Reflections on Meditation

meditation (n.)

c. 1200, “contemplation; devout preoccupation; devotions, prayer,” from Old French meditacion “thought, reflection, study,” and directly from Latin meditationem (nominative meditatio) “a thinking over, meditation,” noun of action from past participle stem of meditari “to meditate, think over, reflect, consider,” from a frequentative form of PIE root *med- “take appropriate measures.” Meaning “discourse on a subject” is early 14c.; meaning “act of meditating, continuous calm thought upon some subject” is from late 14c. The Latin verb also had stronger senses: “plan, devise, practice, rehearse, study.”

“The term meditation is difficult for some people to grasp because it may connote exotic Eastern cults or Christian monks who spend most of their waking hours in monastery cells contemplating God.” – Dr. Herbert Benson

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~~who are you, meditating one~~

Meditation is more often than not, utterly confused. Much like the words God and Love, it has been so over conceptualized and misinterpreted of which in some ways has created a near unbridgeable space between the word and the actual lived experience.

Take the etymology of the word meditation in English. There are elements within this breakdown that give evidence to me (thought, think, plan, devise, etc) that it may not be the right word for the action it is attempting to represent. Is this just the inherent dissonance of the modern languages we are living with? Smiling may help.

To understand this set of strung together letters a bit more, I can paint a scene. Meditation is at first like setting a dirty pot in the sink full of warm water and soap; It is doing ‘nothing’ but the pot is releasing all of its debris because of that water and soap. It is passive work, a result of the natural arrangement of being in body. Meditation is like the water and soap and we are that dirty pot. We are dirtied from an untamed and childish mind yet these daily movements are training us to live better if we can learn to see them as such.

The origin of meditation, if we can say such a thing, is thought to be come from the East.

The methods that have been preciously passed down and preserved from these Eastern traditions are beyond valuable and I practice them daily. It may be how you found meditation too. However, if we believe that it was existing just there based solely off documenting then we should also look for evidence of when we started to breathe through our noses… My feeling is that meditation brings us to a universally shared state, one that is beyond all creeds, classes, sexes, and colors. That because many popular formal practices come from the East, I personally conceptualized this tool as an Eastern one, sort of distancing myself from it in a way for I wasn’t from there and didn’t feel allowed to be so interested. Yet, can we see how foolish this is? All beings have the inherent connection to the truth of our nature. It has been shown to me that this our birthright and cannot be boxed in as much as it may be tried to. Indebted to all those before us, we are connecting to the Source of which is the heartbeat of all that is.

~~personal experience~~

There were a good few years where I may have meditated 10 times a year, and yet told everyone and their mother to sit, because I knew it was good for them. I remember being so intent on sharing this amazing piece of information, yet I myself at that time had never truly committed to the practice and therefore had not yet actualized it! How many people listened to an idealistic experience-less me? N o n e.

I feel this to be a commonality in the world now a days. We read some article (like this one, :)) and then think that we know something and share it with the people in our lives. Sure, our intentions are prime and we want others to do better, but it is not in the most skillful way. Our efforts could be focused in on our development first (inner landscape) and then, for the most part, we really don’t need to say that much. People will come to you and ask what it is that you do in order to achieve wellness.

There is something undeniable about the way meditation affects me. It truly began as a practice while living in Peru for almost two years, studying the plant medicine and ways of the Amazon and Andean mountains. It was quite a journey in the beginning! I actually remember the first night that I attempted to sit as long as I could… it was something like 45 minutes. I remember after a mere several minutes my legs being foreign pieces of immovable steel, my mind wandering and wandering, and just being impressed that I didn’t fall asleep. As I type this, I smile in recalling how I would intend to sit and meditate in the night and would suddenly catch myself, completely in a different position on my bed! So much work it took just to sit there and do nothing.

I guess that is the first part of this magic. There is this space that is attainable from trying at nothing, and attaching nor rejecting nothing. It is insanely simple, yet increasingly profound as I continue on this path. It is also something intrinsic to our very nature as beings: beingness is our natural state. We can experience this state that is right under our nose and our nose too, a place that allows for the life force to effortlessly do what it does; flow!

In connecting to the river of energy that is us and surrounds us, a few things can start to become noticeable. We may realize that the thoughts have been wrongly deified and overly paid attention to, leaving the knowing whispering heart to be suffering from unconscious neglect. In a culture that focuses almost entirely on just the cerebral existence, the guilt or sadness of being so headstrong can only be an impetus to rise above our conditioning. We may realize that we are not the endless stream like ticker of thoughts, and start to recognize the identity with something that encompasses even the ticker, for the thoughts in and of themselves are not bad or wrong; we are only readjusting our focus from the thinker to the feeler.

In this culture, it might be radical to renounce something when it seems all we are geared for is to want more of everything. Renouncing doesn’t always mean that you shave your head and move to Nepal and sell all your ‘extra’ organs and nice guitars. We are making a trade; the delusions of our head full of thoughts and judgements and wonderings for connection to peace and well being. It can be as small as taking ten minutes out of our day to sit and meditate. Renouncing the potentially mindless activity of scrolling on the internet or flipping through the strangeness of television and instead working on our inner development.


~~science says…~~

Some may still wonder: What does this really accomplish? How about this: Most of us, I would say, are trying harder and harder to avoid the chemical onslaught of our corrupt food systems. We purchase the best that we can, or we eat from our gardens, or we pick fruits from where we can find them. Yet, if we get biological about it, the body itself produces a pretty harsh array of chemicals when it goes into fight or flight mode, of course a necessary process when it is actually needed (to fight or fly, lets say) but not if we are constantly pushed by the normal ebb and flow of daily life. So it is not our natural expression of emotions that we are trying to change, these are actually human and should not be suppressed! It is more so the over reactions where these tools help us so greatly in seeing ourselves where we may have been blind.

If we want to prove something, because some of us like these sort of things, we can see here: “In an analysis of the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial, Matthews et al. (2004) found that IHAT ratings above the sample median were associated with a 60% increased risk of cardiovascular death over a 16-year follow-up, compared to men with lower hostility scores…”

That is a significant increase in the risk for cardiovascular disease, is it not?! So, we can start to see that the tools that are available to us are invaluable to begin working with our basic human systems, so as to prevent unnecessary catastrophe and strive to live life fuller and happier. Meditation is a foundational tool, an internal technology that is fueled by your breath and costs nothing but your time.

Another example of practical measure, although extreme and likely to never occur, this group of Thai students and their teacher, stayed present and conserved energy, following the lead of their teacher who had studied for 10 years at a monastery.

~~on setting up a space for meditation~~

There are perhaps 1000’s of meditations to choose from. Styles range from all of the ways of guided meditations with the voice of someone helping to create an atmosphere or environment in which you travel to, to the completely simple ‘calm abiding’ meditation, in which the foundation of every practice can be said to come from.

I like to do this practice either after I wake up and get settled or near the evening… I have found that doing it on a stomach that has already digested its food (or even an empty stomach) allows for easier stillness. Yet, go with whatever you can!

The space can be your room on the floor with or without a cushion, on the bed, or even in a chair. If in a chair, if possible, try to allow yourself to be on the edge of your seat so as to not let the spine rest against the back of the chair. Altar pieces and bells and whistles are great, but are not necessary to really attain what is being desired, especially if they are just ornaments.

It can be as simple as ridding yourself of distractions in the outer worlds like a cell phone and also the inner distractions of the thoughts and plans of the busy mind. This takes awareness and skill of which develops over repeated practice, just like anything else. Someone once told me, “thoughts will come, but they don’t need to stay for tea.” There is no battle to have against our brains as thinking is natural. It is the constant engagement that we are learning to relax.

Deep stillness could be said to be easy to attain when sitting in a room full of incense and with altar pieces abound, but is that where the meditation stays? Of course not. The real practice is to bring the meditation to all the aspects of our lives, most especially the challenges that we may face everyday. The meditations we do will prime us to have less reactivity and more peace. This is where we can start to see the benefit of working with our mind, with our inner development. We can come to recognize that this work is essential and maybe even arrive at questions like, “Why didn’t we learn these sort of things in school?”

This is not a contest. Quality will always top quantity. A perfectly not moving body doesn’t mean that the mind is tame. Also, forcing the thoughts to stop or the scrolling to cease just calls on will power which further entraps us. This is a process of allowing. Experience points the way, as the screen can only inspire one to eventually put it down, at least for a little while.

Meditating with someone else, consistently, is a great way of both reminding each other of the commitment and also a wondrous way of mirroring the baby steps in growth of such a shockingly simple and monumental practice.

Through my experience of finally coming to a practice of meditation, I can say that if we have no time to set aside to do nothing, than something is not right. It is also pivotal to remind ourselves that although some of the more common practices are Eastern in origin, the essence is human and inherent and our birth right to be able to experience.

A very important aspect to meditation within the tradition that I have learned so much from, speaks to the motivation behind our meditation and our spiritual practice in general. It is done for the fact that others are suffering, and which therefore brings us to want to better our out of control minds to therefore affect the space in a beneficial way. If our realities are truly intertwined like ancient wisdom knows and of which quantum physics echoes, then the goodness I achieve can only last as long I am extending it beyond myself.

~~essence pointers~~

As with all things on the path of wellness, this is just a piece, albeit an important one! To focus entirely on mediation as the sole medicine may work for some, but of course nutrition and healthy relationships and so on are all integral for most of us in being (fully) alive.

Although there are many ways up the mountain, here are a few articles explaining a bit more than what I have here. Folk might say to find a teacher in order to have guidance in this way, but I would suggest in at least starting as soon as you can and in becoming consistent and dedicated to clearing your life of delusions, the teacher will appear. Of course, if you feel called to find one, please do!

On Calm Abiding Meditation

and more on calm abiding.

A Guided Meditation

How Meditation Works


“Prayer is when the mind is one-pointed and man talks to Infinity.
Meditation is when the mind becomes totally clean and
receptive, and Infinity talks to the man.” – Yogi Bhajan

“Your Infinity is you when you stop thinking. Have you stopped thinking? That’s the end of it. Awareness takes these things away from you: thinking, reason, logic, argument, fantasies, planning, scheming, knowing and worrying. These nine things must go before you can say that you are on the path of awareness. Do you know why? Because the One who rotates the Earth can take care of your routine. These nine things you do are unwanted. They only satisfy your ego. Where there is ego, there is no Amigo.” – Yogi Bhajan

so much love.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
Alan in morning meditation amidst the chaos of a tropical ice cream store/hostel in Iquitos

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