Articles By Von Braschler
Becoming a master of time and space requires a change in personal perspective. To experience timelessness, you need to focus intently on the moment at hand. You cannot allow your mind to wander over events of the past or wallow in deep concern over the future. You must be in the present moment, fully alert, and clear-headed. In short, you must be totally involved in the "now".
This was the message of teacher and author Alan Watts, who longed for an Eastern teacher to teach Zen meditation to Westerners. Watts considered himself a sort of "advance man," or prophet of a teacher to come. Ironically, Watts himself became that teacher.
Watts taught people in the West how to meditate. He encouraged people to still their internal dialogue and stop the chatter inside their minds. This is a fundamental problem for most of us. Animal behaviourists tell us that we have lost the ability to communicate with other species in our world, because other animals are confused by the seeming contradictions between what we verbalize, our body language, and our thought forms. Indeed, most of us seem at times locked in debate with ourselves with endless internal chatter. We are so preoccupied with our inner thoughts that we are not fully focused on the present situation that confronts us.
Stilling the inner voices might sound easy, but for many it is not. The Buddhists say that the mind must willingly shut itself down before our super consciousness may engage itself without distraction. In fact, without distraction, our super consciousness could not engage itself at all. The Buddhists have an expression that the mind is "the slayer of the mind." Moreover, it is the gatekeeper. You might be tempted to think that the mind is the "top cop" in charge of everything. Another way to look at this, however, is that your mind is your jailer. It keeps you confined, in a sort of straightjacket. It's a sort of petty tyrant, claiming to be the big brains -- the one in charge. Sadly, it imprisons the higher self, or higher consciousness, which transcends the physical self.
This gate cannot operate half open or half shut. In this sense, it is like a floodgate. Our physical mind jealously guards what it considers to be its rightful territory and role. It wants to be always in charge, because it believes that it is most analytical. But the mind must totally and willingly shut down for our higher consciousness to operate on a higher plane. This is what's required to meditate. Like a lot of people, however, you probably had the idea that you needed to focus on a dot on a wall, or on a certain sound or thought. These are little ways to trick the mind to shut down and allow the higher consciousness to operate. Really, what you need to do is still the mind.
Obviously, this is not easy. The lower mind is a jealous dictator and will not surrender easily. So you must appeal to its reason and allow it to analyse and adjudicate. Once the mind is satisfied that you will be safe and perhaps even rewarded in this proposed encounter, then it should surrender temporary control.
To meditate and enter a state of higher consciousness, however, you also must still the clatter of sound and other distractions around you. Quieting the world around you might seem even more difficult than stilling the inner chatter that runs through your mind. After all, we can hope to have some personal influence over our own bodies, but little influence over the world outside ourselves. Or can we? Remember that the object here is to change our personal perspective. We don't need to stop a bell from clanging to tune it out. We simply need to control our perception. This requires training, practice, and particularly, will power.
In short, we need to stop the world. This is not to say that we can stop the wind, the rain, or a roaring train. We can change our perception of all of this, however. We can tune out the outside sounds. We can tell ourselves not to be distracted by the fragrances around us. We can control our sensory perception.
We do this not to be dead to the beauty and majesty of the physical world around us, but to focus on attaining another higher level of consciousness, without outside distractions. The beauty and aroma of a daffodil can be overpowering. The chatter of children can be either amusing or bothersome, but always hard to ignore. We are not turning our backs on the world around us, but exploring higher consciousness from time to time. It's almost amusing at times how hard some people work at meditation -- even in the East. Krishnamurti told the story of Indian men, serious in their attempts to meditate, who would become angry if children's loud play would disrupt them in their quiet times. The challenge is to tune out the world around us and within us as a prelude to meditation. We can do this very selectively and creatively, in accordance to our needs. We can learn to meditate while simply sitting, walking, or even washing the dishes with proper practice and discipline. In time, you can do it without your eyes shut and hands folded in a quiet, dark room. With practice, you can do it at a moment's notice.
Sometimes this is very useful. Star athletes can sometimes tune out distractions and hear just what they want to hear. They can tune out everything except what they want to see and focus intently on that. That becomes the focal point of their meditation.
If you think about it, you've probably tuned out sounds and slowed down things around you on occasion, too. For example, have you ever been in a crowded, noisy room full of people and tried to shout to somebody in the crowd? They couldn't hear you very well. So then you focused hard on that person and found that you could filter out distracting noises around you to hear what that person was saying. People around you seemed to move in slow motion, as you focused on your friend. That's because you were meditating only on that subject, and only seeing that person's body language and hearing that person's voice. This is selective perception.
I'll never forget the time I first experienced this in a crowded banquet room at a local chamber of commerce gathering. It was an open reception in the little town in Oregon where I was publisher of the community newspaper. The room was crowded with people milling about, elbow to elbow, and extremely noisy. What I heard in walking through the room was a hundred voices at once without focusing on any one, and it was maddening! There was also the rattling of dishes and silverware being set down for a dinner to follow, as the restaurant's wait staff hurriedly set up. On top of this, music filtered into the room from stereo speakers overhead. It was a madhouse.
I was just beginning to wonder how anyone could carry on a conversation with anyone else in that room, when something incredible happened to me. I saw somebody I thought I knew at the opposite end of the room. Suddenly, I honed in on this person. It was like radar tracking. Her back was turned to me. I projected a focused thought at her. She turned around to face me, as though she had heard me. As I walked toward her, we started to talk. We could hear each other perfectly. Somehow we filtered out the other sounds in the room. When we were face to face, we heard only each other. The surrounding room noise had completely disappeared! It was magical, and we both sensed this. It was one of those big "Aha!" moments in life, where you grin ear to ear, your eyes twinkle, and the hair on the back of your head stands on end.
Later, when we finished talking, I walked back across the room. I wondered whether I could make all the voices in the room go away again, all on my own. I concentrated on tuning them out. What happened was almost as amazing as the quiet conversation with my friend. The voices disappeared, and I heard only the music from the stereo speakers! I wondered then whether I could control the volume of the stereo inside my head. That's how I spent the rest of the time in that room -- turning the volume of the stereo up and then down in my head. It was astounding how much control I had, when I really tried. I could make the music very quiet, and then very loud, and then very quiet again.
As we sat down to eat, I momentarily shifted my attention to my fellow diners. I concentrated on their hands working the knives and forks on their plates. Suddenly, the sound of silverware scraping against plates became very loud. I heard nothing but the sound of silverware scraping against plates. I did not hear their voices. Then I shifted my attention back to the music, and heard nothing but the music. It was as though I was alone in a quiet room, except for the stereo.
How strange it was! I looked at their mouths moving and heard no sounds coming out of them. Even the people seated next to me made no sounds that I could hear. I became almost frightened that I would never hear the same again, so shifted my attention back to a hearing mode, and heard everyone perfectly. In time, the sound grew deafening again, so I tuned it down just a little.
I realized toward the end of the dinner that I could modulate how much I heard. I could tune in more volume or less volume. It took a certain amount of focused intent to do this. If I let my focused intention loosen even a little, I lost control over what I heard. It felt a little like concentration or attentiveness, but it was more a matter of a shift in my consciousness. I was very aware of something tightening on my spine, beginning at the base of my neck and anchored at the base of my spine. Castaneda used to refer to refer to this shift in conscious awareness as a shift in the assemblage points of the spinal region. All I know is that I seemed to have great control over my hearing.
No one else in the room seemed affected by what I was doing. It was just my own perceptive awareness that I was modulating. But it became very clear to me on that occasion that I was stopping the world.
Castaneda wrote endlessly about stopping the world, a term he may have picked up from Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the early twentieth century author of Phenomenology of Perception. The mystic stops the world by selecting shutting down sensory awareness of the immediate, physical world around him. He does this to leave the ordinary world around him (to use Castaneda's terminology) and enter a non-ordinary reality. The brain no longer processes the physical sensations of smell, touch, hearing, or seeing in the ordinary manner. It is much the same as being asleep and not being conscious of the sounds and smells around you.
This is not to say that being inside your body and fully aware of the beauty and majesty of nature is a bad thing. On the contrary; learning to listen and learn from the sights and sounds of nature around us is very important and advanced training for the shaman to be. Our immediate exercise here is to learn to enter a meditative state and shift your perceptive awareness away from the ordinary world and ordinary reality. You will need to stop the world. The ordinary world is like a mixing bowl that gets you all caught up inside it. It grinds you up and spits you out in its image. You must learn to control your perceptive awareness if you want to seize the moment and become a master of time and space.
Once you have learned to enter this state of heightened consciousness, you will be able to enter a state of timelessness, where almost anything you can conceive is possible. You must first position yourself to enter this state of heightened consciousness, however. Unless you learn to focus your perceptive awareness and enter this state of heightened consciousness at a moment's notice at will, you will not be able to seize the moment and stretch time. Zen masters and warrior athletes do this all the time, as opportunities arise. It takes practice. I began to practice after I left the chamber of commerce banquet, where I first learned to control the sounds around me and stop the world to a degree. Flushed from my success, I went on a walk later at dusk in the woods along the river where I lived. At first, I allowed myself to enjoy the sound of the wind through the trees, the rushing of the river, and the chirping of the birds. Then I started to shut down all the sounds around me, muting out the external sounds of nature as well as the internal dialogue inside my own head. When I got very quiet inside my head, I left myself open to whatever might enter the void. For a while, I heard nothing whatsoever and experienced total quiet and calm. Quiet can be beautiful. But what I heard next was incredibly beautiful and most unexpected.
I started to hear what I can only describe as "pan pipes." I had only heard something like this once before, in a recording by the great flutist Jean-Paul Rampal. These riverside pan pipes were even more beautiful and out of this world. This truly was the non-ordinary world; perhaps they really were Pan's pipes. All I know for certain is that I could walk through the woods and modulate the volume of the pan pipes by focusing my attention on them or allowing my focus to wane. I walked through the woods for what seemed like hours, listening to the pan pipes and hearing nothing else. It probably was more like a few minutes at best, because it was fast becoming dark outside. When the woods became very dark, I wandered off for home, dumbstruck by this amazing out-of-this-world experience.
Wonderful things can happen to you when you clear your mind, stop the world, and allow yourself to enter the "now". The present moment is pregnant with potential, if you will open yourself up to it fully. The sacrifices are small. You must be willing to forego the shopping list of haunting memories that lock you into the past, and your concerns that try to trap you into a contrived future. You must be open to the moment at hand and all that it offers you. You must seize the moment.
In this special state of heightened awareness, you may experience insight from your own higher consciousness, receive higher wisdom from the universal intelligence around you, or even step outside of yourself and explore a non-ordinary world of unlimited possibilities. In this state of heightened awareness, you will experience a personal sense of timelessness. Mystics and warrior athletes have been doing this for years. All it requires is discipline and practice.
You may want to try various meditation exercises to start you on your way. To simplify things a bit, I suggest a few meditation techniques that have always worked very well for me.
"Fade to Black" Meditation Exercise
• A straight-back chair
• A quiet, dimly lit room
Close the door to the room, so you can be quietly alone. Remove your shoes and sit erect in the chair with good upright posture and hands open (palms upright) on your legs. Get comfortable. Relax into a meditative state of mind by clearing your mind of internal thought and chatter. Close your eyes. Tune out any external noises or distractions. Begin to take deep, regular breaths. Allow your body to become numb. Let your mind go blank. As your mind goes blank, picture a clean slate in your mind's eye. Concentrate on seeing a black slate. Everything comes out of darkness. Start with darkness and wait to see what comes next. Do not anticipate anything. Simply stare at the black screen. It won't necessarily pop up instantly, but may take a while to appear to you. It's all up to you. Once you see the black slate, be open to what comes next. This is an opportunity for great insight and personal discovery.
Did you see the black slate in your mind's eye? It might not appear to you the first time you try. If you have difficulty with this approach, you might try picturing a white board instead, the kind of white board used for writing with colored grease pencils. Once you see the slate, you begin to might begin to see things written on the slate, things important to you. Your higher consciousness or soul might be speaking to you. Or perhaps you are receiving information outside yourself. Did you see anything on your slate? Keep trying. This is not the only way to meditate, but it's a good way to start.
"Stopping the World "Exercise
• Many people gathered together
• Many conversations or activities going on at once in a confined area
This exercise is done in two steps. In the first step, you should observe people's conversations and activities as best you can in ordinary fashion, by simply listening and watching as best you can to see what you can comprehend. (It's important, for the sake of this experiment, that many people be talking at once in a confused, noisy atmosphere, similar to what you might find at a party or social gathering.) Stand more or less in the middle of the group and look around, trying as best you can to understand what people are saying and doing.
In the second step, remain in the middle of the group with the noise and confusion the same as before. For the sake of the experience, in fact, it would be ideal if you simply stayed in the same location and did the second step of this experiment immediately after doing step one. In short, this is a continuation of the same confused scene. In this step, however, you should attempt to focus your attention on only one person talking at a time. Try to tune out everything else. You will need to shift your awareness and enter a heightened state of consciousness. Quiet yourself. Focus intently on one of the people talking. Project your personal energy to that person, as though you were hooking on to them like a magnet. Project your energy from your will centre. Picture it leaving your body from the region of your abdomen. Listen with your head, not your ears. Concentrate on the person you are watching speak. See and hear nothing else. Tune out everything else.
Were you successful in "stopping the world" around you and selectively focusing your sensory perception? This requires great discipline and practice, but is something you can learn to do to your great personal advantage.
Keywords: Creating Timelessness, master of time, meditation, Von Braschler, intuitive, Intuition, Articles, UK, South Africa, Cape Town