Meditation improves wellbeing.
Our wellbeing is enhanced when we are able to discover and realise the connections, relationships and contexts that underpin the life we are leading. This is what meditation does. (For more on the benefits of meditation you can read the papers given at the 2003, MIT conference Investigating the Mind).
Humanity suffers from a general disability: a blindness of connections. Most of us are unable to see the broader context or the bigger picture because we fix our eyes only on little segments of existence. We also tend to ignore social, environmental and cosmic contexts. In general, we are too busy with those little segments of existence that disconnect us from the larger view.
Usually we are blind to our blindness of connections. Such a double blindness reduces the meaning of our life while at the same time, making us feel insecure.
Meditation is a looking inward. Everyday life is a looking outward. Rediscovering those connections and relations that are important to the circumstances of our life happens only with an inward meditative gaze. As we all know, the kingdom of heaven is within.
The kingdom of discontent is without. Trying to fill up your life with small segments of existence; with consumer goods or status objects does not create a greater sense of meaningfulness or an increased sense of wellbeing and connecton. Only an inward gaze can do that.
The key to meditation is repetition. Even thought most people find doing a repetitive job boring the secret of meditation is repetition. Repetition is the key to learning the piano or tennis or anything else and it the key to the self-knowledge that comes implicitly from meditation.
The repetition of meditation comes from saying your mantra. A mantra is a sacred phrase or set of prayer-words that are said silently or out loud over and over again. By repeating your mantra for thirty or forty minutes each day a profundity of meaning is gradually uncovered that is not obvious to a busy mind focussed on the details of daily worries and routines.
To meditate find a quiet place you like. Sit down with your back upright in a straight-backed chair or cross-legged on the floor. Close your eyes and begin to say your mantra, silently or out loud over and over again.
Your mind will wander onto something that worries or fascinates you. When you become aware of this distraction return your attention to the process of saying your mantra. Saying your mantra is a process that has a depth of meaning attached to it. If you wait quietly that depth of meaning will slowly reveal itself of its own accord.
Your mantra may be given to you by an enlightened soul. If not, then different faith traditions use different mantras so you may like to follow the choices of your faith. If you have no religious tradition then you may like to choose a mantra that simply resonates with you.
The Christian meditation tradition often uses the word ‘Maranatha’ by placing an equal stress on each of the four syllables: ‘Ma-ra-na-tha’. This is an Aramaic word, which is the language that Jesus spoke. It means ‘Come Lord’.
There are thousands of Buddhist mantras. A popular one is the Tibetan Buddhism mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, which also places an equal stress on each of the five syllables: ‘Om-Mani-Pad-me-Hum’. Tibetan Buddhists have great faith in this mantra when it is said out loud or silently. This mantra is believed to invoke the benevolent blessings of the compassionate one.
The Hindu tradition also has many mantras. Two that are often used are: Om Amritesh Varyai Namaha and the second: Om Para Shakti Namaha. Both are said silently with an equal stress on each syllable: ‘Om-Amri-tesh-Vary-ai-Nama-ha’; and ‘Om-Para-Shak-ti-Nama-ha’.
The first of these mantras (Om Amritesh Varyai Namaha) is said to invoke the immortal bliss of the Goddess Lakshmi. The second, (Om Para Shakti Namaha) is a salutation to the divine energy and primordial force of cosmic consciousness.
Prayer and meditation are inward gazes but they are different processes. A prayer usually asks for something; health, happiness or a blessing for a friend or one’s self. Meditation asks for nothing and makes no demands. It is a method of connecting, implicitly and directly to the universal and cosmic foundation of your own mind. This is why a meditation mantra usually addresses some aspect of the cosmic mind that is your real Divine self.
There is a story about the Buddha who was once asked, ‘What have you gained from meditation?’
He replied, ‘Nothing!’
‘However’, Buddha said, ‘ let me tell you what I have lost: Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Insecurity, Fear of old Age and Death.’