How We Define Meditation
We think of meditation as a form of communication between our inner and our outer selves, between the visible and abstract parts of who we are, or between our ego, the center of our outer persona and what about us is transcendent. While our outer self is oriented to preserve its best interest even
when it leads us into selfishness and other traits separating us from other human beings, our inner self leads us towards self-forgetfulness and increasing inclusiveness. The inner self can then fulfill its role as the nexus of our higher values. Through learning to contact and dialogue with that abstract self, our interactions help us to discover what these higher values are, how they relate to our own lives and how we can learn to better express them. Through expanding our grasp of these values, applying them is that much easier, and our contribution to the world that much larger.
Is This Meditation For You?
If communicating with the inner part of who we are speaks to you, then exploring this kind of meditation may be helpful. To know if you would make a good candidate, ask yourself if you like to use your mind or want to use it, and if you feel a sense or a need to help others. If you answer yes to both then this kind of meditation may be right for you. You can begin on your own and if after trying you sense that this is a form of meditation calling forth a recognition from within and you would like to continue, you’ll need to decide whether to go on alone or to join a group.
What Meditation Does
- Develop and increase our sensitivity to what is beyond ourselves
- Guide us to develop our inner health whether we define it as spiritual or not
- Help us be in touch and utilize all parts of ourselves
- Enlist the abstract part of ourselves to help us grow and make right decisions
- Stretches and develops our inner “muscles”, a type of mettle and strength
- Reach, realize and express our inner self and the values associated with it
- Tear down our inner barriers and build links to and with others
- Lead a more purposeful life
- Discover a deeper joy and integrate it into our being
How to Recognize the Inner Self
To be able to include meditation in our life, we need to learn how to recognize the inner self and its manifestations. Just as anything good, true, and beautiful is spiritual, anything that is good, true, and beautiful is also of the inner self. While contacting the inner self does not involve anything complicated, it does require knowing how to quiet all parts of ourselves. For those interested, the meditation manual, In Pursuit of The Real, gives specific instructions. Yet, whether or not it is used, here are exercises which will be helpful in recognizing and better utilizing the presence of the inner self. With or without the manual, the exercises, like the meditation, do require practice and focus.
- The first place to look is inside ourselves. Look for those aspects of who we are, or who others are, that manifest it. Compassion, love, integrity, social justice, cooperation, givingness, helpfulness, fairness are but a few of the qualities which reveal the presence of the inner self within us. We can make it a point to notice and look for them.
- Each day we engage in myriad activities. We can keep a diary of how the inner self has manifested itself in our life, in our thoughts, our emotions, our actions, our decisions. We can learn to see our progress, or lack of it. It may take a while to get the necessary objectivity, but perseverance will help us see for ourselves how our recognition of the inner self increases.
- The inner self manifests itself through people, those who are close to us and those who are not. In whatever way we choose, we can notice how the inner self influences their decisions. We can notice people helping others, organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, AA or Amnesty International which reflect the presence of the inner self not only within human beings but also in the world at large.
- The inner self is far more present in everyday life than most realize. Learning to recognize it in big and small ways is a way to expand our experience of joy, for joy is its keynote, and its presence, like the laughter of a small child, offers the certainty that we have encountered it. Learn to recognize joy and also learn to recognize the difference with its surface counterpart, which we often call happiness.
- When we feel comfortable with recognizing the presence of the inner self within us and within others, we can then practice expanding that presence. We can assign ourselves a task, set out to develop or deepen one of its qualities, reach out to others, be of use in our family, our community, humanity.
- Once we feel sufficiently comfortable with recognizing the inner self we may want to look for it in more abstract ways. One way to start is to see how its qualities and the values they speak of manifests themselves in all the arts. We can take a book and see how the main characters shortcomings or strengths drove the story. Some wonderful books have been adapted to the screen and we can watch a movie if we prefer.
- E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India is an example. Why does Adela provoke the crisis? And why does she finally speak up at the end?
- In Verdi’s La Traviata, Violetta makes a sacrifice. What makes her act one of love and not one of foolishness?
- In Bizet’s Carmen however, Carmen’s behavior leads to her death. Why is she a victim of her own passions more than of Don Jose’s?
- Balzac’s Cousin Bette has been wronged, yet the way she goes about redressing those wrongs leaves out the inner self. Look for how she goes from victim to persecutor. How could the use of the inner self have helped her go instead from victim to victor?
- Many of Shakespeare’s plays are full of what happens when the inner self is not guiding. Take a play and examine how the absence of the inner self can lead to tragedy.
- Biographies are also an excellent way to study the inner self in action. We can study the life of anyone, but the lives of those who have helped the world go forward in some way, however small, are recommended. We can look for the decisions they made, the challenges they faced and how the inner self made the difference, often for them as well as for humanity.
We can’t help but be the center of our own picture. We are after all the one who sees, who touches, who speaks, who thinks, who acts, who decides. No one can eat for us nor do any number of other activities. And yet we are not really the center of anything, but part of a monolith we call any number of things such as universe, time/space continuum, or in this context, the inner world.
What we discover as we penetrate that world is that our causes are not causal at all. Our individual sphere is just too small, in fact it hems us in. Inescapably, we are part of the vast machinery of the universe, and what influences us stems from a variety of sources usually too big for us to fathom
or even be aware of and that’s one way in which meditation is helpful. It orients us to that inner world and helps us to see things from a larger vantage point. As it does it opens up vistas we did not know were there. Answers we did not know existed suddenly appear and new ways of seeing are made manifest.
How do we learn to penetrate that world and make it meaningful? It takes practice of course, like anything else that needs to grow into an art. A very good way to do this is through the use of “seed thoughts” as part of our meditation. Although they have one meaning on the surface, good seed thoughts, onion like, have layers, and as we keep meditating on them we unmask meanings which had previously seemed hidden. What enables us to peel the layers and uncover these meanings is simply our contact with inner reality. To make this contact useful, however, we need to learn to make our brain, our mind and our inner self work as one, something which the act of meditation itself fosters.
Seed thoughts, aside from enriching our own understanding of life in general, act as a point of focus in our meditation. To use our own problems as seed thoughts may sometimes be useful, once we have learned a certain detachment from our own little dramas. Seed thoughts are most useful in forging that aspect of meditation ushering us into some aspect of wisdom—for if seed thoughts don’t contain or lead to wisdom, they aren’t effective and lack the needed potency to act as our gateway to what lies beyond our normal range of understanding.
Following is a small sample of seed thoughts. They have no right or wrong answer, no right or best definition. We suggest the same seed thought be used several times before going on to another. We’ve found it useful to periodically go back to seed thoughts we’ve used in the past. Hopefully we have grown in the interim and our growth enables us to penetrate even deeper into its meaning.
- Love surrounds us, But only one who loves can direct its current.
- We have been our own veil hiding our own love.
- Do you dare interrupt the conversation of God with idle thoughts?
- Our duty is to imagine a culture shaped by love.
- Sufi aphorisms
- The spirit rises mightier by defeat.
- Sri Aurobindo
- Having pervaded the universe with a fragment of myself, I remain.
- Baghavad Gita
- Behind me lies the road of broken toys.
- A block of marble, deep within the quarry lies. Hidden within it lies likewise a form of beauty rare. The sculptor works, patterning true to that which lies revealed unto the inner sight. He (she) patterns true and beauty comes to life.
- I raise no barriers ‘twixt myself and others. I am as they, and one with all I meet.
- …May I fulfill my share with self forgetfulness, harmlessness and right speech.
- I stand at-one with all, and through the lower self, love flows.
- From the work of Alice Bailey
- Show me truth as truthfulness and guide me to it, and show me falsehood as falsehood and keep me away from it.
- From a Muslim prayer
- Before the eyes can see they must be incapable of tears.
- From the work of Mabel Collins
- Call no man happy until he dies.
- Athenian Thinker Solon
- Love isn’t love ′til it′s given away.
- From The Sound of Music
If you feel that a sense of shared experience would be helpful to your practice of meditation, then a group is for you.
The groups can be part of some other activity such as a book club, an exercise class or an AA meeting. We however ask for three things, that there be no fees, that the groups abstain from any kind of psychic activity, and that the groups not engage in proselytizing.
To start a group, just invite your friends. Should you want to purchase In Pursuit of the Real, see the meditation manual page. As a courtesy and in case people in your area can be referred, you may want to send an email to Danielle at firstname.lastname@example.org
The groups are free to set up their own schedules, meeting weekly or not, and organize themselves in whatever way they see fit, meet in the same house, rotate in group members’ homes, meet in a church or similar place, or elect to have tea afterwards, for example.
Should it be needed, a telecommunication meeting with Danielle can be set up where group members will be able to ask questions about their meditation practice and experiences.
The format we suggest for the group meetings is to hold a group meditation, followed by a discussion on a meditation topic either from the list below or of your own choosing and closing with a short inner recollection.
Meditation Groups Discussion Topics
Meditation as understood here is an endeavor with a certain gravitas. When practiced regularly, it creates a rhythm within one′s life, one conducive to reap all the benefits it can give. Meditation groups are helpful in creating that rhythm. Of course, the discussions themselves will hopefully be instructive.
The topics are suggestions, many based on topics covered in the manual. Members are free to use them or not, or take them in any order that seems appropriate. Each does not have precise or right answers. They are meant to guide meditation discussions and provide food for thought. They are adjuncts to meditation, and several can also be used as the basis of meditation.
- How do we know we have reached the inner self?
- How do we silence the mind? The emotions?
- Can we discover the inner self as the intermediary to an inner reality?
- How to bring service into our lives?
- How to sacrifice the ego?
- What are the attributes of the inner self?
- How to debrief our meditation?
- How do we decipher what the inner self wants us to do?
- What is our emotional baggage?
- What are our preconceived notions?
- What are our illusions?
- How can we dissipate our illusions?
- What are the values of the inner self?
- How can we infuse our lives with these values?
- How does the outer personal self resist the inner self?
- How does inertia manifest itself?
- What are the differences we have experienced between inner and outer worlds?
- How do we overemphasize our well being?
- How are we attempting to go beyond the personal self?
- What is our notion of what is transcendent?
- How are we practicing transcendental integrity?
- How are we overcoming self-interest?
- How are we cultivating inclusiveness?
- What tips for others do we have on the nightly review?
- What tips for others do we have on being the observer?
- How is our self pity manifesting itself?
- What have we learned about detachment?
- How are we practicing discernment?
“In Pursuit Of the Real” is a 20,000 word manual on how to use meditation as a means of communication between inner and outer selves. A printable version can be downloaded —about 50 pages—for $5.00 payable through PayPal.
It places meditation in a larger context of our lives and the world and is divided into 5 chapters:
- Why Meditate
- How To Begin
- How To Continue
- What To Watch Out For
- What To Look Forward To And Work Toward