The world of spirituality is a world of minds. Zen Mind. No Mind. Diamond Mind. Enlightened Mind. Beginner's Mind.
But none of these terms means much to someone who hasn't paid his or her dues in spiritual circles, and who has not learned the jargon that they tend to use. There are some who feel that the jargon is essential, that there simply are no adequate translations in English for some of the terms and concepts that make up their philosophy.
I never bought that. During the periods when I was teaching meditation, I kept running into folks who were somehow drawn to the subject, but were investigating it for the first time. They didn't have the background in Eastern thought and its sometimes esoteric terminology to follow my talks if I peppered them with terms like 'Zen Mind.'
It was frustrating. I'd set up a series of talks, paying for them myself so that folks could, for once, get something of value for free. And I would have at most an hour, an hour and a half to try to connect with them, to impart some sense of the incredible value I had found in the study of meditation and spirituality.
Teaching is a humbling experience. I think that's why even the enlightened teach. No one ever reaches the point in their lives where they have everything together, and we all need reminders of the things that we take for granted, and probably shouldn't. Teaching is one of the best such reminders. You stand up or sit in front of a roomful of people and give the best talk you can manage, covering all the bases, going over the essentials of how to meditate step by step, doing your best to enable folks to experience its simple silence for themselves. And, having spent the better part of an hour going over everything you think of, you are about to begin the first meditation when this small voice from the audience asks, "Should I breathe?"
Teaching is a humbling experience. We who have spent decades in the practice of meditation and its related arts assume so much. Who would have thought to remind people to breathe, and breathe normally, during their first attempt at meditating for themselves? Well, I should have. It's part of your job description as a teacher of meditation, trying to forget for a moment all of your own assumptions and put yourself back in Beginner's Mind, for the benefit of beginners.
And teaching the steps of basic meditation is a snap compared to trying to convey the intricacies of concepts like satori or samadhi or, even worse, enlightenment. In my opinion, jargon doesn't really cut it when attempting to describe these mindstates. What you long for is something basic, something real, something that almost everyone in the audience can identify with, can get on a deeply intuitive level, and can thus map to their own personal experience, even if they have not had the particular experience you are attempting to describe.
One reason I was drawn to Rama in the first place was his ability to do just that - to cut through the crap that surrounds much of spirituality and just talk plainly, using everyday terms that the folks in the audience could identify with, because they were everyday. He was a master at finding the perfect metaphor from the world of movies or business or athletics to enable the people he was addressing to make a mental leap and connect the feeling that the metaphor awakened in them to a similar feeling about the concepts he was trying to convey.
I have attempted to do the same for years now, in my teaching and in my writing. And I have failed miserably. My own assumptions keep getting in the way, leaving me halfway down an unfamiliar road, excited about the view and attempting to describe it to my audience, only to look around and find that they weren't there. I had lost them back at the turnoff, but was so caught up in my own excitement about the view that I hadn't noticed. Like I said, it's a humbling experience.
How do you describe to someone who has never experienced it the ecstasy of the spiritual path, the sense of freedom and joy and newness that it brings to your life? Well, I think I've finally found a way. There is a concept that almost everyone I meet has in common, and can identify with. I call it the V word. And no, that's not shorthand for vajra or some other esoteric spiritual concept. It's shorthand for vacation.
There is magic in taking a Road Trip.
Everyone reading this understands that magic perfectly. You slave away at work or at school, doing your best to do your best until it wears you down and the magic disappears from your life, to be replaced with a sense of tedium and sameness. So you bite the bullet and actually schedule some time off, pack a few clothes and books and CDs, hop in your car and just take off on a Road Trip. You get yourself the hell out of Dodge for the weekend or for a week or only for a night, and suddenly the magic returns to your life.
If you're at all like me, the sense of magic starts as soon as you slip behind the wheel. You turn out of your driveway onto the same old street and it isn't the same old street any more. It is vibrant and alive with possibilities, because you have broken free of the ruts that routine has worn into your life and you are vibrant and alive with possibilities.
You hit the highway and find that it is indeed a high way. You stop for gas at a rural gas station and find that it is not just another gas station. It has charm and a sense of at-home-ness, and you find yourself having a wonderful conversation with the folks who run it. You buy a necklace from the Indian woman who sells them there, to remind you later of the place and the conversation. You stop for lunch and the food tastes better. It's just a salad, but it's one of the best salads you have ever tasted. You pull back onto the highway and find yourself smiling at truckers as you pass them, waving back at kids on vacation who wave to you from the back seat of their parents' cars. You wave because you share their sense of adventure, their sense of excitement at being on the way to somewhere new, somewhere exciting, somewhere you have never been before.
The simple secret of Road Trip Mind is that you have already arrived at that place. The destination you have chosen is almost secondary; the anticipation of that destination and the sense of openness to new experience that it brings to your life is what allows you to smile and wave to your fellow travelers. You are already somewhere new and exciting. You have achieved the state of Road Trip Mind.
And the simple secret of meditation and the spiritual path is that it allows you to live in Road Trip Mind all the time, 24/7.
You wake up in the morning and sit to meditate, and your mind goes on a vacation from its self, journeying to a place called Self. The sense of sameness fades - the same old thoughts and same old worries and same old perceptions of the world around you settle down and a sense of newness returns. You open your eyes, and the world is as new and as vibrant as if you were on a Road Trip to somewhere exotic and wonderful.
Because you are. We are all on a constant Road Trip. It's just that sometimes we forget it. Think back to your last really cool vacation. It was magical while you were away, right? And if you are at all like me, that sense of magic did not go away the moment you returned home. It lingered for a while, and for a few days or weeks or months your life really wasn't the same old same old. You went back to the same old work or to the same old school, but it wasn't the same. There was a sense of newness about it, because your Road Trip had energized you and put you back in touch with newness itself, and reminded you that life can be new and exciting.
Well, that's what meditation is about. It is a technology for opening ourselves to the newness of every moment. It is a way to sit quietly at home and take our minds on a Road Trip to exotic places, so that it comes back refreshed and energized, back in touch with the magic that is life when you are open to it. And it's one of the best travel bargains on the planet. I highly recommend it. Contact your local travel agent/meditation teacher today and try it for yourself. You'll like it.