Inner Work - Meditation
Meditation is a lot like exercise: it is extremely good for you, and it is something many people feel they "ought to" do, but don't. We are often asked, with great guilt, "do you think I should meditate more regularly?"
Our attitude toward meditation is like our attitude toward all discipline. We encourage you to follow your own inclinations and interests--do not push yourself to meditate; invite yourself to meditate. And find creative ways to incorporate the essence of meditation into your life.
There is some variation in the definition of this concept of meditation. Some techniques of meditation teach you to project your awareness out through the third eye toward a level of undifferentiated awareness. Some traditions teach you to listen into the storehouse of the mind on a symbolic and imagistic level. Other traditions teach you to center your attention intimately and minutely in the sensations that come and go in your physical creature. Still other traditions teach you to focus your attention on a single point, perhaps a word or image, and allow that to bring you to a state of greater awareness.
What each technique has in common is teaching you to still the mind, or focus it away from the everyday concerns of your talking self, and to listen inward.
It is this act of listening inward which is so good for you. It is the act of connecting to your being, and interrupting your doing, which is so beneficial and healing. It is the act of letting the mind reveal itself to you, and through that, learning to perceive the Larger Mind, that is so beneficial.
Meditation techniques usually, but not always, offer some instruction about the breath. As you learn to breathe more fully, or learn to stop impeding your breath, your system shifts into greater harmony. As you contemplate or bring your awareness to your breath, you have a profound teacher.
But there is no point in feeling guilty about whether you are spending enough time sitting to meditate. Instead, can you cultivate habits of listening inward throughout your day? Can you cultivate moments of stopping, of bringing your attention to your being, of focusing on your breath, no matter what posture or setting you find yourself in?
Can you similarly cultivate habits of "mindfulness", the awareness of what your mind is filled with, and how it is moving, and where your attention springs from? These habits, like meditation, can offer you spiritual toning and serenity.
Meditation can be a beautiful and deeply meaningful practice, and can carry you into realms of awareness that will enrich your life and your abilities to help others. But meditation is not a spiritual measuring stick that determines your spiritual status vis-a-vis enlightenment. It is a technique, among others, for greater awareness.
Meditation does not need to be formal, you do not have to sit in a certain position, or breathe a certain way, or buy a religiously-sanctioned holy word to repeat. But meditation can certainly include the use of certain postures, breathing, or mantras as useful techniques. Meditation does not need to be done at the same time every day, with special equipment, or in specific garb, but occasionally practitioners choose to invest their meditation practice with certain rituals in order to mark it more clearly in their attention as a certain state of mind.
So if you ask us, should you meditate?, we answer: would you like to? Find a form of exploration you naturally wish to do, find openings in your life for mindfulness and attention to your being. Choose practices which you find pleasing and sane, and which lead you more fully into your own recognitions of truth. When teachers become too much the object of your spiritual practice, you are participating in a "transference" that may or may not succeed in teaching you how to find the wise soul within.
Beware of giving your power away to any tradition, apprenticeship, or teaching, unless you can clearly hear the inner guidance, the inner promptings that authenticate that practice for you. Realize that you know, on some deep level, all you ever need to know about being human. Your task in selecting a spiritual practice is to find ways to awaken and remember that wisdom within.