As noted in Part 1 of this series, I believe an important part of studying meditation is for people to reflect on what they believe is the truth of this life.
The basics of meditation, sitting still and being silent and following the breath or repeating some sacred word or short phrase, are simple enough to describe. What is more involved is to help people decide whether they wish to study meditation as someone who believes in God or spirit, or some one who is a committed atheist.
I buffer this question by being clear I am not trying to say what they should believe is the truth of this life. Indeed a central theme of this new method of teaching meditation is that it can be applied to those who believe in God, those who don’t, and everyone in between.
Incidentally, this new method of teaching meditation also works just as well for people who follow one particular religion, as it does for those who have a strong aversion to organized religion, who refer to themselves as “spiritual not religious”.
The first reason I encourage people to be mindful on their beliefs is this:
Teaching meditation to someone who believes in God, or who is leaning in that direction, is very different than it is for someone who is a committed atheist or who is leaning that way. It is important for the meditation teacher to know which of these two basic views of life a person holds as their view of the truth of this life.
The second reason I encourage people to be mindful of their beliefs is this:
Many people do not spend much time thinking about their beliefs one way or the other. Consequently, in my experience, often many people’s beliefs are quite hazy. When I ask people if they are atheists or if they believe in God, many say ” I think there is ‘something’, but I am not sure what this ‘something’ is.” Others are clear they do not wish to use the “G” word (for God) but they refer to “energy” or “spirit” or the “universe” or some other fairly general term. Some say they are atheists, but have not spent much time thinking about what this really means to them.
Once again I am not saying someone should believe in God, or that they should be come an atheist. What I am saying is, “Take the time to reflect on whether you do have a clear conception of what you believe in and if so what are those core beliefs.”
Many other modern people when asked whether they believe in God or not, answer the question by explaining what they do not believe. For example, they say “I do not believe in the “Old Man in the Sky with a Beard.” Or, “I really don’t believe in organized religion.” Once they understand that I am fine with what they don’t believe in, at some point they will say they generally believe in God, or they don’t, or that they really are not sure.
For those who do believe in God, or who are leaning that way, the questions I tend to pose next are ones many quickly realize they do not spend much time thinking about:
I ask, “If you believe in God or spirit or energy, or the “higher self”, or “something”, what is the nature of this God or spirit or energy, or the “higher self”, or this “something”.
And, “What is the nature of your relationship with this God or spirit or energy, or the “higher self”, or this “something”.
Finally I ask,” Where is this God or spirit or energy, or the “higher self”, or “something”? At some point the light goes on that this God or life force is within them. If this is the case with their beliefs, they can see their practice of meditation becomes about getting in touch with this other deeper life that is within them. In this context, you can see in what ways meditation will be different for a believer that it is for an atheist.
As a person reflects on these questions, many begin to realize that their beliefs are not that clear and the reality they are talking about is a reality that is quite distant to them.
For those who believe in God, or who are leaning that way, thinking more clearly about the nature of their “higher power” and what is the nature or their relationship with their higher power will be helpful. Over time, they will begin to develop a clearer understanding, or sense, of who or what it is they believe in. Over time they will be able to establish a living relationship with this “other” they believe in. Who and what they believe in will become more clear and far less remote to them. This will be helpful.
For those who are atheists, or who are leaning in that direction, the approach to meditation will be quite different and I will talk about that more next week.
“What do you believe is the truth of this life?”
Please send me your thoughts and comments. All constructive comments or critiques will be responded to, and if you wish, will be posted for further dialogue.
More Next week
will at meditation practice dot com ( spelled out to limit spam)