Who else meditates besides you and me and the Dalai Lama?
A countless number of people. Meditation has been practiced among a great many people groups since the beginning of our time. The Aboriginals of Australia, who had societies that existed 150,000 years ago, likely lived in an unbroken state of open consciousness—meaning that they were meditating continually in the process of living their lives.
Tribes of earth-honoring people who have lived throughout history had practices that kept them in tune with themselves while in nature; we would call their practices a form of meditation. Ancient cultures practiced rituals that helped them to deepen their focus and their concentration on what mattered to them.
The things that mattered to people who lived close to the land and didn’t have modern technologies were primarily things such as getting water, food, and shelter. Typical dramas that unfold in any society occurred as well. There were competitions and squabbles and there were threats from hostile invaders. But there is a primary difference between us and those that lived in these great ancient cultures: They used their practices of meditation and their rituals to think about their problems and come up with sustainable solutions. And this is still the case in some remote parts of the earth.
When you see great African tribesmen playing music and dancing intensely by a fire, you are witnessing them putting themselves into deep meditative states. It just looks different than what you might see in a yoga classroom.
The Japanese, the Chinese, and other great Asian cultures use meditation as a way of quieting the mind. And the people that were native to North America were very skilled meditators. Many cultures today incorporate meditation and prayer as a manifestation of their devotion and faith.
Here in the west we’ve been introduced to these types of meditations, but for us they are prototypes. In the west we meditate and fixate on our problems. We meditate and fixate on achievements. We meditate and fixate on relaxing. And I cannot judgmentally say that we are more advanced than those of the cultures that I am describing.
For people of these cultures, ritual, prayer, and their daily duties meld together so that their lives become constant states of meditation. When people live their lives like this, they have an unbroken connection to all of their energy fields. And they have a connection to their version of a divine creator—therefore, they are empowered.
In our modern societies, the only people that seem to be empowered are those that actually have power over other things. This is a form of power but it is not necessarily compassionate. In our societies, the people who are empowered are usually those who have wealth and luxury.
This may be true or it may not be. If a person with lots of money is connected to himself, to others, and to the land, then they are rich beyond words. But Inever seem to meet those people.
I think that I am fortunate financially. But I wouldn’t say that my finances have done anything more for me other than ensure that I am fed, clothed, and sheltered. All of those things are incredibly important, but they will never bring me the type of happiness that I demand. I want to look up into the cosmos and understand. I don’t want to be afraid of death. I don’t want to fear aging. I don’t want to suffer. But I’ve accepted that there will come times in my life that I will feel pain. People that I love will disappear. People that I don’t like will be present. I might not be able to control those things.
I use meditation to temper all of my cravings. I use meditation to recognize the patterns in my life and in my mentality. I have days in which I’m very, very calm and relaxed, and then unexpectedly I have days of anxiety.
Of course I feel better when I’m calm. I’m happier and I’m more productive when that’s my state of being. So I focus on trying to temper all of the madness that sometimes pops up in my head. Meditation is a tool I use to do so.
When you meditate you are not doing something “new agey” and esoteric. There’s nothing new about it—it’s been around for many thousands of years. And it’s not esoteric; it’s extremely grounded. We use the word “esoteric” incorrectly: The word esoteric should be used to describe our regular modern obsessions and our viewpoint on the accumulation of objects in the passage of time. Our viewpoints are so abstract that they are in fact esoteric.
Pursuing the deep desire to connect with the divine and our highest consciousness is the most grounded thing that I can think of. All of the bookstores that have sections with esoteric materials in them should put all the books on finance, all the books on psychology, and all the books on history in those sections. Any books on meditation, on nature, on emotional healing, on sharing, on giving, and on compassion should be filed in a section called “The Pursuit of Reality.”
I’ll conclude by stating a couple of things using the candid tone and language that I normally use as the native New Yorker that I am.
Forget what you think about meditation and happiness. Forget what you think about achievements and material possessions. Take all of that and put it in a box labeled as “My Old Way and My Old Attachments.” Now create a new box in your mind and call it “My New Way and My New Attachments.” Things going into it are all going to be your creations—not mine.
But you’re going to work on trying out a new set of concepts. The first of them will be that meditation is to become the centerpoint of all of your activities. Your new goal—before being a good father or mother, before being the richest human in the world—is to be a great meditator.
In your mind, set the idea in stone that you have nothing, or that you will lose all of whatever you have if you are not devoted to your meditation practice. Meditation will be the first thing you think of when you wake up and the last thing you think of before you go to sleep. In due time and in this way, and provided that you keep doing those things without fail, I personally promise you that you will have all the riches that you desire.