Still the Mind

Here Alan explores meditation and finding inner peace through watching your breath, chanting nonsense syllables, and generally chilling out. No goals, no force, just be. Let things flow through you. Some far-out stuff for sure, but Alan’s as sincere as they come. Give it a listen if you’re seeking something deeper.


Part 1


Realize that anybody whom you consider—in matters spiritual, psychologial, and so on—as an authority has this authority because of your opinion that he has or she has. How do you know? If you say, for example, like a Protestant fundamentalist, that you believe in the Bible, that the Bible is inspired, or you may say as a more liberal kind of Christian that Jesus Christ is the greatest being that ever lived on Earth—how do you know? It’s your opinion that that is so. Lots of people may have told you so, and you may be very impressed by those people, but you bought it.


And so, therefore, if you say, “Well, I would like to become like that,” that’s an expression of the way you are. You couldn’t feel “I would like to become like that”—like the authority, like Christ—except as an expression of the way you are now. And the way you are now is the quaking mess. And therefore, your emulation, your desire, your idealism to become like Christ is merely one of the appetites of your quaking mess. It’s an expression of you as you are. Don’t fool yourselves. I’m not trying to put you down by talking about the quaking mess. The quaking mess may be in fact something very, very natural, the way we are, the state of affairs, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it. I’m not ashamed of it. I told you all [???]!


But it is important not to fool one’s self about this. But there does, doesn’t there, seem to remain a problem about existence, about being alive. Now, let’s go into: what is that problem at the sort of nitty-gritty level? Very basic in our thinking is that we say, “One must live.” We need to survive, to go on. We need, therefore, money for food, for this, that, and the other. We must go on. We know that we’re not going to get away with it for very long; that after a certain number of years we’re going to die. The thing is going to end—the thing that we call “I” is going to be as it is in deep sleep with no dreams. But that between now and that happening there may be the most ghastly pains. Not only, perhaps, the pains of physical disease or being wounded or hurt, but the pains of worrying about our failure of responsibility to people who depend on us. And we suffer other people’s suffering simply because we’re sensitive and have imagination and participate in their sufferings. And our adrenaline and our chemicals respond simply by imagination to the sufferings of other people. And what about that?


And so we can look at these problems and say: now, quite obviously, all these problems cannot be solved in a physical way. That is to say, we do not expect in our lifetime that medical skill will make us exempt from death. We do not seriously expect that human beings will all learn to be nice to each other and will refrain from war and horrors of that kind—racial prejudice and so on. We don’t seriously expect to find a method of being protected by taking some sort of drug against all possible disease and pain. So therefore we say: maybe there’s another way ’round. Maybe that, instead of solving these problems at the technical level, we could solve them at the psychological and spiritual level by sole disciplining ourselves, by so doing something to ourselves that we wouldn’t be afraid of it anymore. And so, in accord with that motivation, we seek out spiritual teachers, psychological teachers, this, that, and the other. Could we somehow be made over so that we don’t worry about the quaking mess by a spiritual discipline or whatever?


And you see, if you examine that—that this wanting to overcome the quaking mess and not have it anymore—that precisely is the quaking mess. The thing that we object to about ourselves is precisely what we do about overcoming it. In other words, the activity that we employ in overcoming it is the mess that we object to. Do you see that? And it’s very important to realize that. Then, if you do realize it, you raise the question: then what can I do? What can I do to transform the quaking mess into the state of mind of the true mystic? Well, if you are the quaking mess, there is obviously nothing you can do to transform yourself into the state of mind which you idealize as that of being the true mystic, the Christ, the saint, or whatever.


So you realize that everything is phony, that all your ideals are simply manifestations of the quaking mess trying to get away from itself, and that you are put in the position of: it is absolutely necessary for me to be different from the way I am, but there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. Because being the way I am, I cannot be different from that. Let’s say this—but we can put it in different ways—I know that I ought not to be selfish, and I would very much like to be an unselfish person, but the reason why I want to be an unselfish person is that I am very selfish and would far more love myself and respect myself if I were unselfish. You see? I know that I ought to love God and whatever—and why do you want to love God? Well, because God is the biggest boss, and it’s best to be on the side of the big battalions. That’s really why I want to do it. In other words: because I’m looking for the safety of my own spiritual skin. So I think I out to love God. All sophisticated saints have known this. St. Paul understood it, St. Augustine understood it, Martin Luther understood it. They didn’t know what the hell to do about it.


But there was nothing to do about it. And yet, something has to be done. Obviously. But you realize when you really look into yourself there’s nothing you can do. And this, therefore, is our point of departure: that we, here (perhaps, perhaps not), mutually realize there is nothing we can do to be anything else than what we are. To feel any other way than what we feel at this moment. And to be, then, this quaking mess which has the capacity for the horrors about what life can do to us.


However, this isn’t as much of a blind alley, a cul-de-sac, as it sounds. Because if you discover a blind alley, it tells you something. Watch the flow of water when it crosses over an area of land, and you will see that it puts out fingers. And some of them stop because they come into blind alleys. And the water doesn’t pursue that course, it simply rises. And then it finds a way it can go. But it never uses any effort. It only uses weight, gravity. It takes the line of least resistance and eventually finds a course. Now we will do the same thing—only we’re ashamed of it, but we’re going to do it anyhow.


We think that when we come to a dead end, a blind alley: oh, I failed! Supposing the water—at each place where a finger of water stretches out over dry ground and doesn’t go any further because the land is too high—the water were to say to itself, “I’ve failed,” we would say it was neurotic water. Just wait and it will find a way. Now, when you find—you see, there’s this predicament that I’ve been describing to you—that there’s no way of transforming yourself to become this fearless, joyous, divine being as distinct from the quaking mess; when there’s no way, this is not a gloomy announcement. It is a very, very important communication. It’s telling you something—like the land is telling the water: “This isn’t the way to go. There’s another way. Try over here.” So, in the same way, life is telling you: “That’s not the way to go.” It’s telling you—the message underlying this is: you cannot transform yourself. It is giving you the message that the “you” that you imagine to be capable of transforming yourself doesn’t exist. In other words, an ego, an “I” separate from my emotions, my thoughts, my feelings, my experiences (who is supposed to be in control of me), cannot control them because it isn’t there. And as soon as you understand that, things will be vastly improved.


Now, we can go into this. What do you mean by the word “I”? We’re going to make some experiments in this on some number of different levels. But in the ordinary way, what do you mean by the word “I,” “myself,” your “personality,” your “ego”? What is it? Well, first of all, obviously, it’s your image of yourself. It’s composed of what people have told you about yourself: who you are, how they’ve reacted to you, and given you an impression that that’s the sort of person you are. All your education goes into this, the style of life you put on, and so forth. But it’s an image, it’s an idea, it’s your thought about yourself. And I suppose your self is, in fact, not this, but is (to begin with) your total physical organism, your psychological organism. And beyond that, an organism doesn’t exist as an isolated thing any more than a flower exists without a stalk, without roots, without earth. So, in the same way, although we are not stalked on the ground, we are nevertheless inseparable from a huge social context of… well, to begin with, parents, siblings, people who work for us and everything. I mean, it’s just impossible to cut ourselves off from a social environment—and also, furthermore, from a natural environment. We are that. There’s no clear way of drawing the boundary between this organism and everything that surrounds it. And yet, the image of ourselves that we have does not include all those relationships.


Our idea of personality of ourselves includes no information whatsoever about the hypothalamus (an organ of the brain), the pineal gland, really, of the way we breathe, of how our blood circulates, of how we manage to form a sentence, how we manage to be conscious, how you open and close your hand. The information contained in your image of yourself contains nothing about all that. And therefore, obviously, it’s an extremely inadequate image. But nonetheless we do think that the image of self refers to something. Because we have the impression, very strongly indeed, that I exist. And this isn’t just an idea, we think: my god! It’s a feeling! It’s really substantially there in the middle of us. And what is it? Well, what do you actually sense? Like, when you’re sitting on the floor, and you feel the floor is there and is real and hard—okay, what are you, sitting on the floor? What do you have the sensation of, you know, that’s you, here, when you’re not hitting yourself? What is it? Well, in what part of your body do you feel your self, the real I, existing? We can explore this very deeply, but I’m going to give you a preliminary and superficial answer.


The sensation which corresponds to the image of ourselves is a chronic muscular tension which has absolutely no useful function whatsoever. It is when you try, say, to concentrate. What do you do when you try to pay attention? When I was a little boy in school, I had sitting next to me another boy who had great difficulty in reading. And as he worked over the textbook with this perfectly piffling information, he groaned and grunted to try to read to get out the sounds as if he were heaving enormous weights with his muscles. You know, “Ssseeeeee… Spooooooooot… rrrrruuuuunnnn… uuuugh uuuuuuugh ruuuuuuunnn… S-s-spoooooot rrr-uuuuuunn,” you know? These enormous weights he was heaving! And, you know, the teacher was vaguely impressed that he was trying. Phew!


All this tying yourself up in a knot has absolutely nothing to do with the way your mind works. Because, look: if you try to see hard—you know, you look very intensely, and you make tight muscles around here, and maybe you clench your jaws a bit—if anything, that will make your vision more fuzzy. Because if you want to see something clearly, you must not make an effort. You must simply trust your eyes and your nervous system to do their thing. So you just look like that. I was writing the other night, and I completely forgot somebody’s name. But I knew that, eventually, my memory would produce it. And I just sat for a while and said to my memory: “You know very well who this person is. Please give me the answer.” And so boing! there it was. Because that’s the way nerves work. They don’t work by forcing them.


And yet, we’ve all been brought up to try to force our nervous activity—our concentration, our memory, our comprehension, and indeed our very love—we’ve tried to force it with muscles. Men will understand me if I say: you cannot force, by muscular effort, yourself to have an erection. Women will understand me if I say: you cannot force yourself with muscles to have an orgasm. It has to happen, and you must trust it to happen. And there is absolutely nothing you can do about it by using your muscles. Nothing, nothing, nothing! So, in precisely the same way—well, let’s complete the picture. So therefore, the notion that we have of ourselves, of ego, is a compound of an image of ourselves which does not fit the facts, and a sensation of muscular straining which is futile. So that what you conceive to be yourself is the marriage of an illusion and a futility.


So, well, what are we if that isn’t the case? Well, obviously, if you want to take a scientific point of view by that mythology, then your organism—about which we know very little—and the organism, as we’ve seen, is inseparable from its environment, and so you are the organism-environment. In other words, you are no less than the universe. Each one of you is the universe expressed in the place which you feel is here and now. You’re an aperture through which the universe is looking at itself, exploring itself. And we’re going to go into that much more deeply.


So when you feel that you are a lonely, put upon, isolated little stranger confronting all this, see, you have an illusory feeling. Because the truth is the reverse. You are the whole works that there is. It always was and always has been and always will be. Only, just as my whole body has a little nerve end here which is exploring and which contributes to the sense of touch, you are just such a little nerve end for everything that’s going on. Just as the eyes serve the whole body and help it to find its way around, so you are, as it were, serving the whole universe. You’re a cell in it. And it’s exploring itself. So that you are a function of all that. And therefore, if this is so, these facts do not fit the way we feel.


Because we feel it the other way around. I am a little lonely thing exploring all this universe, and trying to make something out of it, get something out of it, do something with it. And I know I’m going to fail because I know I’m going to die one day. So we’re all fundamentally depressed and think up all these fantasies about what’s going to happen to us when we’re dead and all that kind of thing. What’s going to happen to you when you’re dead? What do you mean, “you”? If you are basically the universe, that question is irrelevant. You never were born and you never will die. Because what there is is you. And that should be absolutely obvious, but it is not obvious at all. That should be the simplest thing in the world. That “you,” the “I,” is what has always been going on and always will go on for ever and ever. But we have been bamboozled by religionists, by politicians, by fathers and mothers, by all sorts of people to tell us: you’re not it. And we believed it.


So do you see now why (if I put it to you in this very negative way) you can’t do anything to change yourselves to become better, to become happier, to become more serene, to become mystics? If I say you can’t do a damn thing, can you understand this negative statement in a positive way? What I’m really saying is that you don’t need to. Because if you see yourselves in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomenon of nature as, say, trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the shape of fire, the arrangement of the stars, the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that. There’s nothing wrong with you at all.


Except that I have to add this little flip: you have in you—you do think there’s something wrong with you. See? And there’s no question, you do! We all object to ourselves in various ways. And I’m going to add: there’s nothing wrong with that, either. Because that’s part of the flow. That’s part of what is going on. That’s part of what we do. What I’m actually going to do is: I’m going to deliver you from a sense of guilt, because I’m going to teach you that you needn’t feel guilty because you feel guilty. Of course you feel guilty! It’s like someone put a match on you and you feel it hot. So they taught you as a child to feel guilty, and you feel guilty. And, well, if someone comes along and says: “Well, you shouldn’t,” that’s not the point. I’m gonna say not that you shouldn’t, but that you do and don’t worry about it. And if you want to say further: “But I can’t help worrying about it,” I’m going to say to you: “Okay, worry about it.” This is the principle called in Japanese judo, meaning the gentle way. Go along with it, go along with it, go along with it.


So, therefore, this is the beginning of meditation. You don’t know what you’re supposed to do. What can you do? Well, if you don’t know what you’re supposed to do, you watch. You simply watch what’s going on. Like, say, somebody plays music: you listen and you just follow those sounds, and eventually you understand the point of the music. The point cannot be explained in words, because music is not words. But after a while, in listening to any music, you will understand the point of it. And that point will be the music itself.


So, in exactly the same way, you can listen to all experiences—because all experiences whatsoever are vibrations coming at you. You are these vibrations, as a matter of fact. If you really feel out what is happening, what you are aware of as “you” and as “everything else” is all the same. It’s a yooing yooing yooing yooing yooing yooing yooing vibrations of all kinds, and they’re on different bands of a spectrum. Sight vibrations, emotion vibrations, touch vibrations, sound vibrations. All these things adding together are woven, all the different senses are woven. And you get a pattern in the weaving. And that pattern is the picture of what you now feel. And this thing is going yooing yooing yooing yooing yooing yooing yooing yooing yooing yooing yooing yooing yooing yooing, see?


Now, instead of saying what should I do about it—because who knows what to do about it—to know what to do about this, you would have to know everything. And if you don’t, then the only thing that (at least to begin with) you can do is watch. Watch what’s going on. Watch not only what’s going on on the outside, but also what’s going on on the inside. Treat your own thoughts, your own reactions, your own emotions about what’s going on outside as if those inside reactions were also outside things that you’re just watching. And follow, simply observe, how they go.


Note, now: you may say this is difficult. I am bored by watching what is going on. Let’s say you sit quite still and you are simply observing what is happening. All the sounds outside, all the different shapes and lights in front of your eyes, all the feelings on your skin, inside your skin, belly rumbles, thoughts going on inside your head, chatter, chatter, chatter, “I ought to be writing a letter to so-and-so,” “I should’ve done this,” all this bilge going on—see, you just watch it. But then you say to yourself: but this is boring! Now watch that, too! What kind of a funny feeling is it that makes you say “but this is boring”? Where is it? Where do you feel it? “I should be doing something else instead.” What’s that feeling? What part of your body is it in? Is it in here, is it in here, is it in the soles of your feet? Where is it? The feeling of boredom can be very interesting if you try to look it out.


So you simply watch everything going on without attempting to change it in any way, without judging it, without calling it good or bad. You watch it. And that is the essential process of meditation.

Part 2


I was trying to explain this morning that what for want of a better word we call meditation, or I sometimes prefer to say contemplation, is really supposed to be fun. And I have some difficulty in conveying this idea because everybody takes everything to do with religion seriously. And you must understand that I’m not a serious person. I may be sincere, but not serious. Because I don’t think the universe is serious. And the trouble gets into the world very largely because various beings take themselves seriously instead of playfully. And, after all, you must become serious if you think that something is desperately important. You will only think that something is desperately important if you’re afraid of losing it. And if you’re afraid of losing it, it isn’t really worth having.


People who drag on living because they’re afraid to die will teach their children to do the same, and they will teach their children to live that way. And so it goes on and on. If you were god, would you be serious? Would you want people to treat you as if you were serious? Would you want to be prayed to? Think of all the maudlin things that people say in their prayers—would you want to listen to that all the time? Would you encourage it? Not if you were god, no! So, in the same way, meditation is different, you see, therefore, from the sort of things that people are supposed to take seriously because it doesn’t have any purpose. When you talk about practicing meditation, it’s not like practicing rifle shooting or playing the piano, which one does in order to attain a certain perfection. You practice in order to make perfect. You practice the piano to go on stage and perform. But you don’t practice meditation that way—because if you do, you’re not meditating. The only way in which you can talk about the practice of meditation is to use the word “practice” in the same way as when somebody says that he practices medicine. It’s his way of life, it’s his vocation. He does it every day. Maybe he does it the same way every day. If it’s good, that’s fine.


Because in meditation, you see, there’s no idea of time. In practicing learning things, time is of the essence. Let’s do it as fast as possible. Let’s find a faster way of learning how to do this. In meditation, a faster way of learning is of no importance whatsoever. Because its focus is always on the present. And there may occur growth in it, but it’s the same way that a plant grows. Once upon a time in China, there was a farming family and they were having dinner. And the oldest son came in late. And they said, “Why are you late for dinner?” He said, “I’ve been helping the wheat to grow.” “Oh.” So they came out the next morning, and all the wheat was dead. What happened was that he had gone and pulled each stalk up a little, see, to help it grow.


So growth always occurs in a being, like a plant, which is perfect at every step. No progress is involved in the transformation of an acorn into an oak. Because the acorn is a perfect acorn, and the sapling is a perfect sapling, and the big oak tree is a perfect oak—which, again, produces acorns. Perfect acorns, you see? At every stage it’s there. Just as in the unfoldment of a musical composition it is arrived at every stage and it cannot be otherwise, so the meditation work is the same. Exactly the same.


So we should not talk about beginners as distinct from experts. We should develop, if we could, a new vocabulary. So it’s very difficult in the context of our competitive world to speak about things like this: to bring about the idea of doing something which is not acquisitive, which you’re not going to get anything out of, because there’s no one to get anything. When you understand what I’ve been talking about (about there being no experiencer separate from experience), then there’s no one to get anything out of life or to get anything from meditation. So we have here a sort of law of reversed effort.


You must therefore understand that as a background to anything said about techniques. Because whenever we talk about techniques, we seem to be talking about the competitive thing. Mastery: the idea of mastery of technique. But on the other hand, if you play a musical instrument, technique is very important in the making of a satisfactory sound. But if you force the learning of technique, or force the performance of it, everyone will hear it, and you will hear the forcing of it yourself, and it will be un-musical. And so you have to address yourself to the playing of an instrument without hurry, and never force anything. And you will find there is a point, then, where the instrument seems to play itself. And when you get that peculiar feeling of the sound that is coming out of a flute—or a violin string, or whatever—is, as it were, happening of itself, then you’re playing the instrument properly. Same way if you sing. There comes a point when your voice takes over. This is the difference between spiration and inspiration.


You may say, as Christians do, that the act of worship is inspired by the holy spirit. That, when monks are chanting, they are told that the holy spirit is chanting through them, and they are flutes for the holy spirit. And this has a very precise and technical meaning, because there is a way of producing the breath and of producing sound where it comes of itself and you don’t do it. And we will call that way of producing sound “holy spirit.” But it’s based on breath.


I pointed out in the first session that breath is a curious operation because it can be experienced as both a voluntary doing and an involuntary happening. You can do a breathing exercise and feel that “I am breathing” in just the same way as you can feel “I am walking.” But on the other hand, you breathe all the time when you’re not thinking about it. And in that way it’s involuntary. You must breathe. And so it is the faculty attending to which we can realize the unity of the voluntary and involuntary systems.


So therefore, what is called ānāpānasati in Buddhism means “mindfulness of the breath,” “watching breath.” And watching breath is fundamental in meditation. Because it’s like sound: it’s so easy to see the happening in it as distinct from what we thought of as the doing. Breath happens. But the curious thing is, about breath, is that you can get with the happening of breath, and in getting with it you can do extraordinary things with it. Anyone who swims knows this. Anyone who sings. Anyone who does, as a matter of fact, any athletic thing knows that breathing is important. The alignment, the synchronization, of what you’re doing with your breathing is the whole art—as it is in archery, also.


But powerful breath is not worked by muscle power, it is worked by gravity, by weight. And what I would like you to do is: if you will sit upright—and the reason for this is very simple—that the part of your body in which the breathing is occurring is unencumbered. And also: sitting upright on the floor you are slightly uncomfortable, so that you won’t go to sleep. And in any peaceful and quiet state of mind it’s very easy to go to sleep. And now, in this way, in this position, you simply become aware of your breathing without trying to do anything about it at all. You let it happen and watch it. You’re also, at the same time, letting your ears hear whatever they want to hear. In other words, you let them hear just as you’re letting your lungs breathe.


Now, beyond this, can you get the idea of breathing out heavily: letting the breath fall outwards without pushing it. And as you get to the end of the out-breath, do it with the same sort of feeling that you have when you let your body drop into a very comfortable bed. You drop out. Let go. Fall. Let weight do it. And then, after a while, the breath will return. Don’t pull, let it fall back in, and drop in until you had enough. And then let it drop out again. It’s a good idea in this to breathe in through the nostrils and out through the lips. Allowing there to be a slight sensation of moving air on your lips so that you know you’re breathing and that you’re not just straining your muscles. But never force anything. Just have the feeling of it going that way by virtue of weight.


And then, as you let the breath fall outwards, you simply float a sound on it. Think of a sound that pleases you; a note that seems agreeable to your voice. And as you breathe out heavily, imagine that sound to yourself; whatever you feel like. Hum it out loud.


You keep it going.



Now, you know, you’re still a little short-winded and uneasy about a thing like this. You can—as well as allowing the sound to hum and happen with breath that is falling out—you can, as it were, simply request it to increase the volume without forcing. And you can keep a sound humming as a whole group of people, together, by when your sound ends, bring it in again quite softly and then allow the volume to rise, and then you will get a more or less continuous production of sound by a group. But it’s important to have the sound running continuously. Try it again, picking your own note once more.



Now ask it to increase its volume.



Will you listen a moment? What we’re working into is the completely liberated but soft and gentle letting of sound happen through us without the slightest sense of strain, so that you are not singing it, but it is singing with your voice. Don’t premeditate a tune, but let it come. So that it’s as if, almost, you were talking nonsense. I mean, you know, I can talk nonsense at the drop of the hat. I can give you a whole lecture in a completely nonexistent language. But what you’re doing is: you’re doing this gently with voice, and you’re simply preoccupied with it like easy humming to yourself.



Now, when you have got absorbed in sound, where were you? This would be called a state of consciousness where we have a primitive form of samadhi. That is to say, we are happily absorbed in what we are doing and we have forgotten about ourselves. You can’t very well do that and worry or think anything serious. And you’ll notice that there’s a special way of doing it. Because, I mean, we can go crazy, and we can do kind of wild Indian chants, but in this UGH you are sort of straining too much as a rule, you see? If you keep it down to a soft thing like this and get a floating feeling of the voice, instantly you feel any sound is uncomfortable, avoid it. Slip down if you’re going too high, slip up if you’re going too low. If your voice tends to change, follow its change. So that you’re just swinging along with it.


This is the point why, from ancient times, people discovered humming and singing, and everybody used to sing while they worked. But you will notice that today very few people sing at all. You have to make a thing of it. People are afraid of their voices—their melodic voice as distinct from their spoken voice. I know an enormous number of people who never sing at all. Why is it that when the scriptures, the Upanishads, the Sūtras are read, they are invariably chanted? Because an extra dimension is added to the voice as soon as you bring a note into it. That’s the divine element, you see? The note-sound, the seen-sound—symbolically speaking.


So this is a form of what I would call free mantra chanting, like we did then, which isn’t used much. But it does give you, as you do it, a very good idea of what the meditative state is. Because it isn’t just a letting happen only of things going on around, it’s inside you as well. As distinct from the prescribed mantra—like oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ, or oṃ ah hūṃ, or om ram sri ram jai jai ram hari krishna hari krishna krishna krishna hari hari, et cetera. Each one of them has a different feeling to it.


The Tibetan monks go down to an extraordinarily deep sound. They go as deep as you can get. There is a reason for this—it’s very difficult to explain, because you have to do it. But when you go down into sound as deeply as you can get, you’re going to an extreme of the vibration. And everybody feels, naturally, that what is deep is sort of the underpinnings, the foundation. And when they go into that deep sound, they are literally exploring the depths of sound. As we say: go into it deeply. But you can very readily see, once you get into that, that you’re in another state of consciousness altogether. You’re not anymore in your fidgety, chattering to your skull everyday consciousness—what I call normal restlessness.


But in this way, always, you get a sensuous feeling of the breath; that it’s very enjoyable to breathe. And then you will find this will help in the quality of the sound you produce. And we, of course, have to get away from some of our musical prejudices when we do this.


Now, I know—I’m sorry—but everybody thinks that to spend a lot of time gently humming nonsense to yourself is a waste of time. What are you going to do with the time that you save, you know? But the point, though, is with all this: the first we have to understand is what I will call deep listening. And very few people ever really listen. Because instead of receiving the sound, they make comments on it all the time. They’re thinking about it. And so the sound is never fully heard. You just have to let it take over. Let it take you over completely. Then you get the samadhi state of becoming it.


And it also means that you abandon your socially nervous personality. One of the reasons why people don’t sing is that they hear so many masters on records, and they’re ashamed of their own voices and think there’s no point singing unless I’m good at it. Well, that’s like saying there’s no point in my doing anything at all unless I’m particularly gifted at it, which is ridiculous. But singing is, of course, very good for you, but we won’t mention that because it brings in too much purposiveness into it. But it’s like a child will make noises because of the absorbing interest of making noises. A child will make all sorts of bleeaaah wllllooooeaaagh ooooeaghh bleeeeeaaah bllwwbllwwbllwwbllw bleeeeah neeeaaah reeaaoww, see, to explore the possibilities of what you can do with a voice. See? You don’t see adults going around doing this, they’re all too shy!


Only Alan Watts!


You just go blwwwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee bweee booo bweee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwopp. Blweee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee blwoo blwee, see? Tremendous fun! But all this is perfectly incorporable within meditation. It embarrasses the hell out of some people. They say, “What are you laughing at? I don’t see any point in laughing unless there’s something funny.”


I had a friend who was a theological student, and he was very fat. And he used to sit on the elevated train that went from Evanston into Chicago where the seats run right down the side of the train. So that he’d sit in the middle of one side, and everybody in the car could see him. This fat fellow. And he’d get on at Evanston, he’d sit there kind of vacant, and he’d start to chuckle to himself. And slowly he’d work it out, and he’d start with all his flesh vibrating, and by the time they got into Chicago the whole car was in hysterics!

Alan Watts

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