Why practice meditation?
In western esotericism there is the idea of the column of glory, a tunnel and chakra system which not only includes the seven chakras of the body but also extends up above the crown chakra and down below the perineum and down from there. It is in this way that spiritual evolution or increasing spiritual awareness can be viewed as a vertically structured task. Until we achieve freedom and ability to move higher (and correspondingly, lower) we cannot really hope to participate much in our own evolution because we have not developed the structure needed to do this. Developing this structure is ultimately why we practice.
Taking a step back, part of being “asleep” is to mistake a difference between our idea of structure and structure itself. In our dream we have separated intellectual understanding from intuition from matter from spirit from thinking from doing when they are all one thing. The reason these words mean little to the uninitiated is because these are concepts with which we don’t have much experience yet and, without experience, we go somewhat back to sleep – the discussion becomes theoretical and meaningless. In the same way, without a certain level of permanent awakening (remembrance), life itself is not seen as spiritualized, it is seen as dead, solid, high gravity, apart from spirit and empty. We are merely hiding out, waiting to die.
So the reason we practice meditation is to build structure. A structure of the body and a structure of the mind which are, in reality, inseparable. This structure can manifest physically as a straight spine, as clarity with our emotions and our feelings, as ever deepening clarity into what we are as human. It can also activate our will, heart and head centers as we come to be more conscious of our inner world. But if this is only treated like some lifelong therapy session then we are missing the point. Beyond the physical another sort of structure is created, a structure of a subtler, spiritual nature. This can be thought of by imagining a column encompassing us and going up above our heads and down below our feet, a line which we are truly to become. When we practice, we are also practicing to build and understand this line structure in order to communicate, understand and become at a higher order through this structure and our awareness of it. Sitting is, in this way, an athletic endeavor just as much as an energetic or intellectual or intuitive endeavor. It is a spiritual endeavor. If all of this is not seen as a single spiritual act then we are, to that extent, asleep, fragmented, broken.
Taking another step back we may ask ourselves “who do I belong to?” Do we belong to the government, the doctor or the church? Do we belong to Chase bank, Abbot Labs or Monsanto? Do we belong to the border guard or the TSA agent? Unfortunately many of us do belong to these institutions. Due to a structure of dependency, misunderstanding and fear many of us appeal to structures of a lower order than we are capable of creating, of becoming. The institutions listed above are some such structures. This trance of dense gravity is perpetuated by the subtle yet dangerous message of hopelessness masquerading as “equality,” “compassion” or “humility” which is really just based on fear and confusion. Seeing that this mundane, societal trance is a spiritual battle is the beginning of awakening. These messages or thought forms which connect with parts of our structures and have the ability to communicate with us or put us into trance are what Daskalos called elementals.
So this brings us back to the value of practice and why we probably need more than we think. When we truly throw ourselves into long, hard meditation sits we are learning not only how to create structure, but what structure is, what it isn’t, how to destroy it, how it manifests, how it endures and how it passes. We are learning that what we call ourselves is only a temporary structure and that that structure can be destroyed and rebuilt. Our power to rebuild and destroy structure is itself a structure, born from the clearing of confusion, dependency, vexation and weakness and the unclogging of the channel to our true Will. As the long, dull afternoon passes, we are learning the structure of eternity and building a structure of awareness and remembrance that may be able to endure into that eternity.
As a final note I think it’s important to explore why, exactly, ‘sitting is Buddha’ or Zen is the direct path. As mentioned above, extremely well transmitted cosmological understandings are excellent at providing the conceptual and intellectual structures that we need in order to build a filing cabinet for spiritual understanding and experience. However, it is only through the unification or gathering of fragmentation that any of this can be actualized – we cannot think our way to enlightenment, we must instead gather ourselves and thrust our way with everything that we’ve got. This thrust is what builds structure and this thrust is sitting. Sitting is Buddha.
For more on western esoteric traditions, see Dr. Robert J. Gilbert explain the Rosicrucian Initiation (long but well worth it!):
(See Also: Spiritual Evolution is Vertical)