Meditation on Ash: image of mourning

Kala_Bhairava
Śiva as Bhairava with two dogs, unknown author, circa 1820. US Public Domain

It’s a strange day
No colors or shapes
No sound in my head
I forget who I am

When I’m with you
There’s no reason
There’s no sense

I’m not supposed to feel
I forget who I am

(Goldfrapp – Utopia)

There are moments in life when we lose ourselves completely. These moments occur spontaneously in states of love and joy, as well as pain and hardship. When we fall in love we forget ourselves: there’s no reason. And at the loss of love, we again forget ourselves: there’s no sense. These movements of love and loss are at the ends of the spectrum, the outer circumference of being human, marking an aspect of the Self that the mind simply cannot grasp.

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Durga: encountering the demon of ignorance

Durga Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon, Raja Ravi Varma- 1910 US public domain via Wikimedia
Durga Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon, Raja Ravi Varma- 1910 US public domain via Wikimedia

In the above image we see Durga Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon. The painting is by Raja Ravi Varma- 1910 (via Wikimedia, US public domain).

In becoming aware of the supreme Self, we are likely to behold the demons and shadows of the individual self. Carl Jung believed that an encounter with the demon or monster represented an archetypal stage in the process of individuation. He says, “the initial encounter with the Self casts a dark shadow ahead of time.” In mythic terms the shadow may present itself as a monster, a demon, a darkness or a drought. Here is the full quote from Jung’s Man and His Symbols:

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Overflowing thoughts

Ivatan_Old_Woman
An 85-year old Ivatan woman sitting at her house’s door by Anne Jimenes, 2007, Creative Commons

A peaceful woman sat quietly on her front porch drinking her tea and watching the birds frolic. One day a stranger was walking by and saw the peaceful woman sitting on the porch. Taken by her calm abiding, she asked if she could join her. The peaceful woman welcomed the stranger, and offered her a cup of tea.

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Observe the mind with the mind

เณรน้อยหินทราย, Samanera (sculpture), Wat Khung Taphao Ban Khung Taphao, Thailand. Creative commons

“One who knows how to observe the mind with the mind is the best of contemplatives” -The questions of King Dewa Sutra

Mindfulness is our capacity to use the mind to observe the mind. The thinking mind is normally oriented toward action and doing. Through the processes of desire and aversion, action and reaction, the ego navigates reality.

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Meditative Retreats vs. Psychic Retreats

Pindastha dhyaana in Jain meditation by Amitjain80, Creative Commons
Pindastha dhyaana in Jain meditation by Amitjain80, Creative Commons

It seems to me that there are two types of psychic retreats: one type leads to deeper awareness of the eternal Self and the other away from the Self.

The first type of psychic retreat is the simple act of quietly being with one’s Self.  To sit with one’s Self, and find stillness within the flow of intensities, allows for one to retreat from the insistent nature of ones own thoughts. This process can provide stillness within the dynamic play of creation. This is the practice of meditation, of finding time to simply be with oneself.  Setting aside time in ones daily routine for meditation can offer a time of ‘psychic retreat’. With consistency what begins as a ‘psychic retreat’ can broadens leading the way to Self-realization and enlightenment. Meditation is an essential practice in knowing the eternal truth of the Self.

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