The question is, what are we going to meditate about, or meditate on?
Meditation is often in the news, and is recommended for health and other various reasons. This always gave me a bit of an icky feeling, even though I admittedly was on the bandwagon. If we’re meditating just to get something in return, is it really meditation worth doing? The main benefits you hear about are the ability to reduce anxiety, and increase focus, and of course this is a good thing. Getting separation from your thoughts is a first step in mental health, because thoughts are just thoughts. But this as the only part of the story doesn’t seem completely right.
I’ve been practicing meditation for several years and don’t really like what I see out there with the “mindfulness” and meditation movement, for the most part. A lot of it is lacking depth and substance, effeminate, and is nothing but a quasi- new age movement packaged for consumption, tainted with a narcissistic feel. And that includes a lot of the yoga stuff, and this is coming from someone who can teach it. So if you want to get into meditation this year, I’d recommend these practical steps.
- Be open to turning the phone off and just walking. Many great people from Aristotle to CS Lewis walked with others and talked, or just listened in silence while walking alone. Active meditation tends to be better for many people. Men have a hard time sitting still.
- Try having a conversation with someone with no phone or distractions. A good conversation and good communication is like a tennis match, it’s back and forth and give and take.
- Many traditional churches have the chance to participate in the adoration of the sacrament, which is a powerful way to meditate. We call this the real presence.
- The line between prayer and mediation is thin, which I think is one reason the modern person needs so much stimulation, to avoid this reality. Reality is what we are looking for with mediation not escape from it.
- Get outside and unplug. Anything.
- Coffee and tea or other slow beverages.
- Reading a paper book or studying something.
- The Japanese concept of Zen is worth learning and studying. The gnosticism and materialism of modern life denies how important our physical surroundings are in the struggle to meditate and the Japanese have a gift in this for the Western world.
- Traditional meditation is as simple as sitting still and breathing through the belly (diaphragmatic breathing) for a few minutes.
Let me also recommend some great writers on meditation:
- Ernst Jünger is one the best, I only recently discovered his books about his experiences in World War 1 & 2 but he was a prophet on the subject of meditation and the spiritual life. Check out “The Forest Passage.” He’s especially good for men or young men who have a hard time finding books they like.
- Cardinal Sarah’s book “The Power of Silence” is life changing. He doesn’t mince words about the illness of modern noise.
- Mathew Crawford, a philosopher at the University of Virginia has written several good books about work that have a zen-like quality to them and deal with the deep issue of agency. To do anything we have to be able to focus and "meditate" and so in that sense, work can take on a meditative quality. Check out "Shop Class as Soulcraft" and "The World Beyond Your Head: Becoming an Individual in the Age of Distraction."
- Roger Scruton is not easy to read but he has written some great books on human nature, the sacramental and contemplative life, and community, which speak to what meditation is really about.
If you’ve ever wanted to get into meditation, why not 2020?
It isn’t easy, it’s an ongoing struggle, but it is a powerful thing. It can lower your blood pressure and your anxiety, but it’s so much more than that.
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