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Look Both Ways

See your inner and outer worlds as one with this open-eyed meditation.

By Richard Rosen


When we meditate, we often think of "going inside." We close our eyes and focus our attention on some internal process occurring spontaneously, like our breathing, or performed deliberately, like the repetition of a mantra. The logical assumption—and an idea reinforced by our teachers—is that the object of our meditation, our authentic Self, is somewhere "inside" us. Accompanying this belief is the idea that the "outside" world, with its distracting hustle and bustle, is an obstacle to meditation. Patanjali outlines this classical view of meditation in the Yoga Sutra. For him, the material world was devoid of Self, and was ultimately a hindrance to Self-realization. The classical yogi is often compared to a tortoise retracting its limbs and head into its shell, as here in the Bhagavad Gita:

Having drawn back all his senses
from the objects of sense, as a tortoise
draws back into its shell,
that man is a man of firm wisdom.

(Bhagavad Gita 2:40, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

But some yoga schools are founded on the belief in a divine Self that creates, sustains, and pervades the surrounding world and its inhabitants. In the words of the Tantric scholar Daniel Odier, the universe is an uninterrupted density of consciousness fulfilled by the Self. While the outside world is infinitely diverse, it's unified in that divine Self. "Inside" and "outside" are thus better understood as relative rather than absolute locations.

According to these schools of thought, if we exclude the outside world from our meditation, we figuratively cut the Self in half, and the best we can hope for is a partial Self-realization. "Going inside" is an important first step in establishing what we think of as inner awareness. But then, from this center of awareness, the next step is to reach out and embrace the outer world as not different from what we think of as our inner Self. the seal of happiness

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Reader Comments

veena Grover RYT

In my opinion,self realization is extremely important for our growth.Building a strong character,Feeling stronger & honest inside should come first, before we meditate.Inner cleaning,surrendering to higher power & not getting too much attached with social parties,thinking negative about others, even becoming judgement about others is wrong.Be open minded,talk less,be more spiritual with inner prayers,helping others & praying for others,builds our character & make us stronger human being & lead us to peace & stillness.Sit still & close eyes,let the thoughts travel in front of your eyes, welcome them & with time they will become your friends & won't interfere in your meditation or deep breathing.The above article is very supportive for Meditation.Thanks.

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