Your attention, your spotlight, is your most prized possession in that theater. (See Spotlight part 1 for the metaphor.)
First your attention makes things known.
Second it gives life to those things.
Who is the spotlight director?
You get to choose whether you move the spotlight or not.
It’s your willpower.
If I give you a slice of cake and ask you to eat only half of it, can you do that? This is the same thing.
When you’re meditating, can you shift the spotlight according to your will?
When we aren’t using our will consciously, then our attention automatically goes to our chronic desires and fears. These are particular to our own ego.
Our attention is always and ever a spotlight. The spotlight of our attention keeps giving life to the same desires and fears. Every time we turn toward them, give our attention to them, they get reinforced. They get more life. This is how the ego keeps itself strong. It constantly shores up the old familiar patterns – this fear, that desire. It maintains a platform of continuity, which gives us our sense of identity.
It’s very common to become afraid when we get deeper into meditation.
As a person moves their spotlight away from old patterns, they’ll say, “I can get so far, but then I’m losing myself, and it’s frightening.”
Yes, it is frightening. Absolutely. You’re losing your identity.
You’re pulling away from those very patterns and structures that have always defined “you” and who you are.
It takes a lot of courage.
You may need to quit for awhile and come back to it later. That’s okay.
When we apply this spotlight metaphor to practicing meditation, then, we see how the first group of aggressive actors represents all our worldly concerns. Whether it’s your finances or family or health or spirituality – all of these are pressing needs. They’re like actors grabbing the spotlight, trying to steal the stage. They feel so important. Yet this arena is where we first practice diverting the spotlight of our attention.
We’re meditating, and these pressing worldly concerns arise. We practice shifting the spotlight away from them. Eventually, with discipline and repetition, we quiet them.
But what happens next? The second group of actors bounce onto the second stage.
Now we begin to deal with the more subtle part of ourselves. Our dreams.
Now there are many more actors to deal with, compared to the first group of actors. Here we see not only dreams, but every painful memory we have shoved into our unconscious. Lots of old issues.
All of that comes out, and your spotlight is on it. It takes awhile to deal with everything we have spent our life avoiding. It’s not easy. It’s difficult. But it can be done.
If you reach the third stage, and the mirror is rolled out in front of you, perhaps you see it only for a moment. This mirror is like that pond we talk about. The pond may have ripples or stillness. Perhaps your mirror has some waves in it. Like a wavy funhouse mirror. The waves make your face look fat, then skinny. But with more practice of letting go, you can make your mirror quiet, like a lake of still waters. A perfect empty mirror.
Does the mirror have anything to say?
No. This is one way you can recognize it.
It has no words. No speech to give.
Now the spotlight can fill that mirror and shine back upon you, enlivening you more than you ever thought possible.
You recognize this light is you – your soul, looking at you.
In the East they call this “Samadhi.” Self-realization.
This is a summation of all the spiritual teachings the world over.
But again all of this is dependent on your ability to control your spotlight, your attention. The actors grab attention, but you need to move the spotlight away from them.
Learn to let go in the middle of the story. Don’t wait until the actor finishes talking. If you wait, you’re already lost. Let go. Shift your attention as soon as you notice yourself settling into the actor’s speech.
Some spotlight directors will direct their light on a speaking actor for so long, they think that they are that actor. They don’t know they have the power to direct the spotlight. They just see an actor all lit up, and they presume that’s the whole show here. But it’s not.
I am not the actors.
I was so lost in the story, I thought I was the actors.
When you are in that second stage, where the dream actors and the flying elephants sail in, you may feel sleepy.
This is natural because usually when you have been in this state of mind, you were asleep. Ordinarily we let go of our will and fall asleep as dreams arise.
But when meditating you need to stay alert.
Keep control of your spotlight. Let the images and the actors arise as they do, but don’t let any one of them be in the spotlight for any length of time.
You are maintaining consciousness. You are awake even in the dream state.
If you have ever experienced this, know that you are getting closer to the third stage, when the big mirror will be brought before you.
I want to underline the importance of letting go in the middle of every scenario in your mind. Don’t let the actor finish its big speech.
Remember the spotlight of your attention does two things.
It makes things known, and it literally gives life to those things.
Thank you, Isaac!
This “how to meditate” excerpt is from chapter 12 of Vol 2, Walking the Bridge – With Balance.
(Gratitude to pixabay for the images which we combined here.)