Saturday, November 16, 2019

It's Meditation Month, Part 3

     We have been exploring different meditation techniques this month, and I found another one that might be useful in Lawrence LeShan's book, How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery.  Remember how I said it dates from 1974?  I have a fun quote to share in a little bit that reflects those times.

     In this meditation, you can sit or lie down.  Then, without inwardly verbalizing the experience, you focus on some rhythmic occurrence within your body.  An easy one would be to put your hands on your lower abdomen and focus on the sensation of your hands rising and falling with each breath.  What is difficult is to avoid trying to control or modify one's breath while focusing on it.

     OK, here is the quote about a variation on this technique from LeShan, back in groovier times:
One self-generated rhythm that has been used by some people is the pulse rate.  This is observed either in the moving of an artery or the artery is palpated.  I strongly recommend not doing this without the constant supervision of an experienced and medically trained teacher.  It is very difficult in this one to avoid modifying your own pulse rate, and anyone who plays around with his own heartbeat is this fashion needs either a good psychiatrist or a certificate of entry into the nearest home for the feebleminded.
    OK, then!  You have been warned.

(image courtesy of

Saturday, November 9, 2019

It's Meditation Month, Part 2

     This month we're focusing on different meditation techniques in case you are ever in need of a new one to keep things fresh.  I gleaned several from re-reading Lawrence LeShan's How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery.

     A good one to have in one's repertoire is the old stand-by, Breath Counting.  Several variations on this technique exist, of course.  One is to count one's breath from one to ten and then start over, and repeat.  However, I find that there are days when I am so scattered or upset that even concentrating to the count of five is really tough for me.  A variation I use on those days is to count to four and repeat that.  If that is too difficult, I might add another variation so I have to focus a bit more.  In this, I count "one" on the inhalation, then think "and" on the exhalation, "two" on the next inhalation, "and" on the next exhalation, and so on up to four, then repeat.  Some people like to focus on the sensation of breathing itself, perhaps focusing on the difference in temperature of the breath in the tip of the nose between the inhalation and exhalation.  I find Breath Counting, whichever variation is used, to help calm me down even when I can't go off by myself.

(image courtesy of

Saturday, November 2, 2019

It's Meditation Month

     I don't know about you, but sometimes my meditations get a little, well, stale, and I need another technique to keep things fresh.  So, I pulled a really old book off my bookshelf the other day and re-read Lawrence LeShan's How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery.  It dates from 1974, and some parts reflect those groovier times, but it does provide several meditative techniques which are good to try.  I thought I'd pass on my favorites over the course of this month so you can try them, too.

     I think my all-time favorite meditation technique from this book is the Bubble Meditation.  In this technique, you imagine sitting at the bottom of the ocean or a deep lake, and every time a thought arises (which is inevitable), you imagine it being encased in a bubble and then watch the thought-bubble slowly rise to the surface of the water.  When another thought arises, you repeat the process.  It takes maybe 6-10 seconds for each thought to arise, become encased in the bubble, then rise to the surface.  I find it slows my thoughts down and allows me to view them objectively.  It's very calming.

     A variation on this meditation, especially if you don't like the idea of sitting at the bottom of the ocean, is to imagine sitting on a large rock overlooking a river or stream.  Every time a thought arises, you imagine it sitting on a leaf on the river and floating downstream, left to right.  This one works well also.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

A Lovely Poem for Twin Souls

     From Edith Wharton:


This perfect love can find no words to say.
What words are left, still sacred for our use,
That have not suffered the sad world's abuse,
And figure forth a gladness dimmed and gray?
Let us be silent still, since words convey
But shadowed images, wherein we lose
The fulness of love's light; our lips refuse
The fluent commonplace of yesterday.
Then shall we hear beneath the brooding wing
Of silence what abiding voices sleep,
The primal notes of nature, that outring
Man's little noises, warble he or weep,
The song the morning stars together sing,
The sound of deep that calleth unto deep.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Very Different Kind of Book

     Last week I was extolling Sophy Burnham's account of her mystical experiences in The Ecstatic Journey: Walking the Mystical Path in Everyday Life.  This week's book is almost a polar opposite approach to meditation and spiritual growth.

    Written by Daniel Goleman, he of the Emotional Intelligence books, it is The Meditative Mind: The Varieties of Meditative Experience.  If Burnham's book is personal and flowery and open and filled with tender vulnerability, Goleman's book is precise, categorical, analytical, and scientific.  I believe it is an offshoot of his research for scientific journals, and it reads like it.

     This is a good book for those who want to analyze meditative states and how various religions teach their followers how to achieve them.  For me, that was among the more interesting parts of the book.  I hadn't seen a hierarchy of meditative states so precisely described as in this account, and some may find this valuable.  Goleman also discusses the benefits, as show in scientific studies, of meditation on physical, emotional, and mental health.

     Overall, it's a good book, if written from a completely different side of the brain than Burnham's.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

An Interesting Book, Part 2

     Last week I was introducing Sophy Burnham's The Ecstatic Journey: Walking the Mystical Path in Everyday Life, about her mystical experience while on a trip to Peru, and how it transformed her life.

     One of the side-effects of her experience was a closer relationship with her angels or guides.  She felt at times that she could communicate with them and receive answers telepathically.  Of course, this is not new, as many mystics over the ages have also experienced this ability.

     However, one of the questions that she asked her guides was about the purpose of prayer.  Here is their answer:
  1. "So we will know what you want, in order that we may give you what you need."
  2. "Because when you pray, for a few moments you surrender -- it may only be fifteen seconds out of fifteen minutes of attempted prayer.  But in that moment of surrender, you open a window through which we can enter to execute the desires of your heart."
  3. "Because your prayers give us the energy to do our work."
     Because these answers were so unexpected, Burnham counted them as genuine.  They certainly spoke to me.  

     So, keep praying.  Our world needs it.