Meditation on Meditation

Today became a mental health day. I skipped lunch and dinner last night. Did not get out of bed till late and accomplished pretty much nothing except to enjoy a long commune with bush tea, which I learned about from Alexander McCall Smith’s heroine Precious Ramotswe. That was my third meditation between last night and this morning. They all helped. I will review the tea on another occasion. Today: meditation

As I mentioned in an earlier post (“Religious Omnivore,”), I’ve been meditating regularly for more than ten years, and sporadically since age 11. It’s taken various forms beginning with the simple ten minutes after an hour of hatha yoga. My recent steady devotion began about a year after Mother died when I met Bob Vinci. The Meditation Man teaches a simple technique, also based on the breath. He has been successful in helping people with a variety of problems. A young man with mental illness and an out-of-control temper, who had been attending when I started, couldn’t sit still for more than two minutes at the beginning. Slowly, slowly, Bob calmed him. By the time the kid moved out of the group home and into independent living, he was sitting the entire half hour with the rest of us and had achieved a regular job. His sister couldn’t believe it. Bob has also helped recovering addicts and people in severe physical pain. He seems to have the most success with lost souls, especially young people who are floundering. He explained that the technique creates its own mantra, which we understand without needing conscious awareness of it. Bob stressed twice daily practice. I always managed the morning sitting, almost never the afternoon session.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, Bob led me to spiritualism. While I attended church I meditated at the same time every day and attended development classes. I still use a guided meditation CD by the Reverend Steve Hermann, which has the most gorgeous music and really does raise one’s energy. (Side 2 will waft you off to sleep if you want it.) The Spiritualist Church uses the Christian liturgy as the format for its worship but believes that Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Moses and the other prophets all lead to the same place – and that we can all do what they did with dedication, practice, and most of all, meditation. Steve talks of the Christ light because that’s what he knows, but the energy is divine light, not just the Christian Jesus.

About the same time I started with Bob, I had a wonderful experience at the Omega Institute. Much the benefit from that experience came from the setting in the woods outside Rhinebeck. It had a lake, hiking paths in the woods, a circle for walking meditation, vegetarian cuisine – one could not just call it food. I started a walking meditation along the hiking path but was distracted by the signs every few feet telling the city slickers that the plants with three shiny leaves were dangerous and not to wander off the path and commune with the ticks. After the third of fourth sign, I started to giggle, which scared the chipmunks that were eyeing me. I gave up and went back to walk the maze. As I understand it the place was founded by Sufis but subscribes to no religious tradition and draws people like Dr. Bernie Siegel, who is one of my heroes.

A couple of weeks ago when I was making one of my regular futile attempts at cleaning (see pretty much any blog entry over the last year), a little book fell of the shelf. One thing that I’ve learned with meditation is to pay attention to small things, so I picked it up. Later that day I sat down to look at it again. It was “The Still Point: A Beginners Guide to Zen Meditation” by John Daido Loori. The new edition has been retitled “Finding The Still Point.”  My copy is a tiny 4×4 (about) gem. The 2007 edition seems to have changed the photographs but the content remains. The technique is based on the breath, too, but is far more rigorous than other practices I’ve encountered. I went once to the Zen center in New Haven and was a bit dismayed to listen to the master, a woman, yell at people during the walking meditation. I’ll keep with my own exploration of this practice and see what happens.

A quick observation: all of these folks have developed amazing web sites, but they don’t substitute for experience.


One Response to “Meditation on Meditation”

  1. What I’m Reading Now « Lizr128′s Blog Says:

    […] readers know I love Alexander McCall Smith (“Thrilled This Day Is Over,” “Rooibos,” “Meditation on Meditation,” “Where Have I Been?” and the other entries I mentioned in that […]

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