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Natural Awakenings Tampa Florida

Returning to The Garden Of Meditation

Apr 29, 2022 09:58AM ● By Dr. Larry Castellani
Youg girl meditating in the park

There is a place where the fruits and flowers, the peace and happiness of meditation, are to be found. Call it The Garden of Meditation. This metaphor of the “garden” might recall the image and story of the Garden of Eden in the Bible, and this would not be misguided.
But before we find out how to return to the garden, let’s revisit what meditation is thought to be. Socrates, of ancient Greece, pointed us to the meditative life when he said “Know thyself,” because the unexamined life is just not worth living—a stark warning but also an invitation to the peace of mind found in the contemplative pursuit of truth. So Socrates suggested we ask the question, “Who am I?” to find the greatest fulfillment.
In southern India in more recent times, Ramana Maharshi also asked the question “Who am I?” Ramana suggests a return to the “I Am” that “I Am,” a meditative self-experience beyond changing identities. This is the way of finding that inner garden of silent, still serenity at the Heart of Consciousness. This is an “I” that is not dependent on things of/or identified with the ways of the world.
Jesus likewise suggested we “die to our worldly selves in order to find our true self.” One’s identity and true being is not in or of the world but in the divine spirit of the “I Am” where the solace of love is to be found. This “spirit” is the “I Am” which God says He is in the book of Genesis: “I Am that I Am.” Jesus also reveals his true nature when he, also in the Gospel of John, states, “Before Abraham was, I Am.” Jesus identifies with the Absolute God that exists before and beyond time. Less grandiosely and with a lighter comedic touch, but equally seriously, Woody Allen said, “Well I’ve got to identify with somebody; why not God?”
But where is the “I Am that I Am” beyond all identities and personality? We can go in the right direction when we consider that rather than asking “Who am I?” we might simply ask “Where am I?” This can help us actually experience the reality of the Spirit of Consciousness that “I Am,” not merely think or imagine it.
So we can find who we are, the key to enlightenment, and the final fulfillment we seek by asking where we are. That is, who I am almost doesn’t matter if I am lost somewhere,—somewhere beyond the eternal presence of my true self—here and now. If I am spending all my time and energy attending to things, thoughts, emotions, imagination, “there and then,” I cannot be abiding in my true self in the unchanging “here and now of pure Consciousness.” But again, where is this true self? How do we “locate” it? What is it actually like to experience the pure consciousness of the Eternal?

Ask yourself, “Am I conscious of this chair in front of me?” Yes. “Am I conscious of this thought or feeling?” Answer is yes, of course, because I’m conscious. Well, if I am conscious and conscious of this or that external or internal thing alone, then why can’t I “turn” to consciousness itself and let consciousness experience itself as consciousness alone? And see what happens!

Consciousness may place its awareness on anything it chooses, whether external things, internal mental things, emotional preoccupations or imaginative reminiscences, hopes or dreams. But the final completion and fulfillment of the search for peace and happiness is always already given beyond all these things—that is, the place of the living spirit of the light of Consciousness which “I Am.” I am NOT the body, thoughts, roles, personality or beliefs. I am simply the I Am that I Am, pure and simple.
So when we ask “Where am I?” we are asking where Consciousness “places” its awareness and attention. Placing its awareness on things, thoughts, emotions and fantasies is quite alright. We are free to do so. But meditative peace and happiness is found when Consciousness returns to the boundless, “place-less” place of its absolute abiding—its eternal source in the Self which we already always are—given like a gift from God and guaranteed.
For most of us, Consciousness gets controlled by and lost in the world. If Consciousness can be let to turn around, so to speak, and return to awareness of our own true, ever-present certainty, we can be at home in the garden, a kind of Garden of Eden, anytime we choose. Moreover, when world, mind and emotion are seen to be within the limitless light of Consciousness, then we can be totally at ease in that external world also. Consciousness is the ever-present abiding Source and embrace of all things, even especially itself.
So ask yourself, “Where am I, really?” There is only one place where I know, see and feel myself truly—in the unconditional, boundless, independent Light of Living Consciousness. We find in this “return” to Consciousness immanently within, the sweet silent stillness of Divine Solace. Consciousness is the only Absolute—the eternal Light encompassing and comforting all. This is The Garden of Meditation.
Dr. Larry Castellani is a retired philosophy professor living in Clearwater, Florida. For 27 years, he has been teaching his unique Integral Awareness Meditation. For more information, call 716-816-5464.