Monday, August 27, 2007

More on Ritual

As I stated previously, ritual is not imperative to successful meditation. In fact, I discovered after a few months of practice, I was able to meditate in a crowded commuter train, although I do not recommend it. Being yanked out of a deep meditation by someone swaying against you is not really conducive to fruitful meditation. :-) With time and practice, I learned to achieve the meditative state at the count of three, which can be very useful.

If meditating simply for the mental and physical benefits of reducing stress and allowing the body to heal and attain balance, a quiet dimly lit room is all that is required. Pick a spot where you can sit comfortably and not be interrupted. The meditation process is the same. Sit comfortably, eyes closed, feet flat on the floor, hands resting in the lap and begin reciting the mantra you have chosen. Twenty minutes twice a day is best. When finished, sit quietly for a few moments before resuming your daily activities.

Sitting is best when learning to meditate. If you recline or lie down, sleep will often overtake you. Most people are sleep deprived to some degree. The body also needs sleep in order to heal or improve it's effectiveness. Falling asleep while meditating can be quite distressing to a person learning to meditate. If it does happen, do not be alarmed, or discouraged. Simply finish your meditation if you have time, or expect to stay awake next time. In meditation, we simply acknowledge whatever has caused our mind to wander, and then bring it back gently to the mantra. With practice, stilling the mind while awake and alert will become easier. You will still benefit from the practice even when the mind refuses to be stilled.

I prefer using a simple ritual as it helps to prepare the mind to be stilled and lets the mind know when the meditation is finished.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ritual in Meditation

When learning to meditate for the purpose of gaining enlightenment, it is often helpful to use a ritual to prepare the mind for the meditation to come, and to close the session when finished. The ritual should have meaning to the meditator and is often unique to that individual.

The following is a general outline only. Each person should tailor it to their own needs and beliefs. It is not essential that any ritual be used. Meditation will still be beneficial, however I have found ritual helps to still my mind and make meditation easier.

If possible, a room or even a small corner of a room can be set up for this purpose. Ideally, it should include a small table or desk and a chair, as well as two candles, incense and a bowl of water, with or without a rose.

Anyone knowing me knows I travel my path with a light to illuminate the path at my feet and a mirror to reflect the truth that is within us all.

The candles symbolize the light which we seek; the mirror symbolizes looking for truth within our selves. The candles also symbolize fire, with incense representing air, with water represented by the bowl of water and earth by the burner that holds the incense. There is more represented by these objects, but each of us finds the meanings important to our selves.

To begin a session, one may light the candles and incense and offer up a short prayer or request for knowledge. Then sit comfortably and quietly, feet on the floor, hands resting in the lap and begin to meditate. When beginning this process for the first time, I recommend reciting a “mantra”, a word or phrase that has a positive meaning for you. Peace or Love would be quite suitable.

When your session is finished, sit quietly for a few minutes, then close your session with a short prayer, extinguish the candles and incense before returning to your daily activities. I prefer using a candle snuffer which represents to me that the light is not gone, only not visible for a time.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Forty Years of Meditation

In my twenties, I encountered the Maharishi Mahesh Yoga and learned Transcendental Meditation (TM) techniques. After using these techniques for a period of time, I finally started to see the questions I must ask in order to start to find my answers. I did not stay with the group, but will be eternally grateful for them having taught me the rudiments of meditation. I was finally on my way, a foot on the path so to speak. Meditation became a first thing in the morning and last thing at night routine, twenty minutes each.

A book called How To Meditate gave me many more meditation techniques, allowing me to reach even farther into my sub-conscious and access long ago memories that I did not even know I had. The Bhagavad-Gita added to my knowledge of techniques. As time went on I found many methods of meditating and each led to new discoveries.

Anyone who meditates regularly will agree that not every meditation results in a spiritual experience, but the regular practice results in allowing one to attain the focused, meditative state almost instantly. That skill has helped me to do things I could not otherwise have done. There have been other experiences during meditation, some I remembered, others were more of a blank, but I would return in a state of elated calm that would last for the rest of the day.

The first time I consciously experienced my connection to All That Is, I wept. I was coming home! I had no words to express my experience, and even now, so many years later, I do not have adequate words. When you have such an experience, you will have no doubts as to what it was even though you cannot describe it. Our computer brains do not have the basic programming to allow such descriptions. We spend a lifetime filling this computer with knowledge and it still is not enough.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Blinding Lights and Fireworks

I have met so many who believe that, when they begin to meditate, fireworks should go off, bells should ring and we should become changed beyond recognition in the blink of an eye. If that is what enlightenment means to you, you might as well give up now. The likelihood of that happening is akin to waking up tomorrow on another planet. It just ain’t gonna happen.

I am not exactly sure where these expectations come from, other than many who find the way are lost again at the first indication of extraordinary powers or abilities. They put forth the idea that these powers are granted as part of the path, rather than the true fact that we are simply aware of more of what we already are. These so called powers reside in all of us., even in those who have no idea how to access them.

With regular meditation, we are able to access more of our natural abilities, which may capture our interest and halt our progress on the path. All great teachers have warned that these seeming powers are a trap that can lead us from the path. They should be noted then let go, just as the ego's thoughts are noted then let go while in meditation.

The Ancients have told us repeatedly not to get distracted by the gifts and skills we receive while on the path to Enlightenment. If we do, we can be seduced off the path, believing we are more than a willing tool of the Creator. They also told us that we would have the skills to do the work we are assigned when needed. I have found this to be true.

The possibility of the ego seizing on these abilities as it's own and using them to further its goals is a real and present danger. The only acceptable use of these newfound powers is when we are sure that we have been called upon to perform some act that benefits another. They should never be used for personal gain of either power or financial benefit. Such use will take us from the path and build up massive karmic debt. When we interfere in another's life, we must accept responsibility for the good or the bad we do. Such interference should be done only after a great deal of thought and examination of one’s motives.

Thursday, August 23, 2007



There is often an air of mystery surrounding the act of meditating that is really not warranted. Meditation takes many forms, from the very simple to the truly complex. There are many books written on the subject, and most do not require a particular religious or philosophical affiliation in order to learn a meditation practice that fits the individual.

Twenty minutes spent twice a day in meditation has a number of benefits, both spiritually and physically. When we are first learning to meditate, it feels like we are accomplishing nothing, but in actuality, we are both training the Ego to allow us to concentrate and allowing the body to take what it needs while we are otherwise occupied. That is why we often fall asleep or have a full blown idea on how to solve a problem we may have been worrying over.

It is best to begin our practice with no expectations . We are not likely to experience a blinding light or instant Awakening, or sudden talents or abilities we did not have before. These are all unreasonable expectations and simply set us up for failure. If there isn’t instant gratification, many give up after a few attempts, and thus miss out on a very beneficial practice.

One goal of meditating is to still the constant chattering of the mind so that we may connect with the inner self. A simple practice to begin would be a mantra meditation. Simply choose a word or sound that you are comfortable with, perhaps the word love or peace. Find a quiet spot where you are not likely to be interrupted, and sit in a chair, feet on the floor, hands resting in the lap. Once comfortable, close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths and begin quietly repeating your mantra. When the mind wanders, and it will, simply return to reciting your mantra. When the twenty minutes is up, sit quietly for a few moments before resuming your day. One mistake that is often made is trying too hard, and being disappointed in ones self if the mind wanders.

Meditation should be effortless, gently bringing the mind back to the mantra when it drifts. Don’t become involved in it’s thinking. Simply acknowledge that it has wandered. Some sessions will be easier than others. There may even be times that the mind can not be stilled. Don’t worry about it. It will come. There will be other times that you will become aware that time has passed without your noticing, and that you are filled with a calm, serene, peaceful feeling that you do not have the words to describe. This experience will happen more and more frequently with time, and the feeling will last longer with practice. We do not generally have the words or concepts in our computer brain to express these feelings.

As we meditate, research and read what we can find, we will become more and more able to express our experiences and the experiences themselves will deepen.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Introduction to Meditation

Since I have been asked to co-moderate a group concentrating on meditation, I thought I may post my articles here as well.

The first is Introduction to Meditation

I suspect this group will deal with all facets and forms of meditation and its results. The way we all learn is by sharing, asking and answering, so don't hesitate if you have a comment, a question or an experience to share. We are all students and we are all teachers.

On the spiritual level, there is really no fundamental difference between meditation and prayer. People of all faiths, or no faith may practice meditation and benefit from it. There are many benefits of meditation including stress release and promoting physical healing. As you are aware, I follow my own path, on my own journey, but that does not conflict with any other path or journey.

Many of us set up a small personal area, with those things that have meaning to us, and follow a short ritual before meditation and after. This is simply a way to prepare the body and mind for the meditation to come. It separates the meditation from our daily chores, worries and life.

This is a quote from a friend that says it very well indeed. "Spirituality is a personal thing, and cannot be dictated. Meditation can enable us to find the path that leads us to higher realization and well-being."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Begin Again

Begin again, said the inner voice
Just as the seasons change,
And life begins anew each spring.
Put the endings of autumn behind you,
Take the rest that winter affords,
And burst forth anew in spring,
More glorious still with each new day.
Wear your scars proudly as a badge
Of growth and wisdom, earned honestly.
Stand fast, as the tree stands fast.
Bend with the willow, accept your fate.
Provide shelter to the passers by.
Keep your roots in the earth,
And your head in the sky.
Count the new beginnings on the rings
Of growth within your soul.
Trust the Force that gives you life,
To sustain you in your hour of need,
And aim to be the best damned tree
That the Force and fate will let you be

Ode To Lost Innocence

A soul stands naked in the cold,
Innocence in tatters at his feet.
In times gone by, he was so bold,
Not knowing his future need.
Innocence stripped from his very soul,
The layers peeled without any heed.
Fleeting joys, memories grown old
Provide no warmth in his hour of need.
His youthful senses were dulled
“By my innocence” he said.
To feel the pleasures of the world
Was why he did what he did.
But now, in nakedness and dread,
He awaits the cold reality.
Innocence, once lost and dead
Can never again protection be.


We are varicolored translucent discs,
floating in the sea of life.
When we drift into contact with each other,
the overlapping portions form a third color.
The strength of our relationships depends on
the size of the overlap and the desirability
of the color we create between us.
The length of the relationship depends
on the currents in the sea in which we float.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Thoughts On a Long Term Relationship

As we approach our thirty-fourth wedding anniversary, and forty-one years of knowing each other, my thoughts turn to partnerships, both formalized and common-law.

It is hard to believe in these days, that a marriage can become strong and stay that way. So many young people cop out at the first sign that the honeymoon might be over. That does not mean that we never make mistakes, sometimes we do. In such a case it is best to separate before doing permanent harm to each other.

In order to build a strong foundation together, both parties have to be committed to making it work. Each obstacle that is overcome makes the parties and the partnership stronger.

Again, I draw on my grandparents and my husband's parents for strength and wisdom. My husband's parents celebrated their 50th before my father-in-law passed on. Mom missed him terribly and I think she was almost glad when a stroke took her through the mist to be with him. My grandparents married young and the union lasted for their lifetimes. Grandma passed on in her early 60s, and Grandpa never even looked at another woman before his death at 87.

I know that it was not all sunshine and laughter. They survived many conflicts and traumas together, partly because in their day, society demanded that marriage be 'till death do you part”, and partly because surmounting each obstacle made the union stronger and them more prepared to deal with the next. In their twilight years, they did not become bitter old people, they did not regret the way they had lived their lives. They lived honorably to the best of their ability and were content.

My only real regret is that this being my second marriage, we will not likely be able to celebrate our fiftieth together, rocking on the front porch in companionable silence.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Faith, Courage and Joy

We have all met someone who seems to suck the joy out of everything they go near, someone who always sees the negative instead of the positive. They find no joy in life. They tire themselves as well as those they interact with. I am sure they don’t want to be like that; they just don’t know any other way to react to life. Parents who never play with their children, never teach them to see the wonders of nature, the order in our universe, the blessings in their own lives, often have such a negative effect on their children.

If we were lucky, we had "big friends" who did this for us if our parents did not. My parent did not!! But I had my grandparents, my public school teacher and a wonderful neighbor lady who taught me so much about faith and courage. She lived those beliefs and taught by example.

She was an artist and in her middle years when she came into my life. She had cancer and her time here was limited. She ostensibly needed someone to do some small chores for her and to fetch and carry for an hour or two after school each day. I was 14 or 15 at the time and lost in a world I did not really understand. Looking back, I know that she saw this and gave me the wonderful gifts that I so badly needed, courage, faith, joy, and the ability to see the wonder that is our world. I was very interested in art, but in a rural area where the whole first eight grades fit into a one-room schoolhouse, opportunities were rare. I did not even know what it meant to really SEE. I was blind to the wonders that she taught me to see, the beauty in all of nature, the wonder in a nest of new-hatched spiders, the joy in a bird song.

I found myself being taught how to create with paint and brushes and to not be deterred by not being able to afford the materials I had always thought were necessary. That particular lesson resulted in a mural on the outside of the hen house, done in house paints. I still smile when I think of it. I also still look for a way around, over or under any obstacles that come into my path. She taught me to have faith, both in my ability to circumvent obstacles, and in the Creator’s willingness to provide guidance when I asked for it.

She lived her life as if each day may be the last. She praised publicly and criticized (very gently) in private. Her courage was an inspiration, getting up every morning and taking all that the day had to offer. She never complained. She never lost her faith that the events in life happen for a reason, and that we must accept the bad with the good and learn from both. She saw wonder in each day, and shared it with me.

She was not in my life for very long, but she had an effect on me that has lasted a lifetime.

It saddens me that I never thanked those people who gave me so much when I needed it most, but I believe that what we share with children lasts them a lifetime.

With her permission, I am sharing here a letter that a little friend of mine wrote for me a couple of years ago. She came into my life at the age of five, and she is now over thirty with a husband and child of her own.

Big Friend / Little Friend

When I was five, my mother took me to visit a big lady who lived in a big house with her big husband and a big dog.

The lady had neat toys and lots of fun kids movies and her big dog was friendly, not scary.

The big lady talked to me like I was a real person, not just a kid. She had kind eyes and a warm laugh and from that day on she became my Big Friend.

Over the years, as I was growing up, my Big Friend taught me lots of thing. The first thing I learned was not to knock something until I’ve tried it. The second lesson was to never be afraid of trying new things. To this day, I like olives on my pizza and fried green tomatoes.

When I entered my terrible teens, and I hated everyone, even myself, my Big Friend understood when I stopped coming to visit. She never pressured me or made me feel guilty. She just said “I’d love to see you when you have more time.” and I knew she’d be there when I was ready.

The time came when I realized that life didn’t have to be as hard as I made it out to be and I went to visit my Big Friend once again. She welcomed me with a big hug and her wonderful warm smile and it was like no time had passed.

In fact, my visits with my Big Friend became like time spent in a Time Warp. Her little corner of the world seemed outside of Time. Things going on in the rest of the world had little effect in the Time Warp. This was a place to rest and rejuvenate. Even just hours spent in the Time Warp was enough to recharge my batteries.

Slowly, subtly, at a pace I unknowingly set myself, my Big Friend began to teach me once more. By now the lessons were more complex, yet at the same time, so simple.

“Always reach out to someone in need” was such an easy concept. My Big Friend expanded on that by adding “Always walk your path with one hand stretched out ahead of you to receive help when you need it, and the other hand reaching backwards to help those struggling behind you.” Simple, basic, profound.

When I was struggling with religious issues, I came to my Big Friend for advice. “We are all following our own path, and all paths lead up the same mountain, converging to meet at the same place, the top” My Big Friend has a way of drawing pictures in my mind to help me understand the answers to my questions.

As most of us eventually do, I met the person who I plan to spend at least the rest of my life with, and I began to bring him along on my visits. My Big Friend extended the same kindness and understanding to him as she always did to me.

The day came when my Big Friend decided it was time to teach me about the birds and the bees. I was in my twenties and had been with my Significant Other for several years. I knew all abut the birds and the bees, but this was to be, as usual, a different kind of talk.

The birds in question were my pets. By caring for them together, my partner and I would learn more about each other and ourselves, in a way similar to parents raising a child. The bees were not the winged variety, but those people whom we meet every day, some of whom will sting us, usually out of fear. By learning to see the fear, and choosing words and actions that would not feed it, I could soon learn to avoid many stings altogether.

My Big Friend surprised me one day by telling me she generally didn’t like kids. “But I was a kid and you liked me… didn’t you?” I asked. She informed me with a smile, that I was the exception that proved the rule. I was her Little Friend, which was something much more special than just a kid.

I could hardly believe it when my Big Friend told me that she got as much out of having a Little Friend as I did from having a Big Friend. I’m still working on understanding that one, but she assures me that one day, I will understand, so I know I will.

Recently it dawned on me that my Big Friend had stopped being my Big Friend long ago. Somewhere along the way, I had mentally dropped the “Big” and kept the most important part, “Friend”.

Jennifer Mertel

When she sent this to me, the accompanying letter stated that the enclosed is a “work in progress. I have a feeling that it will never be finished, because the more time we spend together, the more I will want to add.”

As I read it, with the tears streaming down my face and a big warm glow in my heart, I wished with all my heart that everyone could experience the joy that having a Little Friend has brought to my life.