What happens in meditation?

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joe
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What happens in meditation?

Post by joe » Thu Apr 12, 2018 6:20 am

So when one is sitting in meditation and following one's breath, what is supposed to occur to the individual?

I have recently become interested in Centering Prayer. I'm not sure if anyone here is familiar with it, but the idea is that as you do this form of Christian meditation you are opening yourself to the workings of God within you. It is said that it helps develop a non dual perception that allows you to go through the day not encumbered by thoughts, as dropping thoughts becomes second nature. I'm still not sure how this relates to the idea of praying to an personification of pure being, which is represented in the figure of Jesus.

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Re: What happens in meditation?

Post by joe » Fri Apr 13, 2018 1:34 am

Can someone please advise?

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Re: What happens in meditation?

Post by kiki » Fri Apr 13, 2018 3:26 am

Following the breath is one type of meditation that uses the breath as a focus for attention, and serves as a means to redirect attention away from thought stream, body sensations and emotions. At the physical level, as attention gets repeatedly redirected onto the breath mind activity begins to quiet down and the body gains deep rest, and that has beneficial effects on the body. At the psychic level, clarity of awareness/consciousness becomes more evident - you become aware of awareness/consciousness. At the spiritual level there eventually comes a realization: "I am not who I thought I was." There comes the realization that 'I" don't exist as a separate and distinct entity because there is a recognition that that "I" is simply a conglomeration of thoughts in the head that we had identified with as a "me". In other words that "me" doesn't exist in reality, but only as a thought form.

The evidence for that is when thoughts are absent there is no "me", yet there still remains a sense of existence. That sense of existence needs no thought/mind for it to be present. That sense of existence is not dependent upon anything and is always present and never changes, and THAT is what we actually are.

Thoughts come and go and the identity we build around them is always in flux - sometimes we like our "story" and sometimes we rebel against our "story", so which of those stories is really me? - so that cannot be what we are. In other words, we are that which sees everything, sees the stories coming and going yet remaining stable, constant and aware; that is aware of the changes happening within the mind, body and what appears to be the "outer world" of objects and sensations. That awareness is inherently peaceful, silent, still and complete, having no sense of lack.

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So, breath meditation, when practiced regularly, eventually leads to the realization of non-dualism, the realization that there is only consciousness, and that consciousness is not separate from anything. There is no demarcation line between consciousness and that which is perceived, there is no "edge" or "center" to it. In fact, even the objects that are perceived are nothing but consciousness itself. It's realized that only the mind creates a sense of separation and from that sense of separation comes suffering.

Mantra meditation can lead to the same realization, as can the practice of zen and Christian contemplative prayer. Father Thomas Keating's excellent book Open Mind, Open Heart teaches centering prayer which leads to contemplative prayer. In the case of contemplative prayer non-dualism is approached from a different perspective. But that realization can also come spontaneously, without resorting to any sort of meditation or spiritual practice.
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Re: What happens in meditation?

Post by runstrails » Fri Apr 13, 2018 5:03 am

Great answer, Kiki!

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Re: What happens in meditation?

Post by Webwanderer » Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:15 am

Agreed. That ought to be a Sticky somewhere.

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Re: What happens in meditation?

Post by turiya » Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:39 pm

I enjoyed reading your post, kiki. :D
“We ourselves are not an illusory part of Reality; rather are we Reality itself illusorily conceived.” - Wei Wu Wei

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Re: What happens in meditation?

Post by Newman » Sat Apr 14, 2018 4:14 am

Interesting post Kiki,

My only response yet to focusing on breath is the ability to fall asleep, which while amazing, since I've long suffered insomnia, isn't giving me the notion of a peaceful / enlightened mind in waking life.

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Re: What happens in meditation?

Post by kiki » Sat Apr 14, 2018 5:14 am

Maintain a regular practice, twice daily if possible. The challenge early in one's practice is to be disciplined and not give up. This sort of practice will take time before you begin to notice the kind of things I outlined in my response to joe. If you put expectations upon your meditation sessions you will be working against yourself. Changes will be subtle at first, and may even take weeks, months or even years to for them to bear fruit. But, the beauty of following the breath is that it can be done throughout the day as well. Take time during mundane activities to simply notice and feel the breath coming in and going out. In times of stress use the breath to anchor yourself into the present moment, especially when you notice thought stream drawing you into mental anguish.

Once you truly recognize awareness breakthroughs in your progress will follow, insights will unfold and understanding take root. You will begin to recognize the presence of awareness even while in activity and feel/sense the peace, silence and stillness of it. Usually people don't notice it because it is in the background of one's awareness while attention is typically fixated on the objective world where thoughts, ideas, physical sensation and surrounding objects reside. Eventually, once recognized, awareness of awareness will move to the foreground of your attention and you'll notice it more and more. But as I mentioned above, you can't put any expectation on yourself because that keeps you trapped in the mind. Do your practice innocently and let things unfold organically at their own pace without mental interference.
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Re: What happens in meditation?

Post by joe » Sat Apr 14, 2018 11:31 pm

Thanks Kiki, that was a thorough and helpful response.

Since I am getting spiritual nourishment by also attending a church and a Life Group, I have started to explore Centering Prayer and find that from a technical perspective (how it's actually done) it appeals more to me than standard meditation, which I've been doing for years. Also, it is in the context of Christianity, which gives it more purpose for me, whereas standard meditation gets lost for me in terms of what it connects to, which seems to be an ambiguous spirituality.

As I've discussed in another thread, I have been trying at the same time to understand what I've been calling Christian personification. That is to say, a dualistic thinking that puts God "out there" as an individual (in the form of Jesus) who we "relate" to. Our church puts a lot of emphasis on the idea of a relationship with Jesus. They really see Jesus as a living individual, not a metaphor or symbol, who walks alongside and loves us. This notion of a "personal" spirituality is certainly a lot more appealing than a more Eastern approach (out of which Tolle teaches) of an impersonal universe or consciousness. Even in the Christian Mystical and Contemplative tradition, there is at the core this understanding of Jesus as an individual. When sitting you are opening yourself up to the working of God within you. So again, I get confused because while the Eastern spiritual tradition resonates more naturally for me than Christianity, due to the lack of a narrative and personification that you have to "believe" in, I would like to fully adopt Centering Prayer and continue my spiritual journey in the context of Christianity, which makes more sense for me because it is our cultural context.

But I am still struggling to make sense of why only Christianity and Buddhism have a great teacher, and why only Jesus is thought to have a personal relationship with the Christian. It seems unique and superior to all other religions, but I also know everything is relative and always look for both sides of an argument.

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Re: What happens in meditation?

Post by joe » Mon Apr 16, 2018 5:51 am

Can someone speak to this?

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Re: What happens in meditation?

Post by Webwanderer » Mon Apr 16, 2018 7:40 am

joe wrote:
Sat Apr 14, 2018 11:31 pm
Our church puts a lot of emphasis on the idea of a relationship with Jesus. They really see Jesus as a living individual, not a metaphor or symbol, who walks alongside and loves us.
I've done a lot of walking in my life, and have yet to see Jesus walking along side me. It seems obvious that that teaching is a metaphor. And if that statement is a metaphor, is it not also possible that Jesus as Savior is also a metaphor? A statement based in truth but holds a larger meaning than it appears?
This notion of a "personal" spirituality is certainly a lot more appealing than a more Eastern approach (out of which Tolle teaches) of an impersonal universe or consciousness.
The notion of a need to be 'saved' is appealing to the extent one may feel guilty for sins committed - either the original version or personal creations. An impersonal universe is less one of right and wrong, and more one of cause and effect. Thus there is a lot less associated guilt, while an understanding of responsibility remains. And while the pain from one's actions can be the same, their duration can be quite different depending on how much self judgment we hold. An unconditionally loving Jesus, with His Divine Authority, can certainly be an attractive option in receiving forgiveness and gaining release from our pain.

The price in that is the debt we feel we owe, in which churches readily take advantage of - both financially and and in loyalty. There's nothing wrong in this however, as from an Eastern perspective it's just a version of cause and effect. Or as Jesus might say, we reap what we sow.
But I am still struggling to make sense of why only Christianity and Buddhism have a great teacher, and why only Jesus is thought to have a personal relationship with the Christian. It seems unique and superior to all other religions, but I also know everything is relative and always look for both sides of an argument.
I'm not sure why you would say that. Most all major religions believe they have a great teacher. Mohammad, Lao Tsu, Zoroaster, Confucius, to name a few. And as to superiority, it seems that most religions' practitioners feel a sense of superiority over other religions, or they would likely change religions. After all do we not want the best shot to get into 'heaven'? Changing religious affiliation is tough though. There is a great deal of conditioning and entrainment from religious teachers, citing the fires of Hell for those who stray. That can be a lot to overcome.

I certainly wouldn't advise you to leave where you're at. It may well serve you best at this point. I do encourage you to seek truth and clarity from you own inner guidance. Insight is our own personal connection with life's greater understanding. Develop this personal relationship and call it what you will. If Jesus energizes that connection then so be it. It the same with any other teacher that creates an energetic relationship, and that includes a connection with our own greater being. Just know that most any Source of insight represents an aspect of our own greater natural being. According to Scripture, Jesus said 'you must become one with me, as I Am one with the Father'. 'That oneness I AM..." matters.

WW

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Re: What happens in meditation?

Post by joe » Tue Apr 17, 2018 1:29 am

Webwanderer wrote:
Mon Apr 16, 2018 7:40 am
I've done a lot of walking in my life, and have yet to see Jesus walking along side me. It seems obvious that that teaching is a metaphor. And if that statement is a metaphor, is it not also possible that Jesus as Savior is also a metaphor? A statement based in truth but holds a larger meaning than it appears?
No, they really seem to see him as an individual who exists now and who watches over us. They never speak of Jesus as a metaphor or a symbol, but as a literal individual. This perplexes me because I can't figure out how to square that with Eastern spiritual beliefs, nor understand how Centering Prayer, which has a kinship with Eastern spirituality can at the same time hold onto the idea of Jesus as an individual while being so Eastern-like.
Webwanderer wrote:
Mon Apr 16, 2018 7:40 am
The notion of a need to be 'saved' is appealing to the extent one may feel guilty for sins committed - either the original version or personal creations.

I think what you are overlooking here is the idea of love. Jesus is about love, whereas that dimension is abstract in the East. One can say that love is a natural sense of joy in feeling connected to all that is, but again in the Jesus relationship their is a love that is a lot more relatable. This is also what has made Christianity so appealing over the centuries to so many more people than are members of the other major religions.
Webwanderer wrote:
Mon Apr 16, 2018 7:40 am
An impersonal universe is less one of right and wrong, and more one of cause and effect. Thus there is a lot less associated guilt, while an understanding of responsibility remains. And while the pain from one's actions can be the same, their duration can be quite different depending on how much self judgment we hold. An unconditionally loving Jesus, with His Divine Authority, can certainly be an attractive option in receiving forgiveness and gaining release from our pain.
That makes a lot of sense. But where does the sense of responsibility come from when we can't connect it to any particular thing?
Webwanderer wrote:
Mon Apr 16, 2018 7:40 am
Most all major religions believe they have a great teacher. Mohammad, Lao Tsu, Zoroaster, Confucius, to name a few.
I don't think there are many others other than those in the list you just provided! And I also doubt that those other teachers are revered as much or important to nearly as many people as Jesus. It may be that I'm seeing things from a Christian-centric culture (the West) but those other teachers seem to be second tier in world importance.

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Re: What happens in meditation?

Post by Webwanderer » Tue Apr 17, 2018 7:02 pm

joe wrote:
Tue Apr 17, 2018 1:29 am
No, they really seem to see him as an individual who exists now and who watches over us. They never speak of Jesus as a metaphor or a symbol, but as a literal individual. This perplexes me because I can't figure out how to square that with Eastern spiritual beliefs, nor understand how Centering Prayer, which has a kinship with Eastern spirituality can at the same time hold onto the idea of Jesus as an individual while being so Eastern-like.
I do understand that those who subscribe to established Christian religions believe in Jesus the man. That's not the point. And while I also understand that they literally believe that Jesus is a 'personal savior', I'm referring more directly to the origins of Christianity. A personal Jesus who personally saves believers from their sins is an adaption from a more metaphorical guidance that following Jesus' teachings will save one from his/her sins.

But understand what that 'saving' is actually pointing to. What is a sin? The word itself comes from an old archery term that means 'off the mark'. If one is living 'off the mark' that one is living in sin. So what is 'off the mark'? What is the 'mark'? The mark is the center of aligned conscious being. Your interest in a 'centering prayer' is a method of refocusing on the 'mark' of spiritual connectivity. So to be saved from your sins by Jesus, is a metaphor for the teachings of Jesus, and their use to return by some type of centering, to our spiritual connections.
I think what you are overlooking here is the idea of love. Jesus is about love, whereas that dimension is abstract in the East. One can say that love is a natural sense of joy in feeling connected to all that is, but again in the Jesus relationship their is a love that is a lot more relatable. This is also what has made Christianity so appealing over the centuries to so many more people than are members of the other major religions.
I think what you are missing is that most every major religion, especially Christianity, is exclusive by nature. That is they exclude legitimacy of other paths to spiritual advancement. It's either our way or no way. I've been told more time than I can count how I will burn in Hell if I don't accept Jesus. Really? Is 'God' so petty as to divide the human race up into such categories of authorized paths to Heaven, or certain paths to Hell? Where's the love in that? Religions create some very small Gods in their effort to coerce followers.

It's the proverbial carrot and stick. The love of God/Jesus/Mohammad/whoever, or the fires of Hell. We're saved, but you are on the wide road to a very bad eternity.

The teachings of Jesus are wonderfully valuable. It seems a disservice however, to personalize them into the man himself. Those same teachings are reflected in so very many of world's scriptures and spiritual writings in one form or another. They are all about expansion of consciousness into a focus on our higher spiritual nature. Christianity's attempt to focus them on the man and his exclusive Savior status is a disservice to the man who brought the teachings.

I'm sure I seem rather critical here, and I don't want to overstate it. Christianity has brought a lot of good to its followers and the world in general. I would suggest here however, a deep consideration of one of Jesus's primary teachings. Seek truth, and that truth will make you free.
But where does the sense of responsibility come from when we can't connect it to any particular thing?
Connecting to 'things' is an element of the problem. Yes, it can be helpful to a point. Eventually however, it's not about things like reward and punishment. It's about expansion of consciousness and being. The responsibility that I cite is not one of guilt, but one of awakened consideration of how experience unfolds. If you're going to connect to some 'thing', make it to your direct experience. All our actions and thoughts are a manifestation of vibration of consciousness and how that feels as an experience. It can be quite subtle involving many layers.

Everything we say, think and do has a feeling to it. We are responsible to our experience in life to the choices we make. Of course many of those choices are a result of how we've been conditioned in life and the choices we previously made. But the more important choices are the ones we make in the present moment and the meaning we assign which is built upon, and builds into, our beliefs. Beliefs are the primary controllers of our experience. The good news is beliefs are creations.

If, for example, we are having a tough experience, that is our responsibility. If we are having a joyful experience, that too is our responsibility. We chose the meaning, either through entrainment or by conscious choice, that made the feeling difference in each of those outcomes. Choose another meaning, and you create a different experience. Love and appreciation, forgiveness and acceptance, are the root of meanings that create finer experiences. Apply them liberally.
I don't think there are many others other than those in the list you just provided! And I also doubt that those other teachers are revered as much or important to nearly as many people as Jesus. It may be that I'm seeing things from a Christian-centric culture (the West) but those other teachers seem to be second tier in world importance.
Do you really think the path to awakened being is a numbers game? I would suggest that revering a leader is only a stepping stone to an expanding awareness that must eventually leave organizations as a controlling guide behind in favor of a more direct relationship with our own inner guidance. Again, I encourage you to follow your own inner guidance. There is no better teacher. Consider fairly and follow what feels best.

Once we find a measure of clarity on our own alignment and Source, so much more of the commonality of all religious teachings likewise becomes clear. There is really not as much difference as the religious leaders claim.

WW

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Re: What happens in meditation?

Post by joe » Wed Apr 18, 2018 1:56 am

Webwanderer wrote:
Tue Apr 17, 2018 7:02 pm
I do understand that those who subscribe to established Christian religions believe in Jesus the man. That's not the point.
That's the point as far as my current fuzziness on questions of Christian spiritual practice. In every sermon and Life Group, every spiritual principle is brought back to the words of an individual (Jesus) who is the center of everything. For Christians it seems one can't discuss spiritual matters without the narrative of this historical figure inextricably intertwined with those principles.
Webwanderer wrote:
Tue Apr 17, 2018 7:02 pm
I think what you are missing is that most every major religion, especially Christianity, is exclusive by nature.
That's obvious. But Jesus seems to be bigger, more significant and the center of spirituality for more people in the world than anyone else. He is also the only Son of God in the major religions. Due to this, one can't simply say he was another teacher. It seems unarguable that Jesus was unique among teachers.
Webwanderer wrote:
Tue Apr 17, 2018 7:02 pm
Connecting to 'things' is an element of the problem. Yes, it can be helpful to a point. Eventually however, it's not about things like reward and punishment. It's about expansion of consciousness and being.


I like how you put this!
Webwanderer wrote:
Tue Apr 17, 2018 7:02 pm
Do you really think the path to awakened being is a numbers game? I would suggest that revering a leader is only a stepping stone to an expanding awareness that must eventually leave organizations as a controlling guide behind in favor of a more direct relationship with our own inner guidance.
You are missing my point here.

Overall I am just trying to understand, though so many things in Christianity are metaphors for consciousness and there are so many parallels across religions, what do we make of those aspects of Christianity that are unique (such as I've mentioned already)?

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Re: What happens in meditation?

Post by Webwanderer » Wed Apr 18, 2018 6:42 am

joe wrote:
Wed Apr 18, 2018 1:56 am
Overall I am just trying to understand, though so many things in Christianity are metaphors for consciousness and there are so many parallels across religions, what do we make of those aspects of Christianity that are unique (such as I've mentioned already)?
Are those things you mention really all that unique? Or are they just claimed to be by the believers in such? How would you know? We humans, have a flair for embellishment as it suites our purposes. In any case, you get to decide for yourself what to believe - as do we all.

As a suggestion, there are many good metaphysical interpretations of scripture. An exploration of them may be helpful to you.

WW

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