I've meditated for most of my life. I started when I was twenty, having gotten enthused about hatha/raja yoga my junior year in college. So for more than forty years I've been getting up in the morning and meditating in some fashion.
"In some fashion" implies a technique. Indeed, such has been the case.
In fact, until now I've never believed that meditation was possible without a technique. Mostly I've done some form of mantra meditation -- repeating a word, or words, to keep thoughts minimal and attention focused.
I'm aware that there are many other forms of meditation.
What binds these differing approaches together is the word "approach." Just as a technique is a procedure used to accomplish some activity, an approach is similarly instrumental. You're trying to get somewhere, or do something, different from where you are or what you're doing now.
A few days ago I was meditating away. Suddenly a intuition flashed through my brain: I'm tired of techniques.
For me, meditation always has had a "because" attached to it in one way or another. I've meditated because I thought it would help clear my karmas. I've meditated because I believed it would enable me to leave materiality and enter spiritual realms of creation. I've meditated because it's supposed to be good for the aging brain. I've meditated to relax.
What I've never done was simply view meditation as another life experience. In the morning I drink coffee, eat cereal, take a shower, brush my teeth, read the newspaper, and do other stuff.
Such as meditate.
I don't consider that I have a technique or an approach to doing my other morning activities. I mean, in one sense I do, because my way of making oatmeal is different from anyone else's, since I'm me and everyone else is who they are.
But I don't keep thinking, "I've got to find a better way of making oatmeal; I'm not getting enough out of my oatmeal making; I need to perfect my technique, my approach to this."
I just do it. I measure some quick oats into a bowl, add a certain amount of water, put the bowl in a microwave oven for 90 seconds, and voila, oatmeal.
What struck me when I thought "I'm tired of techniques" is that I no longer wanted meditation to be something separate from my everyday life. I now saw it as simply something pleasant that I did in the morning -- a time when I paid a bit more attention than usual to what I was experiencing, because my experience was quieter, calmer, more inward rather than outward.
So I've been enjoying doing even less than usual when I meditate. Sometimes, nothing at all.
(Yeah, I know, there's a word for this in Buddhist practice: mindfulness. Also in Zen practice: Shikantaza. I just prefer the notion of "doing nothing," as it seems more honest and natural.)
Life goes on even when I'm not out to do anything special. I still breathe in and out. My body still feels a certain way. I'm aware of sights, sounds, and other sensations -- or the lack thereof. Increasingly, this seems like the best mantra for me to repeat: life.
There's no effort required to be aware of my living. There's no special technique needed to be more attuned to reality. In fact, approaches like mentally repeating a mantra now strike me as reality-denying, because they add something distractingly extra to what is naturally present.
I haven't made a total transition to technique-less meditation yet. Old habits are hard to give up. I still enjoy counting my breaths in some fashion, or repeating a simple one-syllable mantra to concentrate my mind.
However, I'm starting to see the appeal of not separating meditation from other activities of everyday life, of simlply being aware of where I am and what I'm experiencing when I'm in my meditation area, just as I do when I'm doing something else during my day.
(Weird...and also not. I just Googled "meditation nothing special" to see if I could find a link to end this post with. What popped up as the first of 2,080,000 results? A post I wrote last year.)
Maybe I should pay more attention to myself, since I seem to know a lot about what I'm interested in.