Stilling The Mind A Healthful Practice
The Beacon Journal,
Sep. 02, 2003
- Brain scans show how meditation cuts stress
(USA) -- Recently, in speaking before a luncheon audience, I mentioned
that I try to meditate for about 10 minutes every morning and 10
minutes before bedtime.
"How do you
meditate?'' a woman asked.
I felt so
ill equipped to answer, because I'm new to it, too, as many Westerners
Yet, you know
meditation has penetrated our culture when Time magazine devotes a
cover story to it, as happened recently.
that 10 million American adults now say they meditate regularly in one
way or another -- twice as many as 10 years ago.
becoming increasingly hard to avoid meditation,'' the article said.
"It's offered in schools, hospitals, law firms, government buildings,
corporate offices and prisons.''
research using sophisticated imaging techniques suggests that
meditation can alter brain activity in a way that reduces stress.
It's as if
science, once again, is validating an ancient practice. East and West
find common ground.
philosopher Karl Jaspers, in writing about Buddhist teachings,
described a doctrine whereby truths are reinforced and established
only by meditation. In Jaspers' words, this involves the carrying of
``light into the depth'' and the creation of an awareness that
``illumines the unconscious down to the last nook and cranny.''
teaches that meditation is a cultivation of concentration, and a state
of wakefulness. In the book Destructive Emotions, thought-free
wakefulness is described as the mind being ``open, vast and aware,
with no intentional mental activity. This mind is not focused on
anything, yet totally present -- not in a focused way, just very open
Thus, the big
challenge: How to still our thoughts, quit the mental conversations we
have with ourselves, and just hush up.
There are so
many techniques and forms of meditation. Centering prayer, for
example, is a common Christian form. It often involves repeating a
mantra -- a single word or phrase over and over -- while pushing all
other thoughts aside. (To be sure, the repeating of a mantra is common
in other forms of meditation as well.)
tried centering prayer nearly two years ago, after hearing about it in
a scripture study class at my church. For nearly a year, I had almost
no success; thoughts kept coming into my mind, and it was difficult to
set them aside for more than a minute or two
until I read Wayne Dyer's book, There's A Spiritual Solution To Every
Problem, that I started to make progress. It's not a how-to book on
meditation -- but meditation is explained throughout in various
passages. Dyer helped me understand that at least in part, meditation
is a process of moving into the gap between your own thoughts
. "When we
empty our mind of our ego-driven thoughts we invite forgiveness into
our earts,'' he wrote. ``And by letting go of the lower energies of
hatred, shame and revenge, we create a mind-set of problem
But, oh, it's
In his book
Contemplative Prayer, the late Trappist monk Thomas Merton got down to
the practical difficulty of meditation.
begin to face the real difficulties of the life of prayer and
meditation unless one is first perfectly content to be a beginner and
really experience himself as one who knows little or nothing, and has
a desperate need to learn the bare rudiments,'' Merton said. ``We do
not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we
will never be anything else but beginners, all our life!
How to meditate?