Remember to apportion your meditation session as follows:
- rest with the breath for 1/3 of your meditation time,
- do the following contemplations for 1/3-1/2 your practice session,
- again rest with the breath for the balance of your session.
The animal realm represents instinct. All your attention is focused almost exclusively on basic needs. Am I safe here? Where is there food? How do I mate? How do I avoid pain? One way to appreciate how the animal realm operates in you is to pick three or four different animals and imagine what life is like as that animal. Meditate on domestic animals—a horse, an ox, or a pet dog, for instance. How susceptible are you to training and conditioning? Why do you submit to it? How much control do you have over your basic drives? What happens when you encounter something outside your training or conditioning? Why, when you are bigger, stronger, faster or have quicker reactions, do you tolerate the conditions you live in and the way you are treated? Be the animal, inhabit the animal, and look at these questions from that perspective. Then look at your own life and see where and to what extent you see and function in similar ways.
Then move to wild animals. Again, pick three or four. What is it like to be a mountain lion or a heron? What about a mouse or a song bird? What about a worm or a fish? You are exceedingly skillful and effective in the areas where your biological and environmental conditioning applies. But you are still up against the indifference of Mother Nature. You have to eat and you are going to be eaten, one way or another, depending on where you are in the food chain. You are driven to mate, but how do you do that? You control very little about your environment, sun, wind, rain, or ice. What happens when you encounter a situation outside your conditioning? Or when the vagaries of Mother Nature push you outside your regular habitat and habits? How do you react? Again, look at your own life and see where and to what extent you function in similar ways.
Both domestic and wild animals rely heavily on routine, from daily routines to seasonal routines. During this month, pay attention to the routines in your own life, whether at home or at work. Pay attention to the quality of your attention when you are engaged in routine activity. Are you doing it in your sleep, as they say, or are you really paying attention to what you are doing?
Next 6 days: alternate between animal realm and god realm
During your meditation period, continue exploring what it is like to be different animals. Be quite specific and imagine your life as one particular animal, a snake or frog, perhaps, or a dragonfly. What catches or draws your attention? What do you ignore? What do you not even notice? Then look at your own life, and see where and to what extent your own attention is directed by basic impulses, particularly in what you do not notice and what you ignore.
During the day, on day one, go about your life as an animal you have worked with in your meditation. Try to navigate your life as that animal, paying attention and reacting to what catches your attention and ignoring or paying no attention to what is outside your conditioning. Where does it work? Where does it not work? When it doesn't work, what does that animal tend to do? Try to stay with that animal for a whole day. Do this with both a domestic animal and an animal in the wild.
The next day, go about your life as if you are in the god realm. The world is your oyster. You are entitled to whatever you want. Assume that everyone you encounter is there to serve you. Ask people to indulge your every whim and fancy. Now, as a god, what do you not notice? What do you ignore, even if you do notice it?
The animal realm and the god realm are both based in ignoring. The animal ignores what is outside the scope of its conditioning. The god, being above it all, ignores the existence of lesser beings.
Alternate one day animal, one day god for six days.
Next 6 days: alternate between animal realm and human realm
Continue to do the animal realm meditation, imagining being specific animals and exploring how they live in their particular worlds. What do you do when a need has been met? Do you even know when a need has been met? Food is so scarce for some animals that, given the opportunity, they just keep eating. What is it like to live with limited awareness?
What is the difference between the human realm and the animal realm? An animal, in general, acts on what it perceives it needs in the moment. Humans, again generally speaking, are more able to project their desires into the future and figure out how to satisfy them. They plan, scheme, and work at fulfilling their desires.
During the day, for the first day, go about your life as if you are an animal. Animals are creatures who follow routines, whether the routine is seasonal migration, mating rituals, making the rounds of one's territory in search of food, or the routine cats and dogs establish in domestic life. If your routine is disrupted, you seek to re-establish it as quickly as possible. You don't think much about the future. In fact, you can't even imagine it. Fear of loss and hope of gain only enter the picture in the very short term.
The next day, go about your life as a human. As a human, you always want things to be a little different from how they are, a little more of this, a little less of that. You are constantly busy, figuring how to have what you want, and how to change what you don't want. You can anticipate the future, and that causes hope and fear to arise, but that hope and fear are all about the future, not what is happening right now.
Again, alternate one day as an animal, one day as a human for the six days.
Next 6 days: alternation between animal realm and titan realm
In your practice sessions, continue to explore the animal realm, a world based in instinct and conditioning, a life based in routine, a life in which awareness is limited past and future are overshadowed by immediate circumstances. From time to time, consider how you react when your routines are disrupted, your survival threatened, or you are pushed to the edge by another animal. Note how fierce and competitive you can become when your food, your territory, or your standing in the herd is challenged or threatened.
During the day, go about your life as an animal one day, following your routine, whether the routine is determined by the day, the month, or the year, minding your own business unless the world intrudes. The next day, go about your life as a titan, so envious of what others have that you take it as a mortal challenge that they might be better in someway than you.
For the six days, alternate one day as an animal, one day as a titan.
Remaining days of the month: awakening in the animal realm
In the human realm, Buddha, the awake mind, is symbolized by the Steadfast Lion who is free from any kind of threat, unchallenged wherever he goes. His thunderous roar wakes animals out of the sleep of instinct and conditioning and inspires them to be aware of the totality of their experience.
Again, enter the animal realm and the life of routine, attention only to the immediate present, driven by instinct with little thought or reflection. Then touch the knowing present even in instinct, the clear empty knowing that embraces everything you experience. Let that knowing permeate your whole being, your body, heart and mind, banishing the darkness of conditioning, just as sun banishes the darkness of the night. Let that knowing take the form of intense crystal clear light that permeates everything you experience. The whole animal realm dissolves in that light.
Dissolve the animal realm into light two or three times, and then rest in the light.
When we lose touch with where we feel alive and awake, we fall into a dull routine. Routines themselves are not the problem. The problem is the loss of connection with the wakefulness inherent in every moment of experience. When we lose touch with that alive quality, our instincts and conditioning take over. We go into survival mode, blindly performing the routines that maintain our existence. We do whatever we have to do to survive. We do not bring our intelligence, insight, creativity, and energy to our lives. We go through the motions of life, as it were, concerned only with our survival in the limited world into which we have fallen. If that world is threatened, our reactions can be fierce, but we are protecting only our dullness. During the day, when you feel challenged or threatened, or when you feel you are just going through the motions of life, ask these three questions:
• What am I trying to survive in this situation?
• Do I have to survive it?
• Is surviving called for at all right now?
These questions break the enchantment of the animal realm. As with the other realms, when the spell is broken, you may experience a bit of a shock. You soon see, however, the limitations of the world in which you have been living. You see many more possibilities. You feel a renewed energy and vitality. Your mind is open and aware, with a completeness that is both of full of peace and full of possibilities at the same time.