“Meditation is the self doing itself by itself”

“Meditation is the self doing itself by itself”
KLASS Blog Thought for the Day

Many in our community find meditation a useful practice and in today's blog Dan explores the topic.

Meditation is the self doing itself by itself - Kosho Uchiyama

Wise, clear and searching in his writing, the iconoclastic Zen teacher Uchiyama Roshi challenges the reader to a discovery of the ultimate rationale for meditation; The cultivation of a sense of self beyond our usual everyday notions and one that wholeheartedly lives out the truth of life.

Rousseau wrote in ‘Emile’ that any person, whether royalty, celebrity or of considerable wealth, is born naked and poor, and when he/she dies, must die naked and poor. This is an undeniable truth for us all. And yet it is also true that we wear clothing of various kinds from the moment of birth until our death. But these clothes aren’t only made of cloth, they comprise of the fabric of our emerging personalities, a woven mixture of innate potentials and internalised threads of other people's lives around us, from the very moment we breathe-in for the first time. Spiritual practice is one of slow and deliberate unclothing and a chosen return to nakedness or originality of mind; What Suzuki Roshi called a return to the ‘beginner's mind’ of infinite possibility.

'Fresh' store front image

The movement to abandon and immerse oneself to the intensity of this moment’s experience, reveals the ways in which we are not the same person we were at this time yesterday, or on this day last week. A human mind does not stand still and human relationships are never fixed. Truth itself, is not a collection of static facts, but an infinitely morphing and inherently mysterious reality. We move toward and away from the truth of the moment, seeking to know and to deny some realities with which we’re confronted. When starting a meditation practice, it can initially feel profoundly uncomfortable to sit with these existential truths and great internal pain can accompany the other difficulty of exterior noise. But in time, through staying with whatever arises without moving away, a deeper confidence in the capacity to be awake to everything emerges.

Abandon your memory, your desire and your understanding

In summarising the work of another brilliant psychoanalyst (Wilfried Bion), Donald Meltzer once urged the reader to “Abandon your memory, your desire and your understanding” in order to provide a truly reflective space to self, others and the world. I have not personally come across a better summary of the core meditative attitude. Whether one follows or counts the breath, focuses attention on an image or animate object (a candle flame, for instance), or makes some effort to relax attention until body and mind drop away, the degree to which this attitude or intention is grounded in the heart is crucial to the trajectory and outcome.

Are you ready to unclothe and seek the beginner’s mind in yourself? Today is a fresh day. Practice being aware of each moment with a beginner’s mind.


The thought for the day is a short reflective writing relevant to the art of suffering well (enough) in difficult times, for parents and staff of Alice Smith. If it offers comfort amidst adversity, read the text and call it to mind when needed (even if just a short phrase from the larger text), allowing it to soak into the marrow of your bones and merge with your breath. Remember, we are all in this together…

Take good care, Dan

Author: Dan Lawrence, Primary Counsellor, The Alice Smith School

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