Meditation: Setting the Stage

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Frequently in a Western (largely Caucasian Christian) world, we are reluctant to entertain ideas of ‘meditation’ as it conjures thoughts of mystic monks in some far off place, monks who are most certainly not ‘usual’ by our daily experiences. Furthermore, people will sometimes feel that including something like meditation in our lives would necessarily displace any current religious feelings or beliefs we might hold dear. This will not apply to all readers, of course, but suffice it to say that there are a lot of misconceptions around what meditation is.

Let’s compare meditation with prayer for a moment. Many students of meditation will describe techniques requiring the repetition of words and sounds that allow the individual to ‘centre’ themselves, to find a place of inner peace. In a similar way, repetitive prayer brings us back to a familiar and safe place. It reminds us of supportive people, a sense of community, good times and bad times, but always rich times. Prayer, like meditation as described above, is a habit, that when developed provides a means of reducing anxiety and finding connectedness in the world.

So, in the sense that meditation and prayer rely on repetition of words and sounds to assist in achieving a ‘centre of peace’, they are the same. There are still many obvious differences between traditional prayer in the various religions of the world and, say, Mahayana or Zen Buddhism. While religion tends to identify with a creator, a human-like representation of God, Buddhism tends to move away from concrete thoughts or mental constructs – non-attachment. And yet, religious ecstasy and a state of nirvana are for all intents and purposes, the same physiologically and emotionally.

The simple approaches to meditation presented here in no way resembles what I’ve just described. Rather than emphasize words or sounds, this method teaches quiet and attentive observation of self and environment. It is primarily based in Buddhist principles and is presented out of a universal love and respect for all people. It is with this intent that it should be practiced. In the end, the practices outlined here are not related to religion, but they can provide a profound spiritual insight through dedicated practice. Medically, these techniques are known to lower blood pressure, reduce acidity in the blood through fuller and attentive breathing, and reduce mental stress.

The steps outlined are easy to follow and easy to remember. This system of meditation is complementary to any system of beliefs and leads to greater confidence, inner calm and awareness, and self-control. The two methods can be tailored to meet the needs of just about any age above 24 mo if done with care and attention, though method 2 (Direct Seeing) is more appropriate for older children, 7-8 years or more.

The intent of these exercises is pragmatic: By implementing these meditative techniques, you will be more able to focus your attention on what is really important and thereby achieve more in therapy and in life generally. You are not asked to glean any more than that from them, but you will find that the benefits of a focused mind will show in many areas of your life. This applies equally well to children.