Contemplating in depth
- "Be still, and know that I [am] God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalms 46:10
There are benefits of "meditation and mindfulness" but there are also side effects. There are many approaches to meditation and there can be a need for help during these processes. The kind of help can vary even more than the kinds of meditations.
Meditation may help you see things in the present by dealing with things of the past and letting them go through a process of admission or personal confession and of course forgiveness. While meditation may bring you face to face with your mental baggage or even demons it may only bring you to a place of change but it does not make the choice for you.
Meditation may be an exercise but also a lens. The view it produces will depend on your willingness and ability to handle the truth.
The word meditation, from the Latin word meditatio, originally meant every type of physical or intellectual exercise, and became to mean any form of "contemplation."
Meditation is often considered to be a spiritual activity, but in fact it is fundamentally a mental activity or exercise that has many physical effects. It also has many forms and can have a variety of purposes and outcomes depending on both form and intent.
What we are thinking may produce multiple physiological and biochemical reactions in the body that will in turn effect our thinking and emotional state. Observation of external events may produce neurotransmitters in your brain like noradrenaline, serotonin, or dopamine which can drastically affect both brain and bodily functions. Even rehearsing or recalling these events in the mind may re-release these chemicals which will affect the mind and the body.
Experts believe that many mental disorders are partly caused by an underlying problem with specific brain circuits or activities and the balance of these brain chemicals.
Meditations may produce a reduction in the activities of the mind. This reduction in mental activity maybe instrumental in producing a “decreased heart rate, decreased respiration rate, decreased stress hormones like plasma cortisol. At the same time there may be an increase in alpha brain waves associated with relaxation. With a reduction of activity in the nervous system and blood lactate levels the mind may become more alert producing quicker reactions, more creativity and greater comprehension. Meditation may produce these conditions four times faster than in pre-meditation resting.1
What are the mechanics of meditation?
Every religion used forms of meditation.
All forms of meditation are not created or practiced equally. Just as physical exercise can do harm so can meditation. Good forms of meditation do not guarantee that good will result anymore than exercising the body will produce virtuous people. It is not the form that gives life but the spirit.
According to Zen and all Buddhist typology meditation practices are the same, but their substance and purpose differ. While some use meditation for mental and physical quietude others use it to transcend the mental and physical state.
Altering the “mental and physical state” of the individual is as dependent upon technique as it is dependent upon the intent of the individual. Knowledge of that true intent may be as illusive as the “mental and physical state” the individual seeks.
The ordinary Japanese and Chinese meditation of bonpu is practiced for mental and physical well-being without any spiritual goal. Outside of Buddhist purposes there are those purposes of Hindu, Judaism, or Christian contemplation or even for the pursuit of supernatural powers.
There also may be a practice of meditation for the purpose of self-liberation from emotional bondage like phobias or syndromes, or even the release from the grip of emotional and physical habits in the hope of achieving a free state of soul and mind.
These basic purposes may be expanded to include self-realization for a higher purpose or benefit to all beings, or used as a path to the full realization or restoration of an individual created in the image of God to his original state.
There are thousands of meditation methods and numerous types and categories described. An extensive examination of the variation may be counter productive in seeking an understanding of the basics of proper or improper meditation.
In order to establish some frame of reference we will examine two types of meditation concentrative or focused meditation and what may be called mindfulness.
In concentrative meditation2 you focus attention on an object like a part of the body or an external object. Some will focus on their breathing or a sound or group of sounds or tones. They can include a wide range of activities from simple tapping or rigid postures or positions, chanting and mantras but may even include physical penance or in the extreme self torture and mutilation.
These practices are a lot more common in there simple forms and may be done naturally with no association with the idea of meditation. Everything from wiggling your foot to tapping your fingers to humming a tune or repeating the same phrase or prayer over and over are all forms of naturally occurring habits that have been associated in meditations.
These focused meditation may include some visualization. A focused attention meditation is often found among Buddhist and Hindu teachings in different forms. Some practitioners suggest that as you are able to deeply and consistently focus your attention in meditation that you are accomplishing the goal but in truth this may actually you are defeating the actual beneficial use of this technique.
The benefit of focused meditation is not so much in developing the ability to force concentration but in the observation and perception of what is already in you that may distract you from that simple attempt at practicing a concentration exercise. By the recognition of those source of these thoughts that stir the imagination and keep us from quite observation we may come to peace within the mind and body. These feelings and thoughts that bubble up in us often come from unresolved events and issues from our past and may require forgiveness and recompense to resolve their emotional grip upon our mind and body.
Another type of meditation is Mindfulness3 or open observation or monitoring of all aspects of your personal experience as a passive unattached spectator. You simply step back from the experience and objectively observe all thoughts or feelings or even external sensations of sound or smell without reacting to them in each moment.
The practitioner quietly witnesses whatever goes through the mind, not reacting or becoming involved with thoughts, memories, worries, without judging these images or sensations. This produces a non-reactive state of mind with a broad rather than focused field. The intent is to rely upon looking into and observing things with clarity and precision the products of the fundamental reality within us without the bias that may be imposed upon our perception when we rely on our ability to reason or rationalizing an answer.
In open observation meditations you will hear ideas like ‘quiet repose’ or ‘empty the mind of self’ or ‘choiceless awareness’ or ‘access the divine consciousness’. These types of meditation techniques and there terminology are also seen in Buddhist, Hindu and even in some Taoist meditations.
The beneficial and detrimental mechanics of “meditations” may be found in a wide variety of human activities completely unrelated to what has become known as religion or even meditation itself.
There are obvious forms of mental exercises or practices listed or identified as meditation. There are many other activities and contemplation using the same mechanisms as meditation that are not immediately identified or related in our thinking to the term meditation.
Reciting the rosary may follow the same mechanics of a repetitious mantra type meditation but never considered the same as similar use of prayer beads used in Tibet. Focusing on the object of the Eucharist host at catholic benedictions may also be categorized as meditation upon an object. Statues may serve the same purpose, focusing attention. In truth, even the singing the star Spangled Banner or pledging allegiance to the flag may all fall within the categories of meditation upon an object or idea in a ritual form of contemplation, dedication and quiet solemnity invoking the same mechanics of meditation seen many eastern or western religions.
All thought is Meditation
No matter where you go, nor how you meditate, your constant companion will be you.
When we awaken in the morning as we begin the day it is a common practice to stretch. This is a natural exercise of the body that begins the flow within the body and prepares it for more physical activity. We may consciously create a stretching and exercise routine with varying degrees of formality but all will include some of the basics of natural stretching.
Natural meditation will utilize both focused meditation and what may be called mindfulness. Again focused meditation is the concentrative observation of something and mindfulness is the detached or non judgmental observation of what interrupts the original observation. In essence natural meditation is taking two steps back into self. It is a journey within to know yourself and is dependent upon your own intent more than upon the steps you take.
Without pure intent you will never arrive at a pure understanding but with out taking the steps to see the truth you may never be able to forgive, and therefore release yourself from the impurity of your past or present intent.
Taking the first step
An individual may sit down and quietly become aware of his or her hand in a moment of dedicated and patient contemplation.
We may experience this naturally after hours of intense work or physical exertion when we first stop to rest the hands or body still pulsing or vibrating from the days labor brings our attention to them in rest. Your attention, in the moment, is naturally focused in a state of acute contemplation on those natural sensations, producing a feeling of objective and detached observation or even euphoria. The work strengthens the body but in the rest the body is strengthened if it is allowed to return to a restful state.
This natural reduction in the activities of the mind and body produces that decreased heart and respiration rate which may decrease those hormones that deal with natural stress. The alpha brain waves may begin to generate a state of rest. But thoughts of the day or even of the more distant past may enter into the mind and keep us from a rest state that allows restoration.
Sincere and loving meditation with an unselfish and humble intent may help us reach the restoration. This is no different that physical exercise may assist the body and muscles. Meditation is simply a mental exercise as natural as stretching or walking. It is the intent of your soul and the humble conformity to the source of all life that will determine the outcome.
Many traumas of our past have been covered over by “mental or emotional caps” often produced by us or gleaned from the world around us to help us avoid the pain of the trauma or the pain we experience when we recall the trauma of the past. Confession is simply the bringing of that trauma into to the light of our own consciousness.
These past traumas live in our subconscious mind and body and will also bubble up to the surface of our mind as we attempt to rest or even just focus on our physical presence in the moment. Past trauma by their nature are at war with the peace and quiet of the moment.
Natural Meditation is a war with our past were we resist not the evil and pain of that past trauma but embrace the truth and reality with God’s forgiveness and recompense. We merely see what we refused to see before and wait upon the Lord of creation without personal judgment.
The individual’s moment of dedicated and patient contemplation upon his or her hand may be interrupted by a variety of feelings, thoughts, emotions, images.
Forgive the interruption. Do not judge the event or yourself for not concentrating.
Gently return like the prodigal son to the quiet moment of dedicated and patient contemplation of your physical self.
Know this that the moment you caught your mind wandering was the moment of mindfulness and the choice to return was the second step of a natural process. Without the interruption there cannot be the second step.
When you walk forward one foot must always stop the forward progress while the other foot catches up and it is the same with Natural meditations. There must be an interruption to the Physical observation of your self by your internal or subconscious self in order to make progress. That progress must be immersed in forgiveness to allow the giving of life.
Natural meditation must include letting go of judgment. We are fasting from the process of judging others and ourselves.
Steps in the world
Exercising the body to make the muscles stronger has little value unless we turn that ability into real work out in the world. We must take the strength and peace we may obtain out into the world and interact in a sharing and loving way with others so the true benefits of our exercises, whether physical or mental, may be realized. This interaction is essential to continue our journey. Contemplation in isolation does not bring growth which leads to life. In order to have life more abundant we must lay down our life as Christ did. Christ came to serve, not to be served. He told us not to put our light under a basket or in the dark cells of a cloistered monastery but to share in love what God has given us freely.
Tefillin (תפילין), also called phylacteries4 is a box often containing a scripture that is placed on the forehead with a leather thong that wraps around the arm to the hand. The ritual stems from references in the Bible5 from which detailed rituals and ceremonies are created surrounding meditation and prayer.
Tefillin was a meditation tool for relationships according to Rabbi Goldie Milgram. Jewish Meditation and the Kabbalah had a rich tradition of meditation with unique characteristics but over a long history there has been the unmooring of the purpose until the practice produced a mental state that made the word of God to none effect.
Some have divided these ritual and ceremonial practices into four categories. Most techniques that promote focused concentration bring in elements of our willful intent. Original separation from the pure mind of our creator was due to willful intent on our part.
Focusing on a particular scripture will bring in elements of private interpretation of that scripture.
Ultimately the true meaning, purpose and practices of meditation is simple. You are waiting upon the Lord and being willing to see the truth about ourselves instead of denying our willful disobedience and foolishness.
There are many quotes in the Bible that suggest the true attitude and intent for proper meditation that will help us seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
1How Meditation Works, Holisticonline.com. Research conducted by Benson and Wallace at U.C.L.A
2(samma samadhi) focuses the attention to a selected thing or image (external or internal), an idea or sound (a mantra), or an event (breathing, tapping), with the intent of using the full awareness of the mind without distraction.
3Mindfulness meditation (samma sati) is observing a continuous passing procession of sensations, sounds, smells, emotions, images, ideas,without becoming involved in them.
4Phylactery is composed of the words ‘phy’ meaning “to cure or heal; to treat with or as if with medicine”, ‘lac’ from the word “lace, to fasten or tie with a string”; and ‘tery’ is “powerful”.
5 Exodus 13:9, Exodus 13:16, Deuteronomy 6:8, Deuteronomy 11:18
Repairing the Mind
Psychosis is a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.
Our perception of external reality is directly effected by our willingness to perceive our own internal reality.
Man has been in a state of psychosis since he denied his responsibility of choosing to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
What impairs thought more than denial?
When our thought is impaired and our perception of the ternal reality is impaired we may appear to act or even be crazy. But are you crazy or just temporarily impaired?
What is seen as denial may merely be self defense or trust issue or just plain fear. We often deny the truth because of trauma that is to painful to see alone.
What can help us overcomes denial more than admission and confession?
Meditation may allow the humble heart and willing mind to confront, admit and confess our own denial.
The truth shall set you free if you will receive the truth.
Buddhism has a word "makyo" for challenging perceptions that may occur during meditation. The Japanese words for “devil” and “objective world” create this term "makyo"
This can be because sitting still allows the mind to go through a cleansing process that releases or revisits stressful experiences in deep layers or dark places of the mind.
Jared Lindahl, a professor of religious studies at Brown University, stated once that “Just because something is positive and beneficial doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of the broader range of possible effects it might have.” This is true of attempting to meditate.
Many unexpected experiences have been classified into seven areas:
- affective (related to moods),
- somatic, 
- conative motivation,
- sense of self, and
An unexpected experiences may not be an unwanted experiences. If it is unwanted we need to meditate upon why it is unwanted or even uncomfortable. Are you seeing what you do not want to see or are you seeing what hurts but you remain steadfast in your quest to know the truth, even though it is the truth about yourself.
Experiences have been described to them were
- feelings of anxiety and fear,
- involuntary twitching,
- a sense of complete detachment from one’s emotions,
- hypersensitivity to light or sound,
- distortion in time and space,
- irritability, and
- the re-experiencing of past traumas.
Transcendental Meditation refers to a specific form of silent mantra meditation called the Transcendental Meditation technique, and less commonly to the organizations that constitute the Transcendental Meditation movement.
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== Footnotes ==
- relating to the body, especially as distinct from the mind. the body as distinct from the soul, mind, or psyche.
- any natural tendency, impulse, striving, or directed effort. The conative is one of three parts of the mind, along with the affective and cognitive.
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