Thursday, December 13, 2012

Imaginative Meditation II

Scott Bradley


Imaginative meditation is a meditative practice that attempts to realize in experience what has been suggested as fundamental to the human experience. It is not intended that one make something happen, but that one see what happens. Nor is it intended that conditions be created that facilitate something external to move us within. It begins and ends in human experience; nothing more.

The previously discussed passage on "fasting of the heart-mind" goes on to suggest that one "find the empty room" within. If it is there, presumably one will find it; one need not create it. But is there such a 'place'? Is there emptiness at the core of your being? Only you can answer; we can generalize and say that emptiness is at the core of all things, but until and unless one experiences it for oneself, generalizations do not matter. Still, the generalization, the suggestion that you will find it if you look, can decide you to look. In this sense we might say that the cognitive, the generalization, is the midwife that delivers one over to that which the cognitive cannot know. And this, of course, is precisely what Zhuangzi has to say about the role of reason generally: It is perfected in finding its limits and pointing us onward and elsewhere. Zhuangzi's approach to life is holistic; all aspects of the human experience are to be affirmed — mind, emotion, self, body — only no one aspect can be allowed to be the "ruler".

Ivanhoe (The Sense of the Antirational), in his refutation of the idea that Zhuangzi is an advocate of a kind of yogic meditation, suggests that he advocates a kind of "cognitive therapy". Unfortunately, he does not (as far as my reading has taken me) elaborate on this much, but I think it is essentially saying what I have suggested here by "imaginative meditation". His term does, to my thinking, only describe one side of the coin, however. It does indeed begin "cognitively", but it is intended to go beyond cognition.

Empty space on the page allows that I return to the “empty room”. “Find the empty room.” Our generalization says that emptiness lies at our core, and if this is the case, it shouldn’t be necessary to make a case for it. It is self-evident and there to find. We ‘exist’ as if in a void; nothing underpins our being. We seem to arise from nothing and return to nothing; from darkness to darkness; from mystery to mystery. If this translates into a deep sense of emptiness within, then from the Daoist point of view, that is precisely where we want to go to reconnect with our origins. Like qi (or is it qi?), this emptiness, as experience, is experienced as receptivity. It is an openness. Openness to what? Just openness — why should openness require an object? Dao is openness. It is the Great Thoroughfare. It is that and where everything happens.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

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