Now is the Way / M. Zohar
(a talk from May 23rd 2015 at Rose Apple)
This morning I would like to invite us to look deeply in light of the question, "What is meditation?"; not "How to do meditation?", that's a totally different question, but "What is meditation?". And in order for this inquiry to have any significance, I would suggest we first do something very simple, and yet not so easy: let us put aside for a while, just for a moment, let us put aside everything we've previously heard and learned and known about meditation; whether we've heard it twenty minutes ago, or whether we've heard it and learned it and known it for twenty years already, in order for this inquiry to have any meaning, let us suspend what we already know, and look anew in light of this question – what is meditation?
Meditation is a very general term. There are many different kinds of meditation, and they go by many different names, many different forms, many different traditions; but today, the one meditation I would like to present and to emphasize and try to clarify its meaning and significance is what can be called "present-moment meditation". It is not Zen, it is not Vipassana, it is not even "mindfulness meditation", because all of these names have history and knowledge attached to them, they have become a style of meditation; and so, for the following moments I'd like to invite us to look deeply at what is present-moment meditation, and also to look deeply at what it is not.
Present-moment meditation is meditation that deals with what is happening in the present moment – that's very simple and clear; it is meditation that is concerned with meeting life as it is, because there is life only in the present moment – life is not found elsewhere, away from now. Present-moment meditation can also be called "what-is meditation", because it is meditation that is interested in the fact of what-is, what is real and true, what is now – the way things actually are in this present moment; not necessarily as we wish them to be or as we remember them to be, not as they might be somehow, but as they are – this is what-is meditation, present-moment meditation.
Present-moment meditation is wonder-full meditation, as the present moment is truly a wonderful moment; and it is a choiceless wonder, a wonder with no causes and no conditions, but life and the way it is in the now. Present-moment meditation is an appreciation of the wonders of life in this present moment – the wonders of the body and the mind and the world; and even the human condition, with its pains, troubles and fears, even this is a wonder of life in meditation. There is a sense of wonder in meditation, a simple wonder at the way life is; it is a calm and clear wonder at everything we meet, the flowers as well as the thorns – all that is wonderful: present-moment meditation is the freedom to appreciate deeply the wonder of life.
Somewhere Meditation, Nowhere Meditation
In order to clarify further the nature of present-moment meditation, I would like to speak in very broad general terms about two kinds of meditation: one kind is present-moment meditation, and the other kind is all other meditations. I can make this statement, this generalization, because there is something similar, something common to all other meditations that are not present-moment meditation; and to understand what is this other kind of meditation, and to learn and truly comprehend what is present-moment meditation, I'd like to call them by the following names: "somewhere meditation", and "nowhere meditation".
But before we continue, let us be clear: when speaking of meditation, we don't speak merely of formal meditation, as we have sat silently just now; when speaking of meditation we speak about life, we speak about an attitude, an approach to meet life – so there's no separation between meditation and daily life, there's no separation between life and meditation. Furthermore, when speaking about two kinds of meditation, there is no judgment in that, there is no criticism – there isn't one kind of meditation better or worse than the other, and certainly there is no right and wrong in meditation. The only thing we are saying is that these two kinds of meditation are different – they don't speak the same language, they don't operate in the same field of action, they don't share the same motivation at their foundation – they behave differently, and therefore they bring about different quality of life; they are different, but it's not better or worse, it's just different, and I will try to clarify the place and the nature of each kind of meditation.
One kind of meditation can be named "somewhere meditation", because it is meditation that takes us somewhere, or at least it claims to take us somewhere; it is meditation that goes somewhere – "somewhere", meaning some place other than where we are. This meditation leads us to become as we'd like to be, as we think we should be; this meditation helps us become as we want and try to be, become better than who and how we are, become other than who and how we are in this present moment – and that is why it can be called "a way of becoming". This is a very general description, and all different kinds of meditation, by whatever name and form, by whatever tradition, all meditations that follow this attitude – the attitude that takes us somewhere else, other than now – all these meditations are named "somewhere meditation". This meditation creates a gap between who and how we are, and who and how we are going to become – it creates a gap, or it is based on that gap; and that gap is where time enters: it takes time to get from here to there, it takes time to get from now to later. Because of that, we can call this approach "the way of time", or "a way away" – a way away from now, a way away from who and how we are in this present moment.
The other kind of meditation, the other approach, can be named "nowhere meditation", because it takes us nowhere – it is meditation that goes nowhere; and literally, "nowhere" is "now-here", here and now – it is meditation that takes us nowhere else but here and now as we are. Being here and now as we are, that is, beyond any fancy and pretense, beyond our self-image, beyond our story-lines; not necessarily as we'd like to be, not necessarily as we think or believe we should be, but being just as we are – and that is why this meditation can be called "a way of being". Nowhere meditation deals with the facts, because any fact is – the fact is already here, so we don't need to go anywhere else to discover it; the only thing we need to do is penetrate deeply this present moment, and that is why nowhere meditation is also called "the Way In", the way into now. And so, if the previous approach was called "the way of time", we can call this approach "the way of now".
This present-moment meditation, the way of now, offers us an opportunity, direct access to a radical change in our quality of living; a radical change, but not later, not there – a radical change here and now, in the way we approach this present moment, in the attentive attitude in the now. The most basic and fundamental fact of life is the fact of what-is – now we are here, as we are; at any moment, in any place, any situation – now we are here, as we are – these are the facts, such is life … and present-moment meditation, what-is meditation, allows us to discover and to fully realize this fact. Thus, our actions – whatever we do, however we respond to any given situation in life – our response can be realistic, be actual, factual, based on the facts – this is live understanding; and when we truly understand life as it is, what more do we need in order to live in peace and joy, and to love life? This realistic approach presents us with a very real possibility of a radical change in the quality of our life – it can help us be loving and joyful and full of life, be truly alive, in this present moment.
Meditation that goes somewhere actually leaves us
in the same place: it goes somewhere, that is, it does offer a change – we get
from here to there, from now to later; but no matter how far we go, somewhere
and somewhere, we are still fundamentally living in the same world, essentially
it's still the same life, while nothing has truly changed – this is somewhere
meditation. No matter how far we go, how noble this "somewhere" is,
we always find ourselves back in the same familiar and known habitual patterns,
with no way out; we are going and going, but we are going in circles, with no
way out. The other approach is nowhere meditation, or the way of now;
and because it goes nowhere it offers us an immediate way out of those same
familiar patterns – this way out is the Way In. And "immediate"
doesn't mean it's fast, going very quickly – "immediate" means it
doesn't need any mediation, there are no means necessary; it is a very direct
gateway for entering into this present moment, and awakening to life in the
The Way of Time /
Siddhartha's Question and Answer /
The Insight of Now /
Now is the Way
the full text of this talk is available in The Rose Apple Experience: Talks from a Meditation Retreat