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Spirituality Essay:

Meditation, Part 1    ( December 2010 )

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Do you meditate? Or have you ever? ... or ever considered it?

This is a three-part essay. This monthís offering will explore the ABCís of meditation, how itís practiced, and what one might experience meditating. In the next essays, I will look more deeply into why and how it works and why such amazing spiritual growth can come from it.

I've discussed and generally suggested meditation as a wonderful and powerful spiritual practice over the years. It's been around for thousands of years - practiced by many, many millions to reduce stress, improve health, and become 'centered.' Meditators universally say they feel more patient and understanding, at peace with 'what is,' more alive in the moment - and more connected (both to themselves and their daily activities, and with everyone else). I hope I've also been honest that I've struggled with it ... that my own meditation these past ten years has been up-and-down - and on-and-off.long gaps when it didn't seem to 'work' and when I'd drift away from it.

But the past four months it's been back on.infused with a renewed commitment that I am following through on and, (as inevitably seems to happen when we commit to something), seeing whole new surges of benefits and positive changes in my life as a result. May I add here that I usually meditate 5 days a week - moderation in all things - days when I don't get to it are 'just fine.'

Meditation is s-u-c-h a highly individual and unique practice; my conversations with others about why they do it, how they actually meditate, and what happens during and afterwards yields an incredible array of widely different experiences. So I tread ever so lightly in this journeyman's offering about what meditation is and my recent experiences that have opened some deeper understanding of why and how it works. For all those who do meditate - or do any similar spiritual practice - I hope this may be of help.

There are many 'forms' of meditation (Wikipedia says hundreds! ... see wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation for writeups of many of them). I will be discussing here the basic Buddhist approach, in which one sits in silence and tries to "quiet the mind." How that's done - a formidable task - includes a wide range of practices, including focusing on/observing/feeling one's breath, saying Om, One, or another mantra (aloud, or silently in your mind), looking at candles, chanting, etc. Each meditator through trial-and-error finds what works best for him/herself, though most common is using concentration on one's breathing - and directed awareness to all the subtle body sensations associated with it - to divert and refocus the brain's powerful 'monkey-mind' (a Buddhist term) that always wants to think and churn - something you discover in spades when trying to meditate.

My own practice has evolved, over the years, to a few minutes of slow, soft yoga-type stretches to 'ready' myself, then sitting comfortably and observing/feeling my breathing (all those myriad and subtle body sensations), counting each breath, gently, up to 10 - then restarting back at 1; noticing my thoughts when they appear, then letting them go ... and returning back to my breathing awareness.

After several minutes (and much dedication) of such redirecting away from my thoughts, I start experiencing moments when the mind-churning does slow and stop - and only my breathing sensations are being noticed. This lasts for only a moment - the mind is s-u-c-h a compulsive processor - and so when I notice I've drifted back into thinking again, I 'reset,' and go back to whatever number I was at when I was last 'being one with my breathing' - and my monkey-mind had stopped (or stopped enough). Eventually, and with luck, the process will sometimes deepen even further. and even the breathing- feeling consciousness will itself dissolve and then - flash! - my mind indeed becomes truly 'empty.'

This exalted state, seconds long at best, is like nothing else I've experienced in life ... so powerful, so transforming. A deeply spiritual experience - mysterious, exceptional, and impossible to define - has occurred that I once heard described as 'an orgasm of the soul.'

Next month's Spiritual Corner will look at what this is exactly, how and why it happens, and how it can change 'who you are.'

Meanwhile, if anyone would like further in-formation or possible help in creating a meaningful meditation experience, by all means, please feel free to contact me.

This is one in a series of essays on spirituality by Rick Childs, lay leader of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast. You may want to:
Read more Spirituality Essays
Read more about Rick Childs or send e-mail to:
Read more about the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast.

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