I have meditated and written down my reflections for nearly 15 years. Some of the most useful scribblings have been the pointers I’ve left myself—my orientations to the highest truths, or what Rob Burbea called “ways of seeing that free.”
Contemplation often brings profound yet tantalising insights. One moment it all makes sense, and the next day you feel robbed. Yet, certain words and phrases can “bind” the insight and deliver us back to the understanding. The process of putting words to these experiences is often downplayed, with some justification: it’s easy to reify our insights and so divorce ourselves from what is actually happening now. But the power of the right words offered in the right mindset is not dissimilar to an incantation, and we must practice wisdom for it remain alive.
It’s worth noting that we all already have our orientations, things we recall or remember during practice, our internal monologue of judgement and advice. Meditation, at it’s most basic level, is really this process of speaking and seeing. Remind yourself (“all things change”), see what’s going on, remind yourself (“stay with the body, see that all things change”), see what’s going on.
Finally, most of these orientations are essentially notes to myself, so your mileage may vary. That said, I’ve always found it enlightening to read over other peoples journal notes. I’ve tried not to over-edit them, so that they remain true to the spirit in which I wrote them down.
How to use orientations
You will likely already need an established contemplative practice to make use of these orientations. They require a baseline of concentration and clarity to bear fruit.
Orientations should be deployed with care: laid gently onto the surface of water and then allowed to send down roots and flower. You can’t force them upon your experience. You do not “do” the flowering. You can’t use them to dispel uncomfortable experiences (I have tried plenty of times).
Some of these orientations are intended to point out something that is already the case (the truth), whilst others describe an obstruction, so that we can feel its gravity more clearly. Some are simple reminders; others offer a complete practice and cosmology. Many circle around the same themes. This is because the growth in wisdom is symphonic, not linear—revisiting and reintroducing the same basic themes in ever-deeper levels of meaning.
Here are the orientations. My intent is that each will eventually have an accompanying article, but for now some are given without commentary.
- There is no ground. Pay attention to the sense of any ground or edge in your experience. To recognise groundlessness is to move from the illusory weight of a finite, stuck centre to the understanding that the finite world is effortlessly seen from an unbounded/infinite standpoint. It is to move without moving. p.s. these are not two separate magisteria. (08/2021)
3 Mar 2022