Four weeks ago I began this series, “A New Way to Teach Meditation”. Please see at least one or two of the earlier posts for more background. (The archive of earlier posts can be found on the lower right hand corner of the home page).
All existing methods of teaching meditation encourage students to think carefully about their beliefs and core moral values.
What is different about this new approach to teaching meditation is that there is a much wider range of personal beliefs that are viewed as being valid paths to follow. Still, whether you believe in God or are a committed atheist, whether you follow a traditional religious path or not, or whether you are just not sure what to believe, it is important to spend quality time reflecting on what you actually do believe and which teachings you are genuinely not sure are true.
But for this open minded, interfaith, and pluralistic path to be possible and credible, it is essential you apply the best standards you reasonably can with rigorous honesty, personal integrity, intellectual clarity, human decency, warmth, and love in your studies and discernment.
Certainly there are times when all such introspective and discursive reflections are set aside. But in general reflecting on your core beliefs and any gaps, haziness, hypocrisies, or glaring contradictions in your core beliefs is an important part of study.
Last week I outlined one way to apply these high standards of personal integrity and honesty. That first application is to think carefully about what changes you may need to make in your relationships with those you care about the most.
This week I want to talk about a second way. This second way is to look carefully at the religious or philosophical beliefs you say you have and to ask, “What do I really believe is true? Do I believe God, or universal spirit, is the foundation of the universe, or do I believe there no such thing as God or soul?”
“Which of my beliefs am I sure are true?” Which of my beliefs have I really not thought through very clearly?
If you believe in God, or are an atheist, or just plain uncertain about what are your beliefs the discernment process is much the same.
“Why do I think my beliefs are true? How did I come to believe what I believe?”
“Do I really believe these things are true, or was I told over and over by people in my family and or my society that these things are true?”
“Which of my beliefs am I saying I believe just because everyone else in the group and the teachers in this tradition are saying they believe are true?”
“Have I really thought about what I believe is true or are my beliefs based on a shaky foundation of hazy and poorly thought out assumptions and guesses?”
“What are my core moral and ethical values? Do I even have any core moral and ethical values?”
“How consistent am I with my core beliefs and values or am I, to one degree or another, a hypocrite at least in some ways?”
“Do I have the courage to abandon any beliefs I no longer believe are true? Do I have the courage to embrace any beliefs I formerly rejected but which now I have come to believe are true, or at least may be worth serious consideration?”
In addition to whatever beliefs or ethical values you feel you are certain about you can ask yourself, “What are the most important unanswered questions or doubts I have?”
The difference between this approach to meditation and others is this new approach encourages people to really think for themselves. While there may not be many teachings you really are sure are true, through a process of examination and dialogue with a teacher you probably can find a short list of beliefs, or philosophical perspectives, or moral values you are fully committed to.
You can then think carefully about how you can be more consistent with, and practice with greater fidelity, those beliefs and moral values you are committed to.
You can also articulate more clearly the doubts and unanswered questions you have.
Whenever you get stuck with the doubts and unanswered questions you can always return to the short list of beliefs and moral values you are committed to. You can make great progress by making a far more energetic effort than most would ordinarily think of doing with those core beliefs and moral values you are fully committed to.
Let me know what you think?
Please let me know what you are finding?
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)