These excerpts are offered for those folks who are quite new to meditation practice. While in a sense we are all Beginners, or at least we need to be. In this context I am using the term Beginners to refer to those people who have yet to establish a daily practice and are wondering where they will find the time and energy to do so.
Please let me know of any questions you have by sending me an email.
Author of “The Simple Path of Holiness”.
Excerpts for the Beginners line on drop down menu
Some people have a particularly strong need to know the highest truths of this life and the most effective means to diminish suffering in the world. Unfortunately, quite a few who are driven by these elemental needs encounter a general problem in their search when they turn to the religions of the world. They find they do not accept or cannot accept many of the traditional answers to their most important questions. Whether they are studying ancient or very modern faith traditions, many find what they read or hear about is unbelievably confusing or just plain mistaken. It is not that such people fail to see the value, irreplaceable beauty, and truth that are also very real aspects of various religious faiths. The problem is they find that many teachings of religion not only do not help them, but the errors and violent dysfunction they encounter only make things worse. An even more serious set of doubts arise when they come to realize that the atavistic rigidity and gross hypocrisy if many deeply religious people are primary causes if the suffering in the larger society in which they live.
For others their needs are more simply stated.
Despite their best efforts with religion, psychology, or meditation they have not found an effective way to resolve the painful hardships of their life or to find relief from difficult emotional states. They continue to hope a more clear understanding of truth will help them cultivate the exalted experiences of peace and deep healing they have heard are possible. Part of the general challenge for many in this predicament is they cannot find any way to sort out the important truths from the distorting errors they encounter in a particular culture they are drawn to.
For anyone who experiences these kinds of painful frustration, it is dearly hoped this independent commentary on silent meditation will be of real help.
Those people who have chosen a particular faith tradition and feel they do generally accept the teachings of their tradition can also find benefit from these practices.
This is because everyone who makes a serious study of spirituality or philosophy experiences times when they really are not certain how to understand the more perplexing teachings of their tradition. This is especially true when people experience sudden and devastating loss, or violent attack, betrayal or heartbreak in love, or raw injustice. Even the most committed life-long believers can find their faith is shaken to the core during such difficult times. It is to help people, regardless of their present levels of faith of confusion, with both the small trials of life and those that push people to the limits of their endurance, that the practices of the simple path are offered.
It is not the intent of this commentary to attempt to persuade people to accept or reject particular beliefs or points of view. Rather the primary purpose of this commentary is to offer general but very effective practices that people can adapt to their present beliefs and life experience as they search for a way forward that feels true to them.
For those who have made strong commitments to particular beliefs as well as those who are quite unsure what to believe, there is a general theme that will help them find the way forward.
When you encounter a question you cannot answer, or an answer to a serious question that makes no sense to you, it is important to set those questions and answers aside, at least for the time being.
You can return to them at a later date if and when you feel it makes sense to do so.
It is enough to think carefully about the positive teachings and values you do understand and are freely willing to accept. It is enough to be very honest about where you know you could be making better efforts with your core beliefs, however basic and general those core beliefs may be.
It is enough to search for ways to make those better efforts, at a realistic pace, over time.
This is the simple path.
2nd Excerpt from Prelude – Page 7-8
There is a signal benefit to the practices that follow. They are presented in such a way that they can be engaged by people whether they do or do not believe in God. After careful consideration, which ever of these two perspectives of belief seems to be most true to you is the right place to begin.
If you really are not sure one way or the other, that is all right too.
Whenever the way forward is unclear, let it be unclear.
Let the confusion simply be confusing. As you become more aware of any experiences of being confused, see if you can touch these experiences with awareness, patience, compassion, and acceptance.
A sincere engagement of any practices which are clearly acceptable will help generate more in the way of early stages of peace and clarity. The refinements to intuition and insight that arise from such experiences will continue to point to a good general way forward.
You may find yourself inspired to explore some teachings you had previously either rejected or not know much about.
You may find yourself realizing that that certain long-held attitudes or beliefs of yours are not really as true or helpful as you once thought they were.
In either case a sincere willingness, supported by reasonable levels of consistent effort over time, to follow the search for truth, wherever it leads, will allow you to find that which you are seeking.
This is a good faith. This is a true faith. This is a simple faith.
3rd Excerpt from Chapter 2 Stillness, Silence, and Emptiness Page 20-21
As you begin to understand and trust there is a lasting value to sitting in stillness, silence, and emptiness you will be more willing to make this practice a higher priority. You will be more willing to find ways to simplify your life and enhance your discipline so you can meditate on a very regular basis.
For good or bad reasons, it may take a while before you can really perceive this value or make the changes you wish you could make so that you have more time for daily practice. Be as patient as you can yet work diligently to gain the understanding and trust needed to believe these efforts will be very beneficial for your life.
Even greater efforts with patience may be needed if you are living with serious problems such as physical or emotional health concerns, money problems, broken romantic aspirations, or if you are in early recovery from trauma or addiction. There simply may be little time or energy available for silent meditation. If this is the case for you, the following will help.
If you have no time for meditation of just can’t seem to sit still for a few minutes, it is enough to look more clearly and openly at each moment of the active hours of your life. Over time this basic practice will give rise to the insights that will help you perceive the value of proceeding to less hurried efforts.
The same is true if the conditions of your life are more favorable yet you have built up a complex life with many stressful responsibilities that genuinely need to be met. As a result of competitive expectations of family and society, many people have built up a more complex life of family, work, and community responsibilities than they may have intended. For many the stress of these responsibilities takes a toll and they begin to wish for a simpler life. But the responsibilities of work and family are genuine and need to be met. If this is a general description of your life, there may also not be much time for study and silent meditation other than occasional efforts.
This will help.
You can transition to a simpler life over time.
As your commitments to work and family are met, and as a greater understanding of the value of silent mediation coalesces, it will be possible to practice at least occasionally and then, at some point, on a daily basis and to be more consistently mindful during the active hours of your life.
None of this is to imply that one should not make the efforts they reasonably can to develop a daily meditation practice assuming they have any general interest in meditation to begin with. What is being said is that you can start with the simplest of efforts no matter how difficult or harried your life may be.
Do the little that you can, and then a little more.
This is the simple path.
4th Excerpt from Chapter 6 Affirmation Page 61 & 63
Almost everyone knows that offering affirmation, love, and compassion more consistently towards their own life and to others is a foundational practice of any sincere spiritual path. For this reason is it all the more surprising that so few people make as careful and sustained an effort with this effort as they could.
This is unfortunate.
Affirmation is perhaps the best example of a practice that most people know they could be making better efforts with.
This practice of offering affirmation, love, forgiveness, and compassion more freely is another good example of a practice that can be engaged by anyone whether they believe in God or not.
There is another benefit to these practices that is even more subtle.
Learning to enhance the love and compassion you offer towards your own life and to all who live will generate increasingly deeper levels of experience and insight. These experiences and insights will be instrumental in helping a person progress to whatever is the next level of peace and understanding that is available to them.
Regardless of how clear or conflicted your present beliefs may be, all that is needed is to engage these practices with the highest degree or honesty, openness, and personal integrity you are capable of……
…..The ability to offer love and compassion towards your own life will help to diminish any feelings of self-reproach, feelings of worthlessness, and any feelings of inadequacy or inferiority that may be active in your life.
The ability to enhance the quality of love and respect you offer to those people in your life with whom healthy relations are a viable possibility will allow those relationships to be more sustaining for you. The joy, laughter, and fulfillment that arise from healthier relations will help diminish such feelings as loneliness, isolation, hopelessness, and alienation.
The ability to offer love and forgiveness towards those you are in conflict with, to the degree you are reasonably able to do so, will allow you to diminish such feelings as anger, resentment, harsh judgement, and any feelings of revenge or retribution you may be prone to…..
……You can engage affirmations practice as a prelude of a few moments or minutes to any particular meditation sessions or as the theme of the entire session in a very simple way. After settling into a good and stable posture, you can then make the clear and conscious effort to offer affirmation, love, and compassion towards your own life.
While in the beginning it might not be all that clear what it means to offer love and affirmation to your own life, this question can be cleared up fairly quickly. One simple way is to offer your kindness by silently saying these words within, “May I be happy, May I be well. May I learn to experience more peace and wisdom in my life.” These simple phrases are enough to remind you of the positive wishes you have for yourself. These simple words will help call to mind brighter feelings than those which may have developed in the course of a busy and frustrating day…..
5th Excerpt from Chapter 6 Affirmation Page 73-75
What is important is to begin to think about who you do not love or who you may really despise or hate with a burning passion.
There is no need to offer love and kindness towards the people whom you really dislike, at least not yet. The day will come when you will want to find whatever help and guidance you can from others and from your own inner resources to learn how to love and forgive those people who by all ordinary reckoning deserve no such consideration. That day does not have to be today or tomorrow, but someday. While it is true that hopefully that day will come sooner rather than later, it is also true that people with high degrees of anger and harsh judgement will need to work with such feelings at a realistic pace….
But if others have hurt you or those you love or are threatening to do so, or are doing so in the present, it is understandable there may be little in the way of love for them…..
….Someday you can do a little more, and then a little more than that.
This act of choosing love, the best love you have to offer, will transform your life.
You will be able to forgive more and more of the petty offenses others have inflicted upon you and someday you can proceed to cast your affirmations and intentions to those who are truly wicked and evil.
As you become more and more skilled at love, many of your most serious doubts and unanswered questions will fade from view….
…It is simple.
We are transformed by love.
Regrettably, many commentaries on unconditional love seem to imply that a few meditation sessions are enough to tame truly violent and conflicted impulses. For many people this is not the case. Anger and even impotent rage can be such deeply habitualized responses for many that diffusing the underlying causes of such feelings will probably be long-term work.
There is also no need to imagine you will no longer experience surges of anger or resentment just because you have begun to make some high-grade commitments to love and affirmation. It will take most people quite a while to really learn how to diffuse at depth the underlying causes of anger, resentment, harsh judgement, or aggression.
If there are high levels of various forms of anger and resentment active in your life it is important to find and then to feel the feelings that are there. It is important to find someone you can really talk to about such deep feelings or aggressive thoughts and urges….
Any efforts to repress or deny such feelings will only create significant levels of stress and cause very real damage to your psyche and bodily health. In addition to the damage, there is another general problem that arises. The repression of anger doesn’t work. It just creates a pressure cooker in the mind causing the mind to erupt in even more vitriolic outbursts of rage and aggression if certain conditions come together as triggers to such a reaction.
This is especially true if you have been the victim of childhood abuse or neglect or some violent crime such as rape, a humiliating public beating, raw exploitation, or political repression.
If this is the case in your life, then even greater care and patience will be needed to find the right care-givers and teachers to work with.