The Five Trees and Meditation

This short text will not tell you when or how often to meditate.  It will not tell you how to sit, whether to have your eyes open or closed, whether you need a quiet space, whether to use your breath, the wall, a flame, a picture, or an inner image or color as a centering tool.  It will not tell you whether you should have animals around you or what you should do to prepare for meditation.  It doesn’t make recommendations that you purify yourself by abstaining from this or that sort of thought, feeling, or action.  It doesn’t require that you believe in anything or anyone or have any previous knowledge of meditation.  If it doesn’t offer you any of these things, what does it have to offer?

To reverse a metaphor, it’s easy to focus on the forest and not see the trees of meditation.  In this case, there are five of them.  Together, they constitute the entirety not only of your experience, but your identity.  When you understand your relationship with them, you will understand how your mind works when you meditate. With this knowledge you can transcend both mind and self without needing to subscribe to any particular approach to meditation; you can become one with universal love, enjoying a devoted, devotional I-Thou relationship with Life as a person; or you can successfully work with just about any approach to meditation. Without this knowledge you can practice any one of countless approaches to meditation and still have limited success.

Hinduism and Buddhism compare the mind in meditation to monkeys jumping around in trees from branch to branch.   These monkeys represent the constant activity of our minds.  Monkey thoughts are active, and this activity is something that meditation is supposed to reduce.  But meditation often is unsuccessful in doing so.  Why? What can be done about it?  On closer examination, we find that there are at least five trees that your monkey mind inhabits and each has its own enticing fruit.  This short text provides descriptions of the five trees, what monkeys do in them, and what monkeys can do to live in peace. These five trees are your


your mental images,

your emotions,

your physical sensations, and

your state of mind.


Most people are addicted to these trees and their fruit, swinging from one to the other and never getting in touch with the ground of being that is the context in which these trees exist. IDL introduces you to different ways of experiencing this context or ground of being, from the perspective of birds, sky, earth, and outer space. These are metaphors for different types of meditative detachment and witnessing. When you learn to objectify what is currently figure and become this “ground,” from one or another of these perspectives, you wake up. You die to the drama of your previous, limited, imprisoning self-definitions.

For more information, see Transcending Your Monkey Mind: The Five Trees and Meditation.

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