With the alarming rise of stress in our lives, meditation has become popular as a means to relax and calm our minds.

As more and more people jump into meditation for this reason, it has become an industry, selling a plethora of aids to help us relax – Incense, calming and soothing music, meditation mats, candles, guided meditation recordings, chimes, singing bowls, bells…and the list goes on.

While it is great that more of us are meditating, we may be forgetting the true purpose of meditation in all the hype and paraphernalia.

We are forgetting that meditation is essentially a spiritual practice meant to help us rediscover our essential spiritual nature.

In my blogpost,” Wonder why you can’t seem to meditate?’, I explain that meditation is holding the mind’s attention in the space between the thoughts. It is only in this silent void between the thoughts, that we will come to rediscover and recognize our true spiritual nature.

In this silence, there are no experiences – there is only as ‘is-ness’.

“Is-ness” is not an experience. To understand ‘is-ness’ let’s examine what makes up an experience.

Three parts of an experience

For an experience to happen, three factors are necessary:

  1. Experiencer – ‘I’ (Each one of us will say ‘I am the experiencer’)
  2. Experienced – The object of my experience (The things that I experience through the mind and senses)
  3. Experiencing – The awareness or consciousness of the object by me

If any one of these factors is missing, an experience cannot occur.

Cardinal bird in a treeLet’s use the example of a bird on a tree branch as the object of my experience to explain the three factors above.

  • When the bird is there but I, the experiencer am not there, I do not gain an experience of seeing the bird. (Experiencer is absent)
  • When I am fully conscious and present, but the bird is not there, an experience of seeing the bird does not occur. (Experienced is absent)
  • Or, if I and the bird are both there, but I am sleeping and thus unaware of the bird, I do not gain an experience of seeing the bird. .(Experiencing is absent)

The experience of seeing the bird only occurs when I, the bird and my awareness of the bird are all present.

What is a thought?

Awareness of an object registers in my mind as a thought.

The word, ’Awareness’ can also be described as ‘Consciousness’.

My Guru, Swami Chinmayananda explains a thought as a mathematical formula:-

Consciousness + Object = Thought ( “I am conscious of…” )

I am Pure Consciousness

The spiritual science of Vedanta explains that our true spiritual Self is nothing but Pure Consciousness or Awareness. This is ‘I’, the experiencer.

Please note that I am not conscious of something; I am Pure Consciousness alone.

When I, the Consciousness am conscious of an object, there arise thoughts such as. “I am seeing.” “I am hearing.” “I am smelling.” “I am tasting.” “I am touching.” “I am feeling.” or ” I am thinking.”

Consciousness – Object = Consciousness (I AM)

From the formula, Consciousness + Object = Thought, if the object is removed, what remains is Pure Consciousness.

This Pure Consciousness is the ‘I”, or the ‘is-ness’ untouched and beyond all thoughts.

I no longer say that I am seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, feeling or thinking something.

I simply AM.

An experience is both inner and outer

An experience can be both an inner or an outer one.

When the three factors of an experience are present in experiencing something in the world outside, we are having an outer experience. (The bird on the tree, for example)

In the seat of meditation, we can be sitting in a dark, quiet room, not seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching or feeling anything, and yet, we can be experiencing a world inside.

For example, some people see lights and have visions, hear sounds, smell, taste and have the sensation of touching something.

In this case, the experiencer, experienced and experiencing are still present and active in the world inside. These inner experiences come from the mind itself.

When you are experiencing something, whether inside or outside, you are not ‘being’ in meditation.

Experiencing vs Being in meditation 

The mind is where there thoughts are flowing.Where there are no thoughts, there is no mind.

When we are able to hold the focus on the silent space between the thoughts, we are said to have gone beyond the mind.

In this state, there is only Being. Only ‘is-ness’ or I AM remains.

This recognition of our nature as Pure Consciousness beyond all thoughts is what we are aiming for in meditation.

This is being in meditation.

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Manisha Melwani

Manisha Melwani is a teacher and the author of, "So You're a Spiritual Being–Now What?" She offers spiritual and wellness solutions for life and stress management. She teaches classes in personal growth, stress management and meditation. She is based in Richmond Hill and Markham, Ontario. Contact her for more information or to have her speak to your group or organization. She also offers private counselling sessions in person or on-line.
Manisha Melwani

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