I was recently inspired by a YouTube video to explore the subject of meditation. People are always exhorting us to take time to meditate, to practice mindfulness. This got me thinking, and led me to compose my own reaction to this YouTube that I watched yesterday. It’s not something I thought I’d be writing about now or who knows when. But that’s the serendipitous thing about YouTube. It is a constant process of learning and discovery. Entertainment and listening to music. And, It allows me to think about things I haven’t thought about in a long time. In short, it’s life in all its wonder, glory, enlightenment, tragedy and pathos. When I was younger I never would have dreamed of learning in this way, or having a near endless menu of films, documentaries, podcasts and music to view and listen to.
So, I was in a sense compelled to write about my concept of meditation.
For one thing, before I even get to the meaning of meditation, I don’t “meditate” every day because that implies that I have pre-determined that I will NEED to do this, however I conceive of it, at certain times each day in order to make progress. I follow my inner compass on this. I’ve done this from a young age.
Frankly, and I say this with no hubris intended, I have found only a very few people I consider mentors or guides in my many years on Earth. Mostly, I have been my own most important and trustworthy guide, despite all my flaws. I certainly would never unwaveringly follow others I might today greatly admire, or agree with everything they say. It is a mistake to get enamored of any one guide, at any one period in your life. They are mere mortals, but often act as if they are more aware or enlightened than you or I. In their own minds they are. Subjectively you might say that they are. But objectively you can’t say that because you don’t know them well enough and they only think they know themselves. We’re always changing as our thoughts and beliefs are altered in even the minutest ways. “Enlightened” gurus may not be at all what they appear to be. Caution is needed. I truly believe certain individuals throughout history have achieved enlightenment of the highest kind. That is why I recommend Maurice Bucke’s book, “Cosmic Consciousness.” It is quite a fascinating book to ponder, and I guarantee you, it’s one of those books you’ll never forget and will come back to years later.
When I need to cultivate inner calm and quiet the random thoughts I feel bombarded by, I can go out on the porch at 2 am when most everyone else is asleep and my noisy environment is at last still, as only the middle of the night can be. I can breathe in the cold and still air and achieve a state of calm. I can then think about whatever I want, and often these are not blissful thoughts and memories, but necessary ones so that I might some day find ultimate closure. It may take me the rest of my life to figure these things out. We all have experienced hurt and traumas in life to very different degrees. Those are the memories we tend to recall most often and easily. Sad, maybe but true. That’s the way our neurons work. Can we alter that? Yes, of course. But somehow I either can’t do this, more likely I don’t want to. The reasons for this become clear the older I get.
Meditation, then, however you practice it, can help you escape from the anxious thoughts and second-guessing wrapped all round these mortal coils of ours, impeding our progress. Ultimately, and hopefully, we transcend what has weighed us down. The earlier you achieve this, the better, of course, but I’m of the mind that it often takes a lifetime, and that it’s probably better to think in terms of the journey itself being the actual destination. I have to think and write more about this so that it’s not just a glib assertion that sounds profound.
So for me, in summing up, meditation is all-embracing and unique to each individual. It is thinking about the most profound questions in life in the middle of quiet woods. It is listening peacefully to a small flowing stream, or a little Zen waterfall in your den. Mediation is opening your mind and heart to whatever it is you need to confront and battle, or celebrate and rejoice in your growth and progress toward becoming a more enlightened human being. And then, at last, mental entanglements from a lifetime can be loosened and removed.
At my age I’ve achieved a level of personal humility and enlightenment through suffering that enables me to constantly build on everything I’ve learned previously. That has been the great teacher — life itself. My daily existence and consciousness. My experiences and trust in my bedrock core values and beliefs. I trust in my intuition and intelligence. I trust who I am now, not the person I was yesterday.
I need to remember that each day is the beginning of the rest of my life. We start all over again whether we realize it or not. I try to use my mind and intellect to explore the deeper meanings of Christian theology because I believe in expanding my consciousness about that in every way possible. I want to learn more about other religions and spiritual practices, as well as the teachings of all previous ages, insofar as I can. That is what I want to do in my remaining years.
There are teachers in every tradition. We learn from certain ones now, today. Tomorrow we will learn of others. Eventually, we start seeing patterns, and realize that down the road, it will all fit together. We will have the answers we sought in the past and seek today.