I was sitting this morning when a sentence popped into my head:
Meditation isn’t magic. But meditation is magic.
In the cold light of day such things can sound a bit, well, daft.
But in meditation the full depth of meaning wraps around the words. Logical contradictions are shown up for their superficiality. The truth is underneath.
There’s nothing magical about meditation. It’s somewhere between a tool, a science and an art.
The magic of meditation
Sometimes in meditation, things can happen that certainly feel ‘other worldly’. Amazing colours, sounds or smells. Losing any experience of your body, and even your mind. All you are is the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your nostrils. Magnificent bliss washing over you in huge waves. Utter contentment. The feeling and knowledge of ‘This is it!’
What ‘it’ is, is of secondary importance. It’s just ‘it!’.
Then there’s the effect on your experience in day-to-day life. There’ll be periods where everything just works – like you’re in complete harmony with everything around you.
Nothing phases you. You see things coming before the person who’s doing it even realises they’ve had the idea.
And feeling completely fine in your skin and in your life. Depending on your previous life experience, that can feel magical too.
Shunryu Suzuki said something wise that maybe says what I’m trying to say a lot better than me:
It is kind of a mystery that for people who have no experience of enlightenment, enlightenment is something wonderful. But if they attain it, it is nothing. But yet it is not nothing. Do you understand? For a mother with children, having children is nothing special. That is zazen. So, if you continue this practice, more and more you will acquire something – nothing special, but nevertheless something. You may say “universal nature” or “Buddha nature” or “enlightenment.” You may call it by many names, but for the person who has it, it is nothing, and it is something.
These things that seem magical from afar become nothing special after you’ve been practising for a while. It’s just your mind. It’s just awareness, and subtle energy (which is part of mind really).
Meditation as alchemy: the magic of self-transformation
Over time, meditation changes who you are.
We’re all a process. Whether we like it or not, whether we choose it or not, we change over time. We can choose to impact that consciously, or simply leave it to the conditions we find ourselves in and the habits we’ve built up. Either way, we’re in a process of becoming.
Meditation can have a massive impact on that process. In some sense, we’re making ourselves. I kind of see Buddhist practice as parenting yourself. With awareness.
Just like parenting, we aren’t working with a blank slate. It’s not about engineering the perfect self. I’ve seen people try this (after all, isn’t a Buddha simply a perfect self?). It doesn’t work out so well.
Instead, like a good parent, we guide and encourage ourselves as we grow naturally into who we really are. We respect and accept ourselves, while at the same time encouraging ourselves to reach our magnificent potential.