is doing and take a long, deep breath, perhaps closing his eyes. Some of these pauses have become ritualized, as when premies automatically close their eyes for a few moments before eating, starting up a car, or attempting any difficult feat.
Slow pace can facilitate meditation on the breath, but it does not always work. Slow-motion can be impractical, frustrating, or boring, and these very dissatisfactions may prevent meditation. Slow pace also looks calm and meditative. It has become something of a premie virtue; "slow down" has come almost to mean "meditate." But when premies use slow pace merely to appear meditative they forget about the actual process of meditation.
Finally, premies try to simplify their activities, often preferring simple manual jobs and dropping school, hobbies, travel, or reading. They sometimes come to fear doing anything complicated or challenging for fear that "getting into it" or "losing one's focus on GMJ" will ruin their meditation. Yet a person can only simplify his life so far, and even the simplest activity can bring one out of meditation:
I was meditating during this one satsang. Like, I was really feeling Holy Name more tangibly than usual… and I was feeling it so that I could physically feel - every breath. Then satsang was over and I had misplaced my jacket… and as soon as I started looking for my jacket, that feeling went away… I mean, as soon as I really started looking, like where is my jacket, I've got to find my jacket - that feeling that I saw tangibly, right here, wasn't being felt. I was still watching my breath, but that really nice touch wasn't there. And I said "Wow! What do I want to do? Do I want to feel this or do I want to look for my jacket?" And it wasn't an easy question because you know, we need to be practical. (recorded satsang, Denver, 1974)
Further, the Mission, while insulated to a certain extent from mainstream American life, still yields a lifestyle often extremeley complex and involving. The organization is always in a state of flux; some
crisis or exciting event is generally at hand, limited funds and manpower keep everyone exhaustingly busy. One can't "slow down" and simplify one's life too far and still participate in the Mission; those who try get the reputation for being "spacey" or absent-minded and unreliable.
On a practical level then, premies have a hard time "putting Holy Name first" and relegating activity to secondary importance. Strategies such as meditation breaks and slow or simplified activity only go so far. Activity seems always to try to take over, and the struggles to assert Holy Name as one's primary motivation lead to endless fears, guilts and anxieties over one's activities. Ultimately any activity at all tends to divide the attention.
One comes finally to see that the mistake lies in conceiving of meditation and activity as two separate things somehow competing for attention in a zero-sum game in which attention to one steals attention from the other and one cannot gracefully coordinate the two.
But just seeing the nature of this zero-sum game does not necessarily change the situation, for one knows of no other way to try. At best the practice of trying to coordinate meditation and activity leads one to awakening from the "mind." One comes to see the "mind's" efforts to meditate, the "ego's" little triumphs and disappointments when meditation or activity seem to come first, the dividing up of the world into activities and situations which either foster or threaten meditation, the preoccupations with trying to appear meditative to others and to oneself, the self-judgement for having these very preoccupations. And seeing this one gradually learns not to identify with these inner dramas. But, as in "formal meditation," recognizing or
awakening from the "mind" does not necessarily bring awakening to the meditation "experience."
THE METHOD: STRATEGIES FOR AWAKENING TO
Premie culture offers many methods of awakening to so that one may undergo daily life in the meditative state. The sacralizing of interaction through "satsang" practice, for example, often brings one into the meditative state more efficiently than does "formal" meditation. Just a few minutes of "satsang" between sincere premies can reorient them into meditation.
GMJ's picture, which hangs everywhere, also helps premies awaken to the meditative state by reminding them of the powerful experiences they sometimes have when seeing him personally in "darshan." Premies try to understand meditation itself as something divine, deeply meaningful, intimately connected with the Guru. The term "Holy Name" as opposed to "the Word" helps them in this. They will sometimes say that its "vibration" "is" God, or the Guru, or perhaps "the thing which is keeping me alive." They adopt a reverential attitude toward the breath, feeling that God or the Guru is breathing them, dwelling actively within the body in this intimate way, always vigilant, never leaving, always caring. Remembering "Holy Name," then, is remembering Guru Maharaj Ji, or "the Lord." In "satsang" a premie once recommended that one imagine "that you are laying each breath at His Feet." For him every breath became almost a sacrifice, a directing of his life energy toward the Guru.
This use of the guru-symbol can certainly facilitate awakening to the meditative state, but just as slow pace and simplicity become
ends in themselves and "satsang" becomes social life, the Guru symbol can trap one into itself, obscuring the very thing it symbolizes. One becomes involved in wishing, imagining, pretending. Over-indulgence in the "love" of the Guru or in other religious aims can bring on an emotional excess which seizes the attention away from its subtly poised orientation within the breath.
Just as with "formal" meditation a strategy for awakening to the meditative state may or may not work, and sometimes one awakens to without having used any particular strategy. But however it comes, the moment of awakening to is not a quantitative change in the amount of attention devoted to remembering the breath but a qualitative change, when one spontaneously drops one's preoccupations, leaps out of strategies, and lets seeing occur differently, dwelling in the precise quality of the moment. This is "surrender," the basis of all the strategies, and yet independent of them all and effective only when one "lets go" and starts seeing non-strategically. The premie who was looking for his jacket after "satsang" eventually "surrendered" and found the right way to look for it:
There was a certain way, though, of looking for that jacket that didn't require losing that feeling of Holy Name; it's hard to describe what it was, but I found it. It was like, you don't look too hard for it. Mostly what you're doing is staying in Holy Name, and while you're staying in Holy Name you're sort of checking out for your jacket. And I found that if I did that, that feeling kept happening. And yet, if I were looking for my jacket, and while I was looking for my jacket I was attending to Holy Name, there was none of that feeling. (recorded satsang, Denver, 1974)
In this switch to new seeing, attention, meditation, and activity suddenly become as if one and the same; they fuse. No longer does the attention divide, for it is absorbed by meditation, or through meditation into the immediacy at hand. Once this switch happens, meditative
perception and meditative activity can emerge.
In the meditative state one controls reactions to perception or qualifications of perception, not perception itself. When the reactions and qualifications subside the perception remains and, in fact, sharpens. The immediacy of the breath exposes extraneous thoughts and reactions as irrelevant to the moment at hand. Awareness of the breath seems to tie the attention to the present situation. One feels the breath here, now. As the breath fascinates, pulling attention into itself, so too surrounding objects fascinate. One sees them as if through the breath, and they come to radiate with something of the same "energy;" they entice with their very freshness.
The undistractedness of effective meditation seems to change the quality or intensity of perception. A can of soup at the market absorbs one's entire attention. The colors on the label stand out vividly; one notices little scratches on the paper, the interesting patterns of letters and background. When one looks up, the aisles and other shoppers are almost a surprise, for that can of soup had been everything and one had nearly forgotten where one was. When one comes out of a store or a building the change of scene can make one do a 'double-take,' like the jolt one feels in coming from an intense movie into the light of day outside the theater.
Sometimes in meditation one seems to see from a different angle. It is as if the center of one's self, the thing which sees, has shifted slightly, perhaps to higher up in the head or to a generalized point of head and torso together. The eyes still see but one senses almost that
something sees through them, from a different point.
This "something," this new and perhaps larger center, seems to see more and differently. It does not seek to compare or classify but looks for something within an object, or looks to a different point within it. It almost enters into the thing it sees, or becomes part of it, or flows into it, or allows the object to flow into itself. One becomes immediately involved in the thing one sees. The breath and the breath's "vibration" fills it, and one seems to enter into its meaning.
An object seems to mean something or to convey, by its very being in that place at that moment, something more than its bare existence.
It stands for something, it is connected to something, it is something more than it appears. Yet this existential meaning is not the mental process of labeling or association; it is a total impression, a sense and almost a sensation which fills one with a sense of knowing, which rounds out and completes the bare visual impression. The can of soup, for example, rests complete in one's hands - round, smooth, with a certain weight,a certain sense of finality. The words, the picture, the color on the label complement one another, form a pattern in whose inner relations a kind of completeness rests. One could almost say that it seems to satisfy, or that one knows it fully. With this absorption one doesn't lose the breath, pulling it out, enlivening it. And the enlivened breath enhances absorption, the meaningfulness, the aliveness and completeness of the can of soup.
Yet one doesn't stay indefinitely with that can of soup. Back on the shelf or into the shopping cart in the next moment, it is forgotten. One pays at the checkstand, goes outside, and experiences the same kind of absorption into the process of walking, the rhythm of the body, the relation to the breath within it. And as the eyes travel this
way and that, surveying the sidewalk for uneven places, glancing about from fence to driveway to telephone pole to parked car, one feels an evenness toward these various things. One takes them all in, one not less than the other. One by one objects stand out and absorb, but together they fall into place along with one another, forming a pattern or a meaningful relation. One feels compelled to say "yes" to the arrangement of tree and yard, parked car and sign. In the angles of the sign, the shadow of the tree, the glint of sun on the car's windshield, one senses a statement or a message that this is so in this way because it is so in this way - unique but standing for and related to every- thing. And any small part of the pattern reveals its meaning more fully. Whatever object one looks upon seems to draw one infinitely into it: the car, not only with its shapes, glossiness, colors, and lines, but the variations in that glossiness, the depth of it, the intensity of color, the placement of this scratch, that speck of dirt, this slightly faded spot. Each level of depth brings another level of meaning, another understanding that stands by itself and yet rounds out ever more subtly the understanding of it all, the relation to the breath, and one's own place in that whole.
This new angle of seeing, the shifted sense of self, the sense of immediacy, the new meaning of things provides that same sense of new reality which premies discover in "formal" meditation. Only now that reality is not separate, to be reached by retreating from the world in private contemplation. Now that reality pervades and includes the everyday world. Ordinary objects speak to one differently and seem to hold deep implications about the meaning of existence, the relationship of one thing to another, of one thing to everything of one's seeing-breathing
to one thing and to everything. This other reality, this "Guru Maharaj Ji's world" is nothing but the ordinary world, but it is that ordinary world differently perceived.
One now senses that one sees it entirely or in essence, that one sees "Holy Name" vibrating within everything. Premies often speak of how bright and clear things seem when one meditates, or how things seem to scintillate or "vibrate." Sometimes they talk about "seeing light everywhere." Many times I have had conversations with premies about how the quality of light seems to change when one is in meditation, especially when one sits quietly in the ashram. Some premies actually have thought something wrong with their eyes, and I occasionally have wondered if somehow an unusual sort of lighting had been installed at the ashram. Thus the "inner reality" of "Guru Maharaj Ji's world" does not merely appear within oneself, it appears within everything. It exists within oneself only in the sense that one comes to see it by going within oneself in meditation to the point where the new angle or way of seeing emerges.
How does one act, then, within the "reality" which appears when one views the world through meditation? Even when a can of soup at the market "means everything" one still knows that one must pay for it, carry it home, open and cook it to feed the folks at home. And to get more cans like it somebody has to go to work.
If one does both meditation and activity yet does not divide the attention between them, then in a sense one feels as if one is doing neither. One's motivation is neither toward doing meditation nor doing activity but toward something common to both of them, from which both
arise. Premies have a feel for this something, which can seem like a point, an essence, or an energy. Usually they call it "Guru Maharaj Ji," but often they will call it "that place," "that thing," their "inner self," their "true self," "inside," "the thing which is keeping me alive," "who I really am" or even "God:"
There's no such thing as "the path," the long weary way that the devotees are treading on, and someday we'll reach there. There's no such thing. It's just us and that timeless, endless, infinite, incredible experience. That's all there is. Just that infinite, endless wonderful thing. We think we're spaced-out premies, but actually there's this unshakable, uncrushable thing inside, when you see it you know it's there and you know you're a premie. (interview notes)
Though "that place" is like a specific center or point of origin premies do not generally associate it with a particular bodily location. Still, they know "where"it is, how it feels, and when they are motivated toward it.
Motivation toward "that place/Guru Maharaj Ji" in one sense focuses attention on it but in another sense makes it the origin of attention. "That place/Guru Maharaj Ji" becomes that which attends, that which sees - and then further, that which does.
If "that place/Guru Maharaj Ji" is the thing which sees and does then, according to premies, one's "self" "or" "ego" or "mind" or the sense of "I" is not the entity which sees and does. In fact, when "that place/Guru Maharaj Ji" is seeing or doing, the sense of "self" or "ego" or "I" can seem to disappear altogether. Usually it does not completely disappear, but it loses its appearance of centrality:
It begins to seem like this little framework of chicken-wire that you used to think was like big structural steel and now it hasn't actually changed, but your perceptions have changed to where you hadn't actually realized that what you thought was structural steel was actually chicken-wire, so that it really is still there, but this other thing is just going up in the middle of it. After awhile the chicken-wire is just there, but there's this great big strong
thing that's Knowledge. The other thing's still in the same place, but its relative importance has changed tremendously. (interview notes)
From the point of view of "that place/Guru Maharaj Ji" or "inside," the "ego" or "I" appears hopelessly unstable and relative, coinciding with whatever moods, thoughts, or motivations happen to arise from moment to moment in the "mind:"
I got so irritated with my ego because first of all it kept saying I really ought to go out and get an ice cream; I love ice cream so much. And then after I went and ate the ice cream, it started to say, I really shouldn't have gotten that ice cream, it's full of sugar and I'll get fat. Slowly I'm learning not to take it seriously any more. (satsang notes)
Usually premies vacillate back and forth between this sort of distancing from the "I/ego" and a complete identity with it once again. In relation to activity they experience a struggle over "who" is doing it - one's "ego" or "that place/Guru Maharaj Ji." The sense of "ego," or "I", it seems, is reinforced when it has the sense of doing something. The "ego" seems to hate to do nothing; perhaps the sense of its reality starts to fade if it is not "doing" anything, or originating action from itself. Premies' struggle with this "ego" is the struggle of keeping it inactive and letting activity originate instead from "that place/Guru Maharaj Ji."
Even the simplest walk down the street should be done not from "ego" but from this other point: in "satsang" once a woman explained that at a distance she had seen a truck blocking the sidewalk, and for three blocks had wondered how she would get around it, only to have it pull away just as she reached it. All this busy "'thinking" of the "mind" could have been saved had she been content to remain in "Holy Name" and trust the other point, which knew without worrying ahead what to do.
Gallwey illustrates this principle in sports. In The Inner Game
of Tennis (1974) and sequels he speaks of a "Self 1," more or less the "mind" or "ego" which premies speak of, which one ought to "shut off." "Self 2," on the other hand, seems to be something, at least in sports, like the body's natural wisdom. It can act unhampered only when the mind is stilled.
Attention to the moment of the present, he says, allows one to "let it happen." In tennis one trusts the body to know how to hit the ball correctly without continual "advice" from the "mind." But in life one trusts something more intangible - something, premies would say, which is "inside," and which knows:
One cold winter evening, I drove from New Hampshire to a small town in northern Maine. On my way back at about midnight, I skidded on an icy curve and spun my Volkswagen gently but firmly off the road into a snowbank.
As I sat in the car getting colder by the second, the gravity of my situation struck me. It was about twenty degrees below zero outside, and I had nothing other than the sports jacket I was wearing… . I had no map and no idea how far ahead the next town might be.
I was faced with an interesting existential choice. I would freeze if I remained in the car, so I had to decide whether to walk forward into the unknown in the hope that a town might be around the very next corner, or to walk back in the direction from which I had come, knowing that there was certain help at least fifteen miles back. After deliberating for a moment, I decided to take my chances with the unknown. After all, isn't that what they do in the movies? I walked forward for about ten steps and then, without thinking, pivoted decisively and walked back the other way. (Gallwey, 1974, p. 137)
Gallwey's "ego" or "mind" suggested he walk ahead into the unknown like in the movies, but the intuitive "place inside" made him turn in the other direction.
A premie songwriter explained to me that the same thing happens in the arts. Once, he said, GMJ had embarrassed him. His usual songs were quite good and people enjoyed them, but one in particular was expecially smooth and lyrical and became a favorite "satsang" song. He
said, "Maharaj Ji came right through me; he wrote that song and I had nothing to do with it. It's like he showed me up, it's the best song I ever wrote, and he showed me that he could write better then I can when I just get out of the way." For this musician, GMJ doing it for him was different from ordinary creativity, because even this was to him a manifestation of his "ego." When GMJ "wrote the song," a different quality of expression emerged.2
One premie explained this in "satsang" with the theory that the breath can work in two ways. Either one consciously controls its movement or one lets it go of its own accord. It is easy enough to let the breath go of its own accord while sleeping or thinking about something else. But the trick is to let the breath go on its own while giving its movement full attention. On very subtle levels, he suggested, one might want to prolong an especially pleasurable moment of the breath cycle or feel slight alarm about the length of the pause before a new inhalation. Thus one might tense certain muscles against the normal flow, controlling it oneself almost unconsciously. To breathe spontaneously with full attention one must completely trust in the power that controls the breath.
In the same way, he continued, one can let either oneself or that other power control one's everyday activities. Refraining from one's own control is difficult because the "mind" operates on such a subtle level, and one can easily mistake some aspect of the "mind" for that other power. Incredible trust is required to let the other power run one's life, but that trust is practical because ultimately that other power will take over anyway. For example, you cannot hold your own breath indefinitely; if you try, you will faint and automatically
exhale. And if you are on your death bed and your last breath is rattling out, all your efforts will not make another one come in.
Similarly, he said, when one's "ego" controls the actions to get what one thinks one wants one can only succeed to a certain extent. One's vision is partial and unclear, one's desires fickle, and one's powers limited. Sooner or later events will revert in the direction that the ultimate other power has taken. Far better to "surrender" right away to the other power than to do what one wants, fighting against the current so to speak and having eventually to reach defeat anyway. Therefore, he concluded, for one's own good one must refrain from letting one's "ego" act. It must "do" nothing. If one "does" nothing, even in important circumstances, then one must trust that that other power - "that place/Guru Maharaj Ji" - will act. Of course that other power may end up acting in a way which seems counter to one's momentary interests; but one must trust it anyway.
THE EXPERIENCE OF MEDITATIVE ACTIVITY
When one "lets Guru Maharaj Ji do it" then doing just happens; it moves and motivates itself. But still, somehow, one must act. When first appointed to a high-ranking Mission position a certain premie once gave a series of "satsangs" in which he described how he just sat back and "allowed things to happen." "You don't really have to do anything," he would explain, "just stay in Holy Narpe and 'go with the flow.'" He was reacting to a period of intense planning activity in the Mission leadership during which many felt the spirit of meditation had been lost. All went well for awhile and people relaxed and stopped worrying so much about planning. But after awhile he reported in "satsang," "Well
I thought I had it together, just to meditate and go with the flow, but Guru Maharaj Ji just told me, 'How do you like that, I've got a Mission leader who takes no initiative.'" And so he learned that intentioned passivity was not quite what GMJ had in mind when he suggested that meditation should guide one's actions.
In fact one does act; one does not sit passively and expect the body to move despite oneself. A premie champion chess player tried to explain the relation between meditation and playing chess. On the one hand, meditation changes his perception:
Concentration is everything in chess. When I'm concentrated I just see the chess board and the pieces in a much clearer outline. You sit there and focus your whole attention on the board and the pieces, and the more you fix your mind on it, the more you're in tune with what's really there.
But on the other hand, meditation does not actually do the action of moving chess pieces.
I try to meditate, but at the same time, I've found that I can't just sit there meditating on the Word and looking on the chess board and then a move will suddenly appear to me. In other words, I have to initiate the process of thought. There's just a board there and the pieces, and in reality, there's no relation. You might know that a queen has different moves than a bishop, but when it's on the board, it's just a piece of wood, standing on a square. … The actual moves aren't laid out, so you have to use your imagination a lot.
He finds himself studying his thought process so as to be able to use his mind in a certain way:
You look at the way you're looking at the position and you try to look at that objectively. You look at a position and think about it and then make a decision about what kind of move you're going to play, and then if you can actually look back at that, or see that as that's happening - how that process is working - then you can see really how your mind is working.
His thought process turns out to involve limiting fixed patterns:
It's only the old method of thinking, the old habits, that come back, that I have to fight against. There's something like an automatic habit. When you're writing, you don't think of how the letters are
formed - you're just writing it, because you've done it so many times before, but there was a time when you had to learn A, B, C, D, and all that. These automatic habits and ways of thinking about a certain position might be good for a certain level, but when you go on to another level you want to do it in a different way, a better way, but you still have the way your mind works. You don't have a new approach, a spontaneous approach, it's just the old thing that comes up that you don't want to use, so you just have to really make a conscious effort to go beyond that.
Perhaps if the old thought patterns are seen for what they are, spontaneity can appear:
I've noticed that sometimes I can see that concentration happening, and it just flows, because you're not attached to any idea of winning or losing or how much money you're going to get, or what this person is going to say. I can see that previously I was attached, because I had all these ideas about what should be happening. When I get attached now, I know that my mind is doing that trip; I've seen it do that so many times before, and so it's just a question of doing meditation until it goes away.
There's also the thing of intuition - just looking at a position and knowing what the right thing is. But you have to get rid of the old things that keep coming up… . If you could just sit at the chessboard and not think about anything, then it will all start to happen… . I've experienced that, but it's Grace to be at that point. (staff interview notes)
In a sense this poising to "let GMJ do it" requires the most painstaking attention, for one's entire habit and impulse dictate otherwise. One must let all one's habitual responses and urgent action-related thoughts pass quietly and simply wait, in meditation. To do this one must adopt the same utterly passive stance that one takes in "formal meditation." One has to do nothing. But then doing nothing does not mean fixedly deciding to do nothing, or trying to do nothing, or willing oneself to do nothing, for these are all types of doing, inspired by "thoughts" which one must let pass. In other words, the conception of "doing nothing" is simply a conception which gets in the way of actually doing nothing. This sense of doing nothing means something like doing or at least originating no action from the point of view of conceptual
thought. One must be attentive to the myriad ways one can try to mimic or force this "doing nothing," for generally one tries to "do nothing" in the way one habitually goes about doing anything else - in arrogance or in hesitation, to triumph or to find relief, diligently or haphazardly. But one's own version of "doing nothing" will teach one nothing, for actually "doing nothing" feels quite different from one's fantasy or imitation or concept of it:
No, I can't imagine what it would be like just to let Guru Maharaj Ji unfold my day for me, and me do nothing. I can't imagine not taking control and planning everything for myself. And yet that's what he's asking, just to let go and let him live my life, let him run my life. (Satsang notes)
And yet a few days later she was describing how while job-hunting she answered an ad which her "mind" had suggested was not worthwhile pursuing. She had pursued it anyway and at the interview had ended up giving the lady "satsang" for three hours. No job came as a result, but she felt that GMJ had led her to that lady, and that her "mind" had tried to dissuade her from answering the ad.
The "doing nothing" of meditative activity only begins, of course, with awakening to the meditative experience. When one becomes aware of the "energy" of "Holy Name" in the breath or the sense of perceptual vividness and clarity which it provides, one must let the attention be pulled into it and away from the "mind's" proposals for action. Then, though in a sense to remain in meditation requires the utmost mental precision, in another sense the meditation takes over and captivates, and one spontaneously surrenders, abandons oneself, disappears. One now has meditative perception, and one's actions unfold in precise attunement with the breath-centered world which one now sees. One does not decide to do anything, but the situation elicits one's actions and
one responds spontaneously as everything else responds, as another ordinary part of a balanced whole. Meditative perception allows one to see differently from one's habitual seeing and to feel as if one were acting without one's usual limitations. One sees both the situation and one's self differently and one responds to that newly-seen situation in a seemingly unlimited way.
In meditative activity one may feel slowed down because the breath focuses one's attention precisely in the moment and events do not jumble hastily one after the other but seem to follow along precisely and clearly. One does not have to act in haste, and frenzy disappears. And yet one is not trying to act slowly or to pause deliberately until the next breath comes. The world simply appears in a way which allows one's actions to come in an unfrenzied, precise manner. Subjectively this feels less slow than orderly and in place. And objectively it may not appear slow at all. One does not appear to others to stand apart in self-conscious meditativeness or solemnity. Rather one appears fully in a situation and yet, in a subtle way, unexpectedly slipping through its holes unharried, acting so much in accordance with it that one surprises. Somehow one merges so fully in the situation that one comes out the other side, so to speak, in a sense independent of it. One does not separate it from oneself and try to mold it in some way, but lets it carry one along, intact, until it unfolds itself however it will.
Premies are apt to describe meditative activity as a flow, a dance, a feeling of smooth, effortless energy. Things mesh perfectly and one need never hurry. One's body works efficiently with little strain, one is relaxed and does not tire so easily, one feels happy,
calm, concentrated, contented.
One's action has an indescribable meaning. As with meditative perception, the total picture seems to come into balance. One's actions unfold in relation to that greater picture and one senses in one's activity an attunement with other activities. Not feeling oneself in one's actions one does not separate them off from the sense of a harmonious universe; rather, the harmony of that universe pervades oneself.
Meditative activity has an exquisite sense of timing; coincidences come alive with meaningful significance. Indeed, when Rennie Davis was running the harried and half-organized Mission preparations for the "Millennium '73" festival, he often joked about "the incidence of coincidence." Premies seemed almost to count on coincidence to get things done. They feel that meditation increases coincidence, or perhaps that moving "in tune" makes one able to see coincidence or meaning, makes one have the sense of arriving just at the right time at the right place, or makes one trust that arriving at the wrong time will, in time, turn out to have its own reason and significance. Then when things don't "flow," when one continually seems to just miss, when one's timing seems to be off, then premies feel they aren't in meditation:
We were supposed to deliver this engine part to the airport so it could be flown to Maharaj Ji that day. There was a huge traffic jam on the way to the airport. Of course there was that lane on the shoulder where we could have driven to get past everybody else, but I thought we'd get a ticket. So we waited for about three minutes stalled in the traffic and then we just looked at each other and I just zoomed up that lane on the shoulder past all that traffic to the airport. And you know what? We were exactly three minutes late for the plane. Just the time where I had hesitated, listening to my "mind;" we missed the plane by that much. (satsang notes)
But this "flow" does not necessarily always bring the "best" results, or the thing that one had most wanted or expected to happen. The "flow" in itself becomes the relevant goal, and one becomes "detached
from the results of one's actions." One is pervaded by a sense of all right-ness, of trust, of knowing that one is "in synch." And the timing of one's thoughts, the thing one glances upon, the appearance of other people or unpredicted events reinforce this "synched-up" feeling.
One conceives the eerie suspicion that somehow things are arranging themselves according to one's consciousness. When one "surrenders" things work out, and when one doesn't things don't:
That day Guru Maharaj Ji was in the office building, I was just praying and praying so much, oh Maharaj Ji just let me see you, I just have to see you - just one little glimpse and I'll be satisfied but please I've got to have that one little glimpse of you. And as long as I was into that I never saw him. But then Jim came over and said look, we've got to get this mailing out and you've been spacing out all day and he gave me a little satsang. And I got into getting the mailing together so completely that I didn't want to be interrupted, and I was almost irritated when Jim came over and touched my shoulder and said "look." But then I turned around and there was Guru Maharaj Ji, smiling at me from across the room. (satsang notes)
But then again when one is "surrendered" the idea of "working out" has a different meaning because it doesn't really matter how things work out and one can accept the unexpected:
I was really sad. The festival was over, and I called Jan to get together one last time before she went back to England, but she was too tired. I didn't push it, but then I felt I had lost everything - the festival was over, everybody was leaving and I would be alone. It even seemed that Maharaj Ji had abandoned me. I was just walking around in a daze, but somehow I started to feel Holy Name, it was really beautiful, I felt at peace. Then all of a sudden this guy came up to me and it was Claude, my favorite person from my high school class whom I hadn't seen in ten years, and I had no idea he was a premie. He'd even been at some other festivals but I hadn't run into him because it seemed that my running into him had been saved for this very moment. I just stared at him, and now it seemed like Maharaj Ji was telling me that even though the festival was over still he would, through this Knowledge, bring me together with everybody that I had ever loved. (notes)
Premies come to value enormously this feeling of being "synched up" in meditation. Sometimes they call it complete freedom, because one
can act spontaneously, because one's mental "concepts" of how things should turn out are gone, because one feels open and need hide nothing, because one can relax and not defend, trust and not fear. One feels oneself here, attention pinpointed into the present. And that instant of the present opens out into an infinity of meaning, energy, joy. Sometimes they call it "being in love" because they feel love in themselves, they feel GMJ's love behind the "synching" of events (for it was he who first talked of "being in synch" in the manner of automobile gears), they feel love with other people and love for the whole creation.
* * * * *
The bane of premie life is that the "experience" of meditation comes and goes, and when it goes the love, the freedom, the peace, the harmony, the beauty, the spontaneity all go with it - and one is left "in confusion," in the "mind." Nothing goes right. The whole struggle with "ego" must begin again and once again one is caught in a myriad of "concepts," each more entrapping than the last.
The "other reality," the well-oiled world of meditation, then, is unstable. One enjoys it only for a time, and when it goes one longs for it, mourns for it, prays and struggles for it. But when it is gone it is really gone, and memory is unreal, cruelly vague. It serves only to make everything seem out of whack in the nonmeditative reality, as if nothing fits or has meaning. One cannot help acting according to one's "ego" and "concept," even while seeing them as "fake." The past and the future loom like giant ghosts and start tearing one apart. One knows not which thought to trust, which idea to pursue. The mind races, a hundred impulses conflict, the world looks menacing and full of gloom.
Premies say that practically anything can pull one out of meditation; another person, an enticing or hopeless situation, a lack of trust when things look as if they will go wrong. And one gets pulled because one takes just one thought seriously. Just one fleeting moment of doubt - "maybe he's right after all," or "what if they don't show up," or "boy, surrender really works, I'll try it again and see what I can get" - if one "listens" to it, interprets it as one's reality, then another thought will come which one takes all the more seriously and then more thoughts appear in a chain and with them emotions start gripping the sense of "ego," which suddenly seems to be "real," to have power, to be oneself once again. And the "ego" wants things its way.
Premies can hardly control this lapsing from meditation, just as they can hardly control awakening to meditation. Helplessly they seem to bob from one to the other, bliss to dispair, calamitous confusion to serenity. And from one "reality," the other seems utterly impossible. "When the light comes, darkness disappears," they are fond of saying. But unfortunately, something invariably blows out the "light" and "darkness" swallows them once again.
Premie life thus oscillates between the "worlds" of Guru Maharaj Ji and ordinary everyday perception. Their days are marked by a series of little conversions, or awakenings, and deconversions. And though all their efforts go towards facilitating conversion, preventing or putting off deconversions, still the oscillations continue.
This oscillation in and out of the meditative reality is the most disturbing fact of premie life, constantly disrupting one's sense of security, one's confidence in spiritual achievements, threatening even one's very faith in the paramount reality of "Guru Maharaj Ji's world."
In trying to deal with it, premies have developed the art of conversion to an extraordinary degree, learning how to bring one another back into meditation. They depend on one another enormously to remind each other of the meditative reality and to awaken each other to it. Thus though they have evolved an elaborate philosophy and various beliefs and modes of conduct, the practice of "satsang" has become the central element of their culture. It is through the living communication of minds in and through various states that their shared understandings and perceptions of reality emerge, and the other religious paraphernalia only accompany this primary focus.
NOTES TO CHAPTER IV
1) From a song by Doug McGinnis
2) This quality of expression is not nessarily more artistic or aesthetic. It often seemed to me that when I was in a strongly meditative state I couldn't write as well as usual. One time in particular I was sitting in a delightful backyard in Arizona enjoying palm trees and their shadows flickering across a little fish-pool, in an almost sensual feeling of the breath. Nothing came to mind to write about but a silly analogy comparing "Holy Name" to the feeling of eating a sweet, cool bite of watermelon. At the time this analogy seemed exquisitely accurate, but later I saw it in a more realistic light.