Reality is defined by what is possible and what is not possible. Changing our reality means changing what is possible.
Our sense of self is created out of the ideas that we hold about who we are along with the feeling sense that we have of being ‘me’.
The ideas we hold about ourselves and the way we feel combine to form our identity and our identity plays a central role in defining what is possible for us.
Over a lifetime the image we hold of ourselves solidifies and creates a somewhat stubborn sense of inflexibly restricted possibility. We experience ourselves to be a person for whom some things are possible and others are not.
The sense of self is the boundary that defines the range of possibility that we have access to.
There are many developmental techniques that are designed to extend the boundaries of the self. These practices allow you to expand into new possibilities.
There are also spiritual practices that allow you to experience beyond the boundaries of the sense of self. The practice of meditation, at least as I learned it, is one of those practices that can take you beyond your current sense of self into the expanse of possibility that lies beyond.
Let’s go into this a little more deeply. We all have a sense of what reality is. We can imagine the physical universe out to its farthest edges.
Even if we have no idea what those edges would be like, we still know they are there.
We also have a sense of the inner universe of mind. We may not be conscious of everything in our mind, but we do have a sense of what exists there.
The totality of what we believe we can experience outside and inside of ourselves feels to us like the totality of existence. It feels like all there is. We assume that reality is defined by everything that we believe we can experience. This is an assumption worth questioning. In fact, for now let’s assume that the totality of what you imagine is possible is only a small part of a much larger reality. We will even go so far as to say that the entirety of all possible human experience is happening within a small range of what is actually possible.
In our deep spiritual experiences we open up for a moment or two, or a week, or a month, or longer, to the wider existence of Reality. In those moments we realize that our normal experience, the one we generally considered to be all that there is, is only a tiny part of a much bigger picture. Spiritual experiences are so liberating because they free us from the narrow confines of our current experience of reality.
Our spiritual experiences open us to unlimited possibility because in the wake of these experiences we realize that more is possible than we can imagine. We simply don’t know what is possible, and so from our perspective anything is possible.
The term is maze brightness and it was first used in research involving laboratory rats that were being made to search for food in mazes. The rats were timed to see how long it would take them to find the cheese. Between each trial the scientists would move the walls of the maze around, before putting the rats back in and repeating the experiment. I imagine these tests were used to see if rats could learn how to navigate a maze more quickly.
One of the most interesting things that was discovered in these tests was that in a small percentage of cases a rat would struggle through the maze several times hunting for cheese until something unusual happened — the rat seemed to realize it was in a maze. It suddenly stopped being interested in the cheese. Its eyes widened, its heart rate increased and from that point on it was only interested in getting out of the maze. It would no longer travel through the maze looking for cheese, it would only try over and over again to climb up the walls and get out. Somehow in a sudden flash of illumination the rat realized that it was trapped.
When we realize that reality as we experience it is only a small part of a much wider reality, we have our own version of maze brightness – an awakening experience. We realize that we are trapped in a limited sense of the world and ourselves. From that point forward we become very interested in expanding into the fullness of who we really are. That is what I see as the whole point of spiritual life. It is all about liberating ourselves from a limited experience into the fullness of reality.
Our mind acts like a filter that takes in information and shapes it into a picture of the way things are. We often forget that our picture of reality has already been shaped and filtered before we are even aware of it.
Some information is allowed to flow into our perception, some is not. The information that passes the filter is shaped and organized into particular arrangements that guarantee that we experience reality in certain ways and not others. We are not seeing reality as it is. We are seeing reality as our minds allow us to.
Meditation allows us to relax the mind’s filtering mechanisms so we can see beyond them. The deeper you go into meditation, the more you experience reality in a way you never have before.
Meditation becomes the human equivalent of climbing the wall to get out of the maze. We are searching for a way up and out of the mind so that we can see the wider reality beyond it.
One of the most active filtering mechanisms of the mind is the sense of self that we identify with. If I see myself only as Jeff then I live inside of Jeff’s perspectives and Jeff’s limited range of possibility. There are certain things that are possible for Jeff, and certain things that are not. The sense of self dictates the range of possibility that we live in.
When we experience a wider reality we see that the sense of being an isolated individual, who was born on a certain day and will die on another day, and whose entire existence is measured in that time frame, is creating a picture of reality that is not the limit of what is possible.
Meditation is one way for us to let go of the limitations of the mind so we can get a wider view of reality. Through this practice, or others like it, we have the opportunity to consciously embody a new sense of self and in so doing expand the possibilities of reality.
The time we spend in meditation is not an end in itself. It is a process of letting go of what is, so that we can become available for new possibilities.
The ultimate goal of our practice is to allow a new and larger sense of self to emerge within us that can expand the possibilities of reality. If you hold this context for meditation your practice will be fueled by a very powerful energy source.
Many people meditate in order to liberate themselves from feelings of pain or suffocation but when you really start to see the possibilities that meditation opens up, and realize that by letting go of your current experience of reality, you can expand in ways that were previously unimaginable to you, your inspiration increases ten-fold. Your meditation is not just about alleviating discomfort. Now it has unimaginable creative potential. When I teach meditation I am really teaching people how to gain access to unlimited creative potential at the level of selfhood.
When you meditate simply sit and have no problem. Be with whatever your experience is without preference. You might be having the most amazing, peaceful, blissful, easeful experience, or you may be having the most frustrating and uncomfortable experience.
This practice is simply not to make a problem out of it. The beautiful experience and the frustrating experience are exactly equal. Neither is preferable to the other.
And if you notice an experience of preference arises that wants your experience to be one way versus another, don’t have a problem with that either. You don’t even need to have a preference for having no preference.
Whatever your experience is, allow it to be. This is the simple instruction that opens the door to unlimited possibility.
When you have no preference the thoughts and feelings of your mind are free to come and go as they please.
Positive experiences come.
Wonderful insights emerge.
Painful or frustrating experiences come.
Sometimes self-doubt or fear emerges.
Just let it all come and go. Do nothing to either prolong or stop anything.
No preference means allowing the comings and goings of mind to happen as they will. As you do this you are learning to be content no matter what your mind is experiencing. This is the conscious practice of perfect contentment.
It takes tremendous courage to be content. There is so much momentum behind the belief that we can only be content under certain very specific conditions, and we spend so much energy, consciously and unconsciously, trying to create and maintain those conditions.
In meditation we let go of all conditions and allow ourselves to simply be content with exactly the way things are no matter how they are.
The only reason we ever feel discontent is because we are holding on to an image of the way things should be that doesn’t match the way things are. The gap between the way we imagine things should be and the way they are is the source of so much existential tension. Do you, in this moment, have the courage to be content with the way things are?
If we do not find a way to be content with the way things are, we will never give up control. We will continue our relentless attempts to manipulate and shape our experience.
Who is doing the manipulating? It can only be the sense of self that is limited and suffocating in the first place. No matter how it attempts to alter or improve reality the sense of self will still act within its current set of limitations and those limitations will continue to shape what is possible.
If we find a way to be perfectly content with the way things are something miraculous happens.
A new source of energy appears.
This energy is not driven by a sense that there is something wrong. It is not motivated by a feeling that things are not the way they should be.
The energy of awakening is fueled by a sense of limitless possibility. It always expands into more.
When you embrace the way things are, exactly as they are, you simultaneously allow the energy of possibility to move through you. As a result your life changes in unimaginable ways because you are no longer trying to fix what is wrong from your limited sense of self.
You are open and driven by possibility without end.