There was a mixed reaction from the audience when I said that I meditated for two hours every day.
A few shook their heads in concerned bewilderment. Why was he wasting his time?
But several people in the audience were also meditators and understood.
The situation was an academic conference at Kent University on transformative education. I was prefacing my presentation with some autobiographical information.
An interesting challenge came from one professor. He was concerned that meditation might reinforce an established sense of self and do nothing to develop anything new. He was thinking particularly of fellow academics who were not open to developing their thinking and just used meditation for self-soothing. I welcomed his disquiet.
So why do I meditate?
Yes – I enjoy it very much.
But more than that, it is the most productive and creative period of my day.
In Autobiography of a Yogi Yogananda suggests that in terms of service and self-development one good meditation is worth a year’s living. I agree! But how can that be?
So let me list some of the things that happen in my meditation.
INTO THE ZONE
First I just sit, am patient and wait. Wait until I go into the zone. By the zone I mean that my body, emotions and thoughts are at ease – and that I am mentally very conscious, alert and watchful.
At ease and alert.
At the same time I feel connected with . . . what shall I call it? I feel connected with life, with the flow, with all that is . . .
I can come into the zone even if I am in physical pain or emotional distress. (This is when many people give up and walk away.) I am in both states at the same time. In the zone. In my humanity.
Just being in the zone is profoundly healing. It soothes my biology, my nervous system, brain, endocrine system, heart rate variability, breath and gut. This is a powerful foundation for good physical health.
I also allow myself to absorb the benevolent vitality that permeates the cosmos. I circulate and absorb the healing energy deep into my bones, spine, brain and tissue.
WATCHING, WATCHING, WATCHING
All the time in meditation I am coming home to witnessing and watching. Guiding myself to be compassionate, empathic, accepting and kind. Completely trusting the whole process even when the sensations and feelings that arise in me are tortured. Breathing into and through whatever arises. Accepting, integrating, healing. This is so good for my psychological health.
Connected and calm I am my own best friend, counsellor, guide and therapist. As difficult feelings, thoughts and sensations arise within me I give them care and attention. I converse and create relationship with them. This is an essential part of my healing and development.
Inside every meditation I carefully review my life. I look at how I conduct my relationships, the quality of my emotions, my livelihood, my ecological awareness, my engagement as a citizen, my prejudices, my neuroses, my talents, my future. It is in meditation that I see myself with clarity and can guide my development and behaviour. At the same time I sense how my consciousness needs to expand and I experiment with altered states.
CLEARING MY DESK
My meditation time is also part of my work. It is the best possible space to look at and be mindful of business. Mortgage, projects, colleagues, finance, relationships, next steps . . . Everything benefits from meditative awareness. Here I can prepare and train myself. What better place to contemplate the actual activities of my life? My wise self can shine light on everything.
SEED THOUGHT CONTEMPLATION
This is part of the education that happens in my meditation. I can contemplate any concept or idea and allow my awareness to be open to learning. Insights come from what Patanjali called the raincloud of knowable things. I might for example choose to focus on the meaning of Jesus’ incarnation. I can contemplate any symbol or myth, ideology or philosophy, idea or theory. Revisiting a concept day by day, perhaps for years, I learn.
METAPHYSICS, ESOTERICS AND EXPLORING THE COSMOS
Another educational aspect of meditation for me is to connect with the vibration and energy of a metaphysical ‘thing’. What is Aquarius? What is God? What is Mary? What are the higher planes? What is Christ? What is the heart chakra? What is a landscape spirit or angel of healing? And so on. In the calm I connect with the ‘thing’ and allow impressions to land. I learn from feeling and sensing the quality.
SERVICE AND INVOCATION
Every meditation also includes periods of service. Mainly I practice Tonglen (Tibetan Buddhist) or turning the other cheek (Christian.) I tune into suffering and negativity, and breathe it into my own body and aura. I hold it, absorb it, cleanse it and then breathe out a blessing. I also scan my neighbourhood for people and animals who have died, are lost and may need help moving across into the ‘clear light’. And of course I send love and loving waves of positive energy to my family, colleagues, students, folk in distress, world leaders, etc.
EMPTYING AND SURRENDER
And for me most important of all, I practice being empty and yielding to the sheer beauty, mystery and benevolence of all that is.
Of course how I practice meditation is not the same as everyone. For example I rarely use mantra, prayer or visualisation, which I know can be central features for others. But the more I teach and enable meditation – especially how to teach and guide it – the more I assert with confidence that, regardless of our beliefs, style or background, we all enter the zone and connection.
And all of that is what I would like to have said to the academics at the conference who wondered why I meditate and if I was just wasting my time. Mm. Wasting time. That’s a good seed thought for meditation: What is time?
Most of my ideas about meditation are now available in my Meditation Masterclass.