The bulk of the message in this post is really the linked video below. It is well worth watching in its entirety, but if you are *ahem* ‘time poor’ or simply lazy then watch from 5:00 onwards.
The gist of the matter is simple:
(1) meditation, particularly ‘mindfulness meditation’ is not the universal panacea that many modern exponents in the West are portraying it as.
(2) somatic, psychic and spiritual problems can, and probably will at some point, arise from extended meditation practice. This is normal.
(3) traditionally these problems were dealt with and transformed by methods and frameworks other than meditation itself.
(4) removing meditation practice from its spiritual and traditional context, for example teaching it as part of adult night school once a week, democratises the practise but does not address the problems and potential transformation that arises due to its practice.
Specifically and simply in a Buddhist context we need to remember the order of the Noble Eightfold Path.
- Right understanding or view – (Wisdom)
- Right intention – (Wisdom)
- Right speech – (Ethical conduct)
- Right action – (Ethical conduct)
- Right livelihood – (Ethical conduct)
- Right effort – (Concentration)
- Right mindfulness – (Concentration)
- Right concentration – (Concentration)
Notice what comes in at number one? In fact the practise side of things (concentration) does not start until we’ve developed some wisdom and ethics. Without these, depth meditation is at best useless or self-focused and at worst a precursor to psychic disintegration.
This is why these vast and gracious traditions developed around depth spiritual practices, traditions that include ethics, intellectual development, community engagement and service, without which practise is sterile. It is why traditionalist philosophy espouses the practice of an exoteric religion to house, ground and contain our esoteric transformations. It is why, in the video, HH the Dalai Lama refused to bless a new monastery that did not include a library but focused solely on meditation practise.
We can apply this argument directly to Western depth spirituality, particularly magic. It is why, traditionally, magic was not really a part of the Outer Order of the Golden Dawn. It is why a religious or Masonic path was often seen as desirable before (and during and after) the practice of depth magic – to develop ethics and communal service. It is why there are repeated psychic problems with newcomers who practice magic from day one. Just look at any Facebook magic forum for examples.
I am probably a lone or lonely voice in this respect, but there you go 🙂 I’ll finish quoting myself from a similar post:
“Right understanding. This is not a practice, but an attitude, a focal point, a giving up of the ego’s sovereignty. It is the neophyte in the Inner Light tradition declaring ‘I desire to know in order to serve‘.” 🙂