Thursday, 27 November 2014

How to meditate

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The mythologist Joseph Campbell was once asked what was his spiritual discipline, his mode of 'meditation' - his answer was:"I underline sentences". This referred to his scholarship activities; reading, noting and analysing.

The comment is, I think, a good indication of how each person needs to discover - by insight and trail and error - how to meditate (and, of course, there are probably many methods).

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Meditation, attunement with God-within-us, certainly isn't always a matter of sitting still and breathing deeply - it could be walking, it could even be working at some particular task or art: gardening, painting, writing. The task is to recognise when it is happening - a form of self-knowledge.

For me, pure meditation is not useful - the most reliable method is 'meditating and noting'; sitting and thinking and writing notes about it, reflecting on those notes, writing some more - perhaps interspersed with reading a few sentences.

I know it is working when a certain mood and emotion comes upon me.

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And I even recall the first time that I noticed this happening. I was an elective student at Harvard Medical School - I had an evening with nothing planned - and was feeling lonely and miserable. So I went across to the medical library with a notebook, sat with some books, thinking and noting - and wrote myself into a cheerful mood.

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Since then I have filled scores, maybe hundreds, of notebooks (I always try to carry at least a little pad and pen).

I almost-never look at these notes a second time - most are discarded or lost: it is the process of noting which is important - the mode of thought.

That was my discovery about myself - literate meditation - and it would not work for many people; but perhaps most people could discover something analogous - by luck or after searching.  

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