A Meditator's Journey

Meditation is learning to journey through different landscapes of the mind without loosing contact with my heart’s desire.
There are so many great epic stories of adventures in which the hero or heroine wanders through dangerous landscapes guided by their heart’s desire. Each landscape is an initiation into a deeper understanding of the power in a sincere, compassionate life.
The epic The Lord of The Rings can be interrupted as a metaphor for the meditator’s inner journey. Fido, the reluctant hero, is sucked into quick sand, wades through swamps, gets swept up in swift turbulent rapids, and becomes entangled in cob webs. He sneaks into darkness of caves and learns not to disturb still waters. He is continually seduced by the power of gold, the lure of which almost drives him to madness.  At every turn in Fido’s journey, he was hampered by the hungry desire of his enemy and fellow traveller, Gollum.
Any meditator who has sat on the cushion long enough knows the muddiness of the mind, the never ending turbulent flow of thoughts and emotion, the entanglement of desire piled upon desire upon desire for something, someone, someplace, other than the present moment.
In an unexpected moment when the meditator’s mind is stable and malleable as gold, she will have the power to meet and embrace her starved enemy which continually pushes her, drives her and impels her forward seeking endlessly. As Fido’s heroic journey comes to an end, he discovers the true nature of his enemy Gollum. Gollum is just like himself, only he had lost his way. Gollum forgot his deepest heart’s desire. 
It is Fido’s heart’s desire for peace and brotherhood which guides him like a bright shinning star, lifts him from the swamp, cuts through the webby entanglements and carries him from madness to sanity.
And like every meditator, who learns to rest quietly in her heart’s deepest desire, Fido returns home.
The techno colour 1930’s film the Wizard of Oz is another fantastic journey that mirrors the meditator’s journey.
The journey home for Dorothy begins when her little dog, Toto, bites the not so friendly neighbour. Just as the neighbour shoves Toto into a basket to be taken to the sheriff to be killed, Toto escapes. Dorothy fearing for Toto’s life, runs away from home.
I think of Dorothy is a naive girl on the verge of becoming a woman. Her little dog, represents her instincts, her gut feelings, and an inner knowing. Dorothy’s inner knowing, threatens the neighbour, who does not live by her instincts, her heart hardened by some unknown circumstances.
Some part of Dorothy, realizing that she is endanger of loosing her ability to listen to her inner voice, act rashly, as teenagers do, and runs away seeking “somewhere over the rainbow”. Dorothy naively believes that there is a place where only happiness and peacefulness reigns. She believes her true home is somewhere other than where she it. She believes it is a place.
Somewhere over the rainbow, reminds me of some of the idyllic ideas people have about meditation. Some how, in our culture, meditation is an idea, not a journey. It is state of dull peacefulness in which there is no thought, no feeling, and a kind of numbness to the world and all its great joys and sorrows. Meditation is thought of a special place where one cannot be disturbed. Having attempted to practice this type of meditation, I now find this idea amusing. In the perfect silence of the perfect meditation room,
the meditator will be disturbed by no one other than her own
personal Wicked Witch of the West or Gollum!
Back to Dorothy. On her journey down the road, anxious
about the future, Dorothy consults a fortune teller. He tells
her to go home, her beloved Aunt is ill.
I am reminded at this point of riding in a car with my teacher
between Toronto and Ottawa. My teacher has a sharp mind
and cutting tongue. Another passenger in the car was passing
the time by telling engaging stories of a physic who reveal to
her numerous past lives. The woman was quite animated in
telling her strange and wonderful stories from her past. This
went on for a while, my teacher saying not a word. This in itself
is highly unusual for her. When like a surgeon she shredded the
woman’s story to pieces. “You better keep track of this physic,”
she advised,” so she can tell you what you are doing in this life.” Like
Dorothy’s fortune teller, my teacher advised the woman to return home to this present moment. 
Dorothy tries to return home. But when a storm arrives, she is hit on the head and knocked unconscious.
Driven by concern for her Aunt’s well being, Dorothy tries to return home. But conflicting emotions interfere with her desire to be with her Aunt. Perhaps she feels guilty about running away and is fearful of facing the consequences. Perhaps she continues to be intimidated by the neighbour. Perhaps a tiny voice inside is still singing “Somewhere over the rainbow.”  It’s hard to say. But in my experience, conflicting emotions often feel like a tornado’s rage.
She is hit on the head and knocked unconscious. I am reminded of The Queen of Hearts declaration when Alice asks too many questions while journeying through Wonderland. “Off with her head,” the Queen ordered.
Dorothy is over thinking her conflict instead of acting on her heart’s desire. Knocking her out, letting her dream world sort out her conflicting thoughts and feelings is the only sane thing to do. When confused, stop thinking about thinking. It only adds energy to the conflict. Go for a walk, have a bath, go bowling, anything but sitting and brewing. 
Dorothy wakes up in a magical land. Her house has landed on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her. In the film, we see the witch’s scrawny legs and ruby shoes sticking out from under the house. The Good Witch from the South, Glinda, enters and gives Dorothy the Witch’s ruby shoes. With lots of drama, The Wicked Witch of the West suddenly appears demanding her sister’s shoes. Glinda reminds the Wicked Witch that she has no power her in presence. The Witch disappears as quickly as arrived but not before threatening Dorothy and her little dog. 
Stunned by these extraordinary events, Dorothy tells Glinda she just wants to go home. The Good Witch advises Dorothy if her wish is to come true, she must seek the Wizard of OZ. Dorothy is told she will find him by following the yellow brick road and not taking off her ruby shoes.
There are three essential themes pertinent to a meditator in this part of the story. One, in the presence of goodness unhappiness has no power and is vanquished.  Many people meditate because they are unhappy with a part of themselves. They feel the need to get rid of some part of themselves which they do not like. They feel this blemish of their personality or ego impedes their personal happiness. Many people also diet, workout, go to school, climb the ladder, etc, for the same reason.  This generally creates more unhappiness. A friend once said to me, “Be careful not to trade one kind suffering for another.”
Happiness occurs when we recognize our essential goodness will always shine brighter than those murky shadows lurking in our hearts. When we shine our goodness into those shadows they loose their power to create unhappiness. It is not sin which needs to be removed from the meditator’s heart/mind, but altruistic love needs to grow bolder, brighter, and more confident. The essential goodness which creates every human being must become the motivating force for all activity including meditating, dieting, working out, climbing the ladder, and so on.
The second teaching offered here directly relates to the path of meditation. The ruby shoes represent Dorothy’s wish to go home. She must never take them off. She must never loose her heart’s wish, or she will be lost. It is essential that the meditator know her heart’s wish. It is the genuine concern for another’s welfare that will carry the meditator into the certainty of her heart. Or in other words, home. Dorothy must learn to walk in this understanding.
And where must she walk? On the yellow brick road. No matter what happens, Dorothy must not venture off the yellow brick road. The yellow brick road is the object of meditation. In an efficient meditation practice, one which will create happiness, first one states one’s intention. “I wish to return home to my heart.” Then one picks an object to meditate on. There are many objects for meditation, the breath, mantra, flowers, mandalas, movement, death, just to name a few. Each object  of meditation has its particular medicine. A meditator who understands the medicine of different meditation objects is able to guide another in her choice of meditation objects. Once the object of meditation is chosen, she practices focusing her mind on the meditation object. Again and again her mind will wander from the object and with care and tenderness the meditator will return again and again to the meditation object. With awareness she must be careful not to venture too far off the object, just as Dorothy must follow the yellow brick road. It is necessary to return to the object of meditation at least 100,000 times before the mind will rest quietly. At this point the mind is stable and will with ease act only upon the heart’s desire. But before the mind will find the peace of the heart, many challenges must be put to rest.
Dorothy and Toto set off. It is not long before they meet the scarecrow who lacks a brain, the tin man who lacks a heart and the lion who lacks courage. Dorothy invites each one along to meet the Wizard. She is certain he can make wishes come true.
Meditation requires the intelligence of question. My teacher used to say, “An awakening mind is a curious mind.” The intelligent are curious. To discover a new way of being, enter the secrets of the heart, one needs to question the beliefs that guide one’s daily life. Such beliefs maybe: one’s value is determined by clothing, car, house or career; or, one has to be deserving of love; or, I am indispensible. Everyone has their personal favourite belief system which gets them through the day. It is the intelligent mind which has the discipline to question and analyze each belief. “Is this true?” the intelligent mind asks. Please note, this has nothing to do with how well read an individual is.
Meditation requires heart. An intelligent mind, can be a rigid and stale. It requires the softening influence of the heart. While intelligence, using question, nibbles away at one belief at a time, the heart does not question. An open heart is like a witness. It is able to see what is without the need to judge, analyze or contradict. The heart is essential for a blissful meditation practice.
Finally there is courage. It is said that the moments before the Buddha awakened, every hair on his head stood straight up in fear. The journey into the heart is not for the faint of heart.
Together Dorothy and her friends follow the yellow brick road passing through a shadowy forest overcoming several unnerving obstacles.  Arriving at the edge of the forest, they glimpse the Emerald City: the home of the Wizard of OZ.
The Wicked Witch schemes against their arrival and cast a spell “Something with poison in it, attractive to the eye and soothing to smell, poppies.” She covers the yellow brick road in poppies. Soon Dorothy, Toto, and the lion are fast asleep. The scarecrow and the tin man, bewildered cry for help. Glinda appears with a counter spell and it begins to snow. The snow awakens the travellers and they are once again on their way.
Every meditator at one time or another has to conquer the bliss of sleep. It dulls the senses, clouds the mind and our heart’s desire is quickly forgotten in dreams within dreams within dreams. The Wicked Witch understands human nature. She knows that an easeful existence, comfort and beauty easily lull the most curious mind into sleep.
Many people approach meditation in this manner. They want to believe that meditation is about having a beautiful vision or a deeply sensual experience. They become expert at stepping outside of the cares of ordinary life, the difficulties, the unfulfilled desires and slip into visions of a better world. They dream that their meditation is a special time, a special place, where in the privacy of their own mind, they act out fantasy after fantasy after fantasy, trying desperately to forget, their heart’s desire, to come home.
There is a reason why meditation is called the path to awakening. Meditation is a tool used to extinguish the dream and wake up the wondrous truth of now. Meditation is a powerful tool that strengthens, balances and stabilizes the mind. It is through meditation that one can clearly experience each moment with the fullness of life. Meditation brings to awareness the rich tapestry of emotions weaving through each day. Meditation frees one from the prison views where one wastes away becoming hungry for the touch of compassion. Meditation is a gift that teaches one to stand their ground, not be swayed by other’s ideas, opinions, and views.  Meditation is the only way path I know that leads home, to the heart, to one’s own inner truth. Although bliss is a beautiful by product of meditation, it is not purpose as Dorothy is soon to learn. Glinda knows this. She sends cold snow to wake up Dorothy and her friends. Sleeping in snow is not blissful.
In the Emerald Palace Dorothy and her friends meet a green disembodied head which roars like a wrathful god. The Wizard commands Dorothy to return with the Wicked Witch of the West’s broom if her wish is to be granted.
The Wizard’s request of the Wicked Witch’s broom is like asking yourself the question, “How much am I willing pay to live my heart’s desire?” Everything comes with a price. This is as true as the Buddha’s uncomfortable First Noble Truth: There is suffering.
There is an insightful creative visualization called The Store. During the visualization you enter a store where you choose a quality of being. A shop keeper then tells you its price is something that you must give up. You must decide whether or not you will pay the price and take the quality home or leave it in the shop.
The other day, I did this visualization with a woman and she chose security as her quality. The shop keeper told her the price was love. She left security in the store.
For Dorothy, the price of going home is overcoming her fear of the Wicked Witch. She must subdue the one who threatens her instincts, lives only in head, does not listen to her gut feelings, and distrusts her heart. Dorothy can not return home as long as she runs from her fears. She must discover, as every meditator who sits long enough does, that her fears are empty as a rainbow.
In search for the broom, the friends journey to the Wicked Witch’s castle. They yellow brick leads them into a creepy forest where they are attacked by flying monkeys.
The creepy forest is what is called in meditation the “guardians of the threshold.” When a meditator dreams of corpses, skulls and graveyards, or has hair raising visions of rattling bones, she is on the verge of an understanding which will shake loose a false belief which lies to her day in and day out. When the guardians of the threshold appear, the meditator will be asked to give up a cherished belief that  keeps her from living in her true home. The guardians of the threshold are fierce shop keepers, demanding a price for passage.
At this point in a meditation practice the mind becomes wild with crazy thoughts and even crazier emotions. Sort of like flying monkeys.  In the creepy forest Dorothy is attacked by these very monkeys.
Dorothy and Toto are carried off the by monkeys. They loose sight of the yellow brick road and find themselves locked up in the witch’s castle. Fear is now in charge of Dorothy’s heart. She is paralyzed, unable to act, does not know what to do. Dorothy falls into despair.
When the guardian of the threshold appear, is essential that the meditator hold firm to her heart’s desire and steadies her focus on the meditation object, no matter how creepy the shadows or how fiercely the monkeys howl.
Luckily, Dorothy’s loyal companions, intelligence, heart and courage realize that only by becoming the enemy can they overcome its terrifying power. They dress as the Wicked Witch’s guards and enter the castle.
In the meantime, Dorothy agrees to give the Witch her ruby shoes to save Toto’s life. As the Witch goes to grab Dorothy’s shoes, sparks fly and they both learn Dorothy can only be parted from the shoes in death.
Here Dorothy acts altruistically. She understands that if she gives up the ruby shoes, she may never see her home again. Dorothy is willing to risk everything to save her little dog, her instincts, gut feelings, inner voice. Strangely, even though the shoes remain on Dorothy’s feet, Toto is saved.
The heart has a special kind of magic. Somehow, when follow our heart, even when though it may mean incredible sacrifice, everything seems to work out for the best. The heart’s wisdom is able to cut through the drama of who did what to whom, or the scheming soap opera of manipulation, it does not sigh the lonely song “Poor me”. The heart acts instantly with courage for the welfare of all. The root of the word courage comes from the French word for heart, coeur.  Dorothy’s willingness to surrender her ruby shows is her first initiation into the heart’s magic, compassion.
The Wicked Witch still has a grip on Dorothy’s mind and locks her up. Toto breaks free and finds Dorothy’s friends: intelligence, heart and courage. Together they release Dorothy from her locked room and begin to flee the castle, forgetting the purpose of their journey to the castle, the broom. Fortunately, they run straight into the Wicked Witch.
In her previous encounter with the Witch, Dorothy had a taste of an altruistic heart’s power. But it was not enough for her to have confidence in it. She still did not have the courage to face the Wicked Witch. She still believed running away was a good solution. In meditation, the more one tries to get away from a thought pattern or emotion, the louder it becomes. It is only when one looks directly, calmly with a compassionate heart at fear, does one see its true nature, emptiness. 
The Witch turns her wrath on the scarecrow, setting him on fire. Again Dorothy, fearing for her friend’s life, acts quickly, without thought, and throws a bucket of on the fire. Some of the water splashes onto the Witch. Slowly, with dramatic effect, she melts into a green puddle, leaving behind only her broom.
Rage burns hot. It destroys friendships, marriages, parent-child relationships. Most choose to control their rage with depression or addictions. Rage’s power to annihilate can be likened to a forest fire destroying everything in its path. When the mind is deeply anchored in the calm waters of the heart, rage melts away.
For a second time, Dorothy learns that selfless acts of compassion, overcomes all fear. Triumphant Dorothy and her friends leave the castle with the broom.
Upon returning to The Emerald City, Dorothy demands the disembodied head grant their wishes. The head, like most experts who rely only on the head and discredit the heart’s special way of knowing, when challenged with a new reality, becomes fierce and threatening. Confused and bewildered, Dorothy and her friends do not know what to do before such fantastic antics of power. Toto, once again Dorothy’s instincts, is curious about what is behind a curtain in the corner of the room. Throwing open the curtain, a little old man, pulling levers and shouting into a microphone is discovered. He is the true Wizard of OZ.
The Wizard is the final belief which Dorothy must overcome before she can return home. Dorothy believes that it is not within her power to take herself home. She truly believes it is only through the intervention of some outside force, and in Dorothy’s case, as wrathful force, that Dorothy can find her true home.
In some ways, the Wizard in his wisdom must have understood this, for he made a good show of the powerful disembodied head. But in his kindness as an old wizen man, he shows each of Dorothy’s companions the qualities they wished to embody, intelligence, heart and courage, were always within them. The lack of a brain, heart and courage was a misconception that each one had about the very nature of their being. The Wizard, with kindness, encourages each of them to look within to discover their true nature.
In meditation, seeing one self with clarity, is much more beautiful than poppy fields. There is a gentle strength that develops when we learn that we are more than what we lack.
Dorothy however is still struggling with this realization that she has the power to create her reality, her home. The Wizard takes pity on her, and agrees to take her home in his hot air balloon. (I think the hot air balloon is a funny symbol for a whole lot of nothing.) With ceremony, Toto, Dorothy and the Wizard get into the balloon’s basket. Moments before take off, Toto leaps out of the basket. Dorothy runs after him and the balloon takes off without them.
Despair again settles over Dorothy. Her friends offer comfort. She is inconsolable. It is then that Glinda appears and Dorothy begs for help. The Good Witch says,
“You do not need to be helped any longer. You have always had the power to go back to Kansas.”
Glinda goes on to explain that Dorothy needed to discover this truth on her own. And asks Dorothy what she has learned. Dorothy suddenly realizes that her heart’s desire comes from within. It is not something separate from the very core of her being. She realizes that is she can not find happiness in her own back yard, she will never find happiness. Dorothy’s life’s activity is now firmly planted in the truth of her heart’s desire and she returns home.
This is the meditator’s journey home, to her heart.
Meditation is learning to journey through different landscapes of the mind without loosing contact with the heart’s desire.
There are so many great epic stories of adventures in which the hero or heroine wanders through dangerous landscapes guided by their heart’s desire. Each landscape is an initiation into a deeper understanding of the power in a sincere, compassionate life.
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