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One Approach to Meditation

Previously I started looking at meditation, and have tried to explain a little of how meditation can help you. I want now to discuss a framework to help you see how meditation can work for you. For me a good way to understand is to think of the mind processes in two ways, for want of better words centrifugal and centripetal. On the surface of the mind we can retain many concepts through memory, this is what happens in our schools. Our education provides us with innumerable facts in diverse subjects, and we are asked to reproduce these facts in exams - if we do this well enough they will give us a job. As well as this they provide us with skills, that one might call centripetal; a significant one of these is analytical. Through this analytical process these superficial facts are investigated, and common themes are developed. From several of these common themes further themes can be analysed moving slowly up a chain towards the centre. I envisage this as a reverse tree diagram. Do we ever reach the centre with full understanding?

I consider the facts that we know on the surface discrete, they are points of knowledge, the more points we have the better our understanding of the common themes. But on the surface we can never understand everything because that surface contains an infinite number of points - it is continuous. Through learning a significant number of these points we can gain a good understanding of the surface, but we can never know it completely. So the weakness of this centripetal way of thinking is that we can never fully know the surface, and at the same time we can never be sure of reaching the centre with our understanding.

At the same time on the surface of our minds we are not only dealing with innumerable facts, we also have mental distractions. If we are using our minds to focus on facts, how often are we distracted by difficult emotions? Suppose something in our daily lives has made us angry, how difficult is it to push aside that anger to deal with the facts? And then when we least expect it that anger returns to the surface to confuse our thinking further. So if centripetal thinking is the only way we have of thinking then we have many obstacles to learning.

But what if there were another way of thinking to help us? Let me try to illustrate this way of thinking. Suppose we shout aloud, then anyone at a certain distance from the source of the sound will hear the shout with the same intensity, standing 5 m from the sound theoretically an infinite number of people will hear the same level of sound. As you move further away from the centre the sound level decreases but at whatever the distance there can still be an infinite number of people hearing that sound at that level - the further away the lower the volume. Rather than talking about sound, what if I tried to radiate goodness. Then that goodness could be felt continuously at the surface, rather than making a large number of individual decisions on the surface, what if we could radiate from our depths a deep feeling of goodness? That deeply-radiated goodness will affect all points within its sphere of influence depending on the "distance" from the centre. Suppose on the surface we meet a problem, then deep from within we might try to respond with goodness. But perhaps this deep radiated goodness is not strong enough, then we can still have our centripetal mind, our conceptual mind, to help fortify our deeper decision to be good.

When I started to explain it this way, I liked the notions of centrifugal and centripetal, but now I reread it the explanation might just be confusing; I'm leaving it in for those who might like it. However understanding this explanation is not meditation, it is a mental construct about meditation. So forget it, just meditate. Basically if you can develop a deep sense of goodness through meditation, then that goodness will pervade all your actions. So how can we do it? Begin by thinking about being good. Now initially we might be distracted about problems that can affect a focus on goodness. If you notice your mind wandering onto these problems or something else, gently stop thinking about them and bring your mind onto goodness. Not goodness as:- this is a good action, that is a good action, this is a good man, they are good people. No don't focus on something concrete, just a general feeling of goodness. It doesn't matter that you cannot explain what this goodness is, just try to feel it. As you begin to focus on this goodness you might be considering it as being on the surface of your brain. Try to move that feeling away from your head, this is not always easy, in the west we are trained to think that all mental activity exists inside the head. Imagine this goodness going deeper inside, move it down your throat and try to feel it resting at a point deep at the back of your chest. Be with this goodness deep at the back of your chest for a while, rest there peacefully in goodness. Now start to radiate this goodness out from this central point of goodness deep inside. Radiate it out through your chest. Go back to your goodness centre. Now radiate it out up through your throat and out through your forehead and then out through the top of your head. So now your chest and above is radiating goodness. Now start radiating this goodness down from your chest to the solar plexus and radiate it out of your body there, now to the area below the solar plexus, imagine this area is a bowl and fill it with goodness. So now your whole body is goodness, and you are radiating out this goodness. Try to be with this feeling of goodness, starting at the centre at the back of your chest your whole body is feeling goodness. Radiate this goodness out to the whole world so that they can feel that being good can make them happy. Being good is being happy. Stay feeling good for as long as you like, and then gently stop the meditation. Feeling good!!

Have you tried this meditation? NO, you will get more from what I write if you have tried it first so give it a go Ok, maybe you have tried it, maybe not. I hope it went well but if it didn't don't worry about it. What happens one time is not important, the Path is for life. Don't get hung up. If all you did was think about your problems, then that means that you need to focus about your problems. Did you get angry because you couldn't feel good, then you need to look at your anger - I will talk about emotions later. Did you start to feel afraid? So fear is an emotion you need to consider. Whatever came up is important, try to deal with it. Anyway I hope you feel good, and that through your feeling good you will feel happy and make others happy.

In fact goodness is not the meditation for this I usually use. My main one is compassion, and because of an incident with an erstwhile friend I realised I needed to promote morality. I will tell you briefly. Through discussion I met someone who I thought was on the Path, he seemed a pleasant person although his lifestyle was confused. Because he spoke of spirituality often I was sucked into his web and gave him credence. His confused lifestyle became immoral, and I realised that his spiritual discussion was only a cover. I felt embarrassed that he had managed to fool me, and realised that my own morality antenna was not as finely tuned as it should be. I spent much time trying to develop a feeling of morality through meditations like the one I gave you above.

It is incidents like this that make me stress the importance of morality for westerners. My adult life has not been particularly moral, generally a good citizen - but with more concern on being considerate. But especially moral - no. In retrospect I now see this lack of moral imperative detrimental to my progress on the Path. Yet in western society I would generally have been considered a good and considerate citizen. I want to emphasise again the need for westerners to promote morality within themselves, the society as a whole has slipped and this reflects even on the good - on those trying to follow the Path.