When I first heard about meditation I was curious and wanted to know more. I liked to be challenged and having a busy mind the concept of quieting the mind intrigued me. Coming from a Christian background and in the eighties when meditation was not a mainstream activity, it was exploring new territory. What got me interested was the phrase ‘finding peace and happiness within’.
The meditation techniques we know today have originated from Eastern cultures and have as their goal the quieting of the mind. This includes Christianity if one was to look at the basis of the dictum from the book of Psalms ‘Be still and know that I am God’. But as meditators know quieting the mind is the main problem they have. The reason being suppressed feelings keep constantly producing thoughts. What needs to happen is to release the energy behind the suppressed feelings, when the feelings are released the stack of thoughts – millions that have accumulated over the years stops. So by constantly releasing the pent up feelings it is possible to arrive at a quieter state of mind.
Not clinging or hanging onto thoughts is a natural mechanism of the mind and if we observe our mind, we can see it is being done all the time. We hold on to suppressed feelings and consequently thoughts because of the juice it gives us. As we know some thoughts are very juicy indeed. So unless one is aware of the mind and has had some training the mind goes on its merry way as it has been programmed to do so. So that is why meditation is so important and why meditation techniques work. The mind then has the power of choice over its tendencies instead of being at the effect.
Realising the importance of meditation I found a meditation class and really liked the instructor and his explanations of the true nature of the mind. I persevered although it was difficult. I hung in there and as the years have moved on my meditation practice has morphed more to contemplation. Let me explain. Meditation and contemplation are merely descriptive styles as the processes are essentially the same and are not really separate. In practice, traditional formal meditation is a process that requires removal from the activities of daily life and as a consequence it tends to develop a certain specialness. As such the practice is vulnerable to the demands of daily life. Contemplation can be done continuously anywhere and anytime and the contemplative practice becomes part and parcel of an everyday lifestyle. Contemplation means to be self-aware and is a lifestyle which is spiritual alignment in every moment of your life. It is what prepares us for having those serendipitous moments in life.
Both these styles have one thing in common and that is the Mind. The mind has two aspects. Many of us know one of them well – the active thinking mind that takes in information, thinks, reacts emotionally and drives what we do. The other is the still mind. Meditation makes us familiar with the still mind and is where those serendipitous moments come from. As the author Florence Scovel Schinn, a profound influencer of many pioneers of self transformation, quotes ‘One’s ship comes in over a calm sea’. So meditation is a process that takes us beyond the active mind into the peace, clarity and calmness of the still mind. We cannot have an active mind and still mind at the same time. The experience of the still mind comes about when we let go of all the busyness and simply enjoy the stillness where there is knowing beyond ordinary comprehension. Achieving this state of stillness was the path of the mystics. Today the knowledge of achieving that state is available to everybody.
The still mind is an altered state of consciousness as is sleep, as is the dream state as is the normal waking state. It is no more complicated than that.