I was first exposed to meditation during the first semester of graduate school in 1965. A Professor, also an Episcopal priest who had spent 3 years in a Buddhist monastery, was teaching contemplative religions of South Asia. He exposed us to a non-dualistic way of looking at our world. I could not believe that until then I had missed the obvious… that we are inextricably connected to the rest of what is: from the plants which provide us with oxygen to the energy fields of which we are a part. Everything Jesus taught and, yes, asked of us, made sense. When he went away into the wilderness challenged by demons, tempted, and when he wandered off alone to pray and told his disciples, “Come and See.” When he asked us to “consider the lilies of the field” he was pointing us to a different way of seeing. St. Paul got it. Neither this nor that, but all are one in Christ. I began to read and meditate at this point. Alan Watts, another Episcopal priest, was helpful at this point as were Ram Das and many others. But…. soon I began teaching, husbanding, and parenting. It was not until I had climbed whatever ladders we climb, vocational and others, and began to reassess my life that I returned to the insights in earnest.
Did the church help? As a community, Grace was tolerant and affirming. And for me, the communions, week by week, help me to remember that in eternity, which is outside time, and, here and now, there are none of the judgements, pay grades, or dualities (gender wise, ideological, or otherwise) that limit our understanding of Jesus’ message.
Around 20 years ago, in our late 50’s, Linda and I began to attend a series of week long silent retreats. The results for us both were to begin to see the world around us in ways that we had not experienced previously. Experiences of Thoreau’s Walden experience begin to explain the sensations I felt.
In the period since, we have been part of meditation groups (both interfaith and Episcopal) in both Holland, and Venice, FL. We both have a daily practice of silence, listening to what is, rather than saying how we think things need to be or are. One thing I have noticed (for myself and others) is that it seems hard for folks to sustain a practice. Old life habits die hard. But as we reconnect portions of our brains to a more unitive view of the way things are, and the old dualistic flight or fight part of the brain diminishes in strength, life as a whole becomes more easily lived and appreciated.
Now just a few words of encouragement and caution. When I first started meditating, ten minutes seemed like a long time. Now, years later, more than an hour is easy. Twenty minutes is a good length because it takes that long for your “monkey mind” to begin to calm down. There is never a good or bad result. You are not trying to accomplish anything. Like the Nike ad says “Just do it.” Stuff may come up. It inevitably it does. Tears are to be expected, fine. You will need a group to sustain your practice. Remember everyone in the group needs you too. “Whenever two or three are gathered…”? There are healing forms of meditation as well as mindfulness or contemplative prayer approaches. Find what suits you. Believe me, a regular practice softens your edges. Be kind to yourself. More kindness to the rest of creation will inevitably follow.
Submitted by: Bob Elder