My Psalms 132
I think, therefore I … zzzz!
Recently, in a city in Alabama, the City Council meeting opened with a benediction. It was an opening like many held across the nation. What made this an event was that the opening benediction was led by an atheist. It was reportedly the first time a non-theist invocation had opened a public meeting” in Alabama. While we usually think of benedictions, prayers, and meditation as being religious or spiritual, they actually provide a physical release for the body and mind.
In an interview with Claire Scobie in “Telegraph Magazine”, author and inspirational lecturer Eckhart Tolle described his first epiphany regarding the practice of meditation. “I couldn’t live with myself any longer. And in this a question arose without an answer: who is the ‘I’ that cannot live with the self? What is the self? I felt drawn into a void! I didn’t know at the time that what really happened was the mind-made self, with its heaviness, its problems, that lives between the unsatisfying past and the fearful future, collapsed. It dissolved. The next morning I woke up and everything was so peaceful. The peace was there because there was no self; just a sense of presence or “beingness,” just observing and watching.”
Sogyal Rinpoche, considered a meditation master, explains meditation with a similar nod to a moment of nothingness, found in-between moments of deliberate thought. “When one past thought has ceased and a future thought has not yet risen, in that gap, in-between, isn’t there a consciousness of the present moment; fresh, virgin, unaltered by even a hair’s breadth of a concept, a luminous, naked awareness? Well, that’s what naturally peaceful awareness is.”
Of course, in this twenty-first century, even meditation has become a complicated and varied process. Once characterized by someone simply sitting under a tree and remaining calm, there are now countless websites happy to instruct a person in how to meditate. Actually, all are correct; the right one for each person is the one that enables them to succeed. When the meditation process becomes more important than the meditation, then it is a deliberate act.
The first step in any meditation is to shut out the world and free the mind. For some this involves deep breathing exercises, a technique designed to focus one’s energy on the inner body rather than the outside world. As the demands, noise, and deadlines of reality fade from the immediate existence so is stress reduced. Thich Nhat Hanh explains: “Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”
According to the Mayo Clinic website, meditation is considered “a type of mind-body complimentary medicine.” The deep state of relaxation and tranquil mind, benefits of meditation, not only helps in understanding and coping with life in a religious and/or spiritual context, is can alleviate stress. Meditation has been used to help correct or control such medical conditions as anxiety disorders, asthma, cancer, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, pain, and sleep problems. Alan Wallace agrees: “Integrated meditation practice is like a healthy diet which is indispensable for maintaining your vitality and resistance to disease. Likewise, a balanced meditative practice in the course of a socially engaged way of life heightens your psychological immune system, so that you are less vulnerable to mental imbalances of all kinds.”
A national television weekend news anchor, Dan Harris is a meditation advocate. Describing his first meditative session as “horrible”, he explains why he is now a fan. “There is a phrase I really like: “Respond, don’t react.” Say you’re in line at Starbucks and somebody cuts you off. You think to yourself, “I’m angry.” And immediately, instantaneously, reflexively, you inhabit the thought and become angry. Meditation teaches you to put a little bit of a break between the thought and the emotional state. You recognize that you’re angry or annoyed or impatient, but instead of blindly going with the emotion, you have a buffer between stimulus and response.”
Meditation helps a person be in control, ironically, by letting go of control. When one meditates, one becomes one with their being, their living, and, in turn, their world. We all go through life as if it was a quest. For some, that quest is a shiny sports car or really big truck. For others it is fitting into the smallest dress size made…and having it be too big. For still others it is being the smartest, the wealthiest, the most popular, the best liked, etc. In actuality, the quest on which we all embark is to have a good life and, for many, find that which will lead us to whatever comes after this current life’s reality. Meditation helps remind us of what is really important and how to get to our eternal home of perpetual happiness.
My Psalm 132
Help me, Great Master and Leader; please help me.
Your teachings are clear and your promises true.
Grant me peace to lose myself in them.
Grant me courage to close my eyes to control and be.
Let me leave the past and not worry about the future.
Let me live in the present and feel the Great Spirit