10 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).
As I continue with this series, I want to add these additional remarks.
Anyone who knows me is aware I do not have a preference for whether a meditation student is one who believes in God, is a committed atheist, or is generally just plain confused about what to believe is the truth of this life.
In my experience any person, with sufficient personal integrity, honesty, intellectual clarity, human warmth, and decency can reach the higher stages of the spiritual life if they are following a path they genuinely feel most closely reflects their personal views. This is not to say that any path is just as good as any other. There are some paths like Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or neo-liberal capitalism that are neither credible nor healthy at least in most respects. What I am saying is that everyone has a path and a general direction in their life that has been emerging throughout the years and decades of their life. If you learn the essential skills of silent meditation and how best to employ the highest standards of personal integrity and virtue you will find that which is most deeply true within you.
The key is to learn how to listen within yourself so you really get a visceral feeling as to whether something you are hearing or reading is true or false even if you can’t be quite sure why you are feeling what you are feeling. You can then explore these visceral feelings over time to gain greater insights and more detailed perspectives. It is true that to supplement this personal discernment you need to find one or two experienced elders with whom you can check in with. Talking things over with genuinely experienced mentors, over time, will help you make sure what you think you are perceiving within your depths is indeed a true path of faith and truth rather than some misguided delusion.
Over the past few weeks I have offered half a dozen suggestions of ways of searching in addition to the basic practice of sitting in silence and stillness and being truly open to allowing truth and insight to emerge within you.
Here is another suggestion:
Find a tradition of writers and practitioners and the accompanying artists or musicians of that tradition. Take the time to read the classic works of that culture and to experience the art and architecture of the tradition you are willing to explore. It does not matter whether that tradition is ancient or modern or post-modern. What is important is to find some writers you feel have something important to say to you then to read some small passages from those writers, or to behold some of the art or music or dance of that tradition on a regular basis. With this as a practice, over time you will find a few books, or selections of music, or some monastery or retreat center with beautiful grounds and buildings that you can experience in a personal way over time.
The literature, the visual art, architecture, music, and where available, the dance of a culture, are additional great ways to experience both truth and mystery.
While you will not be able to find a culture that is free from all error, you will be able to find a culture that matches well with the general trajectory of your life. In that tradition you will also find art and symbols and images that offer you real sustaining strength to get you through the challenging days or years that all of us face sooner or later.
If you are reform minded then a good choice is to study the tradition of reformers.
If you are a traditionalist then study the leading teachers of your tradition.
Do not miss the treasures of the past. You will find them to be a refreshing source of inspiration and diversion. You will also find them to be a very needed counterpoint to the fashion magazines, twitter, and shopping mall wastelands that are slowly destroying much of what is left of the world’s refined cultures and ways.
Do not lose contact with the best traditions of the generations that have gone before. In the written and artistic traditions of the past you will find much that is rich and valuable that will help you in your search even if you have to wade through some of the old errors and dysfunction to find what you are looking for.
Please let me know what you are reading that is especially helpful to you. If you are looking for suggestions as to what might be of interest let me know that as well.
Will Raymond Host of Meditationpractice.com Author of the Simple Path of Holiness
774-232-0884 will at meditationpractice dot com ( Spelled out to limit spam)