Science tries to understand and explain the workings of the world with logic and by employing observation and experimentation before coming to any conclusions. Building on past knowledge and explanations can be helpful but not always totally accurate or reliable. We still need to rely on our own observations and experiments before we draw any conclusions. When I was younger, I did a lot of reading and studying on meditation and yoga. You might call meditation and yoga part of the mystic arts which could also include Zen, Taoism, Sufism and the like. These might be called mystic practices because so many people find such practices mystifying and don’t really understand what they are about. But there is a science of meditation and yoga that has emerged here in Western Civilization, and it is based largely on a modern understanding of anatomy and physiology. It is how I try to understand what these practices are about and what my own practice is about.
Ostensibly meditation is about practicing stillness which is a very foreign concept indeed in Western culture. As I see it Western culture is about movement, improvement, invention, progress, development, work, and enterprise. So what is it with these folks who like to sit in meditation for hours on end and contemplate their navels or whatever it is they are doing? What a waste of valuable time it appears to be when you could be working on something and improving yourself or your society for the better.
Consciously staying still (and maybe relaxing) is to be avoided and so this sort of practice is a mystery. We are geared for action and accomplishment. We are in the driver’s seat and always moving forward towards a bigger, better, and brighter future. What sense does it make to idle in neutral or even to turn the engine off? But that is exactly what the meditator does, idle in neutral or turns the engine off. And what can be amazing about this process is that when the engine is not in engaged, when we idle and consciously stay still, interesting things can happen. Insights may appear.
We may become aware of how tired we really are and how tense we feel. We can sense that we are all tied up with tensions in almost every corner of our bodies and burdened with a fatigue that is deep and profound. We may ache in our belly and heart and head. We may begin to discover what the actual remedy may be for our afflictions and it may not be, and probably isn’t, what we call physical education, exercise, and fitness. If we practiced yoga before, the nature of that practice can totally change when awareness ripens in this way. Our practice is then not an exercise anymore but an ongoing physical therapy guided by our own sense of stiffness, tension, and ache. Our practice becomes inspired and creative, guided by an inner sense of the body. We might be inclined to instruct others in what we have discovered, but always with the realization that others have their our own paths to follow and theirs may be different from our own. But there is still common ground to share, and we need to reach out to others and share what we know and feel.
It is my impression that this kind of process is happening in a big way in America now and in Western Civilization. Much material is appearing and being shared by people on this kind of journey and eventually it may even change the course of our civilization, make it less driven, aggressive, and destructive and introduce a kind of balance we have been lacking. These emerging teachings will show us the value of stillness, rest, ease, peace, and relaxation. They will show us what it is we have been missing and lacking in our lives, and maybe reveal a more essential, natural, and spontaneous way to live.