The idea of mindfulness is that there is more happening than what we perceive from the thinking mind. There is a deeper level of insight and knowing that comes when we bring our full attention to the present moment. The thirteenth and fourteenth-century Sufi poets wrote bodies of work which capture the experience of awakening more fully through a settled mind.
“In the ocean a lot goes on beneath your eyes,” wrote Hafiz. When I am meditating, those words often drift into my consciousness. As I sit for a while, I begin to uncover a whole world of experience that exists just below the surface of my non-mindful life. It’s as if I am on a boat looking out over the large sea and all that I’m aware of is the presence of water, light, and shadow. Yet just below me are every imaginable type of fish and plant, along with predator and hunted, life and death…
Steve Jobs described his meditation experience similarly:
“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things — that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before.”
Sitting in stillness enables us to shed the thick layers of distraction and get a deeper look. When we meditate, we open our eyes to the deep, mysterious, and beautiful world otherwise obscured from view. There are sounds, emotions, tensions in the muscles, and habits of the mind and body, all floating around beneath our consciousness, and then our minds settle and suddenly a whole world, previously hidden, comes to life.
Questions for your meditation practice:
- Have you ever been snorkeling and been surprised by what you see underneath the water’s surface?
- Or have you had a similar experience where a hidden world is revealed through discovery and going deeper into exploration?
- What hidden worlds have you uncovered in your meditation practice this week — sounds, sensations, thoughts, feelings?
This post is a short excerpt from Edie Raphael's The Art of Being Present: Mindfulness Meditation for Work and Life. The full book can be purchased here.
Credit: Photo by Milos Prelevic on Unsplash