I’ve been actively meditating since 1972, when I was 16 years old. There was some meditation in church when I was growing up, but I didn’t participate. My first real experience with meditation was listening to “My Sweet Lord,” by George Harrison. As I listened, the chanting in the background became more and more clear, and I just focused on that part of the song.
I heard the chanting in the song, but I didn’t know what it was. It was around Christmas time and, at first, all I heard was the hallelujah part. But then the Hare Krishna mantra started to seep through to my consciousness and heart, and that is what I focused on.
After that, I did what most teenagers did in the seventies. I burned a candle and concentrated on the flame, trying to clear my mind of thoughts. In the beginning, it was quite frustrating. I got headaches. And the more I tried to stop the thoughts in my head, the more they came. But eventually I felt a stillness and silence that brought a sense of peacefulness over me.
There are many different types of meditation, and each utilizes a different method to accomplish different goals.
Contemplative Meditation — All religions employ contemplative meditation in some way or another. Christians, Jews and Hindus listen to prayers or chants for a while, then go into the silence. In the silence, you focus on the names of God, or a picture of the God of your understanding, or maybe you focus your attention on the secret chamber behind your heart.
Buddhists have different forms of contemplative meditation, such as walking. While at a Buddhist retreat, I had the opportunity to experience “walking meditation.” It focused on being aware of every step and all that it took to put one foot in front of the other. This was called being in the “Present.”
Loving Kindness Meditation — “Loving Kindness” is an unconditional, inclusive love; a love with wisdom. It has no conditions. It does not depend on whether the object of the love and kindness “deserves” it or not. It typically starts with friends and family, but it goes much further. It stretches out from personal categories to include all living beings.
In this meditation, there are no expectations of anything in return. This is ideal, pure love, which potentially everyone has. We begin with loving ourselves, for unless we have this unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves, it is difficult to extend it to others. Then we include others who are special to us and, ultimately, to all living things. Gradually, both the visualization and the meditation phrases blend into the actual experience…the feeling of loving kindness.
Shabbat/Sabbath — In the western religions such as Christianity and Judaism, there is a call for a day of rest and contemplation. It can include many rituals, such as beginning just before sundown on Friday and ending at the end of the day on Sunday. While these traditions are active, they all do require a time of contemplation wherein you sit in silence and acknowledge your activities, how they might have been helpful or where you could have done more. An important component is being grateful for everything you have.
Yoga — The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” which means to bind or to yoke, thus bringing into union. Yoga is meant to bring the mind, body and spirit into union. Thousands of years ago, sages (holy men) would sit in certain postures, breathing in a variety of ways and chant mantras (prayers) to bring their individualized soul (Jivatma) into union with God (Paramatma).
Today, yoga is mostly about the process of stretching and strengthening, which can be done more effectively when you are breathing properly. When meditation is done at the end, it is mostly experiencing the “Present,” not the “Presence.”
Scriptures of old, be they the Testaments, the Vedas, etc., tell us that meditation was really another form of prayer that allowed us to have union with The Source and our True Self/Higher Self (i.e., that part of us that is part and parcel of The Source of all).
So why would we want to link up . . . to have union . . . with The Source?
Have you ever experienced the joy of being around your beloved? Or experienced the deep love a parent has for a child? Or how about that feeling of comfort you get when you’re in the company of your best friend; when it seems like the two of you are complete and no one else is needed.
When one has that glimpse of union with The Source, the feelings described above are just a fraction of the intense feelings you experience when you are in union with God. Meditation helps distinguish between what is real (and more to the point, what is important) and what is not. Because, while all those feelings you have when with your beloved, your child, your friend(s), etc., are wonderful, they change (because we stop seeing them for who they really are) and eventually that other person (or you) is gone, the body expires.
What you are experiencing with others is like a reflection of the love between us and The Source. When you fall in love with someone, you are falling in love with The Source in that person. When you experience a deep friendship with a person, you are experiencing the deep friendship between you and The Source. The same thing applies to the love between you and your child; it’s a reflection of the love between you and The Source.
Meditating in the Presence brings our focus to what’s happening right now. The walking meditation I did while at a Buddhist retreat was tremendous. It really brought me into the moment and allowed me to experience everything it took to walk forward. I experienced my breathing, the very rhythm of my breath, while placing one foot in front of the other. I became aware of how my foot touched the ground and the follow-through required. I experienced awareness of all the muscles in my legs, buttocks and hips, as well as those in my upper body, that are required just for me to walk, one step at a time.
My mind was not distracted with all the mental clutter that usually runs through my head. I was completely focused on the moment and all it took just to place one foot in front of the other.
After our walking meditation, we did the same thing while having lunch. It was a tremendous experience being completely present to eating my lunch. Tasting it, chewing each mouthful over 200 times (as instructed) before swallowing it. Feeling it move through and nourish my body. I was so present. I had never experienced being in the now like that before.
Being in the now is being aware of your body and your surroundings. This needs to be practiced. And it’s important to remember that when meditating on the now, we are meditating on something temporary. So while it’s important to stay Present, what’s more essential is to be in the Presence. You are in the Presence when you are seeing everything around you as extensions of The Source.
If we want to experience peace in our everyday lives, it is crucial to practice meditation on a daily basis. I know that’s a forceful statement, but it is the truth.
Starting your day without a few minutes (or however much time you can dedicate) of meditation is like a carpenter going to work without his tools. Just imagine all the difficulties that carpenter will have throughout his day because he forgot his tools.
Meditating in the “Present” will bring about gratitude. This attribute is very important.
I’m not saying that you will never have anything to complain about. In fact, it will be necessary to complain at times. But here’s the thing. While it’s okay to complain, take care that you don’t get stuck. Be sure you achieve resolution.
Meditating on the “Present” also helps keep you from drifting. But no matter how much meditating on the “Present” you do, remember that you are focusing on things that are temporary and will constantly change. While you will find peace and resolve, those too will pass.
Meditating on the “Presence” will bring about an eternal peace in your life. There is a passage from the Gospel of John 8:32: “…and the truth [knowledge] shall make you free.” As you meditate on the “Presence,” you will come to a deeper knowledge of who you are, and why you are here. This knowledge is the truth that sets us free from being entangled in the results and reactions of all that is temporary.
The original article appeared at www.selfgrowth.com.