Emperor Meditation

Emperor Meditation

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you know for yourselves that these qualities, when adopted and carried out, lead to welfare and to happiness, then accept it and live up to it.”Buddha (Kalama Sutra)

Let’s take a quick look at the concept of meditation. Often times, it is thought to be about spending hours alone in a dark room, in silent contemplation, trying to shut away your thoughts. While this practice is helpful as a form of training, it is not really the goal of meditation.

“If you want to attain the Way by shutting the door and sitting quietly with a blank mind, that is like shutting the doors and shutters and hoping to see the sun. What “way” does that accomplish? It must be the way of dark rooms, I guess . Only when you mix with the ordinary people, integrating illumination, living in the cities and towns, are you activating great use of great potential. This is the real function of practicing and holding the Great Way.” – Liu Yiming, 1734-1821, Taoist master (Awakening the Tao)

Thankfully there is more to it then that! How silly would it be to spend hours in quiet contemplation, then re-enter the world, and return to your old habits. If you have a spiritual practice, and it has no real-world benefit, there is little point to it! This is why the real goal of meditation, is to always be sitting in meditation.

“Good friends, what does the term sitting meditation mean? When mind and thought are not aroused over any good or bad object or situations in the external world this is called sitting. When you see in the immutability of your own essential nature inwardly, this is called meditation.” – Huineng (6th Partriarch of Zen Buddhism, 7th c.)

And so, let us create a new pathway now, to introduce a new form of meditation. Based off the practices and imagery of several Eastern traditions, I call it Emperor Meditation.

Now imagine a large beautiful country, thousands of homes, large fields of green and trees, and at the center of it, a palace. This is a massive palace, it can be seen from far and wide across the country, it towers over the whole of the country. It hosts thousands of citizens. Soldiers, chefs and wait staff, cleaners, various noble families. It gets quite hectic inside!

This country is your body, with the palace being your mind which rules over it. The citizens are joy, desire, temptation, anxiety, fear, love, lust, and all the other emotions one can fathom.

It turns out that the emperor has vanished. No one knows where he could have gone. The country is in chaos. One by one, the occupants step up to rule the country, though only temporarily, as being the false rulers that they are, they cannot last long. Eventually the emperor returns, and the citizens step back in line. They take audience with the emperor when they want to propose something, but the emperor has absolute veto power while he sits on his throne.

When one is not aware, the swirling of thoughts and emotions inside of you will take control. The sensations in your body lead you to believe you are anxious of a situation, now anxiety sits in your throne. As anxiety rules, the sensations become worse, and the rule of anxiety grows more intense. Anxiety doesn’t know how to rule your country, therefore, the country is thrown into chaos during his reign. He’s quickly tossed out by the other citizens, but without the emperor to keep things in order, he’ll return in due time.

When one is aware, the thoughts and emotions can be observed. As the emperor sits on his throne, and observes the disturbances going on in his country, he can take control of the situation. He is able to observe the sensations, and notice them for a simple disturbance, he does not add new meaning to them, or throw himself into panic. As anxiety comes to take audience with the emperor, the emperor will hear him out, let him speak his peace, and then reject his proposal.

Alright, so now that you may have some idea of what I mean by emperor (or empress!) meditation, let’s take a quick look at two practical ways to incorporate it.

First, there is a benefit to taking 10 or 15 minutes a day, morning or night, or both, and practicing to know what it’s like to sit in your throne. To build knowledge in the sensations of your body, and be able to direct your thoughts in times of chaos. It’s only by the emperor being away that another citizen can take the throne. He cannot be usurped from his position, in this context, he is literally immortal and invincible. The only troubles arise when he is away, when awareness has vanished.

Second, the true meditation exists in the real world. The emperor must be there at all times to rule his country correctly. He cannot give up the throne even for a second, to those occupants of the palace who will do nothing other then plunge the country into chaos. Though, when he recognizes having given up control, he can return to his throne immediately, and return the country to peace and prosperity.

Meditation doesn’t need to be stuffy and serious, instead, take charge of your mind as an emperor would in his palace. There is no benefit to a meditation that is only performed while one is at home in a dark room! The words of the Buddha at the start of this post hint at the right way to rule your country, anything else is the gossip of your citizens, who you can’t trust to run your palace.

Tune in next week for a follow up article on “How To Be A Better Emperor”!

The Path of Direct Experience

“Inform yourself. What does inform yourself mean? It means transcend and mistrust ideology. Go for: direct experience” – Terence McKenna

Like meditation, direct experience is like a Swiss army knife of spirituality, it has many possible uses. Both of the spiritual kind, and of the more fun practical sort. In it’s simplest form, direct experience is the act to “see for yourself”. It means to not worry so much about what you’ve read about an idea, belief, mindset, activity, or anything else, but to just, open your eyes and look.

It’s bad enough we’re bombarded by parents, family, friends, co-workers, media, television, Hollywood, ads, magazines, and everything in-between telling us the “right” way to live. The “right” way to fit in. The “right” age to do something at. A more subtle problem exists in the New Age or self-help community; where now you also have yogis, gurus, successful entrepreneurs, life coaches, motivational speakers, and anyone who can write a blog, also telling you what to do.

There is nothing wrong with any of the above, per-say. The problem only comes when any of it is adopted as ideology. I encourage you not to blindly accept anything, of course, not even what I say. Instead of being convinced that saying “I have financial abundance” in front of the mirror for half an hour each morning will make a man show up on your door-step with a bag of money, really dig deeply into why you want something.

If you’re happy at your current job, but you feel you shouldn’t be settling, because you’ve seen one too many 4K Youtube videos of a young CEO doing backflips off a cliff into the waters of some exotic island, really ask yourself if that’s what you really want to do too. It can be as simple as “why do I want this?”. If your answer is “because it inspired me to live a fuller life, and I want to see all it has to offer”, great, then you’ve chosen an experience you’d like to have. Instead of spending the half an hour in front of your mirror each morning, spend it researching exotic islands, find out how much it would cost to go there, and see how you may make that sort of money, or if there is some way for you to save up.

If instead, you look at these CEOs splashing around and think “Wow, that’s so cool! My life is so lame! If only I was living like that, my life would be as exciting as these guys! Oh man my friends would be SO JEALOUS!!”. You may not be going for the best possible experience. It may even be difficult to identify why you want it at first too. Allow yourself to have a direct experience with yourself, sit and think about it. You’re the one who has to spend the money to fly to the exotic island. You’re the one who has to potentially work 60-80 hour weeks to work a successful business. If you want the experience of the end result, without the experience of the work to get there, be more realistic.

There are subtle forms of dogma out there, it’s possible that you’ll fall into a spiritual system of “oneness” and “personal freedom” and can be living in dogma just as much as a heavily religious person. The solution to this is to focus on the direct experience you’re having. To deeply go into yourself and find out why you really want something. Then try it out and see for yourself. To evaluate objectively if it was what you really wanted. To trust yourself first, before the ideology, always. This is the path of direct experience.

How To Be More Wrong: The Defence Against Dogma

When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. – Anaïs Nin

Imagine a world where each and every person happens to follow your beliefs in their entirety. They meditate or pray at the designated times, they have the right kind of diet, their values too, are fully in line with yours. Whether it’s a religion, political party, philosophy or spiritual system, I want you to take it and simply imagine that it applies to the whole world.
Now imagine that a child is born into this world. They would grow up to believe exactly what you believe. They would follow all the same practices, and be driven by all the same morals. Chances are, while at some point you may have thought that converting the whole world to your way of thinking, the scenario above likely horrifies you.

Classically, the term philosophy translates as love of wisdom“, there is meant to be a constant ongoing discussion, a questioning, of what things mean and the right way to do things. Though in this, the questioning is everything, it is the discussion that is the purpose.

I’ve noticed a phenomenon in my own experience, which was reminded to me by Mark Manson’s wonderful new book. While I’ve learned and experienced loads of new things since living with more awareness in the past two years, it’s been a constant process of being a little less wrong about everything along the way. When I think about the ideas I had about myself or the world three months ago, I find it easy to laugh at myself. Then I realize that’s been happening every few months, and it’s bound to happen a few months from now. Meaning at this moment, I must be wrong about loads of things.

It’s hard to accept, we’re heavily invested in knowing the answers to everything. I’m not sure if we’re to blame or maybe society, culture, school, parents or anyone else, but we can sure take the power back to be okay with it. If you’re interested in growth, does it seem like a better mindset to know you’re wrong about things, and continue to learn, or would you prefer to think you’ve found “the answer” and now commit to holding strong to your ideas until the whole world begins to believe the same things as you?

Of course, there is a need to trust in yourself as well. But trust in your direct experiences to life, in what you’ve seen for yourself, well before you trust in an idea that sounds convenient that came from someone else. Discover for yourself how much benefit there is not to invest so much in what you know, and convincing the world of what you know. Chances are, you wouldn’t want a world filled with robots who only believe and behave in the same way as you. The beauty of life comes from our willingness to choose and commit to something that is born from our own experiences and understanding. Even if we end up having to read and analyze a lot just to drop it all and finally trust in ourselves.

In My Head: The Main Tenants

 

At times, I just scribble out thoughts on paper or in a digital note, I figured some people may be curious to see what it’s like to see a totally unedited flood of my thoughts, so here is the first segment of this new section called “In My Head.

  • The obstacle is the way. Once you’re on the path, the universe will test your skills to determine your resolve. Taking action is the only requirement, success may come at any moment.
  • Worthiness is the ability to exist. Worthiness cannot exist in comparison to others or in reference to others, as those are all changing. Worthiness comes in the realization that you are the observer of all, and nothing changing can be tied to worthiness.
  • In the kindness towards others, you can remember our oneness. To smile and love and feel at peace in the world is to be one with the world at a very fundamental level.
  • All feelings of upset, frustration, anger, impatience and greed, arise as an opportunity from the universe to release that which is being suppressed, in order to return to the feeling of oneness. Become excited at a frustrating emotion and chase it to its root to be able to yank it out. This fuels the love of the universe and allows for your growth as well as those around you, as you are all one.
  • There is nothing to do, nowhere to be, nothing to accomplish, no legacy or imprint to leave behind. There is only taking the steps towards where your heart drives you, and allowing the journey to take its course. To understand that the universe is on your side and truly will conspire to help you out. Don’t forget this simply because the lesson of the moment is difficult or seems hopeless, as this is a part of the journey too. A most valuable part. For the thing easily obtained is easily ignored and forgotten. Let go and allow. Fully experience as the observer. Always remember the universe is on your side.

End Game Concept #5: Do, Evaluate, Calibrate

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” -Albert Einstein

I was recently standing on a bench in Washington Square Park in NYC, and went for a funny stretch on one leg. Not the strangest thing going on in the park, but it felt like a fun thing to do at the time. Within a minute, a woman working in park security came by and asked “what are you doing, stretching?” I responded “Yes, stretching” she continued “Is that how you stretch?” and I responded once more “Yes indeed, this is how I stretch”, and then she left.

Quite a boring story I must admit, but one that was quite fun from my perspective, and allows me to give you a simple example of what this last End Game Concept is all about. Of all of them, this is the most practical, and most powerful. You need not read any books or take on any mentorship, to grow rapidly with this strategy.

You do something new, you evaluate what happened, and you calibrate your perspective based off this new knowledge.

If you think standing on benches is a weird thing to do, because everyone will judge you, and point and laugh at you, or talk about you behind your back, the best way to find out what actually happens, is to follow this DEC principle. Do it, evaluate when you see what actually happens, and not what your brain constructed idea was, and then adjust your perspective based off the new information.

Clearly if you are doing this for something new, you may need more then one attempt to fully integrate a new perspective. Yet, you’re not doing it for a particular result, this is purely as a fool, you’ve let go of what may happen, and are genuinely curious to learn the truth for yourself.

As I gave an example in a previous post, with saying “Hi” to strangers on the street, perhaps it feels like a very pointless or easy thing to do, and then you go to do it, and you feel some anxiety and you’re worried about what may happen. Perfect! Start using this feeling as an opportunity to apply this principle.

Okay so I’m scared of saying “Hi” to random people, but I’m going to try it. I’ve done it, now let me evaluate what happened, okay, that guy was sort of cold and ignored me, the lesson so far is not “people are cold and won’t respond” literally at this point it’s “that one guy was cold and didn’t respond” or play the reframe game “he must not have heard me”. Then you say it to a second and third, both smile and say “Hi” back. Perhaps one of them even stops to see if you wanted something.

New evidence, some people are “cold” and others are “friendly”, even when you did the same thing to all of them. What you did, had not changed, but others reactions changed, therefore, the variable here was not you, but them. In this case, you’ve calibrated your perspective to see how people behave.

Though if you are always getting a particular result, perhaps the thing that needs to be calibrated is your action. In this example, try to smile and wave. See how that may change things. Perhaps more effort to smile at strangers increases how many of them give you a friendly response.

Over my years of learning, this was my single greatest lesson. Do something, evaluate what happened, and then calibrate yourself or your perspective, to have an understanding closer to the truth. You can use this in job interviews, dates, social experiments, the way you talk to your kids, the way you interact with your community, anything at all.

Every aspect of your life allows you to try new things, be aware of what happened, and then work the results into your new understanding. That’s all you need to do, truly.