I am not a scholar of the French language, but I sit in meditation every morning. Also, I happen to love Rilke.
Allow me to interpret this poem myself –
Abandon for a moment
the World … the Surroundings
and go Within.
There is a place INSIDE
in your Interior … Tenderness
your own Awareness
your own True Self
If right now (or any time you wish to do so) – you close your eyes … and do nothing … and just be … you will notice that in that simple quiet state – there is something. It may be subtle, but it is not nothing. I don’t know quite how to describe it … but there is a faint sweetness … Mmm?
This, I suggest, is what Rilke is talking about. It is a simple, direct experience of your true self. It is not an idea; it’s an experience.
If you choose to be aware of your breath, you may easily do so. And when you are not conscious of your breath, you still breathe, mm? The difference between being conscious of breathing … and not being conscious of your breath … is only attention. When we are not aware that we are breathing, what is missing is merely the experience of breathing.
While the experience of the self is more subtle than the experience of one’s breath, our Self does not cease to exist when we happen to be ‘not paying attention’ to it.
To be a Human Being is like being a fly crawling around on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. We are fond of the idea that we know who we are and what our situation is … but really, we do not know these things. And this puts us into a position of not even being able to think something intelligent about an activity such as meditation.
Perhaps you will remember (in the film ‘The Titanic’) the girl invites her friend to join her & her family for dinner. After the dinner she tells him – “Now they’re going to go into the drawing room and smoke cigars and talk about how they are the Masters of the Universe.”
While (historically) no such line may have been uttered … it’s still a very important line in the movie … because we will not have a proper appreciation of the sinking of the Titanic without understanding the arrogance which caused it to sink.
And this arrogance is generic … is it not?
Should we imagine that we got here clean? That we somehow managed not to internalize any of the folly which is currently being practiced (and approved) … or is common to the human species in general?
If we understood ourselves, we would all meditate regularly. But we do not … so we don’t.
When (many years ago) I learned Transcendental Meditation, I resolved that I would do the practice (following all instructions, as I best understood them) … and that I would not consider quitting – for at least a year. I felt that a year would be a fair ‘trial period’. If after doing the practice for that long, I felt I should be able to evaluate whether my life had been affected in a positive way … or not. I did not want to be a brat … to quit after a few days or a week, declaring – “This is useless. I’m done with it” when I had not given it a fair chance.
Well, to be honest – I found it difficult at first … because I was habituated to “doing” … and I had signed up for a technique of ‘non-doing’. I could not DO it … just let it happen. And it was not easy for me – making the transition to ‘non-doing’.
But within a couple weeks of doing the practice, I had experiences adequate to convince me that something (different from what I had experienced before) was happening.
I’m about to explain – what to do … to meditate. But (for context) let me say – that there are many forms, many different kinds of meditation. Many assign the mind something (perhaps difficult) to do; and focus and effort are required. But not in this case.
I will ask you to be aware of your breath, but not to breathe in any deliberate manner. You will not be breathing deliberately … but … you will be deliberately aware.
If I were to say – “Think of a single, red rose” … automatically and effortlessly, the image comes to mind, mm? No effort is required.
Don’t make this something difficult.
This is a simple sitting meditation –
combined from a meditation on the breath (which I learned from Louise Hay)
and the basic technique which is used in Transcendental Meditation.
In this case the breath – is your “mantra”.
(Do not think that, just because the technique is simple and innocent
that it is not powerful.)
Feet flat on the floor
(or, if you prefer, sit cross-legged – in a lotus or half-lotus)
Head balanced (on the neck).
Close the eyes.
(Naturally, when you do this, you notice some quietness … some silence Mmm?)
After about half a minute
Begin paying attention to your breath.
Do not try to breathe more deeply than normally
(or anything like that)
Do not alter the breath
To keep track
(of paying attention to the breath,
gently) count your breaths
(not aloud, just to yourself, and very gently)
When you breathe in … and out, count “one”.
In … and out : “2”
… and so on … till “10”.
Then start again with “1”.
Probably we will hear noises, sounds (from somewhere).
We do not mind them.
Automatically we hear them .
We do not resist them.
We do not pay attention to them.
That does not have anything to do with us
or what we are doing.
Also you will probably have thoughts.
(this is natural)
We treat thoughts just like noise.
Not resisting them
Not paying attention to them.
If you were walking along a road
And someone came and walked beside you
That would not matter.
The fact that they are beside you
has no effect on your walking.
You are walking down the road
(being with the breath)
and someone else [your ‘thoughts’]
may be there beside you … but that does not matter.
Our attention is simply with the breath.
Now – if it should happen
that you come to the realization
that ‘I am no longer counting my breaths’ …
you do not worry about it.
You do not scold yourself.
You simply – come back to the breath
and begin again at “1”.
Whatever experiences may occur during a meditation –
that does not matter.
Whatever happens – we just
take it as it comes.
When 20 minutes has passed
stop paying attention to the breath
and just do nothing.
Just be silent
for about 2 (or 3) minutes.
Come out slowly.
Even if we did not feel “deep”
we still come out slowly.
Open the eyes downcast … close again.
Wiggle your fingers and toes
Stretch, open the eyes, close again.
Always begin your meditation with 30 seconds of silence
And end with 2 or 3 minutes of silence
As you come out
Hold onto the Silence.
Bring it with you, as much as possible.
This is not a difficult meditation.
It is almost completely effortless.
Only one thing may be difficult: establishing the routine, the habit.
If you are in the habit of brushing your teeth, it’s no trouble.
It’s simply a habit.
You should meditate 20 minutes
Every morning, after rising (and bathing) and before breakfast.
(and, if possible, again for 20 minutes, in the evening, before supper)
But at least once a day (in the morning).
You may have to struggle to ESTABLISH the habit, the routine …
But once you do, the whole thing will be effortless.
Achievement (in life) does not happen because of effort.