Have you ever meditated before?
If you have, you probably began by “repeating a mantra” or “focusing on your breath”.
While these meditation techniques are commonly taught in the western world, it’s not “true meditation”, according to spiritual guru Osho.
In fact, he says these practices are affecting our ability to reach true peace and enlightenment.
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How to meditate, according to Osho
Osho says that the key to meditation is to learn how to remain unoccupied, which despite what you may think, takes a lot of courage:
“When people come to me and they ask, ‘How to meditate?’ I tell them, ‘There is no need to ask how to meditate, just ask how to remain unoccupied. Meditation happens spontaneously. Just ask how to remain unoccupied, that’s all. That’s the whole trick of meditation – how to remain unoccupied. Then you cannot do anything. The meditation will flower.”
“When you are not doing anything the energy moves towards the center, it settles down towards the center. When you are doing something the energy moves out. Doing is a way of moving out. Non-doing is a way of moving in. Occupation is an escape. You can read the Bible, you can make it an occupation. There is no difference between religious occupation and secular occupation: all occupations are occupations, and they help you to cling outside your being. They are excuses to remain outside.”
“Man is ignorant and blind, and he wants to remain ignorant and blind, because to come inwards looks like entering a chaos. And it is so; inside you have created a chaos. You have to encounter it and go through it. Courage is needed – courage to be oneself, and courage to move inwards. I have not come across a greater courage than that – the courage to be meditative.”
(In my new book on essential Buddhist teachings, I demystify meditation and outline practical ways you can start meditating today. Check it out here).
The key is to be a witness to your own mind
According to Osho, the technique that’s especially effective when practicing meditation is to become an “observer of the mind”:
“Meditation starts by being separate from the mind, by being a witness. That is the only way of separating yourself from anything. If you are looking at the light, naturally one thing is certain: you are not the light, you are the one who is looking at it. If you are watching the flowers, one thing is certain: you are not the flower, you are the watcher.
“Watching is the key of meditation. Watch your mind. Don’t do anything – no repetition of mantra, no repetition of the name of god – just watch whatever the mind is doing. Don’t disturb it, don’t prevent it, don’t repress it; don’t do anything at all on your part. You just be a watcher, and the miracle of watching is meditation. As you watch, slowly mind becomes empty of thoughts; but you are not falling asleep, you are becoming more alert, more aware.
“As the mind becomes completely empty, your whole energy becomes aflame of awakening. This flame is the result of meditation. So you can say meditation is another name of watching, witnessing, observing – without any judgment, without any evaluation. Just by watching, you immediately get out of the mind.”
Therefore, what is meditation?
Osho didn’t stop there. He also explained what true meditation is – and why most of the western world get it wrong:
“Then what is meditation? Meditation is just being delighted in your own presence; meditation is a delight in your own being. It is very simple – a totally relaxed state of consciousness where you are not doing anything. The moment doing enters you become tense; anxiety enters immediately. How to do? What to do? How to succeed? How not to fail? You have already moved into the future.
“If you are contemplating, what can you contemplate? How can you contemplate the unknown? How can you contemplate the unknowable? You can contemplate only the known. You can chew it again and again, but it is the known. If you know something about Jesus, you can think again and again; if you know something about Krishna, you can think again and again. You can go on modifying, changing, decorating – but it is not going to lead you towards the unknown. And “God” is the unknown.
“Meditation is just to be, not doing anything – no action, no thought, no emotion. You just are. And it is a sheer delight. From where does this delight come when you are not doing anything? It comes from nowhere, or, it comes from everywhere. It is uncaused, because the existence is made of the stuff called joy. It needs no cause, no reason. If you are unhappy you have a reason to be unhappy; if you are happy you are simply happy – there is no reason for it. Your mind tries to find a reason because it cannot believe in the uncaused, because it cannot control the uncaused – with the uncaused the mind simply becomes impotent. So the mind goes on finding some reason or other. But I would like to tell you that whenever you are happy, you are happy for no reason at all, whenever you are unhappy, you have some reason to be unhappy – because happiness is just the stuff you are made of. It is your very being, it is your innermost core. Joy is your innermost core.”
Eckhart Tolle agrees: The beginning of freedom is to be an observer of the mind
Eckhart Tolle also talks about the freedom that comes from being an observer of the mind. He also gives a great technique to go about it.
“The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not “the thinker.” The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence.
“You also realize that all the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken…The moment you realize you are not present, you are present. Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it. Another factor has come in, something that is not of the mind: the witnessing presence.”
Eckhart Tolle shares an exercise to let go of thoughts and get into the present moment
At one of his retreats, Eckhart Tolle shared a useful exercise to let go of thoughts and get into the present moment.
He shared this in response to a question from an audience member. I’m including it here because I think many of us can relate to the questioner.
Check out the video:
The gentleman asks how to reconcile the balance between removing thoughts from the mind without getting annoyed when thoughts come back in.
This happens to me all of the time, so I found Eckhart Tolle’s response very useful.
He explains what to do when you feel like you have a hyperactive mind:
- First of all, refrain from giving too much input to your mind. You can do this especially in conversation with others.
- When you’re talking to someone, try to listen 80% of the time and speak only 20% of the time.
- While you’re listening, feel the inner body.
- One way to do this is to be aware of the energy you feel in your hands. If possible, try to also feel the energy in your feet.
- Feel the aliveness in your body while also listening to what the person you’re speaking to has to say.
- This helps you to be more aware of your body and the information you’re receiving, as opposed to what you’re thinking about.
You don’t need to be perfect at this. It’s enough to give it a try and be aware of your body.
You could also try going out into nature and being more aware of your other senses, such as hearing and your smell.
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