Translate

Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Meditation and the Philosophical Diary



You have travelled for a long time. You are a philosophical globetrotter and are on a quest after the secret of life. You enter an old library filled with mystical books. One of them catches your eyes. It is wrapped in leather and covered with dust. You open it. It is filled with blank pages. It is the book of yourself, it is the book with the history of your soul. But you must write it yourself. It is your philosophical diary. 

In various wisdom traditions meditation is described as the gate to the secret of life. Usually meditation is described as being a witness without thoughts. Meditation and thinking are often seen as oppositions. The thinking evaluates, says yes and no, accepts and denies, and are constantly commenting and talking. Meditation is the opposite: it is neutral observing and silent.

When starting meditating you´ll therefore get a problem with your thoughts, because you can´t silence them, you can´t stop them. People can meditate for years without being able to come out of this conflict, without reaching any deeper.

The philosophical diary is the solution to this problem, yes, it is the secret gate to deeper forms of meditation. In traditional context, philosophy is a central part of meditation. And philosophy is thinking. Let´s look at it.

The structure of your thinking is the personal, collective and universal images in time. Most people are only aware of their personal images and history. But Man also consists of a collective and universal history.

When starting meditating you will get a problem with your personal thoughts. You can´t become silent. In order to silent your mind you must first simplify your thoughts, and in order to simplify your thoughts, you must simplify your life. You must first become a life artist. Hereafter you can begin working with your thoughts.

The stoics, for example Marcus Aurelius, kept philosophical diary, or life book, in order to explore, change and restructure negative thought-patterns. The kind of philosophy the Stoics practised is also called philosophy as an art of life.

But so-called ”meditative writing” also exists in other wisdom traditions as a priceless help to the meditative development; that is: to learn to know who you are. Krishnamurti for example also recommended it. Montaigne´s Essays are also a kind of life book. Montaigne said about his Essays that: “They are attempts to paint myself.” Writing a philosophical diary is simply to create a work of art.

When you sit and practise the Harameditation (you can of course also do it in other situations) and your negative thoughts/feelings can´t become silent, then take a piece of paper out (or a side in your philosophical diary), and write the thoughts down. Just let them bloom as they will, but write them down in time with that they arise in your mind. Don't evaluate what you write. Write all thoughts down, regardless how trivial, incoherent or foolish they occur to you. Continue until they fall to rest.

A variant of this is to write a letter about what you are thinking about. If your thoughts are about a person, then write a letter to the person, but don't send it.

The surprising thing about this writing exercise, is that you in this way actual can finish unfinished situations. It's after all precisely the thoughts which all the time (without luck) try to finish situations. The existential guilt about an unfinished situation exists after all precisely only in your thoughts. When you then practise this exercise, yes, then you can help the thoughts in finishing the situation. To finish situations has in this way not necessarily anything to do with, that you have to confront the specific situations, and for example the implicated persons (it could very well be dead persons).

The meaning is now, that you try to find all the various inappropriate basic assumptions, rules of living, thought-distortions, negative automatic thoughts, values, ideals and conceptions, which are hidden in the writings. Or different said, that you explore the problem, which causes, that your negative thoughts/feelings can´t become silent.

What you discover, you also write down, so that the writing-process develops into an actual philosophical investigation. If you decide from time to time, every day, to write down all thoughts, even the most banal and stupid, the shameful as well as the comfortable, then you will, how little it may succeed at first, soon discover, that there happens something strange. Since you don´t have time to write each thought and feeling down, because you have something else to do, you discover, that somewhere in the consciousness, all thoughts and feelings are stored. In spite of the fact, that you not directly use the whole of your awareness to write, you are nevertheless inner aware, and when you again have time to write, you discover, that what is kept in the consciousness, rises to the surface.

So in the writing down you begin to form the mirror, which reproduces your thoughts and feelings without distortion. And when you observe them, you understand your actions and reactions, and therefore your self-knowledge becomes deeper and wider. You are not only understanding the current immediate action and reaction, but also the past, that has created the current. You discover the difference between presence and absence.

The writing down of all these thoughts unravels them, breaks them up and brings them out in the light. The writing down itself brings a passive listening presence into them, and you discover, that when you again are present, then there flows energy and life back from past and future, back to the Now, to reality. The energy, which was invested in your personal history, its sorrows and bindings, plans and problems, flows in and fills the Now, increases the vitality, the joy of life and the clearness in the Now. In that way you release yourself from the past, which is based on time and its images, both personal and collective images, and you become yourself. You have moved from just having some images of life, to having a philosophical life-practice.

It is a life book, the story about yourself you are writing down. It is the book of self-knowledge. Become for instance aware of your anger. Being aware means being aware of what the cause is, why and how it has accumulated, how it affects your actions and reactions, and how it is your continuous companion. Also feel the anger, enter into it, deeply and loving. Being aware of the anger, and feeling it, means being it present in passive listening. Write down what you discover. Each thought and feeling must flower in order to live and die. And it is this flowering the writing down helps you with.

Everything in you must flower, the ambitions, the greed, the hatred, the happiness, the lusts. In the flowering is their death and freedom. It is only in freedom that something can flower, not in suppression, control and discipline, which only pervert and corrupt. Flowering and freedom are goodness and virtue.

Your images will open themselves from your personal history, to the collective and universal history. You thinking will become more philosophical. In many ways the philosophical diary is about storytelling. Philosophy and storytelling belong together. They can work like the two lenses of a pair of binoculars. Philosophy argues abstractly. Storytelling argues too – it persuades, it changes the listener – but concretely. Philosophy says truth, storytelling shows truth.

Human thought is both concrete (particular) and abstract (universal) at the same time. You could also say that the thought has an Inner Side and an Outer Side. All things have an Inner Side and an Outer Side. It is connected to the three states which the Wholeness can be in: sleep, dream and awake. The Outer Side of things is the side most people experience. When you only see the Outer Side of things the Wholeness is sleeping, or the things are sleeping. The Inner Side is the side of enchantment. When you see the Inner Side of things, then the Wholeness is dreaming, and therefore the things are dreaming. This is the source of enchantment. Eventually the Wholeness, and therefore the things, can be completely awake (the spiritual practice where you are going beyond all images and ideas).

We cannot think of abstract universals like “man” without imagining some concrete, particular example of a man. Whenever we think of an abstract universal, we have to use a particular concrete image. But the converse is also true: whenever we recognize a concrete particular as intelligible and meaningful, we use an abstract universal to classify it, to categorize it, to define it: we see or imagine the Bedouin as a man, not an ape.

When you look through binoculars, you look through both lenses at once. Because human thought is binocular, abstract philosophy and concrete storytelling naturally reinforce each other´s vision. Philosophy makes storytelling clear, storytelling makes philosophy real. Philosophy shows essences, storytelling shows existence. Philosophy shows meaning, storytelling shows life.

As the Nigerian poet and novelist, Ben Okri, writes in his little book Birds of Heaven:

Philosophy is most powerful when it resolves into story. But story is amplified in power by the presence of philosophy.

The images of time are both personal, collective and universal, and therefore they are found both in us and around us in the movement of nature. They are energy-formations, and therefore also a kind of matter. Nethermost lie the universal images, the Great Vision or Dreamtime: “The Words of God”. Words were to Tolkien the most beautiful things in the world. The most beautiful thing human eyes have ever seen is called “the Word of God”.

As you write your philosophical diary you become more and more part of, first a collective story and later a universal story. And it is all part of meditation, and a deeper and deeper silence. Okri says in Birds of Heaven:

Yes, the highest things are beyond words.

That is probably why all art aspires to the condition of wordlessness. When literature works on you, it does so in silence, in your dreams, in your wordless moments. Good words enter you and become moods, become the quite fabric of your being. Like music, like painting, literature too wants to transcend its primary condition and become something higher. Art wants to move into silence, into the emotional and spiritual conditions of the world. Statues become melodies, melodies become yearnings, yearnings become actions.

When things fall into words they usually descend. Words have an earthly gravity. But the best things in us are those that escape the gravity of our deaths. Art wants to pass into life, to lift it; art wants to enchant, to transform, to make life more meaningful or bearable in its own small and mysterious way. The greatest art was probably born from a profound and terrible silence – a silence out of which the deepest enigmas of our lives cry: Why are we here? What is the point of it all? How can we know peace and live in joy? Why be born in order to die? Why this difficult oneway journey between the two mysteries?

Out of our wonder and agony of being come the cries and questions and the endless stream of words with which to order human life and quieten the human heart in the midst of our living and our distress.

At this point your philosophical diary becomes an art form. It is about the spiritual practice in itself, a journey which I describe as mythos-logos-mythos. You start out in the mythic life, or magical thinking, are using philosophy as a navigator (logos, discrimination), and return to the mythic life, transformed by an otherworldly enchantment.

In my booklet The Art of Pilgrimage I have described the spiritual awakening process in light of, partly the pilgrimage narrative in Tolkien´s The Lord of the Rings, and, partly, the mythologist Joseph Campbell, who created the concept of The Hero´s Journey. In narratology and comparative mythology, the monomyth, or the hero's journey, is the common template of a broad category of tales that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed.

The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers is a popular screenwriting textbook by writer Christopher Vogler, which I would recommend as a guide in how you can use Campbell´s theory in the more advanced form of keeping a philosophical diary. Focusing on the theory that most stories can be boiled down to a series of narrative structures and character archetypes, described through mythological allegory, Vogler based this work upon the writings of Campbell, particularly The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and holds that all successful films innately adhere to its principles.

What it is about is that you find your own true calling in life, which you must express in a creative way. The philosophical diary is an exercise in finding your own inner life artist.

Related books:


Meditation as an Art of Life - a Basic Reader (free Ebook. The Philosophical Dairy is described in the last chapter)


A Portrait of a LifeArtist (free Ebook. I part I, chapter 5, the Philosophical Diary is described in a slightly different way). 

Philosophical Counseling with Tolkien (free Ebook. This book is written as a part of my own philosophical diary. In fact, all my writings are a part of my philosophical diary. This book also deals with the relationship between philosophy and storytelling, as well as it deals with The Hero´s Journey).


Karen Blixen – The Devil´s Mistress (Karen Blixen saw human nature in the image of an artist, and her message was that humans should become artists).

The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity is a self-help book by American author Julia Cameron. The book was written to help people with artistic creative recovery, which teaches techniques and exercises to assist people in gaining self-confidence in harnessing their creative talents and skills. Correlation and emphasis is used by the author to show a connection between artistic creativity and a spiritual connection with God.

Related Blog post:




There is used excerpts from the following blog posts:






No comments:

Post a Comment

Note! Comments are reviewed before they are published, so don´t waste your energy with spam, insults, or irrelevant comments.