Meditation is one way, a most important way, in which we can discover our true nature.Our true nature, sometimes referred to as the essence of our being, is peaceful, joyous, and loving.The lotus flower can be seen a a symbol of our true nature.We can easily visualize the lotus flower, or many flowers as pictured above, floating on the surface of the water as a symbol of deep stillness, receptivity, inner beauty, wisdom, exquisite love and compassion not only for ourselves, but for everyone.
What is meditation?Meditation can be thought of as an exercise in calming one’s mind and body.It is a way of focusing our attention… usually on a single sensation, thought or image.The feeling of the breath moving in and out of the body, through the nose, the rising of the abdomen or lower portion of the lungs, then the expansion of the chest, a brief pause, the gradual contraction of the abdomen and then the chest on the exhalation is an example of a sensation or feeling as a meditation focus.This is sometimes referred to as mindfulness of breathing.A simple exercise is to follow your breath in this way using a count of 1 to 4 on the inhalation, a count of 1 to 2 for the pause in the breath,and then a count of 1 to 4 for the exhalation.
When the mind wanders off, as it is natural for it to do so, just make a note of it (OK, my mind is wandering off again) and come back to the breath. Our thoughts are like clouds in the sky... just let them come, and let them go! As our thoughts slow down and the mind gradually becomes more still, our consciousness will naturally expand into a relaxed state of lightness of being, beyond the limitations of our physical existence. Be compassionate towards yourself, not making any judgments but accepting the present moment as it is. Meditation is a learning process which takes time to grow and develop, but even so we can experience the benefits of calmness and an increase in self control even in the beginning stages.
In Zen meditation for beginners, an alternate method of counting the breath-to that described above-is sometimes used . Here we count 1 on the inhalation (slow and steady), then 2 on the exhalation.Count 3 on the inhalation, 4 on the exhalation, and so on up to 10.Then start over again at 1.If your mind wanders off the count, then simply begin again at 1 (no need to chastise yourself as this happens to all of us as we learn how to meditate). Thoughts will come... and thoughts will go. We don't need to identify with them. Just do this for 5 or 10 minutes on a daily basis and see how you feel!Gradually increase the time to 20 minutes per day.
To listen to free MP3 Guided Meditations, or simply to the soothing natural sounds of ocean waves or a stream of water see Guided Meditations.
An additional source of instruction for mindfulness meditation can be found from books and tapes available from Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. Another highly respected teacher of mindfulness is Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh.
To see a wonderful short video on Mindful Breathing with Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the world's most gifted Buddhist teachers, see
To see Ram Dass interviewing Thich Nhat Hanh about Mindfulness, Anger, Compassion, and Interbeing, see
Sometimes a mantra or a repetitive thought is used to soothe our minds and bodies. A phrase that I liked to use for many years was “healing breath of God” or just “healing breath”.You can repeat the initial words such as this with each inhalation, then finish the thought with the exhalation.agine you are breathing healing light into your body, and on the exhale releasing all tension or negativity.
A third example is the use of imagery.This may include devotional images such as a picture of Jesus or a statue of the Buddha seated in meditation. Another possibility is to use a symbol such as the 6 pointed star used in the White Eagle teachings on meditation and spiritual healing shown to the right (image from The Book of Star Light). See and feel the light from the star flowing down over the top of your head, gradually penetrating every cell of your brain, spinal cord and nervous system bringing healing warmth and vitality to your whole body. You may also see the light eminating from your heart center with the rays flowing outward through you to all those you encounter in your daily life as a blessing of love and peace.
If you prefer, a simple candle flame may be used either by itself or with any image that appeals to you.Please start out slowly with 10 minutes per day, gradually building up to longer sittings as you become more accustomed to it.
As you can see from the above examples, there are many types of meditation exercises. I often think of Jesus words, "there are many rooms in my Father's house". And in another teaching, "ask, seek, knock and the door will come open." It is best to settle into a particular method of meditation and stay with it once you find one that feels comfortable to you, that resonates with your own personal needs and temperament. Group practice is a big help especially for beginners just starting out on the path. Spending time with like minded people helps us to keep up the good vibrations and to stay positive during times of difficulty.
Meditation effects us physically, psychologically, and spiritually.On a physical level, our brain waves can be measured, in biofeedback, for example, and we can see our EEG (electro-encephalogram) patterns shifting from Beta rhythm to Alpha.Beta is a faster cycle (a higher frequency) brainwave which is typically present in our waking hours.The Alpha wave has a slower frequency and is associated with relaxation and feelings of peace and sometimes creativity that results from this state of heightened receptivity.
Psychologically, our mental and physical awareness is sharpened with the regular practice of meditation.This is very helpful in identifying repetitive thought patterns we may want to change!People often discover greater acceptance and centeredness in the midst of life’s challenges with the aid of meditation.Change is usually a slow process with many steps involved.Greater self awareness and acceptance (forgiveness may be a better word here) is a wonderful way to begin a healthier and more joyful life!
On a spiritual level, meditation can open our hearts and minds to the source of our being.In our innermost center we are spirit, already united with God. With this realization all things are possible!There is no easy way, no shortcut to the experience of mystical union with our Creator, but certainly there are many paths and many teachers to help us along the way.In addition, meditation can help us in our relationships to become more patient (better listeners), tolerant, kind and loving.
In Psalm 46 of the Bible, we find the following advice...
God is for us a refuge and strength,
a helper close at hand in times of distress:
So we shall not fear though the earth should rock,
though the mountains fall into the depths of the sea...
Be still and know that I am God.
Ultimately, meditation is about finding stillness, finding God within. There is no greater joy, even though the world outside holds so much attraction for most of us! What a surprise to find our true happiness is right there all along, within the depths of our souls, our innermost spirit. Once we have found this inner peace and joy, the infinite light and love of God, it is only natural that we want to share the experience with others! It is a great blessing to be able to meditate with a group of like minded people.
I would like to add here that meditation and prayer are perfectly compatible.We need not choose one or the other, but can practice both.I prefer to meditate first, usually about 15 to 20 minutes daily, then pray when I am feeling peaceful, open and receptive to the divine guidance within.When I need help, I do not hesitate to ask for it!God has indeed been very good to me, and help comes in many forms, especially caring people.
I would like to share a beautiful description of the worldview of William James offered by Jane Roberts that relates to the innermost presence of God in all things:
I am convinced, then, that this atmospheric presence is the creative medium from which all consciousness springs.This same omnipresent light seems to attract the smallest of my psychological seeds, buried or struggling for freedom, sodden from the over watering of my melancholy, so that each hope rises again.My heart becomes ever lighter.More, this light is surely the same that in another fashion lit the skies of Boston, dawned over the ocean and splashed upon my study floor…
Its atmospheric qualities, for example, its unobtrusiveness, may exist only at certain levels of understanding, for in a strange manner I was comforted by the fact that this presence did not seek me out, examine me, or attempt to overwhelm me in any way.Instead it quietly offers—what?Solace, support, a buoyancy in which my existence is everywhere strengthened, refreshed, and yet led to perceive enticing further developments…
There is no demanding quality to this atmospheric presence or its light, yet it seems possessed of what I can only call a divine active passivity.It attracts but does not push, and yet its force is a passive one in that it seems to exist in a state of active waiting or invitation, ever welcoming, with the gigantic tenderness of power held in control, as if it is so aware of its own energy that it knows its most nonchalant caress could carry such strength as to squash the object of its love.[There have been many recorded instances of mystics and visionaries who have experienced this kind of ‘gigantic tenderness’ of divine love].
Here is an online multimedia presentation you will likely enjoy! Please see The Gift of Inner Peace which includes simple teachings about meditation with beautiful, soothing nature photos and peaceful music.
If I can be of assistance or answer any questions, feel free to write (see Contact Me) or visit Web Links for other helpful sources of information.
Mandalas can also be helpful in our meditation practice. They can be simply defined as artistic representations of the cosmos, a focus for our meditation.
Here is a beautiful quote on mandalas...
Every shape and form that arises in the soul, every link which, in a mysterious way, joins us to the Universal Life and unites us, maybe without our being aware of it, to humanity's most ancient experience, the voices which reach us from the depths of the abyss, all are welcomed with almost affectionate solicitude.
—quoted in The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton
Tucci, Giuseppe: The Theory and Practice of the Mandala
With the artists permission, please enjoy the exquisite mandala below!
This may seems like a strange combination to consider in one sentence: Meditation, Mandalas and Politics.Please bear with me!As I write this in March of 2010, the U.S. government is battling it out over health care reform, while 30 million or more Americans are living without health insurance at the moment.Hopefully this will change soon, thanks to Obama's courageous efforts, persuasiveness and determination.What would the effect be of say 30 minutes per day of meditation practice (or yoga or tai chi) be on our men and women in Congress as well as our President?This could be either group practice with an instructor, or private practice at home or office before beginning the official workday. By loosening the grip of the ego barriers to cooperation and allowing a more unitive consciousness to gradually arise, which allows for compassion and listening to others points of view, working to find the greater common good whenever possible, real changes in the way our government works could be realized.Of course, we would need to elect representatives who are open to learning these meditative and healing practices.
This type of awakened government would, in my view, resemble a mandala.All the pieces would fit together beautifully to form the whole picture! A harmonious body politic, if you will. Oh sure, there may be disagreements among the political parties or among individuals, but rather than the constant partisan bickering we read about today there would be more of a mature ability to empathize, to think with the heart-mind rather than the head-mind, to recognize that we are all interrelated in this life on planet earth, and that we spring from the same Source which is essentially divine love. That life itself is a gift of love. How can we help one another to realize this gift? And to share it creatively?
Here is a beautiful and inspiring quote on enlightened government from Emmanuel's Book, compiled by Pat Rodegast and Judith Stanton:
It is time for a universal government.
Let the bonds of nationalistic resistance and illusion
be dissolved, and let all humanity join together
in the recognition of the Oneness
that is the true reality.
The governments in existence now
were formulated when humankind
was in kindergarten.
It is time to allow those who have at least graduated
from high school (not to mention those who have entered college...)
to formulate government of a much more mature outlook.