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Does one really have to fret
About enlightenment?
No matter what road I travel,
I’m going home.
– Shinsho

Most people don’t realize what a wide variety of possibilities there are among meditative practices. Perhaps because of mass advertising, they’ve come to identify meditation with a specific practice, like sitting with your eyes closed to repeat mantra, as in the TM technique, or facing a blank wall to empty your mind, as in zazen. The choice of methods available to help you gain inner freedom is actually quite diverse. There are many, many methods and groups to choose from, besides the few well-known names.

People sometimes are turned off by meditation when they begin with a method that is too hard for them. It helps to use a method which uses your natural tendencies, and so reinforces a positive attitude. At the outset choose a method that harmonizes with what you are already good at, a method that interests you. Follow it until you feel a strengthened connection to a quietness of mind, to a meditative awareness, to God.

Look at your life and see what has really turned you on. Perhaps you are very athletic. To sit motionless for an hour would be to fight your body. Instead you might begin with karate or kung fu and then go on to Tai Chi or some other moving meditation. If you are more sedentary or scholarly you might start by reading Krishnamurti or Buddhist doctrine and practicing Vipassana meditation. An emotional person might find these practices too dry and be drawn instead to Sufi dancing or to singing or chanting. These are also forms of meditation.

As your meditation develops, you may find yourself drawn back to the methods you avoided when you began. You may get frustrated because the fire is not hot enough and you want to move faster than easier methods permit. So you work with one method after the next until all aspects – heart, mind, and body – are balanced. If you begin with one of them, sooner or later you will probably want to integrate the others as well. It makes no difference which technique you start with. Try to sense what you’re ready for and what you need. Above all, be honest with yourself.

A useful tactic is to pick a method that feels right and do it for two weeks. During this trial run, agree with yourself, “I will treat all my negative reactions to this form of meditation as merely thought forms prompted by my ego to keep me from taking it seriously. I will suspend judgment, criticism, and doubt.” At the end of two weeks, you’re free to evaluate the method. Or, give yourself three months or six months.

Plunge in. Eventually you have to stop trying to figure out where you are if you want to get somewhere else.

Imagine Lindbergh flying from New York to Paris with only his little periscope sticking out of the Spirit of St. Louis to guide him. He can calculate his position from the stars, but all he sees is that there’s a lot of ocean below. He doesn’t really know whether he’s miscalculated or not until he arrives. He’s going on the faith that he’s getting there and that it will all work out. That’s what the spiritual journey is like. You need discipline to persist when the going gets rough or uncertain, faith to stick it out – to the end.

 

– Ram Dass

 

Photo by Niek Beck via Flickr. Used under the creative commons license.

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