Archive for the ‘Meditation’ Category

Remaining Calm

March 7, 2019

“I use an app to help calm me. I bought a lifetime subscription for $70.”

Her friend remarks, “Well, paying once for a lifetime certainly removes the stress of monthly payments.”

They had just asked why I missed an interview with one of the top four officers of a multi-billion dollar corporation to learn how he was using technology to transform the company and perhaps the industry. It was a big opportunity.

There was just one thing–no one contacted me about the meeting.

I could have reacted in anger. Or with any one of several emotions.

But, things happen. Someone dropped a ball. Or the technology of emails or messaging failed. People who don’t know me misspell my last name by dropping the “n”. What good comes from screaming and blaming?

It took me years to go from quick temper to calm. It isn’t easy. I didn’t have an app.

But as I described to one of my colleagues also at this conference, meditation physically changes your brain. It causes changes in outlook.

It does not work immediately. It takes practice and discipline.

Indeed, it is truly one of the spiritual disciplines–whether you “believe” in the same God as me or follow some other path.

Restful Awareness

February 27, 2019

We have paused our busy-ness. Restful, we become aware.

Aware of the space we occupy. Aware that there are feelings, thoughts, emotions within us. They are not us. Aware even of God.

We can see, perhaps, where our words and our actions diverge. We see clearly saying we love everyone as we are taught in church. Yet, we see our actions where we do not love everyone. We can see where we treat some others as less than human. They are not like us.

Perhaps we become aware that our anxieties are just something within us. We can study them. Under the microscope, they slowly or quickly melt away.

The practice of meditation slowly transforms the mind just as it physically transforms the brain.

Philosophers, theologians, and poets for millennia have revealed the power that comes when we can see ourselves for what we are and thereby achieve a life of awareness.

Settling The Monkey Brain

February 15, 2019

Sometimes thoughts just tumble through our brain like clothes tumbling in the dryer. We sit and try to concentrate on a book or even a TV show (which is designed for distraction) and our attention jumps from one thought to another. Usually totally disconnected from each other.

The meditation practice I was first taught involved not-trying to still those thoughts. “Just let them flit in and out of consciousness while minding to your breath.”

The “goal” if you will was enlightenment. When the thoughts fade away, the monkey brain ceases chatter, and God speaks. That can happen. Millennia of spiritual pilgrims have experienced it.

However, recently I heard a teacher describe the chatter as the brain working out its storehouse of thoughts and settling issues within itself. Sort of like letting worry resolve itself when we realize we are all uptight over the wrong things.

Decades, or even months, of practice of slowing down will have an effect discernible to those around you. Life slows. The constant jumping to conclusions begins to fade.

And even after 50 years of practice, I still must sit in quiet, relax, concentrate on breathing, and let the monkey brain work out its chatter and become quiet so that I can continue the day’s work.

We Are All Interconnected

November 27, 2018

Once in meditation, I was brought to a room. Then suddenly appeared all different peoples. People of different races, cultures, genders. And I was given the realization that we are all connected. And we are all in this thing called life together.

The Roman emperor/philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote a reminder to himself, “Meditate often on the interconnectedness and mutual interdependence of all things in the universe.” 

Travel brings wonderful things into consciousness if we but open our eyes. We get out of our tribe. We see that other people have the same joys and struggles. Within our tribes it is easy to impugn the motives of others. When we realize how interconnected and alike we all are, we are convicted of our own motives.

[Note: If you notice posts this week are a little early, it is because I am in Germany.]

We are placed here to help others and do good. I must remind the technologists to whom I write professionally that the purpose of developing and implementing technology is to help people. To be more like Scott Harrison who founded Charity Water using technology to bring safe drinking water to millions. (Link is to his new book.) Not to be like Mark Zuckerberg who uses and manipulates us in order to become a billionaire.

Jesus told us God is Love and that we should channel that love to all of our neighbors. Meditate often on how all of God’s creation is interconnected and interdependent.

Meditation The Path Toward Health and Spirit

July 31, 2018

“Oooh, can you see auras?”

I believe that what John Climacus writes about as stillness, today in America we would call meditation. There is some confusion of terms also between meditation and contemplation. I’m more interested in the practice than the terminology.

The first Yoga class I took was at a time when young mothers had dropped their elementary school children off at school and then had time for themselves. So it was me in my 50s and a bunch of women from late 20s to mid 30s. They didn’t seem to mind me invading their turf. Once the subject of meditation came up and I mentioned I did. That provoked the question above. New Age had infiltrated even into Sidney, Ohio.

John devotes much space to stillness. He gives to us a list of signs, stages, and proofs of practicing stillness in the right way.

On the one hand, he says:

  • A calm mind
  • A purified disposition
  • No sense of attachment
  • An end to gluttony
  • The death of lust
  • An end to talkativeness
  • For those interested in spiritual formation, there are even more:
    • The imminence of death (also practiced by the Stoics, by the way)
      Rapture in the Lord
      A foundation for the direct experience of God
      A well of discernment

    The man who has entered on stillness for a good reason but who fails to see how it benefits him daily is either practicing it in the wrong way or is being robbed of it by self-esteem.

    That’s why you seldom hear from people who are practicing. Bragging about meditating is an oxymoron.

    And, no, I don’t see auras. You’re safe around me.

    What Is Gained With Perception

    June 18, 2018

    [I took a short unintentional break last week. Traveling on both business and pleasure got me out of my routines. I suppose it’s a good thing.]

    Meditation gives birth to perseverance, and perseverance ends in perception, and what is accomplished with perception cannot easily be rooted out.

    I’m still climbing the ladder of divine ascent with John Climacus. Some classics need to be reviewed at times.

    The seventh step is on Mourning. Introducing the topic, John includes the sentence quoted above.

    The apostle Paul often spoke of perseverance using the metaphor of athletics. Training hard and persevering for the race. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews (which you’ll seldom see me quote from) also talks about running the race.

    Jesus talked often of perceiving. As in “seeing they don’t perceive”.

    As we sit (or stand or walk or lie) in stillness, persevering over days, months, years, decades, we perceive many truths. We deepen spiritually even though we may not realize it at the time.

    John returns to the idea of calmness discussing other steps on the ladder.

    As we begin a new week, developing this calmness by persevering in mediation will help us do this week what we should be doing.

    As for me, I’m leaving shortly for Las Vegas and another technology conference. I’ll meet interesting people and learn new things. And if I persevere I won’t let the spirit of the “Strip” disturb the “force”.

    Strength For the Outer Life of Service

    April 11, 2018

    Thomas à Kempis

    Why is it that we are so ready to chatter and gossip with others, when we so seldom return to silence without some injury to our conscience? Perhaps the reason we are so fond of talking is that we think to find consolation in this manner; to refresh a spirit wearied with many cares. And so we speak of what we like and dislike, and of the things we desire or despise. But in the end this outward attempt to find consolation is only an obstacle to our inner life.

    Let us watch and pray that our time is not spent fruitlessly. Let us not busy ourselves with idle conversation, or with what other people say and do.…Blessed are the single-hearted, for they enjoy true peace.

    Jesus’ last commandment was an action verb. Love. It’s not an emotion. It’s a way of living.

    If you go back and read the parts of the gospel that talk about how Jesus lived as a story of a person, you will see that he lived that action verb–the very personification of love in action.

    Yet, if you are writing the biography of a person with a deep inner life, what can you say? Only what you observe–he went off alone to pray. Oh, and he went off alone to pray.

    We know that our example is to go off alone to pray.

    Where do we get the strength for service? Following the example of Thomas quoted above, we pay attention to our inner life that it is not spent fruitlessly.

    When I began meditation practice in my late teens, I never had a thought that it would become mainstream psychological therapy. Now, we have one of my students talking after Yoga class about a mindfulness meditation “class” his employer has during lunch time. He says, “That’s sort of what you teach at the end of class, right.”

    He wondered how you could go from a stressful morning filled with meetings to a lunch time of calm and quiet.

    Well, it’s called practice. It is not only possible, but necessary. Meditation literally rewires the brain. Your very personality changes over time. And you get strength for the long haul.

    Meditation Can Change Your Life

    February 7, 2018

    Psychologists and therapists have discovered en masse “mindfulness” during the last few years.

    There is a reason. It is good for your mental, spiritual, and physical health.

    It literally rewires your brain. It helps grow new neurons, divert others, and add to the fatty layers between the neurons.

    People will notice the change in you. Warning–not after one day. Or one week. Maybe a little after a month. It does take time. It is a spiritual discipline.

    The change–you will calm down and gain perspective.

    Meditation practiced daily for at least 15 minutes (best is twice per day) reduces stress. This helps reduce inflammation in the body which is a cause or contributor of many diseases.

    I’m thinking about this after listening to a podcast interview with a guy who has written a book. I scanned the book–don’t recommend it. Just not helpful. But in his conversation, he talked about being meditation teacher to all manner of celebrities. I thought, heck, I know at least as much as what he’s talking about as a 40+ year practitioner. I could teach celebrities.

    Then I realized where I live. The last time a celebrity came through town was probably when Rob Lowe visited his grandfather. Well, unless it was someone on tour and their custom motor home traveled on I-75. <sigh>

    Americans associate meditation and mindfulness with either New Age or Buddhism. And those people do meditate. But there is a Christian tradition of meditation for enlightenment and experience of God that stretches back to the very beginnings of the faith. I have a shelf in my bookcase devoted to the writings of the Desert Fathers and many other “mystics”. I can testify that you can experience God if you devote yourself to that sort of meditation.

    But the practice is not esoteric. You can sit, stand, walk, lie. You can close your eyes or leave them open (especially if you’re walking). You can repeat a word (mantra), or not. (I use “God”, the Hindu tradition is “Om” plus a bunch of other sounds, you can try “Love”.) You can imagine a scene in your mind. Perhaps walking through a meadow in a woods and finding a secret garden where you sit and bask in the warm sun. Or just sit quietly and breathe.

    Try it. It’ll change your life.

    Practicing Mindfulness

    December 12, 2017

    We are reading in the gospel of John in a small group. John has been talking about these tough spiritual concepts about “being in the Father” and “the Father in me” and “Jesus in me” and “being in Jesus.”

    I mentioned the long tradition of meditation as a method of experiencing that union with God. I’ve been at it for more than 50 years. I can testify that it will change your life.

    Contemplating these things this morning, I rested in the question of what it means to be “in the Father” or “with-God” life.

    The image of the fruit of the Spirit rose in my consciousness. Paul writes to the community of Christ followers in Galatia, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

    Being in the Father means that we these words describe us–the type of person we are, the type of actions people see in us.

    During this season of the year, joy and peace are words thrown around sometimes casually. Patience, kindness, gentleness, and (especially) self-control are other practices that certainly would help us and those around us navigate through the season.

    While discussing meditation as a way to experience union with God, the question was posed, what about mindfulness? We hear a lot about that.

    The mindfulness practices we are hearing about, especially from therapists, strips away New Age clutter or spiritual meditation, and just takes us back to the practice. People began noticing decades ago that people who meditate experience many favorable physical and emotional benefits. So, therapists have taken the technique to help people cope.

    The number one app in the Apple App Store in 2017 is called Calm. It’s one of probably hundreds of apps that help you:

    1. Slow down
    2. Breathe deeply
    3. Focus on a word, or body part (my feet and legs feel warm and relaxed, for example)
    4. Reconnect body, mind, and soul
    5. Find sanity in a sometimes insane world

    Peace.

    Longing For God

    September 6, 2017

    I stretch out my hands toward you, longing for you like a parched land. (Psalm 143)

    In today’s readings, there was this teaching from 13th century mystic and theologian Meister Eckhart, “The soul must long for God in order to be set aflame by God’s love.”

    So many of us miss out on this life of being filled, set aflame as he says, with God’s love. 

    Where I live, and probably where most of you live, the dominant teaching is to “accept Jesus into your heart.” The typical meaning is to tell people that you acknowledge Jesus and agree with the teachings of whatever group you did that statement of belief.

    And with that statement of belief, that’s all you need. Life is changed. Everything is beautiful.

    They miss the rest of the teachings of Paul (see Roman after Chapter 8, for example). The parts like “work out your faith in fear and trembling.” 

    Do we even use the word “longing” any more? It means wanting something so much that you feel a pain deep in your guts. Even more than wanting that new big pickup truck. Even more than that large house. Even more than that attractive person you just met.

    When we stop at just repeating the words, we miss out on life–what Jesus kept talking about and John repeated in his Gospel. Abundant life. Filled with the love of God.

    And like flames, to carry on Eckhart’s metaphor, they need to be rekindled and refreshed constantly, fed with new fuel. We do that by reading spirit-infused writing and contemplation and singing.