What is meditation? by Laurence Freeman OSB


what is meditation and how do we meditate the word meditation is like the word medicine it has this prefix med which is a Greek prefix that means care or attention when we meditate we are being careful we are paying attention meditation is a universal spiritual tradition wisdom we find it in all the great religious traditions of the human family the years ago I was teaching meditation Christian meditation in Australia I was talking about the 2000 year old tradition of Christian meditation going back to the teaching Jesus on contemplation and then an Aborigine Christian Aborigine who was in the audience came up to me afterwards and thanked me for the talk and he said you know our people my people the aboriginals he said have been meditating for 40,000 years we call it de giri which is a silent non questioning awareness a harmony with the world around us they go to a sacred place maybe a rock or near the river he would people onto a river people he said I need just sit beside the river and feel the flow of the river and we open ourselves to the presence that is in nature so meditation goes back to the very earliest intuitions of humanity about what lies deeper than the senses or deeper than our even our rational mind in meditation you could say we go from the mind to the heart from thought into silence from words and images and planning and problem and analyzing all the things that we do all the day in our Active Minds we go deeper than the mind we go into that place of the heart the heart is not just a romantic emotional symbol we find the heart as a symbol in all the spiritual traditions and it is a symbol both of the interior ot of the human person and also of the wholeness of the human person where the body of the mind and the spirit converge into the true self into the person I most deeply and truly am through all the years and all the experiences of my life so meditation is our journey of consciousness shifting the center of consciousness from the mind to the heart and we do that not by trying to achieve anything but simply by being still stillness as the primary experience of meditation so when you meditate sit physically still the stillness of body will help to bring you to a stillness within stillness mind then we also practice silence because in silence we are learning to pay attention remember that word med to pay attention we’re not thinking about God we’re not thinking about the meaning of life we’re not thinking about ourselves or our problems or solving our future plans in meditation we are not trying to have good thoughts but we are letting go of all thoughts moving to that deepest level where we are paying pure attention to pure being so silence is about attention but in order to be silent to pay attention it’s very helpful to have a quiet place so when you meditate try and find a quiet time and a quiet place and the third really important quality that we practice in meditation is simplicity and by that I mean that we’re not analyzing ourselves we’re not saying am I happy what don’t I have what do I need to make me happy what are my problems what are my daydreams in meditation then we let go of thoughts words images and a dreams we come into the present moment that’s the essence of all meditation and it’s only in the present moment that we can find God the God who is the God who reveals a mystery of God as I am I am Who I am God said to Moses so this is the nature of meditation but how do we do it how do we become silent and simple and still and how do we let go of our worries plans and daydreams and desires and fantasies and slip into the only place where we truly are real which is the present moment in the Christian tradition as a very simple method taught from the beginning of the Christian spiritual tradition which has deep resonance with the same method taught in other traditions even older than Christianity and that is to take a word a single word short phrase a sacred word and mantra and to repeat this word continually gently faithfully attentively during the time of the meditation the saying of the word is what focuses our consciousness is what stills the mind it’s what takes the attention off our busy active and distracted minds so you don’t have to fight your distractions just let them go and when you do get distracted which of course happens all the time when you do get distracted simply come back to the saying of your word the next most important thing is to know what word to choose and because you want to stay with this word all the way through the meditation and from day to day the recommendation of all the traditions is to take a sacred word the word that is sacred in your own tradition stay with the same word and give it your full attention it’s helpful if it is not in your own language because that means it’s easier to get out of your head and to let go of thoughts even good thoughts the word I would recommend is the word maranatha it’s a beautiful prayer word a beautiful mantra it’s in the language that Jesus spoke Aramaic and it means come Lord but we’re not thinking about the meaning of it as we say it and st. Paul ends the first letter to the Corinthians with it so it’s a scriptural world word of great sacredness the oldest Christian prayer if you choose that word say it has four syllables ma rah na thum listen to the word as you say it don’t visualize it just listen to it as you say it as thoughts come let them drop let them go and keep returning to your word so this is how you meditate you sit down you sit still sit with your back straight so that you are alert and awake meditation is about being awake close your eyes lightly sit relaxed breathe normally and then silently in your mind and heart begin to say your word your mantra the word again I would suggest is maranatha ma rah that’s the simple way of meditation it’s very simple not easy but you can meditate at any point in your life you start to meditate from where you are you can teach a child of six to meditate you could meditate on your deathbed the important thing is to start where you are to accept yourself where you are and begin to deepen your spiritual journey from the place you find yourself to be if you want to meditate seriously build it into your life and meditate twice a day aim at this twice daily rhythm of beginning the day and ending the day with about 20 minutes of meditation on each on each occasion occasion and if you want to strengthen to deepen to encourage that practice and be in touch with others who meditate meditate with them regularly the community that grows out of meditation is a community of spiritual friendship and if you’d like to contact one such community the Christian meditation community you can do so through the internet wccn org or for younger meditators the spiritual solution com the community that meditation creates begins with the harmony the peace that we find within ourselves it’s a simple way and it’s a way that leads to fullness of life you


6 Responses

  1. Kazik Staszak

    April 17, 2017 9:24 pm

    The ideal speed for relaxation is 9 breaths per minute :). 40 breaths is enough. All the rest is just a piece of real bullshit art.


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