Visions (reposted from May, 2005)

Neither drug-induced
Nor self-induced visions:
Pierce all visions,
To see the void.

Tao is not to be found through drugs or any external means. While you most assuredly will have visions, how will you know what they mean? No matter how vivid, no matter how seemingly profound, they must be understood in order to be useful. By contrast, meditation also brings visions, voices, feelings, and absolute certainties. But prior philosophical inquiry is essential preparation for these experiences. The practitioner can instantly fit new experiences into a frame of reference. There is no confusion, and one can distinguish the true from the false. After all, even the perceptions of meditation may leave room for doubt.

Not everything that one receives during spiritual inquiry is true. Some are deceptions, and one must be able to see through them. The form that visions take is a function of your own degree of mental sophistication. As such, they are still in the circumference of your mind. If you want to receive impulses from the true Tao, you should know that they do not come was visions. Receiving Tao is to enter into a state of consciousness. Followers of Tao may indulge in a spiritual vision for a time, but they eventually learn that there is something more important than the endless exploration of visions. The eventual object is to transcend all enslavement to perception. Only in attaining that state can one adequately judge reality.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

External visions and voices can be misunderstood. Even saints have misunderstood what God has said to them. Divine communications of an intelligible kind have to be filtered through the human psyche and one’s cultural conditioning. … Since one can never tell which percentage group a particular communication belongs to, if one follows these communications without discretion, one can get into all kinds of trouble. There is no guarantee that any particular communication to an individual is actually coming from God. — Open Mind, Open Heart, Thomas Keating

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. — Carl Jung

Because of the interconnectedness of all minds, affirming a positive vision may be about the most sophisticated action any one of us can take.” –Willis Harman

“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” — Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924)

I would give all the wealth of the world, and all the deeds of all the heroes, for one true vision. — Henry David Thoreau

“Seeing within changes one’s outer vision.” — Joseph Chilton Pearce

“Finally, I realized what makes my garden exciting is me. Living in it every day, participating minutely in each small event, I see with doubled and redoubled vision. Where friends notice a solitary hummingbird pricking the salvia flowers, I recall a season’s worth of hummingbird battles.” — Janice Emily Bowers, A Full Life in a Small Place, 1993

Ah, that last quote touches my heart… it so fits my own vision of my garden!

I tend to think of visions in terms of my perception of things I want to accomplish, more so than actual visions one might see as if in a dream. Meditation becomes a way to relax into a state of mind that lets you focus calmly and clearly on the life going on around you, and incorporate your own perception of what things ought to be like with the reality around you, rather than imposing your perceptions on the world at large. When I meditate, I can at times see colors and patterns, but I think of them more as optical illusions than anything else, things you see in a resting state or before falling asleep. I’ve had migraine headaches with the typical migraine swirl pattern, I’ve had cataracts and had them removed, so I’m pretty used to seeing things in different ways, quite literally.

I don’t feel especially enslaved to my own perceptions. I certainly know that others see things in different ways, and I know that the actual reality is different from those things I perceive, since I can’t see in infrared, although after cataract surgery, I do see some ultraviolet, which makes colors and things “brighter” than those most people see. I spent weeks just admiring blues and yellows before I got used to it, they were so vivid.

After a time studying Tao, you become less attached to your own perception of things, you own visions. You are more in tune with what is actually taking place, and you see the patterns of where things are moving. You can choose to align yourself with those patterns, or, if you need to break a pattern, you can keep still and let it flow around you. Sometimes you do get swept into the current of events, but even then, with the help of meditation, you learn to steer yourself back to the shore and regain control. The beauty of Tao is you always have the opportunity to at least be in control of yourself and what you feel. In fact, you learn to realize that is all you can possibly control most of the time! Meditation is sort of the key to developing that serenity that lets you accept life as it is, change what you can (yourself, mostly), and know the difference.

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I would say that what has changed since I first posted this is that I don’t really actively meditate anymore. Life itself has become the meditation, living within the moment as it comes. Yes, sometimes I lose my awareness, but eventually I get back to it again. I think once you stop worrying about being aware, it is actually easier. I know meditation is really useful for a lot of people, though.

Recognizing that dissatisfaction is mostly internally driven is a pretty important step to being able to change your circumstances. If you are doing something about actively changing an unpleasant situation for the better, you can at least feel good about that rather than being overwhelmed. And sometimes that means changing the illusion that you are powerless to control what is happening. Sometimes it means recognizing you have no control over a situation, or that you need more help to deal with it. In either case, being in a calm state of mind can help break through the illusions that are clouding your vision.