Knowledge gives us meaning. In our search for meaning many of us want know all about the many things and the many stories around us. This can be an important part of life, whether it be important to our work, lifestyle, temperament, compulsions.
The assumption has been that a rational approach is the best way to know and the best way to find the meaning in life. Our system of education is still very much based on the development and exercise of the rational in the pursuit of knowledge. And so we classify and name, gathering more and more information.
When the experience of a groundedness in our own being takes second place to living life rationally we risk rationality becoming the only way to find meaning and reason for existence. Without the balancing of an experience of our common humanity in being, rational pursuits can become overburdened and judgmental.
The journey from gathering and naming, to assuming and then to judging is a short one. We can all too easily and without being aware of it fall into judging people and circumstance with the limited information we have found (or have been given).
As we find meaning in this limited information we have we begin to feel secure and assured. Insecurity is offset by judgment. If we are not careful judgement of difference can become the focus of fear. This is how racism and xenophobia are born.
Fundamental meaning is found in the experience of our common humanity in being. Our rationality is meant to serve and name this experience, not take the place of it. We need being and rationality working in context and accord.
We now live in a world in which the ways many gather information are being tailor-made to their ideas and assumptions. A Google search will factor in your search history and show you results that are consistent with this history. Facebook will put on your news feed subject matter that is similar to you and your friends likes.
There is more the expectation today that research will be done for us and presented to us ‘efficiently’. This research is telling us that attention spans are getting shorter. As a result, the intelligence of many, it seems, (that very intelligence we have a rational tendency to over rely on) is being ‘dumbed down’.
An excessively rational approach views the mind as akin to a computer data base and limits the mind to the brain (existing only “behind the face”). I had a spiritual mentor once point to the palm of his hand and say “this is my mind”. It was his way of saying that the mind is an embodied reality and experience. Emotions are in the mind and are felt in the body. Thinking is done in the brain. The whole of the body in its feeling and thinking is the mind and the whole of the mind is the body.
If our attention is trained to focus excessively on just one part of the mind – the brain – then it is understandable that we feel the strain of this. Information comes to classify us rather than simply inform us. We come to define ourselves via what we think and how we think. Knowledge is reduced to information “in rotation”. With this idea of knowledge, an idea divorced from the experience and wisdom of being, we attempt to answer life questions independent of this experience of being. The result is dithering. People can become uncertain, indecisive, and agitated.
Meditation focuses attention on our whole being, not just on the mind as ‘brain thinking’. As the experience of being grows in us our idea of mind is transformed. At depth, mind and being are the same experience.
As we practice this attention on being, day after day, the experience becomes one of God within us and all. Our experience of being changes our idea of mind and then loses us in the Being of God. We grow in seeing as God sees and experiencing life as God experiences life: all is one in love. Compassion grows and gently replaces judgement.
We have to begin somewhere. We have to begin with ourselves and by learning to be silent with ourselves. This means simply learning to be, to be ourselves, rather than defining ourselves by what we do or what we think. As an art and a practice, meditation brings us towards this state of simple being through the still, silent repetition of the mantra. (John Main, Word Made Flesh, 8).
This is all we need do: simply and faithfully give and re-give attention to the mantra. All else has been given and awaits our discovery.