Quick Instructions for Meditating:
- Set a timer for 20 minutes (choose your length)
- Sit still
- Get up
It’s really not complicated, right?
So why do we resist it? Why are there so many books about it? Why do we have so many questions? Eyes opened or closed? Sitting on a cushion or chair? Music or silence? Mantra or word? Long or short? Together or alone?
Perhaps we resist it because we intuitively question its value.
After all, it feels like we’re doing nothing.
If we’re going to give our time to something, we want it to count. We want to get it right. We want it to do something.
When I first began doing centering prayer (a Christian form of meditation), I joined a group; I read books; I asked questions.
The group was invaluable. The books provided motivation. My questions were answered. (I’m currently reading The Path of Centering Prayer by David Frenette, a book I highly recommend if you’re interested in learning more.)
But this problem remained: actually doing it.
Because when I did do it, I often felt like I had failed.
Why? Because I thought my mind had to shut down. And I could never succeed in stopping my thoughts.
Now I know that it’s okay that my thoughts never stop. The mind never will shut off. The goal isn’t to stop all thoughts. It’s just not to linger with them.
Instead, the objective of meditation through centering prayer is this:
Redirect thoughts to an intentional awareness of the love and presence of God, right here, right now.
Perhaps it really is simple after all.
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QUOTES ON MEDITATION
David Frenette, On letting go
“Learning to let go of thoughts in centering prayer by consenting to God teaches you how to let go of attachment to things in life by consenting to God.”
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Pema Chödrön, On staying put and dog training
“The steadfastness we develop in meditation is a willingness to stay. It may seem silly, but meditation actually isn’t too unlike training a dog! We learn to stay.
When you’re thinking about what you’re going to have for lunch, you ‘stay.’ When you’re worried about what’s going to happen on Monday, you ‘stay.’ It’s a very lighthearted, compassionate instruction.
It is like training the dog in the sense that you can train the dog with harshness and the dog will learn to stay, but if you train it by beating it and yelling at it, it will stay and it will be able to follow that command, but it will be extremely neurotic and scared.”
“Not struggling against what arises in your life is an act of friendliness.”
On staying present
“With meditation practice, slowly over time we find that we are more and more able to stay present in everything we do. We can even do it when we’re having a conversation: we stay mindful and present to the person speaking to us, rather than wandering off to what we need to add to our shopping list.”
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Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, On passing thoughts
“The towns and countryside that the traveler sees through a train window do not slow down the train, nor does the train affect them. Neither disturbs the other. This is how you should see the thoughts that pass through your mind when you meditate.”
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Father Thomas Keating, On detachment from thoughts
“Centering prayer is not so much the absence of thoughts as detachment from them. It is the opening of mind and heart, body and emotions—our whole being—to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond words, thoughts, and emotions—beyond, in other words, the psychological content of the present moment.
In centering prayer we do not deny or repress what is in our (conscious thinking process). We simply accept the fact of whatever is there and go beyond it, not by effort, but by letting go of whatever is there.”
“In centering prayer we withdraw our attention from the ordinary flow of thoughts. We tend to identify ourselves with that flow. But there is a deeper part of ourselves, the spiritual level.
Centering prayer opens our awareness to this deep level of our being…Practicing this prayer is not doing nothing.
It is a very gentle kind of activity.”
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Have you ever tried to meditate? Was it hard or easy for you? Please share in the comments.
- Silence or solitude?
- Who will be your divine encounter?