What Is Real Meditation?

It was the mid eighties, I had just exited seven years as a monk, during which time it had become clear to me that monastic meditation doesn't have any real effect. It was just a game. Technique meditation has no substance. It has appearance only - they are an escape from all that you naturally are. Technique meditation of any description is merely moving into another dimension of the structures of thought - another thinking technique, that's all. What, as a monk, I initially believed was meditation, I came to realize was actually self hypnosis.

With techniques we overlook the discovery of 'what is' and remain in the delusion of striving and avoiding. Only through being in direct contact with the truth, with 'what is', can we find freedom from the conflict between 'what is' and 'what should be' or how you are and the ideal of how you should be. To understand this is to understand the nature of thought, and this is an intelligence, an awareness in which one will drop all effort, all striving, to simply admit to the experience of 'what is', moment by moment. This is not the result of any technique, this is the result of deep, direct understanding. This is real meditation.

A thinking technique is our role: 'I'm a monk', 'I'm a meditator'. Whatever the 'I' tries to make itself out to be is only a continuation of the 'I', and so through meditation 'techniques' the 'I' and the problems of the 'I' only increase. The 'I' simply gets stronger, more superior. It is still based on the condemnation of what I am. Otherwise, why would I strive to attain another experience other than what is already within me? Because I don't like the experience of the 'me' as it is. It is that simple.

The effect of objection - judgement

What we're going to find out is...here's this incredible expanse of the human being within us, and we take one little fragment of anger, another little fragment of envy, another little fragment of happiness, whatever...yes? We can take any one of those fragments and if they don't fit into the role, we will judge them as bad, as wrong, as unacceptable.

All we are dealing with, our only problem and the sum total of our suffering, is that judgement, that's what I'm suggesting, that objection that we have to ourself. We have been trained, we have learnt, we have trained one another as the parent and child, as the teacher and student, we have trained one another in all conditioned relationships to object to one another. We have conditioned ourselves into the state of objection itself, so we live in the state of objecting to ourselves, therefore when we sit to meditate, what do you reckon is the first thing you are going to experience?

Q) The critic.

Q2) Judgement?

M) We're going to experience criticism and judgement; we're going to feel the pain of the judgement that we put on ourselves. So by sitting quietly and by being open to the experience, open to the whole process, there's going to be a great deal of discomfort arise. But that discomfort is our own creation, and the only way to actually open up to the rest of ourself so that we're not just living as the fragment, but so that we in fact are living as a whole person, is to make contact with that whole person. We have to know that whole person, with all its discomforts.

How can there be appreciation for yourself if you don't know yourself? You can't deeply appreciate somebody you don't know, so to speak. There can be the shallow appreciation of self-satisfaction, but you have to know yourself to deeply appreciate yourself. And how can you know yourself? Meditate - do nothing to avoid yourself. Live in awareness of yourself.

Meditation is the absence of striving or attaining

You have to be with yourself; this is meditation. But do not be with yourself for what you can achieve either; this is not meditation. Just be with yourself for the sake of being with yourself, without striving or attainment intended. Just experience the living flesh that is you, where there is no striving or attaining, where 'what is' is all there is.

Meditation is the ever-present sense of the living body, not the fragmentary attention of concentrated thinking. The intellectual can have a brief moment of attention, pick up something and express it again later on. But there is no understanding in that, there is just a grasping of a concept.

To have sustained attention means to be with yourself as you are, or to be with an experience as it is - the whole time it exists. In that sustained attention you are not thinking about the thing you are being with, you are aware in it, absorbed in it. It is not separate, you are not divided in any way. And in that attention, understanding naturally occurs, but it must be an attention, which is a bodily-felt sense, not the fragmentary attention of thought. But this doesn't mean you strive to sustain your attention. One simply need realise the simplicity of this, you can't not be attentive of yourself as a physical being, but you can divert your attention deliberately through thinking.

If you don't deliberately divert your attention, you'll find you will automatically be self-aware. It is the attention that results from the absence of distraction from what is; from the felt sense of all that you are, including any sensory receptivity to the environment. But we spend our entire life deliberately diverting our attention. Within the time frame of a few minutes we divert our attention dozens of times. We move - something becomes slightly uncomfortable in our body, and we move. We become attentive to the condition we are actually in, we object to it and we move. We become attentive to the psychological condition that is actually within us, and we create another psychological condition, like putting on a video or having a chocolate or whatever it is we do to get away from what we are. Do you see? So we divert our attention from what is constantly.

To sit on a meditation retreat, we are putting ourselves in a situation where there are limited diversions from ourselves. And anybody who can be with themselves without those diversions will naturally remain with themselves - there's nowhere else to be.

How can you get to know yourself unless you are with yourself? I'm only going to get to know myself by way of sustained attention. I can't just think about myself for ten minutes and expect to sustain this throughout my busy day. I need to experience myself as a felt sense, and then continue living in the direct experience of myself for the duration of my busy day.

Meditation is not a state of mind

Sitting here with that sustained attention you will come into direct contact with this tremendous objection that you have to yourself physically and psychologically. Attention is to notice and feel all of this.

Just be open to the experience. There will be objections and that is part of the experience. The disturbances which you will object to are not coming from outside of you, they are coming from within you, and the objection you will notice will come to its own end as long as you simply stay with the process. And when your objection comes to an end, then you can actually make contact with the human being that you are, for it is this objection that stands between the role that you live out and the human being that you actually are.

This judgement that we've learnt to put upon ourself is our suffering. That's all our suffering is - in fact all our suffering is a superficial and divided state - but we have to discover this for ourselves.

So, to be open to experience the new means - to simultaneously let go of the experienced - the old. For me to be open to the experience of this moment, of this day, I have to be free of the influence of the experience of anything up to that point. But of course most of us will find we are not free of that experience, that that experience will replay over and over again. So let that experience replay over and over again, that is the mind - memory - burning out. Stay with the process. Don't pay too much attention to your thoughts, don't pay too much attention to the objection itself, just continually feel your own presence, physically and psychologically, however that may be occurring.

Meditation is not a particular state of mind. It is not a state of mind at all. Meditation is a dynamic living understanding, there's a vast difference here. Meditation is not a psychological state, it is the necessary openness to experience the total contents of myself - the living, breathing human organism.

Self improvement is to fight against what you are

Okay. So you're not trying to attain a particular state of mind - that is meaningless - for the state of mind is only the product of your imagination or the reaction to stimuli. All such states are just the activity of thoughts. You can create any state you like using a variety of techniques - people use marijuana as well! They are all an avoidance of the fact of 'what is'. Okay, so we find that states of mind are pursued by the superficial mentality, but if we look even a little bit closer we can understand this one point, it's not the state of the mind; it's not the condition whether I'm angry or whether I'm frantic or whether I'm upset or whether I'm peaceful or blissful, or whatever other experience. I am suggesting that none of these experiences mean anything and are all equally superficial. What matters is that you can simply be in the presence of these experiences and allow them to continue to eventually find their own end. All experiences come to 'their own' end. Simply experiencing yourself physically and psychologically is not a struggle. There is no effort to meditate. The effort results from doing something unnatural. The only effort we have is in the diversion of our attention. If we do not divert our attention - through doing this and thinking that - then we'll find that our attention will automatically remain wholly present as a part of the sum total of our own physical and psychological condition. Therefore we come to know ourself totally, rather than only knowing of and clinging to the fragment, the limitation of an idea or ideal of our self.

You see, whilst we're living through that fragment, we are living superficially, and in living superficially there will be conflict, there will definitely be conflict won't there? Do you see that? If I'm living through that particle, just through that little piece of myself, I'm condemning the rest of myself to a black hole. I will never feel fulfilment in that for there will always be a hollow, empty, loneliness deep within.

Feel the presence of your opinions and knowledge, but don't indulge in them. Then you will be able to listen. To be receptive to an experience requires the letting go of what you make of the experience through your thoughts about it. Don't make something of what I say on the basis of what you heard or read in a book, or at least see yourself having the tendency to do that. Just listen to what you're hearing. Don't compare or associate it with something else.

We all do this in various ways, constantly referring to this backlog of nonsense, which has got nothing to do with life right now. However, notice the tendency of thought to do this and let's see if we can discover how without that - the human beings that we all are - are essentially exactly the same, there is no hierarchy there, we are all fundamentally the same, neither superior nor inferior. The difference between the enlightened person and the confused person, is the manner in which they function. The enlightened person doesn't object to their state. The confused person objects to their state. The enlightened person doesn't mind the condition of their life and the confused person objects to it. The only reason the confused person objects to it is because they think 'it' can actually be something other than what 'it is'; thereby they are overlooking the significance of 'what is'. The enlightened person realises quite logically that 'it' cannot be other than what 'it is', so to object to it is just stupidity. That's the simple truth. I can object to something but it's not going to change it, it remains exactly as it is, but by objecting to it I suffer my objection, and caught up in that, I am blind to the immediate living understanding - the significance of my life - moment to moment. Also I can object to myself, but I can't change myself through objecting, all I do is feel the pain of my objection as apart of my whole experience and the nonsense of my objection cannot stand up.

So the confused people have learnt to object to themselves, and suffer that objection. And as we see through that objection, we will all wake up and we will find nothing new. We'll find that we are exactly as we are. Whilst we continually try to improve ourself - even before we know our self - we are acting completely stupidly. Isn't that stupid? Only one who doesn't know themselves ever tries to improve. I'm trying to improve myself even though I don't know myself. If I don't know myself, how do I know I need to improve? I don't. So the first step is to get to know myself. One who does know themselves has in that very process negated all objection, to all they are.

Be still, physically still, that's enough

Q) Matthew, you said to me, 'You're trying too hard'.

M) Yeah, we all are trying too hard. What do we try for? We think we have to try, but we don't even know what we're trying for, we don't know whether we really need to improve ourself - we don't know that. If we can see the simplicity of that, accept the fact of that, then we can relax.

One is not capable of understanding beyond the limitations of their own thinking, so until your thinking quietens down, you won't really be able to understand some of the new things that I'll be presenting. This is by no means saying that you're an idiot and I'm clever. The fact is that when the mind is busy with its own thinking, there cannot be any understanding beyond that.

Sitting still slows you down to be receptive to a greater expanse of yourself and free yourself from the limitations of your thinking (your beliefs about you). Through this you'll find our interactions far more beneficial for you. All you need to do is stick with the process. Do not try, we are not trying for anything. The only thing we can try to do is divert our attention. If we do not try to divert our attention, no matter what, we will notice ourself. Without diversion, our world is filled with one's self. There is always one's self. Inside your skin is never operating exclusively, never separate from the world outside your skin.

No matter how uncomfortable our state is, whether it's busy, whether it's quiet, whether it's painful, whatever it may be, we will know that. That is meditation. Meditation is to be in the direct and immediate experience of myself as I am.

When we sit in meditation, we will see that our beliefs about ourselves are constantly confronting us. All the tensions in our body are the presence of imposed beliefs held in memory, as tension. It is due to our beliefs that, when we sit physically quiet, we become distressed, we find that physical pain and mental agitation occurs, as it purges from the flesh.

To continue sitting, you will find this physical pain will occur, and then to attempt or expect psychological quiet, this brings a tremendous pain - we can't be quiet! We are completely out of control and the solution for this is not to control it, for that is only the duplication of being out of control, that is a reaction to being out of control, 'I must control!' But the correct approach is to see the fact that 'I'm out of control', 'I have no control of my thoughts', to see that fact that 'I am shattered', to see the fact that 'I'm going to explode.' In actual fact though, you have been exploding constantly within. Just experience the fact of the condition as it is right now, without trying to change it. To be with that is difficult, it's uncomfortable, because we come up with all sorts of objections to that. Yet what is occurring in being with myself? In being with myself, I am negating, I am disproving my opinion, my belief about myself - I am dissolving the old and opening to the new. This is happening at the level of physical sensation, which is the origin of all thinking.

When I first sit to meditate, all I am experiencing is my belief. At first, all I tend to experience is all my thoughts about myself and all of my objections to myself, to the ache in my body, the sensation in my heart or leg or whatever it may be - but in time this sensation, which is the origin of thought, comes to its own end and this occurs simply by being constantly present. We can be still - physically still - that's enough.

You cannot strive to be present

Now, can we make an effort to be present? And if you answer this, I'd like you to explain it. Is meditation an effort to be present?

Q) It is when you're so used to not being in the present.

M) Aha, good. We naturally make an effort to be present don't we, because we believe we are not being present. Okay.

Q2) We're usually in the future or in the past.

M) All right, this is what we think, isn't it? We think we're either in the future or the past, or 'off on another tangent'. Are we not present then? Is it actually possible to not be present? Is it actually possible to be in the future? Is it possible to be in the past? Can we be somewhere that doesn't exist?

We're striving to be in the present, but what I'm asking is, is it possible not to be in the present? If we can see this, we will drop all effort in our meditation. This however will take time to see because we are so used to thinking that our thoughts actually mean something, that our thoughts actually have an effect; yet the moment we stop thinking, the apparent effects of those thoughts are over.

But we don't stop thinking, do we? We continue to repeat those thoughts, eternally convincing ourselves that thoughts actually have an effect. They don't have an effect. Our belief, our identification with the contents of our thinking changes the experience of our self to one, which is incorrect, delusional. So simply don't be concerned about the contents of your thoughts. Give it no importance and you will find all thought activity in your meditation becomes irrelevant, ineffectual.

Q) So thoughts are in the past and the future, is that what you're saying?

M) Are they in the past and the future, or are they about the past and the future?

Q) About the past and the future.

M) Yeah, there is an important difference here, hey? Our thoughts are of course in the present, because there's nowhere else anything can exist, is there? There is only now, there isn't yesterday or tomorrow. The fact of it is there is only now, therefore if anything exists, it exists now. So rather than struggling to exist in the present, just see the simple fact, if you exist, where else can you be but in the present?

No effort in true meditation

Q2) I was thinking this morning that the effort in my meditation was in escaping. Being here listening to you or the wind or whatever was there, I noticed the effort came when, 'Oh, I'll just have a look down here' - the effort was in going away, not in the coming back. The work was in keeping that fantasy or that creation going, because the minute that I couldn't keep it up, I was automatically back here. And I thought, 'Ooh yuck, let's go back there', and the effort was the creation, not the coming back, or being here.

M) The effort is the escape, not the actual being, is it? You see this now don't you? There is no effort in true meditation - you cannot make an effort to meditate. If you are making an effort to meditate, the effort is related to escaping meditation, which is the present, and that will fail too because you can't sustain a delusion that you are elsewhere. And anyway, if I'm fantasising, where does that fantasy exist?

Q) Now, here.

M) Now do you see what I am showing you here? There is nothing you can do to escape - you simply cannot escape the present moment - the now. No matter what you do, you can only attempt to convince yourself that you're away from yourself, however the truth is you are always with yourself. Surely this is plainly obvious to you. Yet, there is a slight difference within each of the experiences here, because if I just sit here dreaming about what I'm gonna do tomorrow or think about what I could be doing if I was elsewhere, then I am going to overlook the immediate conscious experience of now, am I not? And if I don't have a conscious experience of now, then what happens?

Q2) You're lying to yourself.

M) You're lying to yourself. To lose awareness of the moment, you are being untruthful to yourself. So to escape myself is to be untruthful to myself. To be with myself as I am is to be truthful.

Comparison: links the unrelated - causes confusion - blinds you to what is.

It's very important with meditation not to compare yourself with others. Comparison doesn't even come into relevance in meditation, because meditation is a personal, direct experience and therefore the experience that I have of myself at any one moment is incomparable to the experience that another person has at any given moment. Comparison is simply not relevant - it has nothing to do with it. Meditation, like life, is not an accumulative experience. Only memory is accumulative whereas actual experience, which is directly related to now, ends in the same instant it occurs.

The nature that we have from our life experience will show through in our approach to meditation when we first begin to meditate. Some people, due to having a determined character, perhaps as a result of having being brought up to undertake a lot of responsibility, having had a lot on their plate, a lot that they had to achieve, develop a certain character and such a person may approach meditation with the determination that they are accustomed to approaching life with. You know, like Sally nearly dying up in the snow when she went trekking through Nepal! That character, to stick at something even if it's just about to kill you, is brought into the meditation. In the early stages of meditation, our character will show through, we'll approach it accordingly and then in time, that tendency itself is in a sense transformed into something more real, less distorted, without the violence of discipline and the force an unnatural (learned) character.

The tendency to be so hard simply transforms to the tendency to have an approach of staying with the experience. Whereas another person may be brought up in a very protected environment, not having had much contact with much pain, or much need to have to endure, and therefore such a person may be inclined to approach the experience of their meditation in a more timid way. However this has nothing to do with how they progress, this has nothing to do with where a person 'is at' as a total human being, this is merely a particular characteristic showing through in their approach when they first begin to meditate.

In short, one 'quality' is not more beneficial than another. The only problem with our 'qualities' is that we get attached to them and we allow them to be a source of pain. Yes, we can see the use of them and we can see how they may in fact be a hindrance at times, but the comparison of one approach to another is irrelevant, superficial and childish.

You know, if a person is used to being very hard on themselves, then when they meditate, that's exactly what they'll do. If a person has had a great deal of suffering in their life, particularly if it's just before they get into their meditation, such a person tends to sit on their arse and not move, because they've had a 'gut-full' of suffering and they are prepared to endure the trials of their healing process, all they want to do is sort it out. But this also will come into balance, otherwise this 'gut-full' of suffering, being the motivation, brings more suffering into the meditation in the form of striving to resolve or struggling to change 'what is'. So sit with yourself as you are. See the self-hatred in your hope to change what you are. That is what governs your experience of what you are - your self-perception.

And in time it will be understood more broadly and in time the character fades away, the attachment, the identification with the anger as being something which is destructive, transforms into your seeing that it is just another condition which is to be felt as any other condition is.

No condition has preference over another in real meditation, so we have to be very careful that we don't compare ourself in any way to any one, because it is not relevant and it cannot at any point be truthful - it is a complete waste of energy. To compare is to suffer. To compare is to overlook the truth of yourself as you are.


To meditate is to sit quietly and allow, rather than control the state we are in through techniques or mantras. It is enough to simply remain attentive to how we feel, without judgement or striving. As soon as you compare how you are at one time with how you have been before, or how someone else is, you are thinking about something, and escaping how you are at that moment.

No matter how uncomfortable our state is, whether it's busy, whether it's quiet, whether it's painful, whatever it may be, we will know that. That is meditation - the direct and immediate experience of myself as I am.

This an exert from a 14 day meditation retreat transcribed into a book which will be available in 2012.

© 2011 Matthew Meinck All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The reader of this document acknowledges that they take full personal responsibility for their response to the contents of this document. The author and any related parties disclaim any liability whatsoever, to the extent allowed by law, from any liability for any consequence of the response that the reader has to the contents of this document.

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