“At Times I Hopped Like a Frog … Between Smiles and Tears, I Continued my Inward Journey.” — Guru Muktananda: A Primal Perspective on Spirituality, Part Three — Cathartic Meditation
What Really Happens in Authentic, Deep Meditation
Janov’s position that meditation is simply an attempt at inducing relaxation, which is then called bliss and couched in terms like “oneness with God” (1970, pp. 221-222), is an uninformed opinion that leaves out of consideration the variety of spiritual experiences that occur during meditation.
Only Now Can It Be Told
Why Janov might think this is understandable, however. Explicit information on meditation experiences, especially during the earliest stages, has not always been easy to come by. For centuries there existed the belief that spiritual experiences were to be kept secret and not freely discussed. But the belief that emerges in our age is that the times are such as to make possible certain allowances that formerly were denied. In this vein several masters have in this century written personal accounts of their spiritual experiences; some even have allowed themselves to be tested by scientific methods. Adding to this are the findings of the ever increasing body of meditation research that, for the first time in history, has been taking place in the last half century.
“Between Smiles and Tears, I Continued my Inward Journey.” — Guru Muktananda
From the writings of Paramahansa Yogananda (1946) and Swami Baba Muktananda (1974), we are able to derive a conception of meditational experiences that is totally at variance with the notion that it is merely an attempt at relaxation or that it is, as Wilber claimed, distinct from “pre-” states. Muktananda writes, for example, “Various feelings emerged during meditation,” and “Sometimes I was happy, sometimes sad. Alternating between smiles and tears, I continued my inward journey” (p. 75).
He talks about innumerable movements that occur in the process of meditation (p. 77). Most interestingly, he notes that these movements are automatic and “continued for a prolonged period” (pp. 82-83). “At times I hopped like a frog. Occasionally my body moved violently as if possessed by a spirit” (p. 78).
The Yogic Experiences No One Tells You About
Muktananda explains that “the practitioners of Siddha Yoga have a vast variety of experiences about which one neither hears nor reads” (p. 76); that because of this an aspirant might abandon the path out of sheer fright (p. 77). Unaware of the variety of emotions and experiences entailed in the spiritual process, expecting perhaps only “bliss” (or relaxation?), the aspirant may think he or she is going insane (p. 77). He himself, however, sees all these experiences as part of a natural process that is cleansing in nature and makes possible access to higher levels of consciousness.
“Meditators Commonly Experienced Intense Feeling States….”
Additional examples of these kinds of meditational experiences are given by Kapleau (l980) and Kornfield (1979). In fact, Kornfield reports that incidences of “spontaneous movement” were the most common experiences reported by beginning meditators (p. 45). He notes also that “Meditators commonly experienced intense feeling states and frequent dramatic changes of mood,” with examples of such including “screaming mind trips,” “violent crying,” “huge release of anger,” and “heavy sadness” (pp. 47-48).
The Goal Is Different from the Path
In these descriptions of emotional discharge/release we can see similarities to what is described as occurring in primal therapy.
Spontaneous, Automatic Movement in Meditation ~ First-Line Feelings in Primal Therapy
But the descriptions of spontaneous and automatic movement are especially interesting. In many respects they recall the experiences that primalers with access to their “first-line” pain (preverbal, usually surrounding birth) frequently encounter. In fact, it is exactly this kind of relation (between the physical and emotional experiences reported by Kapleau, Kornfield, and others and perinatal experiences occurring outside of the spiritual disciplines) that is noted by Bache (1981).
The bliss and equanimity described in the spiritual literature are thus associated most strongly with the advanced stages of meditation and should not be confused with the experiences entailed in the process of getting there.
Most of What Passes for Meditation Is Anything But Mystical
The point is that there is more to meditation than mere relaxation or undiluted “trans-” states. Although evidently, as Rowan (1983) put it, “Most of what passes for meditation has nothing much to do with mystical experiences at all—it is just the achievement of a very calm state” (p. 21). From what I have seen, most of meditation as understood today is about learning to become more repressed and neurotic … less alive. It is all about trying to push out of consciousness all the upsetting things of life–all the things which when faced, embraced, and integrated can be gone beyond and can enrich one.
Still, Rowan continues, “it is possible to get small or large peak experiences through meditation” (p. 21).
Real Meditative Experience May Not Be So Relaxing
Thus, it appears that the techniques of relaxation have to do with attempting to still the vagaries of pain-derived tension, the internal dialogue, so as to gain access to areas of consciousness that are “outside” and more fundamental than these vagaries. And contact with those areas may not be so relaxing!
Continue with The Primal Serene — A Primal Perspective on Spirituality, Part Four: How Passion Promotes Serenity and the Detached Observer in Catharsis — The Eye of the Storm
Return to Is God a Defense? Is Passion not Spiritual? A Primal Perspective on Spirituality, Part Two — To Travel Unafraid Through All the Rooms of One’s House
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