By Jhampa Duncan
January 6 1991

There are two levels worked at in one's spiritual practice. The relative level involves working with your personality, trying to produce a better quality personality you could identify as being more positive, trying to look on things as to what can be learned from them so the next time the situation arises one can be better at it, trying to have a positive vision. In the perspective of method and wisdom, the method side is love and compassion and by that is meant learning as best as one can the methodology of dealing with people. The more one develops skill, the more one is capable of working with others to produce a positive response and then to make them more positive and to become better people. That is the method side.
What one learns through one's own experience is best for it is very real, holistic, and authentic in ones relationships and in trying to help them. In regards to trying to work with yourself, it also is working with other people. On the wisdom side of things, the teachings tend to work with the idea of what is the nature of yourself and they delve into that extensively. Essentially there is the analysis of self as in try to identify what is the basis of self? For example, you are sitting in the room right now, experiencing whatever you are involved with in this moment, and so there is a basis that you feel that you are coming from. For a Buddhist, it is said that you should investigate that basis and ask is it valid or invalid? When we become very emotional, normally, we feel we are very real; that the issue we are dealing with is very real. Therefore we have a cause to be very upset emotionally. If we allow ourselves to reflect, we will find that the basis of that for ourselves internally is not very clear. If we allow ourselves to go more subtle, we will find that the basis starts to evaporate. There is some principle that we are identifying with, but that cannot be said to be our self. And so we come up with that there is a a conscious experience but the basis that we are assuming is not as real as we have taken it to be.
That is the more analytical way of investigating our self. The more experiential way is to allow yourself to settle in your meditation, and to be just conscious in the here and now. If you think of it, of yourself, so much of who and what you are is what you are going to do in a few minutes, a few hours, a few days. Or what you have done a while ago. And if you watch your mind, it is called the mind is always working. The mind is always active. And for example, if you get some Zen teachings, you might get some that identify saying, to stop the mind. Kill the mind. Stop the mind. But that is really referring to is that aspect where you take your mind, and it is always processing, and so you, it won't stop.
If you just take your mind and you observe it, and you start to become more conscious of what your mind is always doing, you will understand that your mind is always moving to the future, reflecting to the past, in a process that you could say is moving. And so for gaining realizations, particularly wisdom, it is important to learn how to stop our mind. And by stopping, it refers only to the fact of allowing yourself to settle and to not become involved in what am I going to be doing in a few seconds? Why am I doing this? It is just allowing yourself to be in the here and now. And being in the here and now, reality will reveal itself. In that there is a great deal, like from the experience of that, you can gain a great deal of wisdom about yourself. But it requires that you do not move with the mind, allow the mind to be just conscious. So the approach is a little different.
So I would like for this meditation session to work with this, because although it is good to have a framework, a scheme for how your spirituality is going, I mean the general principles of love and compassion, the idea behind that we are an interdependent phenomena, that we are not self existent, that sort of intellectual data, it is important because it helps you give yourself an idea of how you are working spiritually. But on the other side of the fence, the experience, just being here and now, is the actual place that you want to develop more. And so, allow yourself to know that you have some ideas, that you have been presented with some theories of what the nature would be, and also maybe you have the dedication toward the idea of being positive and trying to work within a positive context with your experience of reality.
But on the other side, it is to stop processing, to take your mind and make it stop. And so when your mind starts to move into something, you will find you will set up this is what I am, this is what I am going to do, and you will have all these objects and images and projections for what you want to do. Well, your mind is processing wonderfully, it is moving. But it does not mean it has any experience of the meaning of reality. If you want a high level of spiritual experience, stopping that process would be very important. Because if you cannot, all you have is a very developed intellectual spirituality, but the experiential side is very limited. So it is important that you gain some experience because that is what is important.
We all have things, which we have to go through, and our experience is even more meaningful for us compared to our knowledge. So being able to draw on some experience, which will help us, stabilize in a difficult situations or whatever you have to experience.
For your meditation, the most important thing is to just try to gain an idea or experience on what does it mean to have a moving mind compared to having a mind which is just in the present here and now and not creating ideas of what it is going to do, or where it is going to go, what it going to attain, or something. Just being in the here and now. And that means if you allow the consciousness to be just stark, bare or without elaboration, and trying to allow yourself an immediate moment of conscious awareness without having the mind switch into this movement. You will be able to identify that very quickly because it will be saying I am so and so, and then your mind is moving. So again you will have to bring it back to the immediate moment of conscious awareness. That is your meditation. It is quite simple, but if you work in that area you will find an incredible basis there in which you can have a lot of profound spiritual experiences or attainments.