Models, examples and parables are often more effective than word descriptions in enabling us to understand new concepts. You have heard the saying that a picture is worth a 1000 words. Well, the same holds true for a mental picture. It facilitates our comprehension of a new subject by using a example with which we are already familiar. It helps to understand mental or spiritual concepts in terms of material examples. We have already used a number of examples in the previous chapters, such as the example of the river grasses, the boat on the sea, the fire in the bedroom, the pressure cooker and others. Here we will offer a few more examples, which we have found useful in understanding the various aspects of meditation and its benefits. Be aware, however, that no model or example can ever be perfect. There will always be flaws or possible contradictions. Their usefulness, however, is not diminished by that fact.
THE MAGNET AND THE IRON
An interesting phenomenon has been discovered by scientists studying magnets and pieces of iron. A magnet is simply a piece of iron in which all of the molecules are oriented in the same direction, which means that they all have their positive pole in the same direction and their negative pole in the opposite. The molecules are ordered. In the common piece of iron this is not so. The molecules are randomly oriented and not organized. You will have noticed that when we put an ordinary piece of iron in contact with a magnet, it temporarily obtains the qualities of the magnet and can attract other pieces of iron. While in contact it obtains magnetic powers. When it is removed from the magnet, it looses those powers. But what scientists discovered was that the ordinary iron was not exactly the same after this contact. Some subtle changes had taken place. Some molecules had, under the power of magnetic field, actually changed position and more of them were oriented in the same direction. This slight change after each contact between the magnet and the iron is called “the hysteresis effect”. If this contact occurs for a long enough period of time, or for sufficient number of repetitions, then the ordinary piece of iron undergoes enough of a change in its molecular orientation, so that it permanently becomes a magnet. After such a transformation, it maintains its magnetic powers even when it is not in contact with the magnet. This is because its molecules are now all organized and oriented in one direction. This is an excellent example of what happens to the mind after years of meditation. The magnet is the inner self, soul, spirit, higher self or higher intellect, or even God, depending on the way in which you have learned to view the spiritual self. The ordinary piece of iron is our mind. During meditation we bring the mind into contact with this higher aspect of our being. Temporarily, for the duration of this contact, the mind obtains the qualities of peace, clarity, freedom, bliss and wisdom. It is under the influence of the power of the spirit. We come out of meditation, we return to our ordinary way of thinking and reacting. But a small, imperceptible change has taken place like the “hysteresis effect” in the piece of iron. Our mind has been slightly altered by this contact. Our mental energies are slightly more organized, more focused in a spiritual direction, less scattered, more centered. When this goes on for years, then we begin to experience those spiritual qualities throughout the day more and more. These feelings are no longer limited to the duration of the meditation. Just as the piece of iron, through repeated contact with the magnet, obtained magnetic powers, the mind, through regular daily contact with the spirit, obtains spiritual qualities and our energies are more spiritually oriented.
THE LIGHT BULB AND THE LASER
The difference between an ordinary light bulb, say of 60 watts of power, and a laser, is not in the power available. The difference is that in the ordinary light bulb the rays of light vibrate at various frequencies and go out in all directions, whereas in the laser all the rays have the same frequency of vibration and the same direction. Thus, while the light from the light bulb can simply light up a room and cannot penetrate through any surfaces, the laser, with the same available power, can penetrate through surfaces as it burns through them. It has penetrating power. This is because its energies are organized, synchronized and unidirectional. There is no loss of energy to other directions or other frequencies. The same difference exists between the ordinary mind and the mind intensified by meditation. After years of meditation, our mental energies scatter less and become more focused. We eventually see that many pursuits, which were previously so important to us, are in reality superficial and not worthy of spending energy on. We begin to have greater faith and loose less energy in fear, anxiety and worry. We accept ourselves and need to expend less energy on seeking self-affirmation. Thus our mind, like the laser, begins to function on the basic frequency of spiritual evolution and its energies flow all the more comprehensively in this one basic direction.The mind gradually becomes like a laser, which is able to penetrate into problems and situations and see them as they really are, and not as our programmings and mechanisms pretend that they are. We are able to solve problems more effectively and create and produce with greater freedom of thought. The mind is more effective.
THE WAVES AND THE SEA BED
The mind is like the sea. It is in a constant state of movement. Underneath the sea is the sea bed which is stable, unmoving, permanent. This stable, unchanging structure, upon which the mind is moving, is the spirit. Regardless of whatever may be happening in the mind, deep in ourselves, our spiritual being is steady, peaceful, unchanging bliss. Here there is no fear, no doubt, no effort, no anxiety. This is the eternal peaceful witness who is unaffected by the ups and downs of our emotional life. When the water is disturbed by waves we cannot see the bottom. Its appearance is distorted by these movements, particles, and objects. These movements are our thoughts an feelings which continuously disturb the peace in the sea of our mind. As long as there are these thoughts and feelings, we cannot even sense the existence of this inner spiritual self. When the waves calm down and there is no movement at all, then we can see the bottom clearly. In the same way when there are no thoughts or feelings we can then experience that deep inner peace of our spiritual self. Meditation is the process through which we calm the waves and bring the thoughts to total silence, so that we can experience our real self which, is usually covered by the incessant waves of thoughts and feelings.
THE MIND IS LIKE A PIECE OF CLOTH
The mind is like a piece of cloth in which the threads are our thoughts, emotions, expectations, habits, needs and desires. Each thread adds its own reality to the mind. If all threads were removed, the mind would be empty. It has no reality of its own. Like any cloth, our personal reality is created by the type of “threads” (thoughts) which make it up. Meditation and all efforts on the spiritual path are the process by which we remove, one by one, these various threads from these weave of the mind. Gradually, as the years pass the density of the threads is diminished and in this way the cloth becomes more transparent, more porous. This is important, because when this cloth is densely woven, very few experiences can pass through it without getting caught up in it. This means that very few things that happen to us are able to pass, through our mind without triggering off some belief or emotion which causes that experience to remain in the mind and occupy it to some degree. When one is totally secure, he does not need to hold onto experiences, but can let them pass, so that the next moment he may again be in the present. We can understand this difference by moving temporarily to another example. If we drag a knife across a piece of metal or stone, which are inflexible, then it will leave a mark which is, for all practical purposes, permanent. If we drag the same knife with the same strength over a body of water, the water will react momentarily in the form of outflowing waves. It will then return to its natural state as if nothing had happen. Because of its flexibility, it does not retain the past but returns to its responsiveness to the present stimuli. Returning to our original example of the cloth, the denser the cloth, the greater the weave of the past, because the threads are basically the imprint of the past onto the mind. Through meditation we gradually remove these threads and the programming of the past. Eventually the weave is quite loose, which means that we are more open to the moment because there are less threads of the past to hide and distort the present. Gradually, after many years of spiritual practice, the mind becomes an open channel and very few experiences can disturb our flowing peace, our inner security which is now based on our contact with our inner spiritual SELF. Since few events can now annoy us, we become more open, more loving and experience more unity with all. When the mind has become totally freed from all threads, then we experience the state of enlightenment and become open channels for all the qualities of the divine.
THE MIND IS LIKE A PLASTIC BAG
As in the previous example, the mind has no reality of its own. Its reality is formed by its contents. It is like a plastic bag or cellophane which takes the shape of whatever you put into it. If you wrap up something long and slim then it takes that shape. If you wrap up something sound, it assumes that shape. It obtains the shape of its contents. Thus the mind takes the shape of the thoughts, feelings, desires, needs, habits, expectations which occupy it. When specific thoughts, emotions or desires occupy the mind frequently, or for long periods of time or, in some cases, incessantly, the mind begins to crystallize around those thought forms. It looses its flexibility and becomes almost permanently obsessed, or associated, with a particular subject or concept. In such a case the mind is not free to experience the present. It is not free to think of subjects other than the one with which it is obsessed. It cannot derive joy from what is offered to it because it is stuck in that particular thought-form, which limits its ability to connect with other realities from which it could learn and receive joy. In many cases, these thought forms around which the mind has crystallized, are negative thoughts and beliefs, such as that we are weak, that we need someone else or something else for our happiness, or fear for ourselves or loved ones. In such cases, these negative thought forms often actually create the negative realities upon which our mind is dwelling. Meditation is the process through which we temporarily (and, eventually throughout the years, more permanently) empty the mind of these various thought-forms, which have crystallized, and give this inflexible form to the mind. The mind becomes softer but stronger, more responsive to the present moment, experiencing greater unity with all.
CLIMBING FOR THE COCONUT
We can imagine that a coconut, which is high in the palm tree, is like our spiritual reality, and that its shadow on the ground is the physical reality. Our physical reality with all of its physical objects is actually simply a shadow of the spiritual reality from which this material reality is manifested. We see the shadow on the ground and seek to grab it, just as we seek to accumulate riches, objects, relationships etc. But the shadow passes through our hands and we are left with the sand on which it was projected. In the same way we are left with nothing after all our efforts to find happiness through the material world. After a number of years of vainly trying to find happiness, seeking after shadows of these coconuts on the sand, one day it occurs to us to look upward and we notice perhaps for the first time the coconut high up in the tree. We begin to realize that the shadow is the result of the coconut and that, if we can get the coconut, we will also have its shadow. It is not so easy, however, to climb the palm tree. It takes strength, stamina, perseverance and much practice until we are able to reach that height. This is the process of meditation and all spiritual effort. Once we realize that we will have both worlds – spiritual and material – when we obtain the spiritual, then we begin to direct our energies in that direction, withdraw our attention from the shadows and start directing it towards the spiritual realities from which those shadows are created.
MOVING UP THE INNER STAIR CASE
Our mind, with its various centers of consciousness, is like an apartment building with seven stories. The view from each story is different. The higher up you are, the more you see, the clearer you see. You can see the same events and external realities but you see them completely differently, because you have a higher view point. The higher up you are, the more objectively and in their proper perspective you see things. Meditation is the process of moving up that inner staircase to the higher stories, where all is much clearer and more in perspective. At first you can only temporarily visit these higher stories. Eventually, after many years of meditation, and other spiritual practices, you can begin to reside there permanently.