the unquantifiable self

Burgs on Why We Meditate

In the history of mononymous greats there’s Plato. There’s Prince. And then there’s Burgs. A ‘rebel and a dreamer’ in his twenties, Burgs* gave up a party lifestyle to study with meditation teachers in Bali, Burma and India, returning a decade later to share what he’d learned with the West. We are the luckier for it.

The myriad physical and psychological benefits of meditation are by now well-documented. According to Burgs, these benefits arise because a fruitful meditation practice—whatever the technique—brings the practitioner into a coherent state.

As we attain a more harmonious state, we taste the bliss of simply being, and begin to engage with the still, small voice of the heart. “And that,” says Burgs, “is worth sitting on a cushion for.”

burgs energy diagram

In this audio recording of a talk he gave in London, Burgs eloquently addresses what he considers to be the most common cause of disturbance within us: restlessness. In his book The Flavour of Liberation, he explains that

It’s this restlessness, this scattering of the mind that means that even when we’re doing something that we should be enjoying, it doesn’t feel as satisfying as it might.

The opposite of restlessness is stillness, and has two components: concentration and equanimity. Concentration—increasingly difficult to cultivate in our age of anxiety—is the ability to single-mindedly pay attention to whatever it is you’re doing. Equanimity refers to the ability to be with an experience without reacting to it. As Viktor Frankl put it:

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

The overstimulation endemic in our daily lives can leave us feeling overwhelmed and agitated. To cope, we numb ourselves in various ways—whether with food, alcohol, overwork, shopping, or social media. Or, more subtly still, we distract ourselves by engaging with the mind, because, as Burgs points out, it enables us to stop feeling.

But truncating what we feel distances us from the deepest part of our experience. When we sit down to meditate, if we can’t accept being unsettled, the tendency is to get up and distract ourselves, as we normally do when we feel uncomfortable. By training ourselves to just sit with whatever is in the heart, it will, like water, eventually settle back into to stillness.

We have a phrase—we’ve used it often—’I know it in the bottom of my heart’. That very phrase is referring to the deepest piece of software far more fundamental to being alive than this extraordinary brain of ours. And it knows what happiness is and where to find it. And our mind does not yet know. Otherwise it wouldn’t keep us up all night trying to figure it out, now would it?

When we lose our connection with feeling, we also lose our own personal, built-in GPS for how things are going.

If you listen and pay heed and act upon what arises in your heart, it will always give you a nudge in the right direction…And it’s beyond intelligent, it’s pure intelligence, it’s faultless…
What would your heart be saying to you if you really listened to it?

Burgs goes on to discuss another benefit he’s observed of sustained meditation practice—a craving for a simpler life. And the simpler our lives, the more we have to give:

What you really need to feel complete is actually so little if you could just completely turn up. The point is we only feel we need to keep adding so much into our lives because we are not yet settled within ourselves.

For more on participating in what Burgs calls ‘the give-back generation’—in which we’re urged to ask ‘What do I have to give?’ rather than ‘What’s in it for me?’—read here.
For how giving back relates to meditation, listen to the continuation of Burgs’ London talk here.
For Burgs’ teaching schedule and online courses, see here.


*(First name Guy, if you must know.)


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