What Is Straight Line Meditation?
by Carol E. McMahon, Ph.D.
(Colden, NY USA)
As anyone who meditates will tell you, mind’s wandering gets in the way. You sit down to attend (to a mantra, candle flame or the breath for instance). Then instead of attending you drift and dream, wander in circles, while away time. If you could stop the wandering, you’d go straight to your goal.
This article shows how to do just that with an easy to use straight line feedback method. Here’s how it works.
How Feedback Prevents Wandering
Meditation demands attention but even with our best efforts, attention is easily lost. Why? Because we lose attention without knowing we are losing it. We set out to attend, but attention slips away unseen. We find out only later when we wake from a daydream. The psychology of learning holds a solution. It’s called feedback. Let me explain.
Meditation is like shooting darts blindfolded. If you can’t see what you are doing, you can’t correct your aim. You need to know when you’re on target and when you’re not. Practice makes perfect only with feedback.
Practice Makes Perfect Only With Feedback!
Feedback is necessary for learning any skill, including attention. Skill learning can’t occur without it. That’s why many meditate with no increase in practice skill. (You can even get worse with practice.)
Traditional meditation lacks a way to monitor attention. Surprisingly however, the feedback meditation needs is easy to access. Indeed visual feedback has been right before our eyes all along, unrecognized. Here’s where to find it.
To Find Feedback - Open Your Eyes
Throughout its long history, meditation has been associated with light. Light sensations are often noted (“illumination;” “white light” - the light of enlightenment). We never knew what caused the light, however. We did not know it was feedback: attention feedback to be precise – the proof of attention effective meditation demands.
What causes the light? In eyes-open meditation (Zen’s open gaze for instance), light sensations are produced when focused attention holds the eyes still. Good attention creates a fixed image (held in the same place on the
eyes’ retinas). This uses up photo pigment (like exposing photographic film). Retinal fatigue occurs and with it visual distortion in the form of light.
The light means you’re on target. It confirms attention with positive feedback, and when your mind wanders, it signals loss of attention with negative feedback. When your mind wanders your eyes wander and the light vanishes. The disappearing light means get back on target. Using light this way you see what you’re doing. Then, as in darts, practice skill improves automatically. Here’s the how-to.
The Feedback Method How-To
Producing feedback is as easy as gazing at a spot on the floor. A two inch round of paper with a pea sized bull’s eye serves as a focus point. Focusing Discs specially designed to facilitate feedback are also available. http://www.StraightLineMeditation.com/FocusingDiscs.aspx
Focus attention on the bull’s eye and feedback (visual distortion) comes within seconds. When it does, simply attend to the light (or other distortion your fixed gaze produces). Attend to the light and you anchor attention. You can then hold attention the way you’d grab a rope for a tow. You go in a straight line to advanced meditation skills and benefits.
“Seeing The Light:” The Straight Line Advantage
Even Gurus admit to wandering when they’d hoped for attention. Meditation’s potential is rarely fulfilled. With light as feedback however, you literally attend to your attention. You can now mind your mind. Instead of wandering, you can harness concentration’s full power.
The straight line meditation advantage is its direct route to advanced practice. As practice skill improves, sustained attention builds your awareness. With deepening awareness your eyes open to beauty; your senses to pleasure; your mind to truth and your heart to love. Enlightenment itself is nothing apart from the profound awareness attention creates. Hold on to attention with feedback. See the light and your goal is straight ahead. You can’t miss it.
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