The main points of meditation

Huissen July 1995 | Friday Night
Speech (in Dutch) [download]

What are the focus points in meditation?

First of all to get insight in the whole process of meditation. A very important point is that you realise that you can not want it, that you cannot do it on purpose, and that it is something that has to happen from within.

For something to begin from within is not familiar to us. Everything we do, is normally accompanied with ideas or images. From those images and thoughts, to which feelings are attached as well, we make a choice, and then we take a certain direction. However, that is all still from the stuff that has come to us during our life: through our education a lot of information comes our way, from very young up to this moment. We also receive rules of conduct and instructions. There is a lot that is expected from us. And we expect a lot of ourselves, there are all sorts of things we should do.
The result is that we are always busy on purpose. What we do, does not flow out of us naturally. The life we lead does not tolerate that: in the society in which we live some things need to be fulfilled, even if it was only to support ourselves, and we have to do that in a specific way and not any different.
Society also has a direction, in the various countries just a little bit different, but basically the same, based on self-preservation of each of the participants. That self-preservation can have many faces, but what matters in the end is that you accomplish what you think is right for you.
This all belongs to the fabric of society. Within that society there are different directions again: religious directions, political directions, ideological directions, economical directions and all those different directions also have their own way of life, their own interpretations. This applies to everyone, without exception.

Still I haven’t talked about what is lying enclosed in every human being, independent of everything which I have mentioned so far.
Meditation is a means to gain insight into this, that you start to notice how you live, without saying already at the start: ‘I want to become enlightened,’ ‘I want to become empty,’ ‘I want to become quiet,’ because those are empty slogans. It means that you get insight in the way you live your life. What you are trying to reach, your preferences, your dislikes. Without attaching the thought: ‘that is right and that is wrong, that which is wrong I should avoid.’

To get to know how you live is a very profound process. Because, of course, we all live and do all sorts of things. But how do we do them? Where do our actions originate? What do we want to accomplish? When you discover why you do something a certain way and not another way, can you leave it like that and just observe it quietly, without concluding with the thought: ‘well, that is really not so good,’ or ‘this is very good’? Because if you would approach it that way, nothing can happen anymore, then you ‘re stuck. So again, can you observe it, can you let it come to you, can you stay with it without having an opinion about it, without saying: ‘I have to do it in such and such a way’?

When I say it like this it seems very simple, it seems obvious: if you want to get to know something, you shouldn’t have established ideas about it, because then you can’t get to know it. You can’t get to know a person if you already know what he is made of. You can only get to know him if you realise that you do not know him, and that there is an opportunity to get to know him. That applies to our whole life.
That asks for a totally different approach to the same life we already think of knowing so well. Do we really know it? Or do we think we know it? This is not a rhetorical question, it is really a question. Are we aware of what we are doing? Then, I repeat, I don’t mean: are we aware if we’re doing it right, but: are we aware of what we are doing?
Do we realise for instance when we arrive here and our room is shown to us, how we enter that room? Do we think: ‘o, this is room number…, so it is like this and that.’ Or do we enter it in a new way, for the first time, and do we make ourselves truly at home for a whole week? Because it is the space where we often will be, where we sleep in any case.
And everything else? For instance the people we meet? How do we approach them? Some we know, some we don’t. What takes place inside of us, what do we feel, what do we expect, especially of new people? Are we relaxed, are we just the way we are, or do we put something in motion to show our best behaviour? That is not bad or wrong, but why do we do it? Or why do we keep something back because we think it might disturb the other person? Which motive lies behind it all?
It is that simple.

It is clear that it is hard for us to get in contact with each other, we’re all shut in, in our own world, in our own convictions, our ideals, our work. There are hundred-and-one things which ask our total attention, which keep us busy all the time, wherein we have disappointments and pleasant experiences. We are completely occupied with that continuous changing play called life. Also when we’re home alone, a hundred-and-one things still happen, and they happen without us actually being present. They just happen, they keep happening all the time. And we’re not aware of them.
We hardly realise the interaction between the state of our body and the way we feel. We received a few rules for that: you shouldn’t eat that, you should eat that, that is not good for you, that is o.k. With that we are content. But of course it is infinitely more complicated.

This very simple life each of us lives is clearly very complex, and we hardly realise that. To get acquainted with life as you live it, is the meaning of meditation. That means you’re willing to dwell upon it – not to achieve something, to attain anything whatsoever, only as to get to know it.
You’ll notice that it is hard for us, because we’re used to being stimulated from outside constantly. And I think that will increase in the future. There are always new things, you can start doing all kinds of new activities, there is no end to them.

All that time you don’t get to know yourself, you don’t get to know all those subtle threads which run through your fabric. You don’t have the time for it, because there is always something new coming up. If you then quietly sit down by yourself, you’ll notice for the first time what a lot of wheels are spinning inside of you.

What do you do then? You do something about it. But that is exactly what you should not do! At least, not if you want to get to know yourself. You can let everything happen as it always does, but now while you are present, while you notice it.
It seems incredibly boring what I suggest, because you think: ‘ah, I know that already, really, I know already all the things I …’ But is that true?

Stay with it in a calm way, quietly observe how you do things. Notice how hurried you are, even while you’re being very peaceful, how you long to come to a conclusion, to an end, to a thought. That continues endlessly, you’ll always have new thoughts again.
In the religious systems they give you certain essential questions to focus your attention. Of course that helps a little. However, it doesn’t help you to get to know yourself as you are. That is the work you need to do yourself, nobody can help you with that. The only thing that can happen – and that is what I’m doing right now, is to make you aware of the fact that that is necessary: otherwise you will always continue in the same way, a little bit different this way, a little bit different that way, but basically the same. Sometimes you exchange levels, but that is not a real change. You’re not aware of your action, especially concerning the very simple things: how you prepare a meal and what that means to you, to receive someone or to go somewhere or just to go for a walk All these thing we consider very normal, and ah, the important things – that is something entirely different! I think you are mistaken. I think those are the important things: the way you make your bed, the way you lie in bed, the way you go to sleep, how you wake up, which thoughts are there, the quality of your thoughts, what occupies your mind. And all the time without controlling signs. As soon as you put up do and don’t signs and say: ‘that is right and that is wrong,’ it can’t go any further. So only start to notice.

Maybe you’ll discover you have an incredibly boring life. Then you can raise the question: ‘why do I find it boring?’ That is a very important question. You find it boring because there are not enough stimuli. There should always be a stimulus, you have to live for something, that is what you were taught.
I suggest something entirely different, try to quietly notice how you do everything, how you look at things, how you feel, the way you walk. Because you express yourself in everything. In the way you walk, the way you talk, not what you say, but your manner of speaking tells a lot about yourself. How often do you need to express yourself? How great is your need to experience something? That is of course a rather strange question, if there is ever a time you don’t feel the need to experience something. But it is a question and you’ll notice that you can’t live without experiencing something. There should always be something, if need be a problem, if need be pain, if need be frustration, it doesn’t matter as long as there is something. If there is nothing – hey, that is funny….

It is so important to discover what your drive is. Then you shouldn’t split yourself up again, like: ‘it is beautiful that I’m driven by this, and it is ugly if I’m driven by that.’ I can’t say it enough: stop doing that, it keeps you forever from discovering anything. You can only discover something if you have no opinions, if you look in a calm manner, like you sometimes see in a child who is developing.
How a small child – when it is a little older, it is often already spoiled – is searching for a way to accomplish something. That is beautiful. We can’t do it like that anymore. We already know too much, we already are too clever. In truth though, everything we know is superficial, it is from hearsay. It is not something we discovered ourselves, our knowledge is not from what we have seen with our own eyes, something we stayed with so long that we got to know all its nuances.
We should start to realise we can only get to know ourselves if we become conscious of how the mind works.

What is remarkable is that everything people try their best for during meditation comes to you naturally if you carefully, without preferences, pay attention to what happens inside of you. Then you become very quiet. Then you become very gentle. Then you don’t feel the need anymore to go somewhere. Then you really like to be just where you are. Because you start to realise how infinitely complex it is just to be alive, to really live your life – not with slogans, even in meditation there are slogans to no end – but truly to notice what is taking place every second. And not to argue about it or have conversations with yourself about it. Just the process of getting acquainted is the immense force you can trust.
This diametrically opposes our whole education where they always told us: ‘look, this is the way it works and now you are supposed to do it only in such and such a way.’
So what I told you means to completely forget everything you know already and start all over. You don’t have to throw away your skills. Of course not, why should you? Only you have to be aware that that is not what it is about, it is about something entirely different. It is not about a skill, an achievement or getting anywhere. It is about being mindful towards yourself and about discovering how you, as one human being, have something in common with all the billions of people on this earth, that something which makes all of us move. So, when you go inward, you’re right in the middle of something tremendous.

Naturally this requires your complete attention. You can’t borrow any longer from someone else, you can’t learn about it anymore from someone. You’re on your own. Only you can do this.

You’ll notice you’ll become impatient. That doesn’t matter. You may, you are allowed to be impatient. Because part of you still wants to get to something that is definite. And it is not. So take everything that happens during that process of getting to know yourself into the bargain. It is not that important. It is just the way it goes.

It is a very profound process. It covers all areas of your life: the way you take a shower, the way you wash yourself, the way you get up, the way you walk, the way you lie down, stand, sit – everything. To love, to be angry is all part of it. Plus you don’t have a real guideline from outside, you have closed that door once and for all. All kinds of holy persons are none of your business anymore. The only trust you have is that, if you quietly keep giving attention to yourself again and again, something happens. Something out of your control, something you can’t want, can’t reach, something much bigger, something that happens inside of you because you are attentive. Just like a playing child can sense that mom or dad is so near that he doesn’t have to be afraid. Such is our position, we continue peacefully. And we know if we break it off now, maybe we can go on in an hour or the next day; it is all part of it, all the things we regard as disturbances, all the setbacks, all the not-understanding – are all part of it.

The only question that arises then is: am I willing, or do I rather have a recipe from a holy person or a wise one? That is an essential question. Can I leave it be and start to understand, start to realise, start to feel that all possibilities are in ourselves; that we may forget for a little while everything we already understand, already know, already have mastered? Keep listening, keep looking steadily – then it can happen. How it happens we don’t know. If it happens we don’t know either. That is part of it, it is all part of it.

Huge insecurity on one side, huge trust on the other. That means of course ultimately a huge love for the human being we are. Not only the human being we know so well, but also for the other part of us, who has received so little attention, who hardly existed really, the part which is of vital importance in taking us to the essence.

Let us try to focus on this these coming seven days, and see if there are certain situations that can help us in this profound process. I think it is worthwhile. If each of us, on our own, tries this, it will be spectacular. If we are really occupied with this matter, we will help each other in doing so – not on purpose, we don’t say to another person: ‘I think this and that about it.’ That is just small-talk. However, if we are practicing on our own, we’ll help others as well, who also practice, then we are meditating together.
There is no particular ceremony. That is also the beauty of it, there is not a fixed rule about it, it is free, free as the wind.


Dialogue (fragment)

Question: When you discover something about yourself, for instance that you’re really impatient, as it happened to me last week, then there is certainly an inclination to do something about it. You experience it, but you do hope you become a little more patient when you keep an eye on it.

Answer: Well people, here is a something out of practical life.
What is impatience actually? It means you think you already know what it is all about, you already have the answer. That is impatience. You want to go on because you think: ‘I know that.’ The question is however if you truly know it. Imagine you do not know it, then you can never be impatient, that is impossible. So that’s what it is about. It is a very rapid process that takes place inside yourself, you don’t even have time to tell yourself: ‘o, it’s like this or that, so don’t complain, come on. It starts with the idea that you already know what is happening. And the moment you think you know it, you have left the process, you don’t pay attention anymore. Why would you? You know it already, don’t you?

Question: Well, I mean something practical specifically. For instance, you’re having dinner with someone who is a very slow eater, and you think, ‘dear Lord, when will this end?’ Should you wait patiently then? Because actually it is getting on your nerves

Answer: That is exactly it: I can’t give you an answer. Of course ultimately it means: is that person important enough to you to put up with it? Isn’t that it? And it could be the person doesn’t mean that much to you. Well, then that’s the way it is. That is a discovery. Your Christian education tells you that everybody is very important – except yourself. That is the way you were raised. So, you should always be patient. That remains to be seen.
So I leave you with your question, because if I answer it, you do not get a chance anymore to explore the whole complexity of it. You can wonder if what you learned is true. Maybe it is sometimes just right to be impatient. What kills the process in advance is you knowing ahead of time: ‘I have to wait till that slowpoke is finished.’ That is not right. It is also not right to say: ‘come on, hurry up!’
It is not a problem only you have, we all have it hundred times a day. And every time it gives us an opportunity to discover what is actually happening. That is my objection against all kinds of religious regulations, in the sense of: ‘you should always have pity, and you should always have compassion,’ you name it.
What is really important is to get to know your own limits, your own possibilities and then say: ‘this is the way I am right now.’ Then you take an incredible responsibility, because everything you learned is no longer of any use. Your own intelligence is what is left.