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  • Written by  Ian Ives
  • // Wednesday, 15 June 2011 17:29
Ian Ives

Meditation? Get Real.

Recently I was watching a movie called, “The Peaceful Warrior” about a young athlete at a California University who happens upon a spiritual mystic and teacher in the guise of an old mechanic working at the neighborhood gas station. One of his mysterious guru’s most pointed messages is that we completely miss out on life because we’re always distracted by thoughts of past and future. At one point he takes his student to a park and asks him to take a look around. The student replies, “There’s nothing going on here,” At which point the teacher takes the student by the shoulder and miraculously transforms his perception.


All of a sudden he is vividly aware of everything going on around him, right down to the minutest detail. In an instant he can see the way the clouds are moving, how the trees catch the light of the sun, the colors, the shadows, the insects crawling on the ground, the expressions on the faces of people walking by—everything in fact. At this point his teacher releases his grip, turns to his astounded student and says, “There’s never ‘nothing’ going on.”


Increasingly there seems to be a convergence between modern science and eastern philosophy that the way we usually perceive the world is largely fashioned by the thoughts and concepts in our head. In fact there was a very interesting article about this in the magazine “the new scientist” recently called, ‘the grand delusion: why nothing is as it seems.’ (see preview here) To cut the story short, although our senses may perceive the world directly, this information is immediately mixed with our prior experiences and re-interpreted in the light of our current state of mind. For example, as the founder of cognitive therapy once pointed out, when we’re angry we only perceive about 10% reality, while the rest of our perception is shrouded in distortion and exaggeration. What this all really means is that most of the time, we’re living life in a completely altered and delusional state.

This is where meditation comes in. Far from being some airy fairy and dreamy way of experiencing new and bizarre states of consciousness, the main point of meditation is to cut through all the distortion in our perception and allow us increasingly to see things the way they actually are. Through gradually training in non-distraction—the essence of meditation—we slow down our mind’s rapid and often involuntary reflex of placing judgments, opinions and approximations on nearly everything we experience. In effect we begin to see reality more and more accurately. This is what meditation is really all about.

Just imagine the implications of seeing the world around us as it really is. How often do we misperceive and misunderstand one another based on our snap judgments, knee jerk reactions or our projections caused by experiences from our past? How often does misunderstanding lead to accidents, conflict and violence, as well as endless problems in all of our relationships? Imagine what it would be like to just see things simply the way they are, right now, without any added commentary. Personally this is the kind of thinking that gets me really excited about meditation and makes me want to race back to the cushion to discover what I’ve been missing out on all day long…or maybe as Erric has pointed out recently, I can just take a break from delusion right here by my computer, right now in this very moment.