Thursday 18 June 2015

How to meditate? No standard method.

How should someone set about meditating?

I think it is important to recognize that there is no standard method for meditating well - by meditating 'well', I mean such that meditating 'does you good, that the meditating has a positive (Christian) effect.

Learning how to meditate therefore seems to be one of those tasks which each person must tackle for himself - and this is how it is meant to be.

Of course there are many 'standard methods' of meditation which are taught, and which people practice. There are many 'school's of spiritual practice. But (and each person will need to reach their own judgment on this) I do not find any of them to be effective in the job of making a better person. The feeling or 'vibe' I receive from those people who practice a standard form of meditation, and advocate it - and tell you how much it has changed their lives, is generally not good.

My impression is that trying to standardize and formalize meditation is an intrinsically bad thing - it leads to problems like fakery, spiritual pride, sensation seeking; and it easily becomes a tool for power seeking.

I think we are intended to chisel-out our own method, and that learning how to meditate is part of making meditation into a good and helpful activity (because it can, of course, be the opposite).

For a Christian, there can be some general guidance - in terms of what you are looking-for. Here is William Arkle speaking:

You have something in you which can give you exactly that essential faith. And that something is a little spark of God's own divine flame. It is there. To understand that God's own divine flame is there in you, is the most vital component of what you need to know about this process of mortal life; because once you can read that inner spark of God for yourself, then you can get all the necessary answers for yourself: and then your faith grows into certainty.  



David said...

What are your thoughts about Mindfulness approaches? Something in it? Or just another sell-out-big-bucks-money-spinner for the 'lifestyle' industry? Superficially I am increasingly suspicious of the hype and wholesale adoption by the Positive Psychology movement but when one goes back to the sources of these practices in ancient/traditional Buddhist wisdom (for example) there seems to be something genuine and insightful in it.

The Crow said...

There is a standard method, although not in the sense that 'standard' is usually understood, nor in the sense that 'method' is usually understood. It is this:
The removal of oneself overlaying Reality, so that Reality may be clearly experienced without the overlaying of oneself upon it.

People who meditate and who write about it, almost invariably do so from the base assumption that they will get something from it. This ensures that they will get nothing from it.

Done correctly, with devotion, one still gets nothing, but there exists the possibility that their devotion will result in their becoming the thing they devote themselves to. Reality, itself.

ted said...

Positive psychology is just plain awful. Research shows that trying to suppress thoughts about something only makes those thoughts more likely to recur. The more you try to get rid of unwanted thoughts, the more these thoughts dominate your mental space. It’s like if I tell you, “Never think about a pink elephant!” the first thing that likely pops into your mind is a pink elephant. Thinking about the things you do not want can lead to more negative thinking and put you in a vicious cycle of negativity. The more traditional form of Buddhist meditation is to be with what is. Eventually you will see that thought has no inherent reality to it, but yet, it doesn't get suppressed nor will one continue to indulge it. Ultimately, it will give one more freedom to be more aligned with God's will.

Rich said...


I thought I remember hearing from you that the wessex group had more recordings of Arkle and were going to put them up. Any word on that?

Bruce Charlton said...

@ads- No. The situation seems to be that there is a roomful of disordered old tapes amongst which somewhere the Arkle recordings are hidden; and the man who is digitizing them is doing so in his part time along with other secretarial work - at present a new digital recording is going online every two or three months and Arkle's have not emerged. I'm not holding my breath, but remain hopeful...

Bruce Charlton said...

@crow - Purpose, but not method?

Indeed the purpose is the main thing - and within the meditative tradition purposes vary widely. Zen purpose is just about the opposite of Christian purpose.

Bruce Charlton said...

wrt Mindfulness - My understanding is that some managers in the state educational bureaucracies have included what they are calling the 'teaching' of something they call 'mindfulness' on their recent lists of new auditable targets.

What that might actually be, and what effect it might have, I don't really know - but obviously it is not good and not interesting and nothing to do with spirituality or religion.

An analogy would be schools teaching 'creativity' (which they have supposedly been doing for several generations), or managers implementing 'quality'.

The Crow said...

Christians, to a man, all try to second-guess God.
But the actual God is not a designer-God who conforms to their expectations.
It is what it is.
And you don't know what it is.
Until you do.
Or don't.

Intellect will never know God. It can't. It can't even know itself.

Bruce Charlton said...

@crow - My personal revelation is that God is a person, we are his children, and he wants us to be his divine friends. But he does not insist upon this. And if we prefer to regard him as an abstract divine force entity non-person, and if we seek to unite ourselves with this abstraction (by losing our self-hood) then we are allowed and able to do so. That is the path you have chosen.

David said...

 "And if we prefer to regard him as an abstract divine force entity non-person, and if we seek to unite ourselves with this abstraction (by losing our self-hood) then we are allowed and able to do so. That is the path you have chosen."

I presume that choice (according to Mormon Christian beliefs at least) is qualified by an experience we are all destined for after mortality i.e. We will be presented with things, as they really are, and meet our maker up close and personal, and it is then that we may chose what it is we most dearly want e.g. nirvana/selflessness or a 'hell' of pride, lust, greed, etc. And Heavenly father obliges us with what is the deepest eternal desire and reward of our hearts mortal conduct?

The post - mortal choice seems essential, otherwise, imagine you were an animistic hunter-gatherer Papua New Guinea tribesman with no knowledge of Christianity. I suspect the post - mortal 'meeting your maker' experience must be quite confusing and require God and Jesus to do a lot of explaining, appear in a way that a tribesman could recognise and understand including use of their tribal dialect/language and be conversant in the cultures/history of that individuals ancestral history/tribe, for it to make any sense? Or is transcending human language at this point a given for the encounter. One imagines a radically different belief system of the sort a hunter-gatherer experiences would put them at quite the disadvantage when making their choice for eternity. Having said that maybe it would an easier choice that for a modern person as the strong value of clan, ancestry and animistic beliefs of the hunter-gatherer may give the a significant 'head start' over a confused, spiritually demented modern, who it seems does not know what to be believe anymore.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - Your second para seems more likely to me - we are each individuals, with distinctive mortal experience - plus we have pre-mortal knowledge of the realities of Heaven.

Those mortals who choose Nirvana instead of becoming a Son of God do, at some level, in the context of pre-mortal knowledge of the personhood of God; but this knowledge is not explicitly available in mortal life (probably because of the difference in form/ time/ subjectivity between pre-mortal and mortal life).

I find this preference for non-selfhood and Nirvana easily enough understandable - I have been in moods and stages of life when I felt that it is what I would prefer.

But for me, it is love which makes the difference. An eternal life without love would soon become utterly wearisome, no matter how 'pleasurable' it might be; but with love, I anticipate every new day could be a delightsome prospect.