Today, in the Western world, meditation has become a commodity. Nowadays, you can study to gain a “certificate” to teach meditation. You can do a “course” to learn Tantra. Through applying the Western model of commercialization and certification, you can gain a qualification to proclaim to the world your mastery in the field of meditation. On the face of it, this seems simple. Effective. Doable. There’s just one issue. Real meditation is not like that. You can’t simply master meditation through studying for a certificate or learning a course. In order to be a truly authentic teacher of meditation, you must become it. Meditation must take residence in your being. You must embody it. You must become a living expression of the energy of meditation. And you must serve it. Only then, are you able to effectively teach meditation to others.
How to do this? In the West, there are still very few models to help with this quest. This is why my life path eventually turned to the East, to India, to inform my journey into meditation. Early on in life, as a child in New Zealand of about 9, my world opened up; it was turned upside down. I understood in an instant that everything in the world is an expression of light, of vibrating energy, and that I was one with that light, and that light was me. It is an understanding that I still hold in my heart to this day. At the time of the initial awakening, I didn’t know who I could tell this experience to. Intuitively, I knew that I would not be understood, that perhaps people would misunderstand me, or perhaps think I was mad. So, I stayed silent.
About 18 years later, as an adult in Sydney, Australia, I experienced the awakening again, a little differently, through an energy infusion, a tantric initiation, from a master of meditation. Unexpected and yet perfectly timed, it was a powerful reminder of what I had already experienced as a child, and it set me, once again, on the path of Spirit. This time, I told myself, I would not be held back by Western misunderstandings; this time, I would set my course inward. I would go as deep as possible into meditation. I would make it my life’s purpose, my sacred journey.
For 16 years I lived full-time in meditation communities, serving, and going as deeply as possible into meditation. Authentic meditation was, and continues to be, my inner vow. Despite what may seem to appear on the outside, meditation has always been the center of my existence. Since that 9-year-old boy woke up, meditation has been my life.
Every day for years I pursued formal meditation. In secret. The meditation rooms in the ashram became a source of unending wonder. The deeper I went into meditation, the more there was to discover: Deep peace, the velvety blackness of the embracing void, the realms of light and beyond. These places became my secret inner home, drawing me back to the place I truly belonged, to my real dwelling within.
I listened to scholars talk of the glory of meditation, reciting the scriptures with much elegance. Such lovely words. I heard the teachers speak of and instruct how to touch the space of meditation. And from their words I instinctively knew they had not yet fully touched it. The words were there. The finesse was there. The experience was not. And so, I watched. And went deeper. And deeper. And deeper. Into that place of meditation that is without limit, without bounds, without qualification.
When you are the light, there is no need to constantly speak of it. You are it. You live it. Is there an end to this light? Never. Is there an end to the illimitable mystery and source of all? Never. Can philosophies capture it? Can knowledge tame it? Can spiritual practice grab it? Can you say, “Ah! I have done it! I have attained it all! I have reached the end of the endless!”? No. Never. Who is this “I” anyway?
And yet, there is something that draws us to this mystery. At a very deep level, we want to know it. We want it. We need it. And this is because, we are it. We are trying to recover that which we think we have lost. But it’s not lost. It is always with us. Under our stream of constant thought, desire, pleasure and pain, it exists. It is our true nature. And this nature is love without condition. And it will not cease calling us until we are reunited with it; until we finally recognize it and truly accept it as our own.
So, what does living with an awareness of this true nature look like? Does it mean that we are stainless, pure, without blemish or fault? Does it mean that we are more spiritually elevated than others? Does it mean that we are somehow better than everyone else, that we are a mystical creature of enlightenment, rarified and special? Quite the opposite. A very wise teacher once told me that a true meditator is, above all, a real human being.
In my life, I have spent many, many years in meditation. I attained a Master’s degree in Comparative Religion, specializing in Tantra. I served and lived in spiritual community. And then, from India, I returned to the West, where I struggled for some time to fit back into the Western mindset of achievement and commercialism, until I realized there was no need to force myself into any paradigm, no matter how widespread and accepted it might be.
So, what now? A Zen saying goes like this: “After enlightenment, the laundry.” I teach meditation. I teach it from the Buddhist viewpoint of right livelihood. I do what I love to support my life in the Western context. I charge a reasonable fee for my teachings that allows me to pay the rent and to eat and to create my dream of a residential community for meditators in the future. I do not offer a “certificate” in meditation. I do not offer a “degree” of enlightenment. These things are not possible. You cannot measure that which is beyond being measured. What you can do, is love yourself enough to follow the call back to the source. That call you have heard from long ago. The call from a source beyond limit, beyond confines. You can choose to go so deep into that place that you become it. Deeper and deeper. Stronger and stronger. Until you realize that the journey is unending glory, and that unending glory is you. And that is who you truly are.
This is meditation.