As your meditative practice progresses, it is important to learn to recognize the forms that resistance may take. The truth is, the obstacles only seem to be many. They are all based on three primary stages of development.
The first story the Wolf of Darkness (the ego) will tell you is that you are your body and nothing more. This is the most basic form of resistance to meditation, and it includes any thought or experience that increases the feeling of body identification. During meditation, you are switching your focus from body identification toward Spirit identification. It is helpful, therefore, to begin to view your body as only a small part of what you really are, and not your core self at all. The body is best thought of as a temporary extension of the core self, used during our time on earth as a learning tool. While you are focused on the body’s senses, needs, and experiences, you will remain tied to it and will believe that it is you. This inevitably makes meditation seem fearful, even though it is anything but, because the practice reminds you quite directly that there is more to you than this temporary mass of flesh, blood, and bones. Thus meditation challenges the Wolf of Darkness’s first line of defense.
It isn’t surprising that the forms of resistance related to the need to preserve body identification typically involve those that increase your awareness of the body and its needs. There is no subtlety about this process. These may include aches and pains, itches, shortness of breath, illness, and various other physical phenomena. Resistance may also come in the form of thoughts about the body and its needs and wants, which might include a rash of bodily fears and desires. Whatever the forms, learn to recognize them as nothing more than the Wolf of Darkness’s story that you are your body and your body is you.
In response, I suggest that you embrace the following notion and learn to hold it dear to your heart: I am not my body. I am Spirit. Memorize these two short, simple sentences, and think of them every day. They speak a hidden truth about you that will one day bring you great joy and release. The trick is learning that these words are true, which you can do only through experience. By turning inward in meditation, you are seeking exactly this.
It is also important to note here that your attempts to reach inward and go beyond the body do not endanger it. On the contrary, as we will explore more deeply later, opening to meditation naturally heals the body. So have no fear about releasing your identification with the body. Go as deeply as you can in meditation, and the body will only be strengthened by your experiences. It will still be around when you return.
As you release your identification with the body, the next story the Wolf of Darkness will tell you is that if you are not your body, then you must be your individual thoughts and personality. We are always seeking a sense of self, and since the existence of the Wolf of Darkness (the ego) is based on individual personality, it must remain broken off from the greater body of Life. This must be true, because as you approach your core self, which is a direct, original reflection of Source, your sense of individuality gradually dissolves. The waterfall of thoughts in the ego-mind, then, becomes our second hang-up on the journey inward.
This presents a double-edged problem. First, as mentioned before, our thoughts run nonstop, like a cascading veil that hides the world beyond them. There appears to be no way through. Second, we are very much inclined to latch on to our thoughts anyway, for what would we “be” without all our individual thoughts? This question must arise, and it instantly increases the threat level in the ego.
The way past this avalanche of thought is not through force of any kind. Releasing this obstacle and finding your way clear instead involves reprogramming the content of the waterfall itself. You will observe, as you sit in meditation watching the stunning force of your own personal waterfall of thoughts, that quite a lot, if not most, of these thoughts are composed of negative emotions. Fear, anger, and guilt thoughts are among the most common, though they often masquerade as more moderate — or even kindly — thoughts. These negative emotions are so fearful that you will naturally be repulsed by them, and so you will not seek to challenge them and go beyond them. This is a natural enough reaction, and it is exactly why reprogramming the thought system of the mind is essential. We will discuss techniques for doing this later. For now, it is important to note the phenomenon and to
become aware of it — and, most important, to begin drawing a distinction between you and your thoughts. They are not the same, just as you are not your body. Ultimately, you will find the greatest success in meditation by letting your negative thoughts be transformed into thoughts based on forgiveness, compassion, and unconditional love. Such positive thoughts lack the fearful nature of fear-based ones, thus reducing resistance to connecting with your core self. They are still just thoughts, but the switch is an essential step in the process of going beyond all individual thoughts.
Fear of Loss of Identity
After you have realized that you are not your body and you are not your thoughts, what does the Wolf of Darkness tell you? Here is the real obstacle behind the others, which were in place only to keep this one, ultimate obstacle hidden. The loss of our sense of self is the ultimate human fear, and therefore the ultimate threat from this viewpoint must be Spirit, which in its vastness encompasses the whole body of life — everyone and all creatures, all true thought, every galaxy and universe, and all levels of life, both corporeal and noncorporeal. Think of the implications! Spirit is the exact opposite of the state of separation. It is a state in which life is experienced directly as a perfect, eternal union and continuous expansion. Therefore, no sense of individual self can be long maintained within it. In the deepest meditative states, the little ego-self is temporarily swept away and grows indistinguishable within Spirit, just as it would be impossible to distinguish a single drop of water in an ocean.
This may sound frightening, but it is actually anything but. In any case, the experience is temporary, and in fact it purifies you each time you let go and immerse yourself in the spiritual world. This always empowers you and never takes away. You never lose anything in this exchange.
The way to undo this fear of loss of self is through experience. Until you realize that relinquishing identification with your individual self is not a loss — which you can do only through your own experience — you will be apt to look upon the ocean of life as an incomprehensible, alien expanse. You will be afraid that if you were to completely let go, your little self would be swept away forever. This is the biggest fear, the greatest obstacle, that needs to be undone if you are to experience the release of deepest meditation. Whatever else your problems with meditation seem to be, this is the only one you need concern yourself with. Seek only to release this fear and develop trust, and you will advance far into your meditative experience.
Tobin Blake is the author of Everyday Meditation: 100 Daily Meditations for Health, Stress Relief, and Everyday Joy. He has taught meditation and spiritual awakening at Unity centers, private schools, and colleges. Visit him online at www.TobinBlake.com.