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The Nature, Power and Beauty of Meditation

meditation

My wife Ruth and I have been doing and teaching a wide variety of meditation practices for decades. Having just completed a very lovely and evocative leaders’ intensive in meditation, I feel drawn to offer several remarks about the topic of meditation.

Firstly, let me address two common misconceptions about meditation. One is that the sole, or at least primary purpose of meditation is to promote stress-reduction or deep relaxation. Although that result is often sought and relaxation-centered meditations have been widely researched and publicized, stress management is only one function of meditation.

Another major misconception is that meditation requires totally emptying one’s mind or avoiding extraneous thoughts. Virtually nobody can rid of all competing thoughts. Beginners typically experience considerable thought intrusion in the meditative process. The key is to gently/patiently and without judgment, return one’s thoughts to the focal point, i.e. to observing the breath or attuning to a specific mantra, whenever the individual becomes aware that his mind has strayed.

Many people don’t realize that some form of meditation has been advanced in every culture and religion. In addition to quiet, sedentary application, meditation sometimes involves chanting, music and/or movement. Various types of meditation can be a useful method of contemplation, clarity, prayer, healing, developing creativity, imagination and receptivity, and for expanding consciousness. In the latter case, meditation ultimately serves as a means of effacing the ego and generates spiritual development. A person’s sense of individual identity (“small self”) very gradually extends to include a realization of Self—a gnosis of the unity that pervades the universe. That profound result transcends conceptual recognition or philosophical belief.

For beginners and advanced practitioners, meditating in a group or with a community often proves a rich and powerful way to intensify one’s experience. When a person relinquishes the expectation of a particular outcome and refrains from rushing his/her process, meditation becomes a more enjoyable and fruitful practice. A sense of beauty and/or accomplishment usually occurs as a byproduct, especially after regular, prolonged practice, rather than through strong desire or intention.

 

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