Q + A on Meditation, Yoga and Intimate connection | Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell
7 min readNov 10, 2021

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Meditation arises as a gift of your non-obsessive asana and pranayama practice. But you cannot meditate as a “thing” in and of itself | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Hello everyOne, I’ve posted here a few moments from a conversation last month. We discuss why meditation is dangerous, the role of meditation within a Yogic life, and how to fall out of the seduction of enlightenment. Thank you for looking in to these matters.

Q. I’ve often heard you dissuade people from meditation. You often say, “Meditation is evil.” Can you explain what you mean and what place meditation has in the Yoga tradition?

A. The point is that meditation — clarity of mind — arises as a siddhi or a gift of your asana and pranayama practice. Meditation arises from intimate connection and asana is the primary spiritual practice because it is intimate, actual embrace of body, breath, and the body’s relatedness to all conditions.

What’s needed is intimacy therefore, not meditation as a practice in its own right which actually tends to be dangerous and dissociating. We become seduced by the idea of a personal inwardness or awareness principle that is away from relatedness. And we get seriously busy trying to stay there and remove ourselves from the troublesome world of objects. It actually makes our mind more turbulent.

The reason the mind is disturbed in the first place is because it has been convinced that we are separate from our own Reality. And we need to do a long-term heroic course of meditation and mind-manipulation in order to one-day, maybe, pop-into a state of connectedness.

We are, of course, not separate! We are in a profound harmony that is given at birth. The body is in a complete and invincible harmony with air, light, water, the green realm, the animal kingdom, and all the tangible and intangible aspects of the cosmos.

Yoga is a remedial practice of re-linking the mind to the fact of the inherent and complete unity of life. When the breath is made the central feature and the very purpose of asana then the mind has no choice but to follow the breath. The breath connects the mind to the whole body and the whole body is Life Itself.

When we do our simple Yoga in a way that is perfectly tailored to our unique life — body, age, health, and culture — the fluctuations of mind, the fear, and the sense of “problem” to life diminish and may eventually disappear.

Every person is a flower blooming their own garden. There is no requirement to get into somebody else’s garden. No requirement to become anything other than who and what you already are: Life Itself | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Q. When I was in my twenties I loved reading books on meditation and following various teachers. I found that the act of reading books or listening to talks itself created a meditative experience and I became addicted to that feeling. Is Yoga a process of attaining a state of samadhi?

A. We have a lot of heroes in society who claim to be in a special holy state of being. People listen to talks and they read books that have a certain religious poetry to them. And as a result, we may fall into states of Satori, of no mind and no relatedness and it feels great.

We then attribute that feeling to holy realisation and to its author the idea of them being a holy realiser. It is then put into the public mind that there is a special place called enlightenment that you have to get to.

The Buddha would not have a bar of it. He spent a great deal of time elaborately telling his friends that he did not want to be remembered. He did not want statues. He did not want a religion forming around him. That he was not a special person.

Now, all over Buddhist countries like Thailand there are huge Gothic statues of the Buddha looming over the population. The idea of a linear process towards a future state called enlightenment, a state that the priests hold, is just the age-old system of social control, manipulation, and hierarchy.

My friend U.G. Krishnamurti, who was himself acknowledged by the religious orthodoxy as a jivamukti, a liberated soul, spent his life denouncing what he called the “social dynamic of disempowerment” whereby the public is convinced that there is an ideal mould of person that they must become.

In every country around the world, the idea of the “perfect person” that we must become like is terrorizing humanity. Meditation is the primary method offered by orthodoxy in the life-denying linear project of becoming perfect as if you are not already the wonder, intelligence, and harmony of Life Itself.

Yoga is not about manipulating your self in any way. Yoga is the profound release of the system from the constant mind-created demand to be getting somewhere, to be attaining samadhis, to be becoming something that we are not.

Unhappiness, simply defined, is trying to be something that you are not. Meditation is pushed on people as yet another tool they can use to become something. It is the denial of life.

At the end of the day, what we all really want is intimacy. Not philosophy, not meditation, not religion. Intimate connection is the principle desire of a sane life | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Q. Can you explain a bit more about the model of the ‘perfect person’? And the denial of the individual in spiritual traditions?

A. The orthodoxy has for millennia denied intimate connection to what is happening right now — this body, this breath, this relatedness — and says you’ve got to be making spiritual progress and going within. Across all countries it is the same deal.

Religious and spiritual life is a linear process of moving towards an idea of perfection according to doctrines laid out in text and it usually implies an end of your uniqueness — your personality, for example. The spiritual practices that are given by these traditions are the denial of the ordinary life, the ordinary miracle of each person’s existing-ness.

The very demand to become something that you currently are now is the denial of the indivudual in the name of cultural ideals. It causes dissociation and stress in the mind which is convinced that there is someone to become.

Trying to reside as witness consciousness has put us in conflict with our individuation. There’s so much of it in spiritual language: “I am no the body” “This is a dream” “I am not a person, I am Source Reality.” This is not a Yogic point of view. It’s a doctrinal religious point of view that has diminished and ended the value of the individual and the individual’s relatedness.

Every person is a perfect flower blooming in their own garden. Every flower is unique. The same is true of us. Yes, we are Source Reality, but we are utterly unique as expressions of Source and that is not to be denied. Nobody has ever had the experience and the perspective on the cosmos that you have had. You are a completely one-off event with unique talents and gifts that should be celebrated. We are not interested in trying to destroy our individual for the sake of some attainment. Rather, Yoga is the acknowledgment of each person’s individuation and all relatedness.

When I link my body movement to my breath, the mind automatically follows the breath. My mind gets linked to the whole body which is Life Itself. The intelligence and clarity of Life enters the mind. There is meditation. | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Q. What you find when you bring your message of “you cannot meditate” into the spiritual communities of the world?

A. I find that people are profoundly relieved when they find out that they don’t have to meditate. That they don’t have to get somewhere as if they are not somewhere. That they don’t have to conquer or battle with their mind. Or sit down and watch their thoughts. That they don’t have to effortfully reside as awareness.

It is a huge burden put on people. A burden that gets worse if you get a little success in going into the dissociated states of satori. You get a little bit of bliss and you think that this experience is it. And then you seek for more spiritual highs. Truth is not an experience, however. Truth is the fact of our existence. The facts that we are in a profound harmony, that the body is the cosmos, that we are completely nurtured by Life, are not dependent on any experience. Experiences come and go. Samadhis come and go. But the fundamental unity of Life is prior to and beyond experience. We can relax.

Intimacy with the ordinary conditions, the body, allows the heart pranas to flow through the whole body. It is not by denying the body but via connection to it and to rocks, solid ground, and our own entire elemental context, that the obstructions in the system go and the Source pranas, the nurturing force of life, flows through the heart from the heart in all directions. This is the Hatha Yoga, strength receiving, the union of opposites.

Do your Yoga, not just any Yoga, but the Yoga that is right for you: perfectly suited to your body, age, health and culture | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

I like to say that Yoga is not a tool to wake up sometime in the future. It’s a tool to enjoy your life now. Intimate connection now. Inhale now. Embrace of your loved ones now. People get this technology that came through Krishnamacharya and they feel their intrinsic connection to Life. Sooner or later they are thrown off the merry-go round of searching for a future possibility for themselves.

Hence your commitment to your daily Yoga practice: actual and natural and non-obsessive. It’s really a gift to be able to practice without obsession as a natural pleasure. A little bit of work, because relationship requires work: you have to turn up. But in that connection, the pranas flow and it becomes a self-generating practice. Sooner or later, you wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without doing your Yoga.

Q. Thank you Mark.

A. Thank you so much for this conversation.

*Everybody is welcome to join me and my friends in the heart of Yoga online studio for weekly classes and conversations that get to the heart of the matter: how you can participate fully in the Life that you are, even amid dreadful social conditions.

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Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell has worked as a Yoga teacher around the world for the last 45 years and is the author of 4 books on Yoga. He lives in Fiji with his wife Rosalind.