Please note there is some overlap between the excerpts listed on the Beginners section and those listed here for people with an Intermediate level of practice. In general I have either extended the selections offered or added in new sections. In this context I am using the term Intermediate excerpts to refer to those people who have been sitting daily, or almost daily, for a few months or years and who have studied the basics of meditation practice.
Please let me know of any questions you have by sending me an email.
Author of “The Simple Path of Holiness”.
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…
Throughout this process of progressing to higher levels of practice and broader frames of reference frames of insight, there is another general theme to apply:
It is important to honor the serious doubts and unanswered questions you have about what is the truth of this life or the path of liberation you are exploring.
If others do not honor your serious doubts and unanswered questions, that is their issue to work with. You may need to step back from such people or they may expel you from their group when they find you really don’t agree with some of your core doctrines.
In either case it is all the more important to make sure you honor and affirm the value of your doubts and important questions. For it is this process of honoring serious doubts and unanswered questions that will help you find those answers that can be found however paradoxical this approach may seem to be. This is because honoring your doubts is a way of affirming that these doubts are an important and valuable part of your life, which in fact they are. Honoring your doubts is part of the overall process of honoring all the parts of your life and character, even those aspects of character that do need to be changed.
In truth you may or may not ever find some of the answers you seek. But this process of honoring your doubts is a way to change your relationship to and your experience of your doubts and nagging unanswered questions. As you honor and respect your doubts, and live and work with them with a sincere earnestness, you will find they are among your most important resources.
The same holds for the truths you feel strongly about.
Honor your truths.
Honor, respect, and live the truths you have found by the way you live your life.
Honor your truths with fidelity and they will continue to generate new life within you.
Surely everyone needs to be open to new ideas and constructive criticism.
But if after careful reflection according to the highest standards of personal integrity and conscience, and the mature counsel of others, you come to believe certain truths of action are very important, then stand your ground.
2nd Excerpt from Chapter 2 Awareness – Pages 9-10
One of the real benefits of silent meditation is that it creates a unique opportunity to clearly see how often your mind drifts off and flits about in one semi-unconscious distraction or another.
While one might think it should be simple enough to sit and maintain one’s awareness on their breath or sacred word for the twenty or thirty minutes of their session, this usually is not the case. Most find again and again that after a few seconds or minutes they realize they have drifted off into some new distraction or worry without being aware they had been knocked off their stated intention. Seeing how often the mind drifts off in one distraction after another, or how difficult it is to even sit still and be silent for twenty or thirty minutes, is a good realization to come to.
Why is it so difficult for most of us to keep our mind focused in some simple theme for longer than a few seconds or minutes?
What lessons need to be learned so that one can stay focused on the present moment for more sustained periods of time in the context of the meditation style they are working with?
What changes in attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors need to happen before a person can calm and clear their mind and settle into the deepest states of awareness and concentration that are possible.
These are important questions and there are very sound and practical answers to these questions.
The reason it is so difficult for most to maintain their awareness on the breath or some sacred word during meditation is that most of us simply are not as conscious or awake as we think we are. Think about it. You decide to sit in stillness and silence with your mind focused on the breath or some sacred word. Then after a few seconds or minutes, you realize you have drifted off into some thought or concern without your being aware this has happened.
Why does this keep happening?
What are these distractions? …
…The goal of meditation is to wake up and to stay awake.
Take the time to find out how often some unplanned and unchosen impulse literally hijacks your mind away from your stated intention to stay focused. Take the time to find out how often you drift off from a clear awareness of the present into some reflection on the future or some rumination of the past without making a conscious decision to do so…
…As you cultivate your ability to try and stay with each moment under these special conditions, you will begin to observe each moment more clearly. As your skills with this very simple effort develop, you can apply this skill of clear sight more consistently on the moments of the active hours of your life as well.
During meditation practice and in the active hours of life it will become more and more possible to see what sensations, emotions, and thoughts arise and pass away as each moment unfolds.
4th Excerpt from Chapter 6 Affirmation Page 61, 63, and 64
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.
Another way to offer this affirmation and care towards your own life is to call to mind the difficulties of your current life and the wounding experiences of the past that continue to be painful. Simply experiencing the suffering you have known and the distressed feelings you may be feeling in the present will be enough to stir feelings of compassion for your self. You can then silently offer this care and infuse your life experience with this care.
As you allow such experiences to surface, see if you can touch the experience of these feelings with awareness, patience, acceptance, and compassion. This touching of any raw feelings and wounds with fresh awareness and compassion will help heal any of the old or fresh wounds that may be active in your life.
It does need to be added that this is not done in some gushy or saccharine manner. Rather a simple tone of tenderness and kindness is all that is needed.
It is easy to forget how important it is to offer this silent gift of love and affirmation towards your own life and to skip this effort and focus instead on the breath or offering compassion towards others or some other aspect of practice.
To forego this step would be unfortunate as the efforts to heal the wounded self and ego precede the ability to begin to explore the true nature of the self and ego.
To forego this step would mean the ability to offer love to others would remain impaired.
5th Excerpt from Chapter 6 Affirmation Pages 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.