Category Archives: Meditation

Be Still and Know

There are numerous styles of meditation many of which have, in recent times, sailed west on the winds of migrating eastern gurus. In certain sects of Buddhism there in Vipassana meditation, very popular in the U.S. In Yoga Philosophy there is a system called the Eight Limbed Path of Raja Yoga. In Catholicism there is Centering created by Father Thomas Keating and The Interior Castle of mystic St. Teresa of Avila. Most styles or systems of meditating have one thing in common: drawing your attention inward to begin to know and connect with your self/Self, and to create the ability to direct your mental capacity by choice rather than by habit or default.

In our everyday lives, our energies and psyche become fragmented by the many issues that we encounter and the multitude of tasks that we have to accomplish. Meditation is meant to draw all of those energies back into one integrated stream of consciousness that we can direct at our choice. A metaphor for meditation might be the use of a magnifying glass to focus light on a leaf or piece of paper. If you focus the light long enough, it will create ample heat to set the leaf or paper on fire: similarly, when you meditate regularly, you can focus as intensely. You then have control of your mind energy and can use it in a very powerful way. This is called one pointedness in Yoga Philosophy. It is the ability to focus so deeply that you go right to the heart and pulse of life.

You don’t need a quiet mind to meditate. Sally Kempton in her book Meditation for the Love of It, describes the approach of Tantric meditation, “The core tantric strategy is to harness and channel all our energies, including the apparently distracting or obstructive ones, rather than trying to suppress or eliminate them. When we do that, the energy within thoughts, within emotions, in our moods, and even in intense feelings like anger or terror or desire can expand and reveal the ground that underlies everything, the pure creative potential of consciousness itself.” In other words, you can use what is in your mind already as a tool to go deep into your own consciousness. But don’t become a slave to your thoughts, emotions, or moods. Go to the felt sense, the energetic feeling, behind them.

To begin the meditative process, most meditation approaches use a focus point. That focus point can be your breath, the sensations in your body, a word or sound, a prayer, a piece of music, a felt sense, your heart beat and sundry other supports that can help to anchor your attention and direct it. The only thing you need to attain the multitude of benefits of meditation is patience and an unwavering commitment to stay the course. Go for it!


Thinking About…

I’ve been thinking about thinking. What if you could unroll the entire lifetime of your brain, word by word, like a ticker tape? What a shock and an education that might be! What is thinking? How does it happen? Here’s what I came to. Thinking is a way of sculpting and arranging energy — your own individual energy. The process of thinking assembles and organizes the elements of our lives, both conscious and not so conscious elements, into something intelligible.

Thinking happens by virtue of the ‘mind,’ which is composed of thoughts. But what is ‘mind?’ Sally Kempton, author and Meditation instructor says, “…the phenomenon we experience as “mind” is actually a particularly vibrant and subtle kind of energy. An ocean of energy, in fact, in which waves of thoughts and emotions arise and subside.” The mind is a tool that individualizes energy by engaging the process called thinking.

The mind is the most important tool that we have. Think of it as a horse. You can leave a horse out in the field to wander, or you can train a horse so that you can ride it, enter it in races or shows, or do work that you can’t do yourself. Just so, you can train the mind to consciously serve your purposes or allow it to wander endlessly and waste away all of your energies and talents.

What do you spend your time thinking about? Is your mind enthralled constantly by all those pre-taped messages that go through it over and over and over (a form of self-hypnosis) – broken records of past unresolved events, ungrounded fantasies, bland repetition of who knows what? Does that accomplish anything beneficial for you or anyone else? Is that really the process called, “thinking”? Let’s hope not!

You can use the mind in countless ways. Think about it! Some of the synonyms for thinking are reasoning, rationalizing, discerning, intellectualizing. You can ruminate, ponder, reflect, cogitate, meditate, deliberate, muse. Within that framework, thinking can be many things. It can be a response to internal feelings or external stimuli. It can be your way of creating representations of your world and your life – your particular perspective. It can be a way of directing your thoughts to resolve problems, put together information in a way that clarifies and brings deeper understanding. Or you can use the thinking process to create — in the sense of someone having an idea and then thinking through the process of designing a city, house, a rocket, whatever.

How does ‘thinking’ come about? Each of us has impulses towards certain activities; moods or attitudes that come from feelings – feelings of depression, curiosity, anger, love, harmony, discomfort, etc. Each of those impulses or moods draws to it a certain constellation of thoughts and behaviors. Out of that constellation of thoughts, you can take what you want and ride the wave in that particular realm. That wave — for instance, curiosity — can be creative, coherent, expansive, or it can be negative and destructive– ie., depressive thinking.

The power of directing your thoughts is called concentration. Concentration draws all of your energies into one coherent stream — called one-pointedness in Yoga philosophy. In Christian terms, it could be said: “If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light,” lighting the way to greater understanding and action; bringing flow to your life. One-pointedness, singleness of mind, can direct that inner stream of energy into something that is organized and powerful. When you learn to concentrate, you learn to use your energies to your greatest, and possibly everyone else’s, benefit.

Begin the practice of concentration by choosing something that you love to do – learn to knit, do woodworking, dance, research a certain subject, etc. — and put your heart and soul into it even when the going gets rough. In this way you are learning to direct your energies, to be single-minded-one-pointed, and train your thinking processes. You’ve made a decision to choose and use your thoughts instead of letting them use you or wander aimlessly. You’ve trained your horse – the mind – to take you where you want to go. That’s what brings empowerment, satisfaction and a rich, wholesome life.