Thursday, 27 November 2014

How to meditate

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).


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.


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.


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.  



Cameron said...

One you'll appreciate Bruce:

"In Adelaide five years ago, after he had made his usual fat hundred, two Sri Lankan players sought Steve Waugh out. "Do you meditate?" they asked. "Because you look like you are in a trance when you bat." Australia's captain sent them away disappointed - the closest he comes to meditation is chewing his gum a little harder - but there is no doubt he has reserves of concentration granted to few players in history."

RIP Phil Hughes.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Cameron - I would not be at all surprised if Steve Waugh did practise 'real' meditation - but he would never have admitted it when he was a player - too soft for his image!


Such a sad day for cricket, things may never be the same again. Phil Hughes always seemed a decent sort of chap. A reminder that we all - even the young, strong, fit and skilful - live always a hairsbreadth from death.

Bruce Charlton said...

Scyld Berry expresses well what so many cricket lovers feel today:

Wm Jas said...

For me, having a pencil and a piece of paper in front of me is essential, but I usually don't end up writing more than a few words. It's the possibility of writing that stimulates the meditative mood.