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Meditating For Profit

When we meditate we don’t do so for profit – on the contrary, we meditate out of our ‘actual integrity as human beings’. ‘Doing things for profit’ and ‘doing things out of our natural integrity as human beings’ couldn’t be more different – we are looking at a whole world of difference here. When we do something with integrity then we do whatever it is that we are doing for its own sake rather than for the sake of anything else. We haven’t got an ‘ulterior motive’, in other words – we’re not trying to obtain any sort of advantage by what we are doing. We’re not scheming, we’re not being ‘clever’ in any way…

Doing something out of our integrity means being completely honest about what we’re doing therefore. We’re not playing any kind of game and although this might seem very straightforward it isn’t. It isn’t by any means as straightforward as it might sound because the truth is that we are playing games the whole time without realising that we are. When we are ‘unaware of ourselves’– which is of course the default situation – then we think that we aren’t playing games, we think that we actually do have integrity. The more we actually look into the situation however the more we realise that we’re playing games pretty much all the time. This is exactly what ‘being unconscious’ means – it means that we think we’re doing things for one reason, whilst actually we doing what we’re doing for quite another.

In everyday life we are generally unaware of the true nature of our motivations. When we are psychologically now we imagine that we are engaging in actions for the reason we say we are and we would probably be quite insulted if someone suggested otherwise. It’s almost as if we are being accused of being a liar! This was Sigmund Freud’s great insight – that we are unconscious of our own true motivations (or, to put it another way, that we are not the masters of our own house). I like to think that I am the master in my own house to be sure; I like to think that I am ‘calling the shots’ but that’s just the ego’s delusion. The ego is subject to many illusions – needless to say – and that is but one of them! The ego or self-concept is subject to the delusion that it is the master of its own house; it firmly believes itself to the rightful ‘king of the castle’ rather than just a poor dupe.

A good way to shed light on the issue of our integrity or lack of it is to question whether we are trying to ‘get something out of’ what we are doing or whether we are not. It’s so very normal for us to be doing things ‘for a reason’ that we don’t think anything of it – this is just how things are, as far as we’re concerned. We are a rational purposeful’ culture for heaven’s sake; of course we don’t see anything odd or underhand about always having an agenda, about always doing things for a reason. And yet, habituated as we might be to purposeful behaviour, the fact remains that when we do something for a reason then we are not doing what we’re doing ‘for its own sake’. We’re orientated towards some sort of ultimate goal, we are involved in whatever it is we’re involved in only because it’s helping us to get somewhere else!

Although immediate practical terms there may be said to be no particular problem with this approach, when it informs everything we do then there is a problem. There is a problem in this case because everything we do is directed towards some sort of ‘ultimate goal’ and ultimate goals aren’t real. Ultimate goals aren’t real because they are mental abstractions. The truth of the matter is that there is no such thing as ‘a goal’ – we make them up, as everyone knows! We could try to argue this point by saying that the mental construct which we call ‘a goal’ stands for some specific state of affairs that we are trying to bring about, but it still remains the fact that any particular state of affairs is just ‘a state of affairs’ – it’s not ‘of itself’ a goal, we just label it as such. We’re projecting our own meaning on it. The present moment is always just ‘the present moment’  in other words and there’s no good and bad about it; there’s no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ about it and this awareness does away with any half-baked notion of  goals straightaway. As soon as we start talking about some kind of state of affairs that is somehow ‘special’ we’re dealing in mental abstractions; as soon as we start talking about a situation that is different from ‘how things are right now’ then we’re referring to a mental abstraction.

This means that there are only two possibilities – either we are orientated to ‘how things are right now’ or we’re orientated towards ‘a mental abstraction’. Saying this doesn’t mean that we oughtn’t to make plans or have goals, it just means that some things don’t work when there is some kind of goal or agenda going on. Meditation doesn’t work when we have some kind of outcome that we’re looking for and this actually turns out to be a very big stumbling block. We’re almost inevitably conceptually-orientated in our everyday lives; we are orientated towards our idea of what is happening rather than the actual reality, which is necessarily ‘non-conceptual’. This statement is in itself fairly meaningless to most of us since we don’t see that there is any major difference between ‘what’s going on’ and ‘what we think is going on’. We are of course prepared to admit that there always are going to be some details that we will have overlooked but at the same time we are convinced we’ve got the basic gist of it. We haven’t however – we got the basic gist of what we think is going on for sure, but that’s as far as it goes! So in everyday life we are always orientated towards our ‘spin’ on things, towards our ‘spin’ on what is going on – we are actually existing wholly in a cocoon made up of ‘our spin on things’ and just as long as we are relating to the world through the thinking mind this is always going to be the case. ‘Relating to what’s going on right now’ isn’t as straightforward as we might think therefore – we have to drop the everyday mind first and because we have spent all of our lives clinging to the everyday mind that’s not going to happen ‘just like that’. If there’s one thing for sure it’s that we don’t give up a life-long addiction at the drop of a hat!

A good way to try to understand the idea that we are always putting a spin (or a ‘gloss’) on the world is to make the point that we are always looking at things from the point of view of the central organising principle of the self, which is of course something that comes so very naturally to us that we don’t ever realise that we’re doing it. Automatically looking at things in this ‘slanted’ way has a very big consequence however; the consequence is that we are looking at the world as it relates to our preconceptions rather than taking an interest in it for what it is in itself. What we have here therefore are two very different things: ‘what the world means to me personally’ and ‘what the world looks like when I take an interest in it as it is in itself’. These two things couldn’t be more different – one is very narrow whilst the other is very wide. The world as it is in itself couldn’t be wider, whereas the world as it relates to my own interests and preoccupations couldn’t be any narrower! Actually, even to say this is missing the point somewhat – when I look at the world purely in terms of what it means to me  all that I see are my own preoccupations faithfully mirrored back at me. My own expectations are reflected faithfully back at me and so I’m not really seeing the world at all.

There isn’t any choice in this – I can’t choose to look at the world in a non-personalised way, I can’t choose to look at the world in a way that has nothing to do with my own agendas. If I did ‘choose’ to look at the world in a way that had nothing to do with my agenda then this would be is a self-defeating act – it would be a ‘self-defeating act’ because it’s still my agenda that I’m operating from; my agenda to see things without an agenda is still an agenda. I can’t escape myself on purpose because my purposes are still me; I can’t choose to look at things on the basis of my own choices because that too is a choice. I can’t escape the mind by using the mind and the self can’t go beyond the self ‘on purpose,’ and what this means is that ‘acting with integrity’ (which as we have said is acting without an ulterior motive) isn’t something we can ‘do’ in the same way that we can roll out of bed in the morning, or make a cup of tea for ourselves. ‘Acting with integrity’ is something we can’t do in a purposeful way – which is of course how we do almost everything in life.

Almost everything we do in life is we do ‘for a profit’ – we trying to gain something, we’re always trying to gain something. Naturally we need to ‘obtain’ various things pretty much on a regular basis – we can’t live on thin air – but this is a very different from saying that our modality of existence is such that we are constantly trying to ‘gain’ in everything we do! What a horrific idea that is! Instead of saying that we are ‘constantly trying to gain something’ we could also say that we are ‘constantly trying to stay in control’ (in a subtle way, without this being obvious to either ourselves or others). The only time we are aware of ourselves doing this (any time you see that we are ‘grasping’ on a continual basis) is when we are having a panic attack and that – needless to say – is a highly unpleasant experience. There are two basic ways in which we can be trying to ‘gain’ all the time or ‘control’ all the time – one way is where it is all very visible and upfront (and in this case we might say of such a person that they are very greedy, or very selfish, or very manipulative) and the other way is not at all visible or not at all upfront and this has to do with the way in which we are constantly acting so as to validate (or assert) the existence of the everyday self. In the first case we are talking about overt aggression (or self-assertion) and in the second case it is covert aggression that we are looking at – the covert aggression whereby the self automatically and invisibly ‘protects its own sanctity as a self’.

There is this ‘undercover activity’ going on for us the whole time therefore – there is whatever we think we are doing and there is also the sneaky, unobtrusive type of manoeuvring going on whereby we affirm and reaffirm the visibility of the viewpoint that we are operating from, strictly provisional as it might be. This sneaky ‘manoeuvring’ is the way by which the viewpoint we are operating from not only validates itself but – more than this – creates itself. The viewpoint creates itself via a logical loop – it creates itself by acting as if it actually exists. This sounds fairly odd but all that we’re saying is that it is nothing more than a bluff that we’re putting on; a bluff that we enact so systematically and so thoroughly that we ourselves get to believe it. We get to believe it as much as we ever get to believe anything! We couldn’t believe it more in fact, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is a bluff – nothing can change the fact that the bluff is only a bluff, obviously enough…

What we are doing here therefore is that we are acting as if the viewpoint which we are using is the only possible viewpoint; we’re looking at the world in a very narrow way and we are so scrupulous in doing so that it is as if there is no other way. Most certainly it is as if there is no such thing as ‘a wider way of looking at the world’, a way that is broader than the black-and-white mean-spirited logical way that we have ‘made a religion of’. We have hypnotised ourselves into believing that this narrow viewpoint is the only possible one, so to speak, and the prize that we obtain as a result of this very thoroughgoing hypnosis is that we get to believe that this abysmally concrete ‘sense of self’ or ‘sense of identity’ is who we really are.

The odd thing is therefore that when we start to meditate we automatically engage in the medication in exactly the same way that we engage in everything else, which is to say, with a view benefiting this very narrow sense of self. The preservation of the narrow viewpoint is actually ‘the ultimate good’ for us – nothing is more important than this.  Even though we can’t see this, and even though we won’t believe it, our fundamental commitment is to make very, very sure that we never discover that the world is indescribably bigger than we could ever imagine that it was. This is such a crazily upside-down sort of thing; in the face of it, we would of course expect that this would be the most wonderful discovery possible – the world is a far bigger place than we thought it was! But this is not the case – what we are actually talking about here in mankind’s greatest fear – fear behind all fears, the fear of discovering that there is infinitely more to reality than we had been assuming there was. To say that this is ‘strange’ doesn’t come anywhere close to describing this situation – it’s like doing the lottery and being deliriously ridiculously delighted to find out that we have won twenty Euros, only to look again realise that it’s actually twenty million that we’ve won, and then being totally dismayed and depressed by this news!

The thing is though that whatever we do we do for the sake of ‘profit,’ as we have been saying, and ‘profit’ as a motivating force only works when we are a very small fish in a very small pool; our horizons are as narrow as they are because they need to be – the idea that we have of ourselves cannot exist in any real way otherwise. Just as the mean spirit doesn’t like to find out that there is such a thing as ‘unrestricted generosity’, so too conditioned ego self is infinitely resistant to learning about the vastness of unconditional space. No resistance was ever greater. So the very odd thing is that whilst the conditioned self practices meditation for what it imagines will be ‘a whole range of benefits’, what it is heading towards discovering will actually be of no benefit to it at all. Contrary to what we have been given to understand, there is no ‘benefit’ to be had in meditation – no benefit whatsoever.

Author: Nick Williams

Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.
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