Awakening the Mind: Alan Watts Guided Meditation for Inner Peace

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Alan Watts Guided Meditation as a beautiful painting

As someone who struggled for years to find meaning and inner peace amidst the stresses of modern life, I was intrigued when I first discovered the philosophical teachings of Alan Watts. Often called “the pied piper of Zen Buddhism in the West,” Watts had a unique view of meditation that resonated with counterculture youth when his seminal book “The Way of Zen” was published in 1957.

In this article, I want to share my own journey in trying to understand Watts’ unorthodox perspective on meditation and how it has influenced my life.

Key Takeaways:

  • Meditation allows us to recognize and move beyond identification with the ego-based mind
  • We come to glimpse interconnection with all life when limiting beliefs about a separate self fall away
  • Watts encourages transitioning from “game” and “drama” mentality to merging in dance-like interbeing with reality
  • Through practice, we shift from an “I-It” utilitarian view to an intimate “I-Thou” relationship with the living universe

Guided Meditation by Alan Watts

This is one of my favorite Alan Watts guided meditations. Some of his key concepts while following along with the meditation are:

  • 00:08 🧘‍♂️ To enter a meditative state, start by simply listening to all the sounds around you without judgment.
  • 03:41 🌬️ Focus on your breath, allowing it to flow naturally, and observe that the division between voluntary and involuntary actions is arbitrary.
  • 07:12 🌬️ Deepen your breath naturally by letting it fall out comfortably and expand fully, without forcing it.
  • 09:20 🧘‍♀️ Meditation is a state of being aware of what is happening without hurrying or worrying about progress.

Watts Felt Meditation Should Not Have a Point

The first stumbling block I encountered when I began meditating was the expectation that it needed to accomplish something specific. Every book and teacher I encountered promoted setting an intention and goal for each meditation session. But Watts contended that this entire results-oriented approach to meditation misses the point.

I remember initially being frustrated by this idea. “Why meditate at all if there’s no purpose to it?” I wondered. I was used to everything in my life having some aim or end goal to strive toward. But Watts argues this attitude reflects ego-driven hubris in the spiritual seeker – and I had to admit my ego was certainly a big part of wanting to achieve at meditation!

Over time, I began to understand what Watts meant about being goal-less in practice. When I let go of needing to get somewhere or have some revelations through meditation, I could simply sink into being with what is. Rather than meditation being another task to accomplish, it became an act of slowing down and connecting to the present without judgment.

Tip: Let go of goals and agendas when you meditate. Simply allow the practice to unfold.

As I reflected on Watts’ teachings, I recognized my original expectations about meditation mirrored the achievement-focused mindsets pervading so many realms of modern society. But Watts invites us to connect to “the purposeless play of things” through meditation.

Meditation Involves “Losing Your Mind”

Another insight from Watts that initially struck me as bizarre was his concept of “losing your mind” as part of meditation. Brought up to believe discipline, control, and order were virtues when training the mind, I balked at the idea of “losing” anything!

But I came to realize Watts was pointing to something profound with this phrase. Through meditation, we can witness the incessant mental commentary and judgments that rarely cease. We identify so strongly with this inner voice that mistaking it for the totality of who we are.

My first attempts at trying to “lose my mind” were quite literal: I pictured my thoughts as leaves floating down a stream and attempted to fully disengage with them.

While this provided momentary quiet, I had not touched upon the deeper recognition of my identification with thoughts. I still took myself to be the thinker of them.

Over months, I began to experience those brief moments in meditation where the inner voice falls silent. No commentary on my experiences arose; there was only the act of watching without judgment. I glimpsed what Watts meant by the constructed boundary between self and world fading away.

In place of the egoic mind trying to control everything, consciousness could shine through. I felt profoundly connected to the whole living world around me.

Tip: Let go of trying to grasp or change thoughts. Allow them to rise and pass without over-identifying.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRxECFLPbqU

Meditation Leads to Feeling “At Home” in the Universe

The most miraculous fruit of my journey into Watts’ teachings on meditation came slowly. The more I practiced through his lens of being versus always achieving, glimmers of an expansive identity beyond my individual self emerged.

No longer viewing meditation as a means toward specific results, I sank into it as one relaxes into a warm bath – just to soak in the experience. I allowed my senses, perceptions, and consciousness simply to be instead of trying to bend them to some goal.

Over time, boundless peace and joy began to infuse my days. I watched thoughts and judgments continue to come and go, but I identified less with being their source. A gap opened up between what I perceived and what I knew myself to be.

Less fractured by the demands of my ego and small self, I felt profoundly connected to the pulsing life all around me. At times, blissful tears flowed as I recognized the illusion of separateness melting away. The inner divisions fell silent as I opened to the dissolving edges of my individual being.

I want to express my deep gratitude to Alan Watts for being a guide into these realizations. His gift lies in transmitting to Western minds these transcendental insights at the heart of Eastern wisdom traditions. He teaches without dogma, through the lens of immediate presence with what is.

Table 1: Key Principles in Alan Watts’ View of Meditation

ConceptDescription
No GoalLetting go of aiming to accomplish anything; simply sinking into being
“Losing Your Mind”Witnessing the inner commentary without identifying with it as self
Feeling “At Home”Recognizing the interconnectedness of all existence beyond ego

Here the first part of the article comes to a close, centered on my personal discoveries of Alan Watts’ teachings on being versus achieving through meditation. In the next section, I will explore Watts’ perspectives on the practical steps for establishing a meditative state.

My Journey Into Alan Watts’ Wisdom on Establishing A Meditative State

In the first part of this article, I explored my personal discoveries around Alan Watts’ philosophical perspectives on meditation. His teachings helped me let go of expectations and embrace meditation as a practice of simply sinking into being with what is. Profound shifts happened for me internally as I applied his insights.

Now I want to share how Watts provided practical guidance on steps anyone can take to transition into a meditative state. Grounding his suggestions in immediate experience rather than esoteric theory, he makes this domain of awakening accessible to sincere seekers from all walks of life.

Guiding Principles For Establishing A Meditative State

As a philosopher who made Eastern wisdom relatable for Western audiences, Alan Watts distilled meditation down to a few key guiding principles:

Being fully present: Watts felt we spend most of our lives lost in thoughts about the past and future. Meditation involves continually bringing ourselves back to the here and now.

Not judging perceptions: We tend to categorize experiences as “good” or “bad,” but Watts said this constant judgment keeps us trapped in ego-perception. In meditation, we simply witness without labeling.

Recognizing the illusion of ego: Our sense of individual self is necessary for functioning in daily life but also creates separation. Watts guides us to see through this illusion during meditation.

Tip: Come back to the present moment rather than getting tangled in judgments about what you perceive.

These principles articulated by Watts helped me stop struggling so much in meditation. His invitation to drop judgments about my experience allowed me to relax into simple noticing. Moment after moment, I remind myself to come back to what is actually happening rather than getting embroiled in mental commentary.

Practical Steps For Establishing A Meditative State

Meditative State, Alan Watts with the universe behind him.

Beyond core philosophies around meditation, I found the specific methods Watts’ teaches invaluable:

Sit comfortably with eyes closed: Watts emphasizes getting the body settled so you can remain reasonably still during meditation. Eyes may be open initially but allowing them to close supports turning attention inward.

When I first started meditating, I was not very comfortable sitting cross-legged, so I simply sat upright in a chair instead. Over time, my flexibility increased, but maintaining an alert yet relaxed posture has always been essential.

Focus awareness on the breath: Alan Watts considers tuning into one’s breathing “an anchor” bringing attention into the present moment. The breath flows through us without conscious direction, so tuning into subtle sensations sustains concentration below thinking.

I like to rest my awareness right around the tip of my nose, feeling the coolness of each inhale and gentle warmth of each exhale. When distracted by thoughts, I just come back to this point of breath sensation.

Gently return when the mind wanders: Rather than judging ourselves for getting caught up in thinking, Watts asks us to softly return attention to the anchor of breath again and again. No matter how often you get distracted, keep beginning again without self-judgment.

I used to get really frustrated in meditation when my mind wandered into elaborate stories and task lists. Now I smile gently, label the distraction as “thinking” and come back to my sensory anchor. This patience allows me to sink below the turbulence more frequently.

Watts made what felt like esoteric practice so accessible by breaking it down into these steps focusing on immediate, lived experience. Instead of struggling with mystical concepts, I could practice meditation through the simple act of noticing my breath, again and again. The results unfolded on their own.

Piercing Illusion and Recognizing Interconnection – The Fruits of My Meditation Journey

Alan Watts as an oil painting.

Now we come to the culminating phase of this narrative where I get to share some of the profound shifts that unfolded internally as I plunged deeper into Alan Watts’ teachings on meditation. Through incredibly lucid metaphors, Watts maps out the transition from identification with egoic consciousness to liberating recognition of our interbeing with all life.

We’ve already touched on concepts like “losing your mind,” where we create distance from the incessant mental commentary that typically overpowers perception. By sustaining attention on breath and coming back again and again when distracted, we turn awareness upon itself and realize consciousness is the fundamental ground from which mind arises.

Piercing through layers of illusion ultimately reveals our interconnectedness with everything else arising interdependently in the web of life. Watts speaks to this unfolding revelation in stages:

From “Skin-Encapsulated Ego” to “No Self”

When we remain trapped in compulsive thinking and reacting, we inhabit what Watts vividly calls the “skin-encapsulated ego.” We bounce painfully between past regrets and future worries, identifying with the stream of consciousness as a solid “self” facing a frightening “other” we must control. Meditation allows us to see through this illusion.

In beginning stages, everything outside our body-identification feels alien. But as we sustain awareness on perceptions arising and passing, the boundary softens. We less often get sucked into strong identification with mental positions about what’s happening. Greater space between consciousness and its content opens up until we glimpse “no self, no problem.” Reactiveness dissipates as we relax into pure witnessing without egoic judgment.

From “Game” to “Drama” to “Dance”

As the illusion of being an isolated self-interacting with a world “out there” starts to crumble, Alan Watts introduces the metaphor shift from “game” to “drama” to “dance.”

When we believe the egoic narrative, life takes on dimension of a game we must win by conquering every perceived threat. But in meditation, this relentless urge to triumph over experiences collapses into simply witnessing life’s passing show as a drama unfolding. None of it ultimately sticks to who we are.

At even deeper stages, the witnessing fades too, and a blissful dance of interbeing emerges. We relinquish consciousness as something “we” possess and merge with the ebb and flow of all creation, belonging intrinsically to the whole. No self remains to become enlightened; reality itself shines forth as unmodified awareness suffusing everything.

From “I-It” to “I-Thou” Relationship

Finally, Alan Watts spoke profoundly about how meditation transforms our relationship to the world. When functioning from ego-identification, we stand separate from the environment, events, and other beings, viewing it all through a lens of utilitarianism. How can people and experiences be useful for my agenda? The world becomes filled with its when we stand aloof as a self-centered I.

But in the light of awakening enabled through meditation, this turns on its head. The illusory divisions dissolve, and only profound interconnection with the whole living universe remains. We enter into I-Thou relationship with all arising, invoking philosopher Martin Buber’s terminology. No longer apart from anything we witness, our eyes gaze back at us from the depths of existence as subject and object merge.

And here our journey into Alan Watts’ wisdom on meditation draws to its conclusion. Though mere conceptual rendering falls short, I aimed to transmit glimpses into this luminous awareness underlying yet transcending body and mind identifications. By Watts’ grace, may every being discover this radiant boundless ground of liberation for themselves!

FAQ on Alan Watts Guided Meditation

Q: How does Alan Watt’s suggest we meditate for inner peace?

A: In his guided meditation, Alan Watts suggests mindfulness and meditation, emphasizing the importance of not trying to identify or put names on every thought or sensation. He encourages listeners to allow the buzz of the world in without judgement and to simply breathe, staying in touch with reality.

Q: What is the mantra in Alan Watts’ guided meditation?

A: The mantra in Alan Watts’ guided meditation isn’t specified. He speaks of using the power of the “hum” and vibration of the world as a form of mantra, reminding us that everything is simply a noise of different rhythms, tones, and volumes when we don’t put names on them.

Q: How can I subscribe to Alan Watts’ guided meditation audio?

A: You can subscribe to Alan Watts’ guided meditation audio by visiting his official website or authorized platforms. You can then get options to subscribe or download the free audio for regular practices.

Q: Can I use Alan Watts’ guided meditation for free?

A: Yes. His meditation audio is often available for free on various platforms. However, subscribing or purchasing the audio helps support his work and allows you access to all available resources.

Q: Is this guided meditation suitable for a beginner in yoga?

A: Yes, it is. Alan Watts’ guided meditation caters to beginners and advanced practitioners alike. The guided audio promotes the art of meditation, which can complement your yoga practice by enhancing relaxation and mindfulness techniques.

Q: What type of audio is included in Alan Watts’ guided meditation?

A: Alan Watts’ guided meditation audio includes his soothing voice guiding you through the process of mindfulness and meditation. It encourages you to listen to the general hum and buzz of the world without judgement, promoting insight and inner peace. The audio doesn’t have any music, it’s more about learning to appreciate silence and natural world sounds.

Q: Can I get the meditation video of Alan Watts?

A: While Alan Watts guided audio meditations are more common, you might also find video versions on various platforms. However, he focuses on keeping your eyes closed to listen to the general hum and buzz of the world, so audio often suffices.

Q: How does this meditation help improve your mind?

A: Alan Watts’ guided meditation for inner peace helps improve your mind by teaching you to be mindful of your thoughts without judgement. He suggests to let the inside world come together naturally with the outside world of sound through the practice of meditation. This enables you to cultivate a deep sense of awareness and inner peace.

Q: How long should I listen to this guided meditation?

A: The length can be voluntary, depending on your comfort. You can start with shorter periods and gradually extend as you get more comfortable with the practice. Remember, the goal is not the time spent, but the quality of mindfulness and peace you attain.

Q: What is unique about Alan Watts’ technique for guiding meditation?

A: Alan Watts’ technique of guiding meditation is unique in its simplicity. He focuses on the general hum and buzz of the world, asking you to merely observe it, rather than trying to control or interpret it. This brings a sense of relaxation and deep contact with reality, embodying his concept of “the art of meditation”.

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