Meditation as Science Experiment

Meditation as Science Experiment

A reflection on practice by Greg Scharf

One way we might regard the meditative process is as a kind of scientific field work. The field of study for this investigation is the terrain of our own body & mind, and our main research tool is mindfulness. Our objective in doing this investigation is to learn as much as we can about both the world within us & the world around us.

The attitude that we start with when beginning any period of research is absolutely critical. If our mind is filled with unseen assumptions & held prisoner by all that we think we know, our ability to actually open to the reality of each arising moment will be severely limited. We know so much – at least we think we do. Is there a way that we can step beyond the boundaries of all we think we know, all that we believe to be true, and perhaps find what J. Krishnamurti called “freedom from the known”?

Albert Einstein once said: “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” He also said: “There are two ways to live your life. One, as though nothing is a miracle. The other as though everything is a miracle.” In my mind, the difference between these two attitudes is almost as profound as the difference between being alive & being dead.

 Catholic priest & author Henri J.M. Nouwen wrote: “The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control….

The sense of waiting, actively present to the moment, is a great description of mindfulness practice. Might we possibly adopt this kind of attitude when we sit down to meditate? Can we trust our ability to meet each moment with attitude that some teachers call: “don’t know mind”. Zen master Suzuki Roshi called this “beginner’s mind“. He once said: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

What if we were to simply settle back & trust that new things will present themselves? New things that are beyond our prediction, perhaps far beyond what we believe to be true or possible? Might we cultivate the attitude that everything is a miracle, and allow a quality of openness & perhaps even a sense of awe inform our life & everything we do – especially our meditation practice? We then have the possibility to engage in the field work of meditation with a fresh mind: a mind that is open to many possibilities & meets life with both interest & a sense of wonder.


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