Meditation as a Path to Peace, Part II
Part I of this post is here.
A definition of meditation, for which I insert Wikipedia’s introduction (ref):
The term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices (much like the term sports), which range from techniques designed to promote relaxation, contacting spiritual guides, building internal energy (chi, ki, prana, etc.), receiving psychic visions, getting closer to a god, seeing past lives, taking astral journeys, and so forth, to more technical exercises targeted at developing compassion, love, patience, generosity, forgiveness and more far-reaching goals such as effortless sustained single-pointed concentration, single-pointed analysis, and an indestructible sense of well-being while engaging in any and all of life’s activities. Thus, it is essential to be specific about the type of meditation practice under investigation.
Failure to make such distinctions would be akin to the use of the word ‘sport’ to refer to all sports as if they were essentially the same. For example, the overly generic description of meditation as a mere relaxation technique becomes problematic when one attends to the details of many practices. In contrast, we should think about the term “Meditation” as referring to several neighborhoods of New Age practices, shamanistic lucid dreaming and astral journeying, theistic-concentration meditations, contemplation, visualization, hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, chakra clearing, kundalini, breathing exercises, training of single-pointed attention, training in mindfulness, training in single-pointed analysis, vision questing, chi building exercises, and so on, developed for various ends.”
Sometimes meditation is an inwardly oriented practice which individuals do by themselves. There are also forms of meditation, however, which require an individual to be walking, moving, talking, eating, or working, such as advanced forms of Zen, Mahamudra, and Vajrayana. Prayer beads or other ritual objects are commonly used during meditation in order to keep track of or remind the practitioner about some aspect of the training. Meditation may involve generating an emotional state for the purpose of analyzing that state – such as anger, hatred, etc – or cultivating particular mental response to various phenomena, such as compassion. The term “meditation” can refer to the state itself, as well as to practices or techniques employed to cultivate the state. In brief, there are dozens of specific styles of meditation practice; the word meditation may carry different meanings in different contexts. Meditation has been practiced since antiquity as a component of numerous religious traditions and beliefs.
Beyond any specific religious practice, the health and stress-relief benefits of meditation have become increasingly understood and accepted within western societies. So here is a very broad foundation upon which to take my particular discussion of meditation.
In my life I have practised three very specific, very different forms of meditation.
One has been prayer, and even within that I have found great variety in my own and others’ understandings, techniques and practices. I now prefer to hear prayer rather than say it myself; I like the quiet spaces between the words and I find a lot of peace there.
In my twenties I learnt Transcendental Meditation, a specific technique with a mantra, based on the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, taught throughout the western world to millions and millions of ‘TM’ers over several decades -made especially famous by The Beatles’ visit to Maharishi in the 1960s.
In my forties I learnt a method of ‘relaxation’ that is based on a knowledge of the energy and light that underlie all things. In theory it is no different in its aims than any other technique of prayer or meditation, except I have found in it also a method by which I may make a difference in lives other than my own, and the understanding of how this is so.
My discovery is far from unique of course – it is a goal of most religious prayer and meditative practice to affect the world and people beyond just oneself. I find also that a lifetime’s pursuit of knowledge and practice in this regard converge now with a life stage where compassion for “other” is at its highest so far, and my confidence and ability to affect change around me are also at a certain maturity.
The Source with which we engage when we are in prayer or meditation, is, I believe, the source of all things – it is positive, peaceful, creative and loving, and it connects all things to each other. Furthermore, it has the ability to transport that which is positive, peace-seeking and loving. It has power over the negative and is capable of replacing it entirely. That Source we may call God, or the Concourse on High, or the Energy underlying all matter, or the Ether, or the Holy Spirit, or the Force of Nature. Perhaps it is “being in the Zone”, or “in the Flow”. Many practices invite many different definitions.
To the extent that we, as individuals, are able to engage in meditative techniques, we are able to not only influence our own health, well-being, good fortune, happiness, and purpose; but also that of others around us, and indeed the whole world.
The spirit of peace – I believe – requires a critical mass of presence in the world, at which point it can (and will) pervade the whole Earth with speed.
Who of us does not have a responsibility to contribute to that spirit in every way we can? The Fast Track is not the one taken by politicians or warring factions that sit down to negotiations or who agree to ceasefires. “We” are it. It begins with me.