Learning to meditate
According to some surveys, ten percent or more of all Americans now carry out some type of meditation. People of all socioeconomic demographs, including ten year old kids in their schools, are closing their eyes and peering inward for self-development.
Reasons for knowledge to meditate vary widely: relief from stress seems to rank high on the list, but improved health ranks as a very close second reason. During the much-sentimentalized 1960s, meditation became famous largely due to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the popularity of his Transcendental Meditation (TM) program. Maharishi was canny enough to take his authentic, ancient practice and have modern science verify its benefits. Thus began the introduction of meditation and the quest for enlightenment in the modern, scientifically oriented west, although both had long been intrinsic to culture in the east.
Once Transcendental Meditation courses became widespread , the media began reporting about it. After public figures, like the Beatles, Donovan, and later Merv Griffin and Clint Eastwood, talked publicly about their benefits from the TM technique, other schools of meditation sprang up like wildflowers. Everytime you turned around a would-be guru was touting his or her path, none of them significantly scientifically researched, but offering a myriad of results nonetheless. Eventually the phone book was filled with choices, publications on yoga and on meditation filled the shelves in bookstores, and your next door neighbor’s eighteen year old hung out a shingle and taught you to focus on your breath.
So what is it all about? According to the more profound texts about meditation, its purpose is to unite the conscious mind with the universal cosmic basis of life. This is the pure form of Yoga, which in sanskrit, means union. The experience of transcending relative phases of perception to experience silent, absolute, non-changing existence is open to all, according to the texts and teachers. The value of this supreme realization of the silent Infinite is found in the finite routines of daily life. Self realization becomes self-actualization–greater energy, intelligence, creativity, compassion, tolerance and bliss-when we open our eyes after meditation. The results are worth the trip down the path-it is just a matter of which is the most effective path.
According to some scholars, techniques that involve concentration can tire the mind and not produce the transcendent state that one desires. Although the transcendent state finds the mind highly concentrated, it is not the technique of concentration that is the means to that end. Methods that involve focus or concentration keep the mind bound and active in individual perception, disallowing unboundedness.
Contemplative practices, such as visualization, prayer, mindfulness and any method that involves letting the mind wander or involves being attentive to the wandering mind, all keep the mind actively engaged in thought. This is counter-productive to transcending thought.
One of the reasons the TM technique continues, for example, to be widely practiced is that if doesn’t fit into either of the categories discussed-it is neither contemplation nor concentration, and therefore easily adapted by persons of varied natures, ages, personalities and intellectual capacity. Because it involves neither religion nor philosophy nor change in lifestyle, it appeals to those who wish a secular self-help approach to self-development. Although no meditation program offers a quick fix, some are more likely to deliver tangible benefits more quickly.
If you are looking for the whole kit and caboodle-a package of belief, lifestyle and doctrine–every religion from Christianity to Buddhism has a meditation component. It may not be your preference to change your lifestyle and belief system, so do your research before engaging in something that might be far too consuming for you. The internet has endless information (and misinformation) as does your local library and bookstore..
Whether you call it Nirvana, the Tao, the Self, or the Kingdom of Heaven Within, it is real; please enter.