The Clearing Meditation

ANATTA, ANICCA, ABHAYA

ANATTA means “no-self”. When you say the word, bring the meaning to mind. Do not treat it as a negation or attack on your ego. Take it to refer to the conscious part of you that is not identified with anything. See if you can connect with a neutral space of pure awareness within you. We start with ANATTA, because if we do not consciously find a neutral space within, and disidentify from the forms of our ego, the rest of the meditation may be hijacked by one subpersonality or other and will lose its effectiveness.

ANICCA means “impermanence”. All things change. Nothing stays the same. Impermanence is a law of nature. We too are here for just a brief time, no longer than a “brief candle”. We must let go of the illusion of permanence, which is the central illusion of the ego. The ego is just a temporary psychological configuration, but it maintains itself in being through the illusion of permanence. It is a self-fulfilling belief. Because we believe our ego (which is just another word for “personality”) is permanent, we behave as if it were permanent and solid. When we remind ourselves of ANICCA, impermanence, we relax our hold and become more fluid and flexible. This is also a very important attitude at the start of a meditation, because it means we are open and sensitive to change, and not rigid, resistant or defensive.

ABHAYA means “fearlessness”. We must put on the fearlessness of a spiritual warrior as we enter into meditation. This is important to combat the fear that is at the heart of the ego. The ego is afraid for itself. It is afraid of death. Both ANATTA and ANICCA mean death for the ego. If we cannot overcome this fear, we will once again fall back in thrall to the ego. It welcomes us back with obsequiousness and cold comfort: “You did the right thing to give up. Well done. Stay here with me. You’re safe with me. We’ll look after each other. Don’t go out there again. It’s dangerous.” To break through the shell of the ego, we must be fearless even in the face of death.

KARUNA, KARUNA, KARUNA

KARUNA means “compassion”. Confronting the fear of the ego and fear of death, we encounter suffering. The spiritual journey is beset by hardship and struggle. We cannot avoid great suffering if we are to change and die to ourselves. We need the soothing balm of compassion. Compassion is not pity. It literally means “suffering with”: com passio. It is the willingness to share the suffering of another, and so help carry the load. We can arouse compassion for our own suffering as much as the suffering of another. We can also receive the compassion of an archetypal “divine being” such as Avalokitesvara, Isis or the Virgin Mary. Perhaps the most powerful visual depiction of compassion is that of the pieta, Mary weeping over the broken body of her son. Bringing this scene to mind cannot fail to arouse deep feelings of compassion in us, which we can then direct to our own sufferings “in Christ”.

DOSA NIRODHA, KARUNA

DOSA means “hate” or “aversion”. It is a negative psychological attitude of dislike, disgust, anger, rejection. NIRODHA means “cessation”. So when we say the words “DOSA NIRODHA”, we become aware of any unacknowledged negativity or resentment we might be carrying, and gently let it go. If it does not dissipate completely, we are content with lessening its energetic charge and so reducing its hold on us. We bring compassion to the suffering caused by DOSA, and the suffering that caused it. We bring compassion also to our inability to free ourselves of it completely. DOSA, if it does not arise in the heat of the moment, as when provoked by an adversary, is generally connected with past slights and resentments. It is the negative energy of our “unfinished business”.

TANHA NIRODHA, KARUNA

TANHA means “thirst” or “desire”. It is the opposite instinctual drive from DOSA, a pulling towards, rather than a pushing away. It encompasses all forms of craving, clinging, neediness, lust and desire. It includes spiritual desire as much as sexual desire or desire for fame and fortune. TANHA can be as distracting and destructive as DOSA. Psychological issues associated with DOSA are those around phobias and traumas, and anger management issues. Those associated with TANHA are addiction issues, substance abuse and obsessive compulsive disorders. By bringing the energetic charge of TANHA to awareness and consciously letting it go with compassion, we can begin to reduce its subliminal hold on our lives.

DUKKHA NIRODHA, KARUNA

DUKKHA means “suffering” or “unsatisfactoriness”. It was the recognition of the problem of DUKKHA as the tragic and inescapable fact of life that impelled Shakyamuni Buddha to strike out on his spiritual quest to find a solution to human suffering. The first of his Four Noble Truths is the self-evident existential truth, “there is dukkha”. DUKKHA is broader than physical pain or even psychological pain. It includes “having what you don’t want” (DOSA) as well as “not having what you want” (TANHA), but also, more subtly, “not having what you have” and “not wanting what you want”. In other words, being generally dissatisfied. Life just doesn’t seem to live up to the billing. Free even from the push and pull of DOSA and TANHA, things just don’t feel right. There is a subtle background malaise. The psychological issue here is depression. Where DOSA indicates an inability to let go of the negativity of the past, and TANHA indicates an inability to deal with the seductive lure of the future, DUKKHA indicates our inability to enjoy the present.

UPEKKHA, UPEKKHA, UPEKKHA

UPEKKHA means “equanimity”. Equanimity is a dispassionate philosophical attitude. Whatever comes our way is treated equally, without preference or deference. We resist the temptation to react negatively with DOSA or greedily with TANHA. We refuse to react with the dissatisfied indifference of DUKKHA. UPEKKHA is a state of poised equilibrium. It is a condition of spiritual fortitude in the face of the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” (Shakespeare), the capacity to “meet with Triumph and Disaster/ And treat those two imposters the same,” (Kipling). By arousing the quality of UPEKKHA, we complete and consolidate our withdrawal from hate, greed and suffering and turn to face any eventuality with strength and courage.

KARUNA, MUDITA, METTA

KARUNA means “compassion”. This is the golden thread that runs through the whole meditation. We bring the healing power of compassion to bear on all our psychological struggles and difficulties. The difference here is that we are now in a position of spiritual strength from which we can bring compassion to others. We bring to mind the suffering of sentient beings and send out healing compassion to all.

MUDITA means “sympathetic joy”. Here we share in the happiness and joy of others. It is the positive correlative of KARUNA. KARUNA and MUDITA can be seen as the psychological antidotes to DOSA and TANHA. When we encounter difficulty, pain and suffering, we don’t like it, so we instinctively react with aversion, DOSA. But we can bring compassion to alleviate the suffering. Thus compassion is the antidote to hate. When we encounter success, joy and happiness, we might react with envy, another form of DOSA, or with craving, TANHA. We like it and we want some of it. Or we can bring sympathetic joy to celebrate the success and happiness of the other without wanting a part of it. Thus MUDITA is the antidote to greed. It is like sharing in the achievement or pleasure of a young child. If they are enjoying a lollipop, it would be ridiculous to desire the lollipop, or we are no better that a young child ourselves. In KARUNA we “suffer with”; in MUDITA we “enjoy with”.

METTA means “love” or “loving kindness”. We send love and good will to all sentient beings, whether suffering, happy or indifferent. METTA is the antidote to hate, greed and suffering and blesses both the giver and receiver. Once we have made an inward clearing of our psychological ties to ego, permanence, fear, hate, greed, envy and suffering through self-compassion, we find that love arises and flows naturally and easily. Love is the crown of The Clearing Meditation.