Ancient Practice for the Young at Heart

From: Janardhan
Sent on: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 9:14 PM
Hello San Francisco Meditators,
Here is a nice article on meditation written by my friend Mike George who lives in the UK.


Ancient Practice for the Young at Heart

Some people need a crisis before they will try it; other people need a friend to tell them how good it is, while many will experiment simply out of curiosity. Each will seek a teacher and learn how to meditate. Each will experience something ranging from a more peaceful mind to a more contented heart, from life changing insights to a deep personal enlightenment? perhaps.

Many claims have been made for the efficacy of meditation including its positive role in healing physical ailments, overcoming depression and the relief of stress. But you just never know how effective it is, as the specific effects of practice are immeasurable in quantitative terms, until you try it yourself. That's because it's an inner exercise within ones consciousness that has an effect on the quality of your life not the quantities in your life (though it may eventually indirectly enhance those too!). It's not even an experience that can be shared. That's because it's an 'insperience' that is private and personal.

For over two thousand years meditation has been recognised worldwide as the way to clean and focus the mind so that it can think clearly and positively, liberate and strengthen the heart (spiritual heart) so that it holds no animosity and no fear. It is no surprise then that most practitioners seem to live a more peaceful, purposeful and joyful life. And it's also no surprise in the age of speed, stress and sensual overload that meditation is becoming more widely practiced and therefore 'quite' rigorously researched. And it seems it has been almost 'scientifically' proven to be rather good for you. Here is a random sampling of results of some research sent by friends and colleagues as they sought to get a more tangible hold on the benefits. It seems?.

* Long-term meditators experience 80 percent less heart disease and 50 percent less cancer than non-meditators.
* 75 percent of insomniacs were able to sleep normally when they meditated.
* 34 percent of people with chronic pain significantly reduced medication when they began meditating.
* Meditators secrete more of the youth-related hormone DHEA* as they age than non-meditators.
* It helps decrease stress, heighten memory & control weight

Not sure about the last one above i.e. weight control, but perhaps that is a by-product of a strengthened will. Ultimately these kinds of facts and stats are irrelevant in the face of personal experience, and that is always what in inner process of self-reflection and contemplation is about. So if the efficacy is so great why are we all not rushing headlong to our nearest meditation centre/teacher to learn and integrate it into our life? One of the main reasons is probably an addiction to action and the inability to see the value of sitting still in quiet contemplative moments within the busy schedule of a high achieving lifestyle. And then there is the mythology that has grown around meditation that we use to avoid getting started. Here are a few of those myths.

1) You need to find a Guru
No you don't. An experienced teacher to explain and guide is useful to begin with, but not a guru demanding blind obedience.

2) You need to be in Isolation
Not true. It's best to learn meditation in the context of your current lifestyle and routines. Then, as you integrate your meditation practice into what you do now, you will enhance both your efficiency and effectiveness in daily life.

3) You need to Close Your Eyes
Not necessary. It's best to keep them open (rest your gaze gently on a point in front of you) otherwise sleep will come and get you. Sleep is not meditation.

4) You have to Stop Thinking
Definitely not. You may go beyond thought as you meditate, but it is not useful to attempt to force it. In the beginning the purpose of meditation is to become aware of your thoughts and then change the quality and the quantity of your thoughts. Being thoughtless comes later.

5) It takes Years to Learn.
No it doesn't. You can learn in an hour with an experienced teacher to guide you. However, just like anything else, regular practice brings greater mastery.

6) Meditation is the Goal.
Actually it's not. It is primarily a method to cultivate self-awareness so that you can see what you need to change and do differently on the inside.

7) You need to be in a Group.
Not strictly false. It helps a lot, especially in the beginning, to be in a group when meditating. The energy and atmosphere supports your practice and makes it easier. Ultimately the aim is to be in meditation anywhere, anytime. Why? Because meditation is a state of being not just something you do.

8) Meditation is Hard.
Wrong belief. But if you believe it then so it will be for you!

9) You have to Give UP lots of Things.
Definitely not. Nothing is compulsory. However if you do learn to meditate you may see and realise you want to give up some things like old habits, negative thinking, lazy lifestyle etc. But you make all the decisions.

10) It's very Expensive
It's your choice. You can pay someone a lot of money to learn, or you can learn for free.

We all live in time and space. One seems to be moving faster and the other seems to be getting smaller by the day. We've even conquered outer space ? well some of it! But we forget to visit 'inner space'. To the practiced meditator inner space is always slow and tranquil to the point of stillness, always without boundaries and borders to the point of being aware of an unlimited spaciousness. Ask any experienced meditator and they are likely to remind us that it's only in this 'inner' space that we can find what we seek in almost all the other 'outer' areas of our life ? peace of mind, a contented heart and the wisdom to live harmoniously with others in this world. The journey there could be called meditation but there is in fact no journey because it is always only one second and no distance away!

Question: Do you do some form of meditative/contemplative/reflective practice daily, weekly or not very often? If not, why not? If so, how could you increase it in terms of a) time and b) depth?

Reflection: What is the relationship between your mind and your heart (spiritual heart)?

Action: Create a meditation space at home (and at work if possible) and spend at least 10 minutes per day in that space this week.

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