Question: Dear Luise: What’s meditation all about? I wonder if you would be willing to write on this somewhat confusing subject. Do you have any experience with it? I have talked with friends who meditate regularly and feel it is very helpful. I know in the East it is often taught to youngsters as they are growing up but in the West, it hasn’t been a part of most people’s daily lives. I have checked out the web and found books about meditation but it feels like too much information to know where to begin. Would you please comment on this? Thanks, Tom
Answer: Dear Tom: About all I can do is point you to a door or two. Your friends who meditate may be willing to do the same thing. I have always found meditation an interesting subject but I am a very long way from being even minimally informed.
I was introduced to meditation through a Catholic church I once attended. Their Institute of Spirituality teaches the Centering Prayer, which is a centuries old form of meditation. I think it was the first time I was formally introduced to the intrinsic value of focused silence. Up until then, I had loved long, quiet walks in the woods, alone, and solitary times to reflect…but I had never had such experiences defined as a type of pre-meditative state that could be refined through study and group sessions.
My eldest son was very interested in a different type of meditation called Vipassana. He went often to organized, ten-day sessions where they meditated for ten hours a day…every day. They have a website you can visit at www.dhamma.org .
Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, has written several books highlighting two different types of meditation. One is called Tonglen. I have found her easy to read and understand. A full selection with reviews on each is available at www.amazon.com .
I also have a close friend who has learned Kriya Yoga Meditation from the teachings of Yogananda. She attends their Self Realization Fellowship every year in California and practices independently the rest of the year. Go to www.yogananda-srf.org .
My point here is that it seems to me to be a very individualistic thing and probably deserves an investigative approach to find a “match”. Certainly, there is much to be said for quieting the mind and getting in touch with what is beyond its natterings. It can be very healthy, in my opinion, to add a spiritual dimension to our physical and very materialistic existence through some form of meditation on a regular basis.
I have read various comments about the difference between meditation and prayer but that too can be a very personal distinction. Generally, meditation is less of a petition and more a process of an “accessing” and then just hanging out there. That’s an oversimplification, of course, and I know serious teachers would probably cringe.
Your curiosity will carry you far if you just take it slow and easy. Blessings, Luise