Spirituality * Culture * Self-Expression

Tag: Meditation

Everybody Meditates

Meditation isn’t a Christian thing or a Western thing – it’s not even a Hindu thing or an Eastern thing – meditation is a worldwide thing. Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Norsemen, First Nations people – everybody around the world, from the earliest humans to the present time have meditated and continue to meditate in one form or another.

Knowledge of meditation and similar practices are found throughout history.

In pre-Colombian America, in old Nordic cultures, in ancient Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Rome; in Arabic and African countries, in Australia and the Pacific islands – all people have a tradition of meditation.

Pythagoras, the ancient Greek mathematician whose theorems are still taught in schools, today, led a community of disciples who practiced meditation. The Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, wrote a book on the subject. Native Americans initiated their youth in meditation processes. Old Mexican sculpture depicts people in poses similar to ones used by yoga students. Mantras, seed thoughts and words of power are found not just in India, but throughout the ancient world and sounds such as Om are found in scriptures as diverse as Norse texts (Ome), Sanskrit (Aum), Judeo-Christian (Amen), Egyptian (Amon) and Arabic (Amin).

Knowledge of psychic centers and meditation concentration points also appear universal. From Hopi Indian practices to South Africa and throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Monastic orders in the Greek Orthodox Church continue to work with these concepts just as do the Hindus and Buddhists.

Meditation is clearly a common human inheritance.

Meditation practices, postures and power phrases or prayers are based on knowledge of the three-fold aspects of human beings – Body, Mind and Spirit. This knowledge provides detailed direction for eliminating mental and physical inhibitions. Humans have evolved with an instinct and desire to unite the physical and spiritual aspects of their being into a unified experience. And this experience is one of the things we strive for in meditation.

Meditation

A whole person, someone at one with himself – as opposed to someone who is inwardly divided – meditates everyday, without effort and without the need for any stylistic preparation. However, most people are not at one with themselves and most people would greatly benefit from achieving this state. And, interestingly enough, the most widely used way of becoming a whole person is to practice meditation.

Most people who want to learn about meditation seem to think that they have to read a lot of books or take classes. Books and classes are wonderful tools for getting second hand knowledge, but this has little to do with the act of meditating itself. Meditation is a natural process, part of the mechanism of being a human, we can all do it intuitively – at least we should be able to if we weren’t programed to resist it by our current materialistic culture.

Assume a comfortable position and then let yourself concentrate and connect with your inner self, letting the outer, messed up world fade away. A few moments of this a day, in time, will make a big impact on your life. Get into the habit of doing this. Once you start to understand and appreciate what is happening for you, some review of known, established meditation techniques will be helpful.

Look around.  Find one technique you think you will like and work with that for a time. You can change your mind and try something else, later. Some simple, early-stage techniques will involve adopting a good posture and effective breathing methods. A minute of reflection will tell you what these could be. Once you’ve had some regular practice, books and classes will then serve to REFINE and ENHANCE your own natural experiences. After using different techniques and finding something that feels good for you, the knowledge, experience and sensations that come to you automatically will inspire you to continue the practice.

Start now. Start from where you are. Start with whatever fear, pain or doubt you have. Start with your uncertainty – but start. Start and don’t stop. Start right from where you are now and with whatever insight and knowledge you have and go from there.

Later, you can do other things, refine your technique, explore more sophisticated or complex methods to see what they are about. First, however, you will want to get some direct experiences that can only come from practice.

Many people believe that to be a regular meditator or a spiritual person means that you must immediately stop living the way you do now: stop eating, drinking, playing and having a normal life.

Nope.

You can meditate and still keep living your regular life.

However, if done sincerely, meditation will expand your consciousness – it will expand your understanding of life and fill you with more clarity. Once your mind becomes calm and you get an overview of your own life patterns, you might begin to act differently. You might have the desire to live differently. But this will be a natural, unforced experience – something you will choose to happen. What that will look like is anybody’s guess. It will simply be something that is right for you alone, something that you, yourself, will choose.

Your choices in life will begin to be based on a calm, self-reliance and inner contentment. Your personal choices will NOT be based on indifference or some form of imposed, frightened attitude regarding what is allowed and what is forbidden. Instead, you will choose with an alert, involved attitude toward whatever you face in your own life.

Meditation won’t change or remake you – it will simply bring out your own true, natural, inner self. It will help you be the person you really are.

Is That So? – a Zen Story

Hakuin

The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life.

One day, without any warning, a beautiful girl, whose parents owned a food store in the village, announced that she was pregnant. The parents were livid and badgered the girl to reveal the name of the father. At first she would not confess the name, but after much harassment she finally declared that Hakuin was the father.

In great anger the parents confronted the master and accused him of lechery. “Is that so?” was all Hakuin would say.

After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. “This is your responsibility,” the girl’s parent said.

“Is that so?” said Hakuin.

hakuinandthebaby

By this time he had lost his reputation with the community and he was shunned and often ridiculed behind his back. This did not seem to  trouble the master. He  took very good care of the child, seemingly delighted with the task of caretaker. Observing this, the neighbors soon accepted the situation and helped Hakuin obtain milk and everything else the child needed.

A year later the girl could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth – the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fish market.

is that so

The girl’s parents at once went to Hakuin to ask forgiveness and apologize at length. They also demanded that the child be returned to them.
“Is that so?” Hakuin said. But willingly relinquished the child.

Stories like this not only teach us about the lives of past Zen masters, they also help us develop personal enlightenment by offering our minds interesting vistas upon which to travel.

What was up with Hakuin? Why didn’t he just tell everyone he was not the father? What made him accept responsibility for the child? What did he mean when he said, “Is that so?”

Hakuin was always himself and not whatever other people thought of him. He did what was needful at the time. In life one day it rains the next day it’s sunny. Arguing with the sky doesn’t change anything. Cursing your fate doesn’t help you. Because Hakuin was truly free and his mind enlightened, material circumstances could not disturb or distress him.

As the poet Richard Lovelace wrote:

Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage;

Minds innocent and quiet take that for a hermitage;

If I have freedom in my love and in my soul am free,

Angels alone, that soar above, enjoy such liberty.
But what do you think? What does the story say to you? How does it reveal to you the path to enlightenment?

spirit of meditation

 

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