Contributor: Subhan Schenker, who runs the Osho World of Meditation in Seattle. This post is part success story, part interview. Enjoy!
Mollie: Tell me about your meditation practice.
Subhan: I teach and practice active meditation techniques that incorporate body movement. The reason I chose these techniques is that when I first attempted meditation many years ago, I couldn’t do it; it was torture. I hated sitting still. One day in the midst of this learning process I went to a bookstore and asked the clerk what I should read about meditation. He directed me toward Osho, and as soon as I started reading it I knew his was the technique for me.
Our lifestyles aren’t what the monks of the past knew. They carried water, chopped wood and worked hard all day, which helped them release their emotions, allowing their minds to become less active. Then, when it was time to be still, their bodies were ready for it. We need the same kind of emotional release in order to ready us for stillness, for what I call “the Grand Canyon of silence.”
I invite you to go to our center’s website, worldofmeditation.com, or to osho.com to learn more about active meditation techniques like dynamic meditation and no-mind meditation.
Mollie: What about people who do have active lifestyles? Would you still recommend these practices?
Subhan: I would recommend that they try them. And that they try other techniques, too, until they find what works best for them.
Truth is what works.
Mollie: What is meditation?
Subhan: It depends on what you mean by the word. The meditative state is the state of relaxation, awareness and no judgment. It is the state of not thinking. Watching the thoughts, watching the mind, is the technique you use to get to that state. You know your meditation technique is working when, for a flash here and a flash there, you arrive into the state of meditation.
There are many, many people who are trying meditation techniques that don’t get them to the state of meditation. They may help them feel a bit better, but they don’t separate them from mind and therefore aren’t going to get them to the awareness, silence and stillness that they’re looking for.
Mollie: What do you tell beginning meditators about meditation?
Subhan: First, I tell them that meditation is not separate from life. The technique of meditation is something you have to create time to do, but the meditative state has to be part of all the rest of your life or there isn’t any substance to it.
Mollie: Any other basic advice regarding meditation?
Subhan: I often tell new meditators that in order to finally get what you want, you have to get enough of what you don’t want. Here’s what I mean: For each of us spiritual seekers there came a point at which we realized that everything we were told about the way happiness works, the way the world works, isn’t true. We did everything our parents and our society told us to do, but we were still miserable and unfulfilled. When we had enough of the anxiety, the fears, the worries, the difficult dances in relating with other people—the stuff we didn’t want—then our quest for true happiness began.
I often see new meditators give up very quickly. Partly this is because they don’t want to experience the emotions that meditating brings up in them, and partly it’s because they haven’t had enough of what they don’t want yet. They’re not ready.
Mollie: Okay. Now, let’s address the proverbial elephant. Are you a guru?
Subhan: No. I’m not a guru. I’m not a teacher. I’m a sharer. And who knows? Maybe even that’s saying too much. The truth is I have not a clue who “I” am
Any time there’s a notion of who “I” am, it usually gets shattered.
Zen masters say, “Not knowing is the most intimate.” It sounds odd, but the moment you finally stop projecting your ideas of who someone is upon them, when you finally decide to not “know” them (according to the mind), is when you experience the greatest possible understanding of who they are. This is also true of oneself.
Mollie: Are you special?
Mollie: There is nothing about your past lives, maybe, that makes you further along the path than others?
Subhan: I don’t play that game. Some people get involved in past lives, but I am more interested in this life!
I appreciate my own uniqueness and the uniqueness in every person. And I have no interest in trying to change them. I do have a mind that wants to try to change others and change the world. I was a lawyer in the past and I still have the mind to go along with that. But that mind is not me. I allow Existence to be.
Mollie: Existence being your word for God?
Subhan: There are many words. I like Existence. I like many others. What I know is that I’ve experienced moments of connectedness with something that feels so big, so vast, so beyond anything the mind can comprehend, that I just know it is real, whatever it is called. And then there are times when those moments are gone and the mind takes over again.
Mollie: Do you have challenges?
Subhan: Oh, yes. I love challenges. When I remember that I have support, they are wonderful.
Mollie: What do you mean by support?
Subhan: I mean things like meditation, relationships with people who are also on the path of discovery, and the words of spiritual teachers and mystics, and their books and recordings on spirituality. There are many more.
One of the great supports is to stop doing what you don’t love to do. Not filling up your life with have-tos.
Mollie: Are you enlightened?
Subhan: No. Yes and no. We are all enlightened, but most of us are also still identified with the mind, which conceals the enlightenment. I am often identified with the mind, too.
Mollie: How does one become enlightened?
Subhan: There is no way to teach that or describe that. It is a quantum leap. After having tried everything possible for six incredibly difficult years to disassociate from his mind, Buddha came to the point where he recognized the impossibility of getting somewhere that is not the mind. He sat under the Bodhi tree and surrendered—and then it came. He entered the no-mind space. Osho describes a similar giving-up experience leading to his enlightenment.
Until that moment of true letting go, we only get very brief glimpses of enlightenment. When this happens it looks so close, but it’s still very far away as long as the mind is there.
It’s a quantum leap. It’s illogical. You can’t get there by trying, and you can’t get there by not trying! What a paradox!