Embodiment Conference offered five days of online Embodiment Meditation between Monday 15 to Friday 19 November 2021. The conference invited a range of teachers to speak on an aspect of meditation.
I spoke on the first day of the Embodiment week of Monday 15 November. Below is the transcription of the talk, edited and adapted into text. The 60-minute session included a guided meditation and talk on the theme.
IS THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF SPIRITUALITY IMPORTANT TO YOU?
First, a very warm welcome. Let us have a quiet minute together. Then I will follow on with a guided meditation.
Sit tall in the chair with a straight back in the dignity of the upright posture. Experience the backside contact with the chair. Experience the two feet on the floor. A posture for grounding ourselves.
This time we have together, falls into two areas. A 15-minute guided meditation on the theme followed with the talk on IS THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF SPIRITUALITY IMORTANT TO YOU?
Mindfulness sheds lights on something to reveal it, to notice clearly, to be conscious of. When we have the capacity to sustain mindfulness, it naturally deepens itself and becomes a meditation. In this guided meditation, let us check the posture. Posture is an important initial point for a mindful and meditative process.
A Guided Meditation (with around 30 seconds of Silence between the Paragraphs).
I am going to close my eyes during guided meditation. I leave it to you whether you wish to have the eyes closed, half open or open.
We are human beings. We are a small collective. We are on this Earth. We quietly ground our being. We sit in mindfulness with application to the whole of the body, right from the top of the head to the soles of our feet.
As a human being, we are conscious of the physical. This expression of organic life reveals itself to our mindfulness, as sensations, as warmth, as tingling, as pleasant, neutral or unpleasant/painful sensations.
This meditation sustains mindfulness maximizing priority on the physical experience of vibrations, warmth, coldness. We are directly in touch with the body, not cut off from it, not caught up in self-image.
We experience a closeness with the whole body as elements, nature, organic life, a formation of a dynamic expression, a confirmation of the evolutionary process.
Human life reveals itself in the power of our mindful capacity to experience intimately this body. We are not cut off from it elsewhere with a preoccupation around it.
There is an immediate receptivity to these sensations and feelings. This experience is an authentic confirmation of this connection with life. Let us expand our mindfulness, our awareness, the power of attention to include the immediacy of our environment.
Life is an enviro-mental activity. We experience the space around us and this voice moving through the silence. The voice manifests in the formations of words and tone of communication
With this expanded receptivity to a sublime silence, the stillness of the things around us reveals themselves – the chair, computer, items in the room and more.
We have the potential to touch upon a deep receptivity in this silence and stillness. We might call the deep a spiritual sense, very close at hand. This spiritual depth is closer than our thoughts.
Thank you for lending an ear.
Is the Ultimate Goal of Spirituality Important to you?
I am going to weave two important themes together. Mindfulness contributes to a deepening of meditation. Expressions of deepening of meditation functions as a vital factor or element in the field of human experience. Meditation takes us deep into stillness. There is the capacity of consciousness for receptivity, to recognise the power of depth and the importance of deep reflections. Our experiences, major and minor, can change our whole view of life, of ourselves, of existence.
The mindfulness and meditation process are not an end in themselves. Both serve as a practical resource when employed on a regular basis. The process provides the opportunity to listen to a deep inner voice to uncover fresh insights, to wake up to what matters and to expand the heart. We have the opportunity to know a precious engagement with life.
In this process, we make a shift. Let me go back to the guided meditation. We engaged in a classical form – sitting still whether cross legged, a stall for the kneeling posture or using the chair. This posture is valuable and precious, but it is only one posture. Mindfulness-meditation applies to all postures. A human being has a remarkable capacity to bring interest, a critique and beautiful perceptions to the ordinary and every day.
Our naivety engaging in this field of coexistence can take anything, including the life itself for granted. We assume a continuity of what went before. We assume we know ourselves; we know others. The impact and impression of the old enter consciousness. These impressions get in the way of a fresh of seeing. What are the resources you and I have, engaged daily in this participation with existence?
We engaged in a formal guided meditation a few minutes ago. The meditation embraces an undying principle. The meditation did not set a limit on the object of interest requiring mindfulness and meditative. A mindful meditative focus, a curiosity, an energy can take place could be in the bathroom, preparing a meal or listening to a piece of music. You could stand in meditation under a tree. In the freshness of meditative presence, we bring a quality of interest, which has the potential to reveal what we have never seen before. Never.
If we live foolishly and habitually, life becomes robotic, mechanistic. We will experience boredom and dullness we feel heavy getting weighed down and stressed out. The accumulative impact from the past lands in the present. Feeling weight down with circumstances, we life like a machine constantly engaged in doing, doing, doing, we think “I’m so busy.” All these signals warn us we live under the weight of the old. We may not like it and we may not want it. But our circumstances won’t change that way just because we don’t like living that way.
Life gives us an opportunity to have an honest look at ourselves. A meditative inquiry asks ourselves about the deep issues of life.
What is true?
What does it mean to be authentic?
Am I sacrificing a sense of being due to compulsive doing?
Am I sacrificing the sense of being by doing, doing, doing?
Am I finding time in the daily life to interrupt the doing to experience silence and stillness?
Do we generate time to interrupt doing and apply being, even for a few minutes?
A first step, a kindergarten step, reduces the busyness in the mind and the pressure to speak. Experience of pure being with presence and interest begins another journey in life. For want of a better word we might describe this journey as a spiritual journey.
Our inspiration sometimes comes from some experiences. What I mean by that is, you feel you are developing a spiritual life meaning towards the fulfilment of life, which you can know and find.
We dedicate ourselves to seeing anything afresh as possible and listening to what the universe says. A deep response might trigger something adventurous out of us, a creative idea, a creative language we have not said before or a new kind of action. There is a beauty in this potential to make an initiative. Our periods of silences, our sense of the space and the closeness with the body will bring the depth out of us. I call this spiritual. I like the word spiritual, but some people don’t like it. If you don’t like it, don’t use it.
The spiritual sense or experience can come to us in unexpected ways, a surprise. In our day-to-day life, we try to organise our time. This is ambitious. We try to control our existence. This is even more ambitious. We might want to get order into our life. This is all too human. We might want to exercise control over our future. I’m not sure if anybody has completely succeeded in that. This desire for order and control place us in the realms of self-interest here.
Are we willing to reduce, minimise or even let go of the idea of having control over our life? “I want to be able to do what I want to do. I want to achieve what I want to achieve. I want to get what I want to get.”
Hang on a minute. What’s all that about? Am I caught up on the day-to-day basis with this mode of thinking? Do I really think that is possible? And even if it is possible, how long would it last? Death is not so far away. Sickness is not far away. The activities and the behaviour of other people is not far away. How could I possibly imagine I can have control over my life. Things will go well for me by changing this mode of thinking. This is the encouragement.
Can I begin to feel life in fresh ways?
Let us stay receptive to the small moments, unexpected, which we did not plan, did not organise and cannot control. The ordinariness of everyday life can reveal a receptivity to the unexpected. This is precious. Mystics, sages and the saints remind us of these moments come as a gift. This I am calling spiritual. These revelations I call deep, magical and heart lifting. Such deep receptivity frees up happiness.
A Beautiful Surprise
Would we be so bold to just go about the ordinary things of day-to-day life and, correspondingly, know a sense of something bigger than our small, modest life? Do we have this potential as a human being? In my case, I am 180 centimeters tall, white hair, ageing. I live in a small, terraced house for the past 40 years. An instantly forgettable property with nothing special about it. I have looked out through the living room window, which is on the other side of this laptop a zillion times over the years. Despite the regularity of the familiar, small precious events emerge every day. These unexpected events trigger joy.
I opened my back door yesterday to the small back gardens about whatever 20 meters long and 10 meters wide. I feed the birds. I love birds, my surname, Titmuss originates from titmouse, a name for some birds. My family name is Wood, the name of my biological father who I never met. A reference to birds and trees in my full name. I opened the back conservatory door to feed the bird and a robin boldly just walked in., “Good morning, Mr. Robin. Breakfast is on its way.” The robin wanted to get out. He kept flying into the windowpane. You’ve all seen this happen.
I kept speaking to the robin, so it wasn’t fearful. I quietly, walked out very slowly through the back door. The robin followed me. That was unexpected – a beautiful surprise. You can imagine a small robin and this 180-centimeter-tall human – the difference in on scale and yet the robin expresses trust to a human 50 times as tall as the robin.
I use the incident as an example of the unexpected. We cannot organise that Deep nourishment comes out of the unexpected for men, women and men on this earth and its children, we find ourselves exposed to something magical. This would be tragic. to neglect such moments. I looked at the small bird trying to get through the pane of glass to get out. The deepest wish of the robin was to be free from being contracted in a small conservatory at the back of the house. This robin had a priority of liberation from contraction.
This is a fact and a metaphor for all of us. We need a little guidance. Like the robin, we need a reminder of what direction to go in.
A mindfulness teacher gives reminders about, mindfulness, meditation, appreciation of silence and space. There are reminders to give deep attention to the ordinary and every day with fresh eyes to see what the ordinary might reveal. We take an interest in our inner voice and experiencing the happiness of the happiness, which touches us. These reminders and steps are steps of going through the doorway to liberation.
Who on earth in their right mind would want to spend their life as a canary in a comfortable cage? In this short existence, we might have the comfort in a small cage. Yet, we have the potential to know liberation, to know the nature of freedom of being. That requires a real interest from us.
The Potential to Reveal Infinite Expressions
These teachings do not say “the truth is within us.” We investigate every important situation including the immediacy of you and I being here together in this time. Should we call it normal view? Many views seem familiar whatever the situation might be. He or she this seems familiar. We look mindfully and meditatively at the presentation to see the experience, which shows itself to us. This dynamic of focus and interest has the potential to reveal an infinite number of expressions infinite.
We have contact with another person. A communication taking place. The communication reveals itself as thoughtful, caring and supportive. We think afterwards “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if it was always like that?”
Not in this world. Just as with plants, items and the constant regularity of changes goes on. Every building undergoes change moment to moment requiring mindfulness, attention and support.
We might express ourselves in infinite number of ways. Sometimes this will not please other people. Sometime people show their behaviour with what they write, what say what do, what they don’t do, is not going to be pleasing with us. But it’s a confirmation of the infinite potentials for extraordinary diversity of expression. The Infinite reveals itself where the everyday finite is. It would be a tragedy to think life revolves around maximising comfort and minimising the uncomfortable. We engage in this life taking an interest in day-to-day matters. We have our everyday conversations.
I go to the coffee shop and order an oat latte. I call it the Holy Communion of the secular world. I might meet a friend there and have a conversation, about anything specific. There is interest in the exchange. Out of that, I find later, a day, weeks or longer, a tiny event happened in that communication struck a chord. Something deep occurred out of the words from him or her. A truth touches. It didn’t show itself in the conversation. It showed itself after. This has happened to me and to you on plenty of occasions.
Exploration of Liberation
The exploration of liberation is the exploration of infinite realisations. I remind myself that when a communication finishes, I do not hold to a of strict conclusion about it. I do not say to myself or another “Oh, that was a fabulous meeting. It went so well.” Blah, blah, blah. “Oh, I hope I never have to go to another meeting like that.” I might say “It was a nightmare. It was horrendous. I can’t stand this person.”, Such conclusions become through having a fixed view about a meeting. There are numerous responses and insights which need an opportunity to express. This is a great liberation itself need an opportunity for the inner life to see and know.
We go to a meeting. It could be a meeting with ourselves. It is called meditation. It could be a meeting with others. It’s called mindfulness in communication with others. It could be social. We go to a meeting. We remind ourselves not to have any hard and fast conclusion about it. I need to give myself the opportunity to witness the pleasant, unpleasant thoughts and much more. Without a fixed view, we are allowing something deep to come out of the conversation, out of the meeting. I find the same principle with music and reading – two art forms.
To give you a small example of this. I had been teaching in Germany for 18 days. I sat on the train for three hours from London Paddington down to Totnes in south Devon in the West Country of England, where I live. Around 9 pm or 10 pm and a long day of travelling and days of teaching, I felt tired but not tired enough to have a nap on the train, but too tired to pick anything up to read. I got out the headphones and put on some music on my mobile phone and listened to some rock music. This tiredness vanished. Energy arose. I listened to the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen and more. The lyrics stood out.
A single lyric reveals something important. Days later, I wrote a blog with some of the songs I listened to. This is an advertisement for the blog. Pink Floyd sang the first sone which touched me and triggered energy – Wish You Were Here. Five-star music. Five-star lyrics. Sometimes we need the inspiration and insights, which can come from a variety of resources. Sometimes music is that resource.
It is not just listening. It is listening deeply to music, which can truly energise us and offer insights. We can listen to a piece of music 100 times. Some of those times we say “Wow. Wow. Beautiful. Profound.” The music offers liberating insights.
In conclusion, here are a few reminders of other areas to support us. At times, we have wonderful experiences of unity and oneness. The East refers to this as non-duality. These experiences reduce the sense of separation of me and the world, reduce the sense of differences between I and other gaps in our views of life. These experiences are precious and important. Let us trust in the expanse of these experiences which we can call non duality, oneness or unity of the universe, unity of life. They reveal a change in our perceptions.
Such changes can happen spontaneously in meditation, while outdoors in nature and use of mind-altering drugs, preferably plant based. I shouldn’t mention drugs!
We do not regard oneness experiences as the ultimate result of spiritual endeavours. You cannot rely upon these deep nondual experiences, to be with us day in and day out. The notion that we can live with no gap between us is not going to happen.
Our liberation, the spiritual fulfilment of the human being, accommodates oneness and the unity of things but also accommodates equally differences. Sometimes the differences are significant such as differences in views about Covid, differences in political views, the global crisis and how we look at situations. Liberation is the exploration of reality, a receptivity to the infinite and infinite expressions of the ordinary.
We find the capacity to accommodate the lovely, non-dual experiences, and accommodate the dualistic experiences, the separations, between us. Please make liberation, the fulfillment of the spiritual life, a priority. Never, never settle for anything less than the best.
A free life, a liberated life, receptive to the joyful and fully engaged, shows the best of life. Everything else serves as a valid preparation for that goal.
Right, I’m done.
Steve (an organiser for Embodiment after making a few closing announcements) “Christopher, if you want to say the closing word, you can close things out.”
Christopher: Thank you, Steve. It is a privilege to participate in Embodiment Week. You have a fine list of teachers. It is not possible to absorb everything said but an insight can reveal itself in a single line. A few words can resonate well with us in the act of listening. Our inner voice arises and says YES. The power of this brings about a valuable response in daily life. A few words can liberate something in your being to find expression.
Let us abide deeply interested in what we can liberate and free up in our being that finds precious and beautiful expression in this extraordinary world.
Lots of love to you all. Thank you for making the time to be present.
Steve. Thanks, Christopher. Thank you everyone, for being here.