The most common issue modern people face with meditation is how to quiet the mind and attain the calm and repose they have heard daily meditation can provide. There are a variety of ways to approach this challenge.
I do like the Soto Zen practice wherein the practitioner does not bother with trying to quiet the mind or attain deep states of peace. Rather the practice is to attain a good posture and to focus on “just sitting” and then being attentive to whatever is happening. If the mind is peaceful, than focus on that. If the mind is jumping all over the place then let that be OK too and be fully present to the experience of “monkey mind.”
For other approaches, in the Vipassana Buddhist tradition there are 3 primary modes of practice to choose from that will help quiet the mind: the path of loving kindness, the path of insight, and the Jhana concentration exercises.
It is the first path of loving kindness that I want to focus on in this talk. In the west many refer to this practice of as the way of unconditional love.
In this mode of practice the person spends their time in meditation offering love to all that they know and then to all they know of, whether they deserve love and forgiveness or not. It takes a while to be able to offer love and best wishes to those who are really nasty and evil. Consequently, one needs to approach this practice at a reasonable pace. It may take months. It may take years. But gaining the ability to simply focus the mind on offering love and kindness to all living beings is an excellent way to concentrate the mind. This is an important point to grasp. By concentrating the mind on a single wholesome focus, the mind will grow steadily more quiet, calm and clear. Also, the body will relax, the breathing will slow, and people will experience more of the peace and refreshment of spirit they are seeking.
A great advantage of this practice is that it can be engaged by anyone whether they are a fully committed atheist or they have a God centered faith in divine love.
As a digression, oddly enough it is this practice of unconditional love, which I learned from atheist Vipassana teachers many years ago, that inspired me to develop the “Art of Loving God.”
This development occurred while I was writing the sixth chapter in my book, “The Simple Path of Holiness.” As I outlined the process of developing skills with unconditional love to all beings, I realized something. After one went through the list of all people they know or know of, and then broadened the circle of those they were offering love to include all living creatures, another realization came to me.
One could proceed with this process by then offering their love to the saints they have been inspired by and then to angels (assuming people believe such beings exist).
Incidentally, it is worth noting that the senior North American Vipassana teacher Joseph Goldstein tells a story of one of his seminal teachers Munindra-ji of India. Munindra-ji would tell his students of experiences he had with, “light beings.” He would say, and I paraphrase, “You do not need to believe in such things to achieve liberation, but these stories about ‘light beings’ are true nonetheless.”
The term “light beings” is close enough to angels that it is hardly worth quibbling over whatever differences may exist in the minds of teachers. The fact that at least certain atheist Vipassana teachers believe in angels (or “light beings”) is an interesting point I will return to at another time.
For me the insight came that I could complete the process by turning the focus of my mind and intentions of my heart to offering love to God.
Given my further exposure to Greek Orthodox teachings after Christmas, I was inspired to fine tune this focus to offer love to Jesus Christ. Somewhat to my surprise this has become a central theme of my meditation practice. Those following other God centered traditions are welcome to adapt this practice to the God or Goddess or their understanding and faith. Those who really are atheists can simply proceed with offering love to all living creatures, all who ever have lived, and all who ever will live. No harm now foul.
Over the past few weeks, in my daily meditations, I developed the opening prayer I call the “Chaplet of Divine Love.” I will post this next week as I am trying to keep these posts a bit shorter if I can.
If in the meantime you wish to have a free copy of the “Chaplet of Divine Love” please send me an email or call and I will send a copy to you.
What is important to remember in “The Art of Loving God” is that the suggestion is made to clear the mind of any images of God that are punishing, harshly judgmental, or violently rigid. Rather, see if you can simply use your creative imagination to craft an image of God as being perfectly kind, loving, and luminously radiant. It will be much easier to gain the sense of wonder and awe that will naturally inspire a desire to silently love God in this description.
will at meditation practice dot com ( spelled out to limit spam)