Here's what I've learned about inner peace, or states of ecstasy brought about by meditation. It's not something that you plug into like the world wide web. There's not this big ol' ball of joy and happiness bouncing around in the celestial planes somewhere that you can telepathically plug into through certain techniques of focusing the mind and meditating.
That's what I used to think. I tried everything. Yoga, tai chi, chanting, drumming, marijuana, all in the hopes of getting that knack. All in the hopes of achieving ecstasy, of finally figuring out how to alter my state of consciousness in just the right way to "connect" to the Godhead. Figuring out how to meditate just so, with just the right technique while listening to an mp3 recording of an Indian shaman chanting in some type of a transcendence ritual, hoping to connect and feel that explosion of total bliss that comes from oneness with God.
I was a New Age thrill seeker. Bait for some cult leader, if there happened to be any around. Luckily there weren't, and luckily I got out of that phase.
We are all one. Us and God. We are the same person. We are simply God, exploring Himself from different perspectives. God is all there is, and we are part of God. God is happy because God creates His own happiness. Since we are God, that's what we must do. These states of bliss and ecstasy, states that will sometimes make tears stream down a persons face while meditating are self-created. We are God, exploring and learning new ways, from a billion-trillion different perspectives, how to be at peace and to love Himself.
Even negativity helps. Think about when you learn to be confident and have self esteem after suffering years of social rejection, being terrified to talk to people or express yourself. Think about the misery you went through.
Now think about how sweet it is when you've looked within, worked on yourself and reshaped your character into a more confident and complete human being. How powerful and invincible you feel, like a paralyzed man who can suddenly walk, doing things that at one time you'd never dare to dream of doing. The negativity was nothing but a sling shot. It launches you into a higher realm of happiness. Suddenly something as ordinary and mundane as having a normal conversation with someone becomes a thrilling experience because of how hard such a thing used to be when you lacked the confidence to do so.
People complain that today's spiritual movement is turning into a self-improvement program. But what could be more spiritual than self improvement? Isn't God doing it all the time? What else is there for Him to do?
What I'm saying is that this is what meditation is. It is creating happiness. Not plugging into it. There is nobody else but you. You create happiness because there is nowhere else for it to come from. It's true! You ask an extremely happy person, especially someone who used to NOT be so happy, why they are. They'll give you an answer something like "I just decided to be."
This whole "plug in" mentality is a more subtle form of seeking joy from without rather than within, disguised as spirituality. You sit in the typical yoga position with your legs crossed and your back ram-rod straight. Your legs don't get any circulation and you back's as sore as hell. You cross your eyes in order to focus them on your third eye chakra and give yourself a headache on top of all that. Does this really sound like the way to indescribable bliss?
Unless you're at the point where the purpose of this type of exercise is self-evident to you, you're really only doing it with the "plug in" mentality. You're doing it with the attitude that if you do such and such a thing and focus your mind in such and such a way, you will attain enlightenment or bliss or spiritual ecstasy or what have you. You're either not ready for this particular spiritual practice or it's simply not for you anyway.
As you evolve and grow spiritually you find yourself picking up certain habits and discarding others. You develop a taste for new things and give up old things. Your attitude about the world is in a constant state of flux. Sometimes you'll feel inclined to take up the more stereotypical practices like yoga or meditation or a certain religion. But they will feel natural to you. Doing them will come as second nature. They will be a result of your happiness and will express and enhance what is already there. They will not plug you into anything.
The other problem is you are turning enlightenment into a goal. Goals can suck the life and soul out of everything you do. It's okay to be peripherally aware of a goal, but the importance is the process. The people who are the best at what they do did not focus on becoming the best at what they do. They loved what they did and you couldn't stop them if you tried. It was their hobby and passion. Just doing it was the reward in itself.
Just give them a toolbox and a pile of lumber. Just give them another car to tinker with. Give them another old computer to pick apart. Hand them the tools of their trade and get out of the way. You don't see them all steel-eyed and straight-lipped, working with grim determination until that blessed, glorious day when they've finally accomplished their goals. Their enjoying it right now!
Imagine being like that with everything you do! You have to untrain your mind from goal-oriented thinking and you have to process-orient yourself. It's nothing more than a decision. A shift of perspective. It's no more difficult than you make it.
If you think of it as ENLIGHTENMENT, some superhuman feat, you'll end up discouraged and beaten before you begin. Every attempt you make will seem to you like a spit in the bucket. What can kill your enthusiasm more than that? What can be worse than thinking about how many decades of misery and toil and grim determination you have to go through before you achieve it? By the time you "achieve" it you'll be a pale, gaunt and sickly human being. Doesn't sound very enlightening to me.
But when you completely accept everything the way it is for just a few seconds you'll begin to understand. I'm telling you it is possible to train your mind to be like this all the time. This is not a goal. It is a skill. You never set the goal to learn how to walk. You never set a goal to learn how to talk. You did it because you liked it. You liked imitating the sounds people made and observing their reactions to you when you were learning how to talk. You liked the different vantage points you got from pulling yourself up to a standing position when you were learning how to walk.
You didn't make goals and psychological issues out of them. You didn't turn them into twelve-step programs. You think it's hard to be at peace because very few people are. So it MUST be hard. It's a conspiracy of silence. Learning how to be at peace is fun. What could be more fun than deciding not to be anxious about anything and to be totally at ease, totally content? The reason for doing it is pretty self-evident. You don't need to turn it into an intermediate step in achieving a goal called enlightenment. Just do it because you enjoy it and your skill will become more and more subtle and well-controlled. Enlightenment will take care of itself.
And now I'm probably expected to give a list of steps on how to do all this. I won't. The reason I won't is because I had a specific group of people in mind when writing this article. The people who've read so many books and articles on spirituality that they can categorize them. Reading about spirituality has stopped being real and has become an intellectual study, a mental abstraction or a temporary read to help them feel good. People who are like I used to be. Reading but not quite listening. Hunting for a book that will show them how to have some profound, mystical experience. Not some boring set of steps to follow, but something that would work right now!
Let's say you've been given a college assignment. You have to write an article on how to retrain your mind. How to process-orient yourself. How to enjoy doing rather than achieving. I'm sure you've read plenty about spiritual growth and retraining the mind already. Now's the time for you to mix and match. Take a little from this and a little from that. Combine what you've read with what you know from experience and write an article as if you actually know what you're talking about.
How would YOU process-orient yourself? How would YOU learn to live only in the here and now? How would YOU recondition yourself to stop living FOR something and to start living vibrantly in the present?