The Importance of Meditation
Paulo J.S. Bittencourt
Has it ever happened to you to find yourself in the midst of tumultuous circumstances, most of them taken by the turmoil of the people, with din of verbose minds, whose oral noises intertwine in the most disorderly web?
Imagine, therefore, that you are precisely in the middle of the eye of this same hurricane.
You will notice, however, what appears to be the persistent, yet muffled, hint of a sound of pacifying harmony that reminds you, in a way, of the omnipresence of the cosmic microwave background. Therefore, you are lulled by the suspicion that the noise comes from all directions, without any initial point of emanation and at a “constant temperature”, like the echo of a voice that has been muted by the deafening confusion of turbulent waves.
For a need that is unknown to you, consider that the auscultation of the repressed noise will emerge for you as a vital imperative.
The first task for effectively resolving the impasse will certainly be to quieten the environment. In this search, the nature of the compassably affable noise will summon you not to antagonize your restless neighbors. Remember that you are looking for stillness, because an intemperate clamor for silence, in addition to being ineffective, will run the risk of adding to the turmoil in order to definitively silence the already tenuous sound that you want to hear.
The work, however, proves to be ineffective. Your adjacent strangers refuse to grant your kind request.
You only have one way out, and behold, it comes through a magnificent intuition.
You will see that the most effective way to silence the common people is to direct your listening to the insinuated noise itself. Moreover, listening to this noise will become the very condition for silencing the noise. The noise will not cease. In fact, maybe this is impossible. You will be able, however, to ease the tension as much as possible, at least in yourself and in your relationship with the environment. When the rumbling tentacles overwhelm you, simply watch them with a discreet smile. They are not dangerous as you imagine; therefore, do not repudiate them, for, as we have seen, hostility is also rumored. On the other hand, don’t “stick” to them to the point of forgetting the main purpose of auscultation. If both situations occur – and they will – simply remember to redirect your mindfulness listening to that tune of more tranquilizing waters.
I discussed this situation as a metaphor.
There is a brief Hindu tale that refers to the workings of the human mind using the figure of a drunken monkey that was stung by a scorpion. Under normal conditions, we know that placidity is not so characteristic of the species of monkeys that inhabit many urban spaces in India. He then thinks that the same monkey is drunk. As if that weren’t enough, a venomous scorpion lashes him with a sting. [Can one accuse such a view of apes of stereotyping? Perhaps, yes, but we cannot impute to this perception the judgmental incongruity of “two weights and two measures”, since an even more draconian sentence falls on our minds in turmoil. Yes, there are many of us who do not look at the stars, but I presume that we are in general the same ones who do not even observe the involuntary and flowing vortex through which our forged minds operate. We are alienated from ourselves when it comes to our inner world, much more than we are from ourselves in the objects we produce.]
Regardless of the metaphysical conceptions or religious traditions that underlie it, not without disagreements, the art of meditation postulates that our relationship with the world of life, that of “here” and “now”, is mediated under usual conditions by a mental universe of concepts. and emotions we have forged from pristine ages. It so happens that this same “mental mirror of the world” came to replace, with an anthropocentric impetus of projection, the very referred sphere with which it interacted. It is as if the map assumed prominence over the space it sought to represent.
Meditating, therefore, implies gently silencing, without the aversion of revulsion and the identification of desire with thoughts and emotions, the confusion of the “mental mess” that permeates us relentlessly as a second nature, which hinders us, either with the noises of anguish for the remembered past, or with those of anxiety for the imagined future, of sensibly investigating the pulse of that same world of life.
It is tempting to conceive that the art of meditation always uses a trick of thought to silence one’s own thoughts. I am referring here to techniques of concentration on one’s breathing or on mental images or concise word formulas pronounced mentally, which are mantras. I believe that these techniques are encompassed by the figure I referred to above, that is, the focus of attention on the background noise as the very condition for silencing the Babelish turmoil through which the human mind operates.
Through a noise – that one minimal, stable, reassuring noise, but one that is sought with attention and awareness – we can silence or at least mitigate the chaotic noises to even – who knows – silence the silencing noise itself.
And here it would not be a repressive imposition, but the consideration that silence can be structurally the very primordial “sound” of the world of life and the life of the world. Listening to it, after all, would be equivalent to converting the place where your feet are into a mountain peak.
In any case, when you meditate, the breath or the mantra you focus on, like the cosmic background noise that pervades everything, could be a symptom of an expanding universe.
Professor Paulo Bittencourt is a brilliant teacher of Ancient and Medieval History at the Universidade Federal da Fronteira Sul UFFS [Erechim Campus], Brazil. He contributes articles regularly, and is a columnist of a periodical too. He has several books to his credit. He is an ardent student of Vedanta.