In my eight years of regular meditation I’ve come across a slew of good teachers. People like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Peter Russell, Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. To a person, I’ve found them to be committed, thoughtful and effective teachers.
But the one who resonates most with me is Adyashanti (FKA Stephen Gray). A former Buddhist monk who hails from Northern California, Adyashanti’s teachings convey, in plain, accessible language, the basic concepts necessary to get the gist of meditation.
His teachings also, crucially, best carry meditation’s salutary influences into our daily lives. For instance, accepting each moment as it is in our meditation helps strengthen our ability to accept each moment as it is at home, work or just driving on the highway.
Here are a few of Adyashanti’s main precepts.
Your true nature
First, he believes that meditation is a way to allow your true nature to experience itself. That true nature is buried most of the time by our thought factory minds. Meditation quiets things down inside so we can merge with our true nature, something that is always there.
What is that true nature, or true self? It’s the life force within us. It’s our spirit. Our soul. Some, like Maya Angelou, call it the voice of God within us.
I believe that allowing our true nature to emerge, to take over the steering wheel of our lives, is the purpose of life. It’s what the spiritual path is all about. As Adyashanti says, meditation facilitates that emergence of our true selves.
Meditation as art, not science
Second is his assertion that meditation is an art, not a science. That is, it’s something that we can’t just grab onto and corral with our will. Meditation requires a “light touch, an ease, a softness, something we need to get the feel of, the hang of…” as he says.
This is why meditation is so difficult for we hard-charging Americans. We’ve all been taught that in order to get what we want in life we need to work furiously to control the world around us. At work. At home. Everywhere.
This approach to life is unhealthy for us and for the people around us. Meditation requires us to take our hands off the world and to let it be as it is. When we do that, when we accept the flow of life, the tension inside us melts away. Is there anything better than that?
Become your true nature
Third, Adyashanti enourages us to “get rid of the meditator.” I heard him say this about four years ago and it’s what initially drew me to his teachings. It blew me away. Why?
Most meditation practices involve a subject-object dynamic. There’s the subject (me, the meditator) and the object (my breath, a mantra, sounds…whatever’s happening in the present moment). That’s two entities.
What Adyashanti is saying by “get rid of the meditator” is to just quiet down and then merge into and become your true nature/self. You’re sitting with your true self as one entity. It’s who you are so why step back and observe it? BE it.
As for his specific meditation instructions, they are simple and encapsulated by what he calls the three commitments. These are the three things Adyashanti says we need to commit to during each meditation session.
The three commitments
1. Be still. By this, he means be physically still. Try not to move around. Why? Because physical stillness facilitates stillness of mind.
2. Allow each moment to be exactly as it is. This one has been the big enchilada for me for years. Adyashanti calls this the heart of meditation. We can only find our natural state of awareness when we fully accept the present moment as is. He calls it the quality of letting go. It’s synonymous with nonresistance. It relaxes me just writing this paragraph.
3. When the mind wanders, patiently and compassionatelybring it back.This one isn’t much different from what all the other teachers say, with one caveat. Instead of bringing attention back only to our breath, Adyashanti includes another option: bringing attention back to our natural state of awareness. What the heck does that mean? It means bringing our attention back to the stillness inside us.
I highly encourage listening to this talk Adyashanti gave a few years ago. It’s 35 minutes and summarizes his meditation approach. Listening to it will also give you the feel of his voice and manner which strikes all the right notes for me.