The Pokey Finger of God

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Meditation Class

August 19th, 2005 · No Comments · Illuminations, metaphysics

Meditation is a natural state of mind that we unconsciously achieve many times each day. The of meditation consists of the exercise of deliberately inducing this state of mind in order to gain the benefits of a mind at rest. Cultures and religions around the world revere meditation as the keystone of spiritual practice. Part of its universality is the technique: if you can walk and talk, you can mediate.

The body has a number of natural states that it will move through in the cycle of a day, from deep sleep to peak alertness. Most time is spent not at the extreme ends, but in the middle of this alertness axis. The highly alert state is characterized by heightened clarity of thought, increased perception, faster breathing and heart rate. Conversely, the state of deep sleep is one of slow breating and heart rate, numbed perception and active hallucination.

Along the alertness axis, at the border between asleep and awake, is the sweet spot for hypnosis, trance work, and meditation. It is here that breath and heart rate can be best controlled, and it is here that the mind can most easily be focused. Heart rate has the most direct impact on the general alertness of the body, but is not as easily controlled as breathing. Fortunately, breath rate effects not only heart rate, but also mental function. By deliberately choosing a pattern of breathing that moderates the heart rate, yet increases the oxygen to the brain, the mechanical elements of meditation are satisfied.

The other half of the meditation formula is intention to maintain mental focus on a given target. Keeping mental focus on a single target for fifteen to twenty minutes requires a stamina that can only be built up through regular practice. Some targets are easier for the novice than others. Setting focus on a novel breathing pattern is a reasonable and expected goal for the beginner. Once the breathing pattern is mastered and stamina is built up, other targets can be utilized.

Early on, it will become apparent to the beginning student that maintaining focus on anything for twenty minutes, even something as obvious as breathing, is a tremendously difficult task. Loss of focus during meditation is called a break, and it typically takes the form of a brief reverie in which some minor memory or stress suddenly takes mental focus. Generally, as one becomes aware that a break has occurred, one returns focus by taking a deep breath and resuming concentration on the target.

Periodically, one may choose to remain within a break in order to complete the thought. Occasionally, an entire break may run its course, leaving one briefly in a state of satori until one realizes that the focus has been lost and must be regained. Frequently, the completion of a break in this way results in a secondary effect of relaxing a knot in a muscle somewhere in the body. This is because memories aren’t just stored in the brain.

Another suitable focus for meditation is a single word or phrase; whether or not it makes any sense has no bearing on its effectiveness as a meditative focus. Tarot cards, Bible passages, God names, affirmations, art, and musical patterns all make excellent subjects for meditation.

Ultimately, the best focus is nothing. When the body has been trained to maintain the meditative state, the focus can be slowly allowed to fade away until nothing is left and the mind is quiet. In the practice of Zen meditation, this state of mind is called “Satori”, I call it a “Trance” state, and it should become the ultimate goal of your meditation practice.

With practice, this state of mental balance can be called upon at will. While meditating “on” a topic can be an entertaining and pleasant way to pass a practice session, the actual trance state provides a number of additional benefits, some of which will be discussed in the next hour.

Just to be clear, there should be a time and a place for meditation. However, you don’t have to be sitting in a chair to meditate. Walking meditation is often a delightful way to get both exercise and light meditation at the same time. When you find yourself unable to sleep at night, meditation for fifteen minutes can often allow the mind to slip peacefully into a deep sleep.

Do not meditate while driving or operating heavy equipment.

If you find that you have difficulty finding the time to meditate, you may need to make a special point to create the time to meditate each day. Often, meditation occurs after exercise, yoga, or ritual, so if these activities are already part of your daily habit, you may already have the perfect meditation time waiting for you. I must highly recommend yoga as a shockingly powerful tool for health and happiness. It is truly a perfect technology, and a most ancient understanding of the complete potential of the human body. And you can always meditate afterwards.

Perhaps the most valuable benefit of meditation is that it is as a sword that cleaves the very heart of stress. Stress is the enemy. Stress is what kills humans more than any other preventable cause of death. Daily practice of meditation has a host of health benefits, mostly relating to the fact that it’s a remarkable cure for stress. The best part is that even the beginner can gain this benefit immediately upon initiating practice.

Meditate daily.

The Illumination Series is a set of informal classes for the novice who is interested in self-improvement and spiritual development. Information is provided in a clear, not hokey, way about the actual mechanics behind the techniques learned. Exercises and suggested readings are provided to allow the student opportunity to practice at home.This class will be offered at Ruta Maya, at 2pm, Saturday, August 20th.

See the Illumination Series website for more information.

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