Meditation In Brief
Meditation is an age-old method for:
facing life's challenges,
finding inner strength,
improving the health of our bodily, feeling and thinking lives, and
promoting full personal growth and spiritual awakening.
Meditation is available to all people. Anyone can do it.
More information on Regular Meditation Sessions in different parts of the network.
In an increasingly demanding world, it helps us to stay calm and poised. We can find release, clarity and harmony. It can reveal meaning, purpose, direction and fulfillment in our lives.
There are many different approaches to meditation and many specific meditations within each approach. For example, there are meditations for helping to:
encourage health and healing,
reach goals successfully,
maintain calm and balance,
solve problems, and
There are also meditations for promoting the unfolding of our spiritual lives, for example, for:
saturating everything with the grace of the Ultimate,
awakening primal energy and aliveness,
discovering new and hidden ways of perceiving and understanding ourselves and the world, and
realising meaning and purpose in life.
Whatever your needs and goals, meditation may help.
The secret is to find the meditations that will help you build what you want to build in your life. Some people want to meditate so as to handle particular situations or personal issues better. Learning specific meditations for those purposes is good for them. Some people want to practise meditation as an integral part of their lives, to include it in all that they do in life. They want to learn to saturate every act, every thought, every moment with the benefits of meditation. They want to release something that everyone can discover within themselves.
So as you think about meditation, why you want to meditate, is important. Your reasons can help you to select from the wide range available. The Network's teachers are available to help you to do this. They are trained in various aspects of meditation. Trainers with basic to advanced experience are available. All suggestions are simple, practical, and down-to-earth.
You can write to, telephone, fax, Email, or visit the Network for information.
Meditation is a vast field of human endeavour, a field that has existed for many thousands of years, perhaps for as long as human beings have lived on Earth. There are many different schools of thought, many different movements, many different origins, many different specific meditations.
One way of coming to grips with this is to think of cooking. Most people probably understand that there are many different types of cooking in the world. Each country seems to have its own. Within each country, there are different styles, too. Each has its own history, some longer than others. Each has its own general ways of doing things. Some tend to emphasise certain ingredients more than others; some emphasise ways of cooking that are different from others. Some were influenced by other ways of cooking. Each has its own specific recipes that fit within the general context provided by the overall cooking style. As well as all of this, there are forms of cooking that are no longer used, although they were perhaps widely used and well known in the past. All of this is similar to meditation.
It is likely that there are at least as many schools of thought in the field of meditation as there are in types of cooking in the world. Each school has its own history, its own general ways of doing things, its heritage from other traditions and approaches, its own emphasis and its own specific meditations. Similarly, some forms of meditation, once used, are no longer practised.
Meditation is and has always been practised in many religions of the world. All the current mainstream religions include meditation in one form or another in their practices. A short list of these includes: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shaivism, Shamanism, Shintoism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism. Many millions of people throughout the world practise meditation in such religious contexts as these.
Meditation is practised in secular (non-religious) contexts, too. It is used to support many human endeavours. You will find it used in health fields to help maintain, improve or recover health and well-being, in sport to enhance performance, in business, commerce and industry to promote well-being and relaxation amongst busy people, in marriages to encourage and deepen intimacy and to assist in problem solving and conflict resolution, during pregnancy, childbirth and subsequently to promote desirable outcomes and take care of feelings, in personal development and problem solving fields to promote physical, emotional and cognitive equilibrium, in the general healing field to promote healing in the meditator or in others, and in many more.
In addition to all of these, secular meditation is practised by many people who are interested in developing spiritually, without doing so in a religious context. Many do this alone; some do it by joining with others who are similarly interested and motivated.
People from many religious and sectarian backgrounds meditate in the Network. All are welcome and many have found benefit from what is offered.
THE VALUE OF TEACHERS
These days in the West, we have a wonderful variety of meditations available and, with that variety, a great range of teachers. Teachers can help us to learn quickly. They can help to ensure that we progress in the areas of ourselves and our lives in which we need to progress, if we are to realise what is important to us in our lives. In this respect, meditation is like most things. If we want to learn it well, then we are more likely to progress by finding someone who can already do what we want to learn to do.
Think of learning to drive a car. It is possible to learn to drive by studying books, or by talking to others about their driving. We can even learn a lot by sitting with people who drive and paying particular attention to what they do and how they do it. Discussing what they do, may also help us gather more information. This is a very slow way of learning and, for most people, unnecessary. Usually, the easiest and fastest way is to learn from an experienced driver who is also a good teacher.
As in any field, there are experienced and inexperienced people who meditate. Also, as in any field, the teachers available vary in talent and competence. So it is a good idea to continue to evaluate the calibre of the people with whom you associate to learn to meditate. The same suggestion applies when you know how to do it and are continuing an on-going process of development with the guidance of an experienced person. You will find some suggestions about how to make an initial evaluation in Starting to Meditate in the Meditation Directory.
An interesting and obvious aspect of solitary meditation is that all of it, no matter the form, is done alone. We may sit alone on many occasions, meditating. Whether we do this for a short or long time, the total time we meditate mounts up so that in the end we may have meditated alone for many hundreds, or thousands of hours. Even when in groups, our meditation can have a solitary quality to it, in the sense that we are internally focussed and may not have a strong awareness of the others in the group.
The apparent aloneness of the procedures can lead some people to reach an interesting decision. Some people decide that, because they have to do it alone, they do not need to have a teacher. They think and may have read or heard that "all the answers are inside us anyway", so why associate with others. All we need to do is to open up to what is on the inside and all will be revealed. A few people actually manage to progress by taking this approach. However, many do not. Many can unintentionally block themselves with this kind of decision and make themselves unavailable to help others.
We suggest that you find a good teacher, if one is available. If there are no good teachers available to you, we suggest that you find a good alternative to a teacher. Within the Network, we have both options. There are teachers who can help you with various aspects of your meditation practice and with the various stages you may go through as your practice extends into the months and years ahead. Recordings, written material and other educational aids are available for helping you get started and to continue your progress, if you do not have access to someone in person. You can use these with or without a teacher. We have developed and continue to develop this kind of material to support the efforts of anyone interested in the value of meditation, whatever the particular form and the general background.
REASONS FOR MEDITATING
Your reasons for meditating are unique to you. There are probably as many reasons for meditating as there are people who meditate. All the same, we can discuss meaningfully some of the common general reasons that prompt people to meditate. To do this, we present them in three general categories: spiritual reasons, health and life-style interests, and skill development.
Throughout the long history of meditation, practitioners have meditated for spiritual purposes.
In both religious and secular contexts, meditation is a major way of promoting spiritual unfolding and awakening. The nature of this unfolding and awakening depends on the meditations used, the goals of the practitioners and on the other practices that accompany the meditational practices.
Common ways of expressing these interests include meditating for Enlightenment, Full Realisation, Oneness with God, Godhood, Nirvana, Buddhahood, Christ Consciousness, Sartorii, the Void, Oneness with All That Is, Samadhi, and communion with all beings. These types of states of consciousness or being are generally associated with approaches that encourage the realisation of our full humanity and, through this realisation, the transcendence of what is regarded as normal into super-ordinary states of consciousness and being.
Often seen as related to these more general interests, many people meditate to realise their basic natures, to become one with their higher selves, to discover through direct experience who they are and what they are. Meditations of different sorts are experienced by many as ideal for this type of spiritual self-discovery. They claim that meditation helps to awaken and reveal to us what and who we are, and that only then do we actually begin to understand ourselves. Related to this type of interest, many people meditate to discover the meaning of life, to find their place in the world, and discover and learn to fulfil their purpose for existing. People also meditate to serve God, humanity, or some other purpose that is wider than their own personal interests and involvements.
It is understood in many traditions that the processes involved in realising these results take time, dedication and commitment. Years of practice, perhaps life-times, may be necessary to promote the evolution of being and awareness that accompany the changes that are necessary to realise fully these kinds of states. It is also generally understood in many traditions that these outcomes are available to anyone who is willing to do what is required to realise them. They are not the province of the few. Everyone can experience these states and outcomes, as long as they do what is necessary. You can do it too.
Some people are interested in more specific spiritual outcomes than those just mentioned. Meditation has a contribution to make in many of these as well. People meditate to help them tune into nature, to experience the silence within, to discover who they are, to learn to open up intuitive awareness (spiritual intuition) in their everyday lives, to flood their lives with energy and vitality from their inner beings, to intensify prayer, to add dimensions to other religious beliefs and practices, to commune with others, and to live a poised, loving, powerful, wise and fulfilled life.
HEALTH AND LIFE-STYLE INTERESTS
For many thousands of years, people have meditated to promote health, satisfaction and well-being in their lives. In more recent times, particularly in the later part of this century, people in the West have discovered this contribution. Meditation is now a routine part of the lives of many Westerners, who practice it because it helps them in their day-to-day lives.
People meditate for health. They use meditation to stay healthy, to support recovery from illness, accident or medical intervention. Some people use it to help to cure diseases - their own and those of others. People meditate to promote relaxation and to release stress. They can learn to do this to handle specific situations with which they need to deal, or to develop a generally relaxed approach to life.
Meditation can help people to manage their feelings and to develop personal characteristics. They can learn to keep a balance in their feeling and emotional lives. They can use meditation to take care of unfinished business from the past, to release intensity associated with long gone or recent events. With similar processes they can learn also to manage the feelings stimulated by forthcoming events. Because feelings and thinking are so intertwined, these practices also influence thinking. These and other meditations help people with their thinking. There are meditations for clarifying thoughts, for improving memory, and for developing the capacity to concentrate easily for long periods. Other meditations related to integrating thinking, feeling, physical activity and physiological processes.
People meditate to learn to give expression to their own creativity, to express that "inner something" that is trying to come out. They use meditation to claim their full power as human beings, to learn the full extent of the power and creativity that is available within. Some people are interested in meditating to release love into their lives, both their own love and the love of others. Some are interested in cultivating humour, laughter, light-heartedness and brightness in their lives.
In relation to others, some meditate to promote understanding of other people, to help to unify themselves with others (friends and non-friends alike), to resolve conflicts and to promote cooperation, mutual respect, love, intimacy and open sharing between people. They may be interested in doing this in the privacy of their own homes, or in some public arena.
Meditation attracts interest from people who want to influence the events of the world, too. People are often interested in how meditation can contribute to the unfolding of events in the world: environmental, meteorological, social, cultural and political. Again, they may seek to do what they learn in the privacy of their own homes, or in public in some way.
Many meditate to develop new skills or to improve their performance of skills they already have. While ancient in its origins, this use of meditation is finding particular appeal in the West at present, perhaps because of the emphasis placed on "doing", performance and getting results in the West. Virtually any area of skill could be the focus of this type of meditative interest or endeavour. The following is a very short list, the inclusion of which is designed to give you some idea of the range of possibilities..
People have meditated to improve physical prowess in athletics, gymnastics, golf, shooting, archery, swimming, and many others. This interest in improving physical prowess extends well beyond competitive sport, too, the potential activity involved limited only by the imagination of those concerned. People use meditation to enhance learning to type, to drive, and to use mechanical equipment. An interest in rapid learning has prompted many to learn to meditate in various ways, ways involved with the intake of information, study skills, presentation skills, and with the development of effective examination techniques. Developing personal characteristics, such as, poise, calm, power, understanding, and quick thinking, characteristics related to skills we need to use, has attracted many to meditation.
The achievement of any goal, any target or objective, can be assisted by those involved in meditating on the outcome in various ways. People interested in making their lives easier, their learning more rapid and the outcomes they desire or require more likely to occur may find great assistance through meditations aimed at producing these results. Experience has shown to many that meditation can help people do anything more easily and fully, from making love to making money, from the very general and non-specific to the particular and concrete, from the sublimely significant to the trivially unimportant.
So many people have meditated for so many thousands of years because they get results. It is perhaps the major reason that meditation as a practice has existed for so long. Having mentioned this, it is also important to note that the results from meditation come through the practitioners applying themselves consistently enough to their meditation.
What results do people get from meditation? People can, do and have become spiritually awakened through meditation. All that was mentioned in the section on people's reasons for meditating is possible. The whole of life may be transformed, expanded, released from the bonds of old ways of living, perceiving and acting. Whatever the Ultimate is "within" each one of us, it is possible to experience this directly and fully, for it to saturate every aspect of our lives.
People become healthier and happier, more vital and alive. Research into long-term meditators, those who have meditated for more than five years (conducted into Transcendental Meditation) supports the following differences with a normal population of non-meditators: decreased hospitalisation (between 84% and 56% less), decreased disease rates (87% fewer hospitalisations from cardiovascular disease, 55% less for cancer, 87% less for diseases of the nervous system, and 73% less for nose, throat, and lung problems); reversal of the ageing process of up to 12 years as measured by reduction of blood pressure, near point vision and auditory discrimination; increased physical, emotional and mental balance showing through increased well-being, energy and vitality, strength and stamina, appetite and digestive patterns, improved state of mind and emotions; better general levels of relaxation and ease and related reductions in levels of anxiety; and many other improvements. (A summary of this type of research is available called Scientific Research on Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi Program: A Review - Maharishi Vedic University, 33 Garden St., Cambridge, MA 02138. Tel: +1 617 576 6230)
Those who meditate notice many changes in themselves, in others and in situations to which they contribute. These are often so obvious that there is no need for them to have a research project to validate them. Many people do become healthier, happier, more youthful in appearance and approach to life, calmer, more competent, more clear thinking and acute, and more able to cope with the pressures of their lives. Other people start to act differently with meditators, many relationships becoming easier and more fulfilling for all concerned. In addition, situations often seem to change much more easily than previously, with things becoming available and events unfolding in wonderfully helpful and synchronous ways. All these changes have been observed and many more.
People also do become more competent, more capable of doing what they set out to achieve. They may achieve these changes through particular learning in relation to particular skills, or they may do so by becoming generally more competent at everything they undertake. They can learn an approach to life that maximises the use of their capacities and minimises internal and external interference in their successes.
On the basis of the results people have experienced for themselves over the years, the amount of change possible in people's lives through meditation cannot be overestimated.
Knowing this may make the effort well worth the time and dedication that will be required by you. There is reward for effort. You can be sure that some application will be required of you, if you want the results. This is like anything that we do. We need to do what is required, if we are to get the results. Meditation, as a technique, is no different.
Naturally, too, getting the results depends on how well suited to a desired outcome the meditations used are. If you use a meditation that is ideal for what you want, you are much more likely to get it than if you choose another, less well suited meditation.
Good teachers and experienced meditators may be of help here. They can help us make choices about what meditations to choose and how to use them. They also can help us with difficulties as they arise, help us to move through and learn from the various, predictable phases we are likely to go through in our meditational practices, and help us to modify our practices when necessary so as to continue to promote the unfolding and evolution through which we live