Managing Stress – Part 4
Meditation With Seed
What follows is an excellent mthod of learning innerdirectedmovement.
In classical yoga there is one definition of meditation which states it is of two types. One type is meditation with seed; the other is meditation without seed. The first means we take a subject for meditation, or use a meditation technique such as mantra or breath control, or have a goal. So in this type we have a starting point to grow from, a central theme, or an organising discipline. But meditation without seed is the opposite. There is only being, existing, without goal or aim or focal discipline, except freeing oneself from any form or direction which arises.
About forty years ago, while leading a weekly meditation group, I took the first type of meditation literally. I gave each of the group a seed to meditate on. The idea to do this had arisen because I believe one of the main reasons meditation has been used through the ages is as a means to awaken new types of perception.
In yoga this is usually referred to as expanded consciousness, or becoming-one with the subject of meditation. Andrew Jackson Davis called it The Superior Condition. When he used such expanded awareness he could ‘see’ the physiological, energetic, and cosmic activities within human beings and was able to diagnose and treat illness. He was also able to look into the workings of nature and understand the place of human beings in the cosmos. Writing about his findings early in the last century he described the process of evolution, and published it prior to Darwin’s findings.
Davis, after having written such books as The Great Harmonia, became a medical doctor late in life, so as to practise medicine with less hindrance. Another doctor, M. A. Bucke, wrote in his book, Cosmic Consciousness, his belief that the human species is moving toward this new type of awareness.
But it was from Rudolph Steiner I evolved the technique of the Seed Meditation. Steiner himself had the expanded faculty of perception, and with it, amongst other things, made a study of how men and women without this faculty could begin to develop it. In his book Knowledge of The Higher Worlds, he gives one of the basic exercises of perception. He suggests taking a piece of dead wood, and a living plant and looking at each in turn. As we look we need to take note of not only what we think and feel, but particularly of what other subtle responses occur in our being. We also compare the responses which arise in connection with the dead object with those occurring with the living thing.
When this faculty of ESP occurs which enables us to see deeply into the nature of things, it comes as an uprush into consciousness of deep experience of the thing we are considering; or as an amazing overall view of countless pieces of information and experience we had never before put together. Sometimes it even comes as an expansion of our being so great that we take in at a glance activities in the universe which our tiny viewpoint, centred on eyes, ears, fingers and thoughts, could never accomplish.
So this early exercise is to help us become aware of responses in our being within and beyond the usual direction we focus our attention. That is, when we seek information we usually direct attention to our senses, our tissue reactions as in emotions, our thoughts, our memories or conclusions from them – but we seldom note our postural response, temperature change, alteration in our energy level, fantasy eruption, sexual impulse, inclination of will; and most important, the composite experience which can only emerge when each is allowed to add its dimension of experience.
Even though this is a basic exercise, when I and my group practised on our seed we still didn’t arrive at observable results. So I gradually formulated an extension of the meditation which nearly everyone can gain something from. Like any other form of meditation it needs to be done regularly over a period of time for its benefits to become usable, and, for some people, it will at first be nothing more than an exercise in conscious thought.
If practised with understanding, however, it exercises our intuitive faculty, mobilising it sufficiently to awaken it. But it is still a first step. So when the intuitive appears, further meditations are necessary to bring it to the point where it becomes a practical extension to our already existing faculties.
The first step is to obtain a seed. Any sort of seed will do. But it may be helpful if it is something like a pea, on which the ‘germ’, the point from where it grows, is visible. Then look at the seed in as many ways as you can, i.e. as a piece of matter, as food, as a shape, as a feel, as a smell, under a magnifying glass, and so on.
Then think about what you have seen and what you already know. Consider what you can learn from it. In what ways are there any similarities between it and you (i.e. you were a seed in your mother’s womb?). Think about stages of growth. And take your time.
Next consider what you feel about the seed. Are you feeling disinterested amazed – curious – confused – empty? Take time over those phases of the meditation. Do not attempt to do it all on one day. It may even help to plant the seed on wet cloth or against the inside of a glass jar where you can see it swell and grow.
The next phase of the meditation needs a particular setting. The meditation is a means of opening to all of the aspects of our being in a way we may not have done before. So we need a setting where we can give attention to what is occurring in our being; where we can explore our spontaneous responses and not be disturbed. The place needs to be warm enough to be comfortable in, and with a blanket or something soft underfoot. Clothing needs to be loose enough to move around in easily
When you are ready, stand in the middle of your blanket. If possible, feel thanks to nature and its processes for your existence – and toward fellow human beings for their shared work and thought. The meditation has now begun. From the feelings of thanks, turn your attention to the idea of a dried seed. It can be any sort of seed, but preferably the type you have already considered and maybe planted. But this time we are not thinking about the seed, just holding the idea of it gently in mind. We are leaving thought behind and exploring another way of experiencing.
Without trying to be completely rational or scientific, what might it feel like to be a seed? Does it feel like a seed to simply stand with arms by sides? Does it feel like a dried up seed with arms raised above ones head? Watching this subtle sense of what feels unlike or like the seed, experiment with body positions until you find a position which feels for you like an expression of a dried seed. There is no ‘right’ position, only what feels right for you.
Don’t struggle with this meditation – enjoy it. Once you feel reasonably satisfied with your position, imagine what a dried seed might feel like inside. Is it waiting, sleeping, unconscious? Whatever you imagine it to be, allow your own inner condition to be as nearly like it as you can. Then check over details. Do the limbs and head feel right for a dried seed? Can you allow yourself to dwell in the inner condition?
THE GROWING SEED
The next stage is very important, so do not move into it until you have satisfied yourself with these first stages. Next we move gently into what may be called imaginative, spontaneous, or intuitive meditation. To do this we allow our body and feelings to fantasise or imagine, just as we have done so far in finding the position of the seed, but more flowingly now.
So, give your body and mind permission to express themselves freely and without prior consideration, in expressing the seed receiving rain in warm soil. The seed absorbs the moisture and the process of growth is triggered. The seed puts out root and stem and becomes a seedling, then progresses through its whole cycle of growth, blossoms, seeds, and dying.
When doing this meditation give yourself at least fifteen to thirty minutes to complete it. Unlike many forms of meditation this is without struggle, and usually the whole sequence of growth flows out of us as we allow our being the freedom to express.
And there are surprises in it too. Many people find the meditation has its own dynamic, and they can only grow to a certain stage, or the unfolding story throws up unplanned details. These details of how our own growth in the meditation occurs are relevant to our own life situation. For instance, finding it difficult to put down roots might point to your difficulty in staying in any one place, and so on.
The meditation is an exercise in allowing our own unconscious feelings and wisdom about ourself and life to express more freely. So it can usefully be practised regularly. I would not suggest every day for most people, but certainly once or twice a week. Each period of meditation will produce something slightly different, enlarging on or continuing the theme previously dealt with. Only a personal experience of this amazing ability to produce the new can convince one of the creativity we each have within us.
VARIATION FOR THE GROUP
There is another form of this seed meditation which is a great pleasure to use, and is helpful in developing a new ease and warmth in relationships. I have used it with a number of groups, and if it is led up to slowly and time given for people to feel their way in without a sense of rush or pressure, it leaves them feeling much more in contact with themselves and others.
This is basically the same as already described but done as a small group of three, four, or at the most, five. The members of the group need to have already experienced the seed meditation done individually before they attempt it as a group. This is not absolutely necessary, but it helps. It helps also if each person has at least once practised two other meditations – the Earth and Water meditation.
These are done in just the same way as the seed meditation. The instructions I usually give are as follows: Stand in a relaxed open manner, and hold in mind the idea or word ‘earth’ (or water). Just as you did with the seed meditation explore what postures and/or movements express for you the feelings and ideas connected with the earth from which all growing things arise. Allow yourself to explore the meditations, letting spontaneous fantasy or movements to arise if they occur.
After the individuals have established themselves in these three (seed – earth – water) meditations they come together as a group and decide who is going to be the seed, and who earth and water. I usually suggest that when they are ready, the seed takes up the dried seed position and waits for the stimulus toward growth to arise out of the relationship with the persons in the role of earth and water. When and if this occurs, then the course of their meditation is the same as doing the seed alone, but with added dimensions. How, in terms of human relationship in the meditation, does the growing seed take up the water and minerals and lift them to the sun and build a form?
To the earth and water their meditation is similar but reversed. How do they penetrate with water and warmth, in human terms, the enfolded seed, to release its growth? And then, how to enter into the life forces of the plant as it unfolds?
IT ASKS MORE OF US
Some people are at first reticent or have never explored these possibilities in human relationships, unless perhaps they trained in drama or dance. If the meditation is entered into enthusiastically though, it becomes a learning and growing experience. The seed grows and releases warm feelings and pleasures in its own unfoldment that touch the earth and water and involve them in the drama of its own experience.
It is very rewarding and helpful for the group to share what they experienced after the meditation has finished. The actual meditation should be entirely non-verbal – although some groups are vocal in that they feel the expression of sounds, humming or emotive sound a part of their experience. But the sharing of the experience at the end is a release and completion of what went before. Then, the group can allow someone else to be the seed.
The seed meditation used in these ways is an extremely simple way of starting or developing one of the most important aspects of yoga -namely, allowing the emergence into consciousness of material from our wider awareness. It does this in a gentle way acceptable to a large number of people. This leads to a gradual expansion of consciousness as we touch more parts of our nature, bringing about spiritual growth.
We learn to work with the spontaneous process in us, active also in dreaming, which brings to consciousness parts of ourselves otherwise ignored. As we integrate piece after piece of our inner life we literally grow as a person. We absorb into our waking self more of our personal past, more of our heritage as a mammal and life process, more of the treasures of culture and spirit left us by humanity. Our life of spirit has begun.
Being a seed in a group gives us a social opportunity to receive a sort of powerful healing we seldom receive in our society – the healing of touch. Laying on of hands has always been recognised as a way of helping a tired or sick body back to health. Modern doctors and nurses are now recognising the importance of this. They are learning to hold patients’ hands, to be warm, to touch. In the seed meditation the earth and water can gently relax and open the seed with their touch. So the meditation is one of healing as well as growing.
The group meditation is of enormous help in learning to touch, to allow into ones own experience, a part of someone else’s inner life, and to help another human being begin the miraculous process of exploring the height, depth and music of their own being. So make yourself a seed bed and grow a little.
Andrew Jackson Davis
Thoughts On The Seed Group
Rituals of Beauty
Mind and Movement
Liberating the Body
Rituals of Beauty – Mention of Coex