Meditation - the direct encounter
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Picture: Meditation - The Direct Encounter. Third eye mandala. Ajna centre.
Meditation is a spiritual exercise which aligns the physical brain with the soul.
The dance of experience while meditating expresses the freedom, harmony, love and joy of the soul.
Picture: Jesus meditating. Bruce Harman.
Silent meditation with a group of like-spirited people can exert a powerful positive influence on the energetic balance of the locality, particularly if half the group is female and half is male.
Perhaps the most potent form of group meditation is transmission meditation.
It is worth recalling the work of Father Anthony de Mello, a psychotherapist and Jesuit priest from India, who died in 1987. He was one of those intuitive Christian priests who could sense the commonality of spirit underlying eastern and western traditions.
In the context of meditation, Anthony de Mello spoke of the possibility of enjoying an intuition of God without form or image, and of the experience, in meditation, of dissolving into God as salt dissolves into water.
And ever realistic about the importance of Jesus, he described the difference between Jesus and the rest of us as lying in the fact that whereas Jesus is awake and fully free, we, too often, are spiritually comatose and immobilised by fear – particularly by the fear of growth.
Picture: Chakra activation by meditation (1).
Here is a meditation by Anthony de Mello SJ, on growth:
"Calamities can bring growth and enlightenment," said the Master. And he explained it thus: "Each day a bird would shelter in the withered branches of a tree that stood in the middle of a vast deserted plain. One day a whirlwind uprooted the tree, forcing the poor bird to fly a hundred miles in search of shelter - till it finally came to a forest of fruit-laden trees." And he concluded: "If the withered tree had survived, nothing would have induced the bird to give up its security and fly."
This meditation, and many more, by Anthony de Mello, can be found here. And Michael Brooke has a useful introductory essay about Anthony de Mello here.
Picture: Chakra activation by meditation (2).
In May 1976, Frederick Toppe delivered a paper to the American Lutheran Southwest Michigan Pastoral Conference. It was entitled "Meditation: Pagan and Christian" (pdf file - 30 pages).
He said: "Of all the hard facts of science, I know of none more solid and fundamental than the fact that if you inhibit thought (and persevere) you come at length to a region of consciousness below or beyond thought…and a realization of an altogether vaster self than that to which we are accustomed."
"We can describe meditation and meditational methods as the means used to achieve the feelings either of religious bliss or of natural bliss. The means used to achieve the break-through into the altered state of consciousness are almost limitless in variety, reminding us that in meditation we are not dealing with an exclusively religious phenomenon, but with a phenomenon that is, in itself, a neutral event, neither religious nor unreligious, but capable of being interpreted in either direction. This means it can be used in Christian and in pagan environments and be interpreted accordingly as either a Christian or a pagan or a secular phenomenon."
Picture: Theologue. Alex Grey.
Toppe has a lot to say about the German Protestant reformer, Martin Luther (1483 – 1546). He cites Luther's commentary on Psalm 50:2. The text here reads: "From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth."
Luther's comment is: “With these words God pours himself and his dear Son Christ into us and draws us into himself, so that He is completely 'vermenschet'' (incarnated) and we are completely 'vergottet' (deified).”
Toppe speaks also of the great Russian writer and philosopher Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910), who was himself a gifted mystic, and makes the comment that: ".... Tolstoy often reflected the Orthodox bias for the direct experience of God as opposed to a mediate perception through the Word."
Toppe then goes on to relate a famous story told by Tolstoy:
An Orthodox bishop is on an inspection tour of his diocese. He hears of three pious monks living on an island in a lake and takes a boat to visit them. The monks turn out to have no knowledge at all of Scripture and doctrine. Patiently the bishop seeks to teach them, but finally he has to settle only for teaching them the Lord’s Prayer; they are too simple to learn anything more.
The bishop departs with some doubt over the genuineness of their faith. As his boat leaves the island for the mainland, in the distance he sees three figures moving towards him. As they come closer he sees that they are the three monks from the island, running across the water to catch him.
The monks climb into the boat and admit that they have already forgotten the Lord’s Prayer. The bishop falls on his face before them and says that they are holier men than he is, for they truly are in God. They need not concern themselves with such matters as creeds and doctrines, for they already know God directly.
The three monks return to their island, still running on the water, and the bishop goes his way, realizing that to be in God is more than any intellectual understanding of Him.The full text of Frederick Toppe's 1976 paper "Meditation: Pagan and Christian" can be found online here (pdf).
Picture: Green water woman meditating outdoors.
In the years since Toppe's paper, there have been many scientific and medical studies of the effects of meditation on the physiology of meditators. I cite three of these below.
(1) In December 1989, C.N. Alexander, E.J. Langer, R.I. Newman, H.M. Chandler and J.L. Davies of the Department of Psychology at Maharishi International University, Fairfield, Iowa, published a paper. It was entitled: "Transcendental meditation, mindfulness, and longevity: an experimental study with the elderly."
They asked a question: "Can direct change in state of consciousness through specific mental techniques extend human life and reverse age-related declines?"
To address this question, 73 residents of 8 homes for the elderly (mean age 81 years) were randomly assigned among no treatment and 3 treatments, highly similar in external structure and expectations: the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program, mindfulness training (MF) in active distinction making, or a relaxation (low mindfulness) program.
A planned comparison indicated that the "restful alert" TM group improved most, followed by MF. This was in contrast to the relaxation and no-treatment groups.
A related study with the same sample group addressed paired associate learning involving two measures of cognitive flexibility; mental health; systolic blood pressure; and ratings of behavioural flexibility, aging, and treatment efficacy. Here, the MF group improved most, followed by TM, on perceived control and word fluency.
After 3 years, the survival rate was 100% for TM, and 87.5% for MF. This contrasted with lower rates for the other groups.
(2) In May 1992, P. Jin of the Department of Psychology, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia, published a paper. It was entitled: "Efficacy of Tai Chi, brisk walking, meditation, and reading in reducing mental and emotional stress."Tai Chi, a moving meditation, was examined for its efficacy in post-stressor recovery. Forty-eight male and 48 female Tai Chi practitioners were randomly assigned to four treatment groups: Tai Chi, brisk walking, mediation and neutral reading. Mental arithmetic and other difficult tests were chosen as mental challenges, and a stressful film was used to produce emotional disturbance. Tai Chi and the other treatments were applied after these stressors.
After all treatments, the salivary cortisol level dropped significantly, and the mood states were also improved. In general the stress-reduction effect of Tai Chi characterized moderate physical exercise. Heart rate, blood pressure, and urinary catecholamine changes for Tai Chi were found to be similar to those for walking at a speed of 6 km/hr.
Although Tai Chi appeared to be superior to neutral reading in the reduction of state anxiety and the enhancement of vigour, this effect could be partially accounted for by the subjects' high expectations about gains from Tai Chi.
(3) In the autumn of 1992, R. Jevning, R.K. Wallace and M. Beidebach of the School of Human Behaviour at United States International University, San Diego, California published a paper. It was entitled: "The physiology of meditation: a review. A wakeful hypometabolic integrated response."
The authors introduced their paper as follows: "While for centuries a wakeful and tranquil state or experience variously called 'samadhi,' 'pure awareness,' or 'enlightenment' had been said to be a normal experience and the goal of meditation in Vedic, Buddhist, and Taoist traditions, there was little known about this behaviour until recently, when the practice of 'transcendental meditation' (TM) became available for study in Western scientific laboratories."
"Derived from the Vedic tradition, TM is unique because it requires no special circumstances or effort for practice. Based upon a wide spectrum of physiological data on TM, we hypothesize that meditation is an integrated response with peripheral circulatory and metabolic changes subserving increased central nervous activity."
"Consistent with the subjective description of meditation as a very relaxed but, at the same time, a very alert state, it is likely that such findings during meditation as increased cardiac output, probable increased cerebral blood flow, and findings reminiscent of the 'extraordinary' character of classical reports: apparent cessation of carbon dioxide generation by muscle, fivefold plasma AVP elevation, and EEG synchrony play critical roles in this putative response."
Less academic but of equal pertinence, perhaps, are the following online resources which deal with meditation:
Benjamin Creme has some informed, esoteric ideas about the differences between prayer, meditation and transmission here.
The Meditation Site is a reference website for meditation techniques from across the world and can be found here. This deals with practical meditation techniques, physical postures, mental attitudes and space clearing.
An interesting and intuitive Tree of Life meditation, based on Kabbalistic visualisation, can be explored here. It is called the Middle Pillar Ritual.
And it is worth knowing about Dr Georg Feuerstein's Traditional Yoga Studies website which can be found here. There are many useful articles on this site, including What is Yoga? (pdf - 2 pages), Frequently asked questions about Yoga (pdf - 6 pages), A Glossary of Yoga terms in Sanskrit (pdf - 15 pages), Yoga breathing technique (pdf - 5 pages), and Holy madness: the radical side of spirituality (pdf - 8 pages).
But from the point of view of Western-educated readers, perhaps the most detailed and informed source of information about meditation on the web is to be found on the Lucis Trust site here. This material is probably best approached by those who have had some practical experience of individual or group meditation. There is a very full section dealing with The Science of Meditation here, including a piece on the spiritual significance of meditating during the full moon.
The following words of Alice Bailey are quoted: "Meditation is a potent method of service to humanity when the mind is used as a channel for the reception of the energies of light and love and the will-to-good and their direction into human consciousness. And the moment of the full moon each month offers the greatest opportunity for meditation - particularly in group formation - to be used as a means of cooperation with the divine Plan or Intention for our world."
"One may ask, what has the moon got to do with it? The energies of light and love and the will-to-good are always available to those who can contact them in meditation. But in all aspects of our planetary life there are cycles in the ebb and flow of spiritual energies with which groups, as well as individuals, can consciously cooperate. One of the major energy cycles coincides with the phases of the moon, reaching its peak, its high tide, at the time of the full moon. This is a time, therefore, when the channelling of energy through group meditation can be uniquely effective."
Picture: Naked woman meditating outdoors on grass.
"We are now beginning to ask the pertinent question: Is it not possible that many thousands now are at the point where they can co-ordinate the brain, the mind and the soul, and so pass through the portal of mental awareness into the realm of light, of intuitive perception, and the world of causes? The Knowers say that we can, and they tell us of the way."
In a section entitled: "The Need for Care in Meditation" the same Alice Bailey text is cited: "It will be apparent that those who are learning to meditate must endeavour to do two things. First, they must learn to 'bring through' into the mind and then interpret correctly what .... has been seen and contacted, and later transmit it correctly and accurately to the attentive and impressionable brain.""Second, they must learn the nature of the energies .... contacted and train themselves to utilise them correctly. A practical illustration of this can be given here. We are swept by anger or irritation. Instinctively we begin to shout. Why? Emotional energy has us in its grip. By learning to control the energy of the spoken word we begin to master that particular type of emotional energy."
"In these two ideas of right interpretation and right transmission, and of right use of energy, the whole story of the meditation work is summed up. It becomes apparent also what is the problem confronting the student, and why all wise teachers of the technique of meditation urge upon their pupils the need of care and slow procedure."
"A little later on in the same section, under the heading 'The Need for Discrimination' it is suggested that: "The point that every student of meditation should always bear in mind is that all knowledge and instructions are conveyed to the mind and brain by one's own soul; it is the soul that illumines the way. The Teachers and Masters of the race work through souls .... Therefore, the prime duty of every aspirant should be the perfect performance of meditation and service and discipline, and not the making of contact with some great Soul. It is less interesting, but preserves one from illusion. If one does this, the higher results will take care of themselves."
"Should an apparition appear, therefore, and should such an entity make platitudinous comments, the student will use the same judgment as would be used in business or ordinary life with someone who came and said .... 'A great work lies in your hands, you are doing well. We see and know, etc, etc,' the student would probably laugh and continue with the activity or duty of the moment."On the Lucis Trust website, under a sub-heading "Creative Meditation: A Planetary Service" it is stated: "The technique of meditation governs all expansions of consciousness, including the entire process of evolutionary development within the planet. It is the technique of spiritual contact and apprehension, the means of furthering the evolution of human intelligence, the capacity to love, and the ability to bring the personal will into alignment with the divine will."
"Meditation is the single most effective means for transcending the binding, restrictive sense of separateness and isolation which imprison the human consciousness and render it futile. Meditation is the outstanding creative agent upon the planet. The effect of human meditation at this time is to change conditions, to invoke the higher spiritual potencies, to work with concentration – both vertically and horizontally – within the world of men and within the kingdom of God. This vertical and horizontal activity holds the secret of creative meditation."
"The intention to be of service to mankind is the essential motivation for all true creative meditation. Expansion of the human mind is based on the ability to love and to serve one's fellowmen. The ultimate result in the consciousness of the individual is illumination, wisdom and the will-to-good, and an expanding ability to cooperate in the creative and redemptive purposes of our planetary life. Meditation as a planetary service is bothpractical and effective."
Picture: Naked woman meditating outdoors on sandy beach.
Picture: Naked woman meditating indoors. Front view.
Picture: Naked woman meditating in garden. Front view.
Meditating with animals
Some introductory ideas from the Esoteric School of Shamanism and Magic
Prayer is breathing
The emergence of the transpersonal soul
Gospel for the New Age
The unwisdom of belief
Labels: Alice Bailey, Anthony de Mello, Frederick Toppe, Georg Feuerstein, Lucis Trust, Meditation, Meditation - the direct encounter, New Age spirituality, New spirituality, Soul, Transmission meditation