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There are various approaches teaching us how to meditate.
The three approaches discussed in this article are:
- Christian meditation as per John Main
- Mantra meditation as per Swami Vishnu-Devananda
- Meditation as per Andre van Lysebeth
Meditation restores the wisdom we have lost of the link between ascesis -training in the discipline of selfless attention- and love.
— Laurence Freeman OSB
1) Christian Meditation as per John Main
John Main was a Roman Catholic priest and a Benedictine monk. He is known for rediscovering and founding a Christian meditation method that uses a prayer-phrase or mantra. He began Christian meditation groups in 1975 at his monastery in West London, England. Later, he founded the Benedictine Priory of Montreal, a community of monks and lay-people centered on the practice of meditation in the Christian tradition. This Monastery is in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
John Main's teaching on prayer has always been a way of experience. He wanted "to bring people to meet with God in the silent depths of their heart". John Main felt that "the wisdom of the monastic teaching on prayer was the practical response to the problem of human alienation and communal needs of our time. He emphasized personal experience and self discovery in God."
His successor is Laurence Freeman, a Catholic priest and a Benedictine monk, and the Director of the World Community for Christian Meditation.
Meditatio Newsletter is published quarterly by the International Office of the Word Community for Christian Meditation in London, England.
The May 2020 issue of Meditatio has an article on The Path Through the Crisis written by Laurence Freeman. In this article, he reflected “on the post-COVID-19 world: how can we make a contemplative response to an unknown future?”
How to Do the Christian Meditation
Sit down. Sit still and upright; your back straight and vertical. Close your eyes softly. Sit relaxed but alert. Silently begin to say a single word.
Mentally, recite the word “maranatha” in four syllables of equal length. Listen to it as you say it, gently without interruption. Do not think or imagine anything. Do not follow your thoughts. If thoughts and images come to your mind when you meditate, consider them as distractions. Simply let your attention return to mentally repeating the word ‘maranatha’.
Meditate twice a day, morning and evening, for 20 to 30 minutes each time.
“Meditation realizes the hope for unity through silence and by a transformation of human nature. But it is the word of the Spirit in human experience that does this, and so no technique or method can pull the switch of divinization or claim supremacy over others.”
“Meditation and the constant return to it, every day of your life, is like cutting a pathway through to reality. Once we know our place, we begin to see everything in a new light because we have become who we really are. And becoming who we are, we can now see everything as it is and so begin to see everyone else as they are."
Prayer of the Heart
For Laurence Freeman, Christian meditation is a practice that lead us to the heart by saying the word and listening to it. This deep contemplative prayer in the Christian tradition -contemplating the Word of God- allows the word through our attention and receptivity to take flesh in us. This contemplative prayer opens us to the mystery of what is already there in our hearts, the continuous prayer of Christ.
2) Meditation as per Swami Vishnu-Devananda
Who am I? What is my purpose in life? According to Swami Sivananda “The meaning of life is found by diving deep, deep within”.
The goal of meditation is to reach perfection, purity, and peace of mind or self-realization.
We all have a Power, an Energy that we can tap into if we are aware that it is available. This Power inspires us and gives us the strength to grow in a positive direction. The Light is available to all of us, we just have to connect ourselves with its source. The source of wisdom and power is the Self, that part deep within each one of us that knows the truth.
It is impossible for our mind and intellect to understand and grasp this Energy. We use visualization to help us focus on the Supreme.
Christians focus on the image of a cross or Jesus Christ. Hindus focus on a symbol, deity, a candle flame, the chakras or vortex of energies in the body, or on the sound of OM.
Meditation helps practitioners gain mastery of the mind by stopping its incessant chatter and teaching it to focus in a concentrated manner.
Awareness of thought patterns helps to give the power to project thoughts to others.
How to Meditate?
Meditation is the practice where we constantly observe the mind.
- Set aside a regular time and place to meditate.
- Have a separate room for meditation, if possible.
- In a sitting meditation, face north or east to make the most of favorable magnetic vibrations.
- Before you start your meditation, collect yourself. Tell yourself that you will have a calm mind for a specific length of time.
- Your breathing is rhythmic. Inhale for three seconds and exhale for three seconds. Controlling the breath means controlling the flow of the vital energy.
- If, in the first couple of minutes, you find that your mind jumps from one thought to another, let it happen. Eventually, your mind will become focused.
- Do not force the mind to be still. Resisting the thoughts would only magnify their power over you. If your mind keeps jumping from one thought to another, simply observe your thoughts with detachment, as if you are watching the clouds in the sky. Little by little, you will find that your mind becomes more settled.
- Let your mind rest on a focal point. A focal point is the center of interest. Once you choose a focal point, hold your attention in the space between the eyebrows for intellectually minded people, or at the heart center for emotional people.
- Focus on a neutral or inspiring object or symbol. Hold the image at the point of concentration, either at the level of the eyebrows or the heart center.
- When you choose a mantra instead of an image as your focal point: if you feel focused and alert, then mental repetition is better. If you feel drowsy, then repeat the mantra vocally. Mentally repeating the mantra is more powerful than saying it out loud.
A regular practice of this meditation will lead over time to a subtle state of transcendental bliss where only the awareness of subject and object remains.
If you are new to meditation and want to start with a simple exercise, you can do the ancient classic yoga practice of Tratak or steady gazing for the first six months of your practice.
Tratak and visualization steady the wandering mind and help greatly in concentration.
— Swami Vishnu-Devananda
How to Do the Tratak
Fix your eyes on the sunrise, sunset, on a candle flame, the OM symbol, or a picture of your deity.
Concentrate on your chosen point with open eyes until tears come. Then close your eyes and visualize the object.
At the beginning, practise for one minute, then gradually increase the time each week. Do not strain the eyes. Be regular and systematic about it. Repeat and gradually increase the gazing and visualization time.
After a regular practise over six months, you will find meditation easy to do.
Freeman, L. The Selfless Self (1989). pp. vii.
Main J. “Straying from the Mantra,” THE HEART OF CREATION (1998), p. 10.
Vishnu-Devananda S., Meditation and Mantras. (1978) pp. 218-234.
- 3 Different Approaches to Meditation (2 of 2)
Different types of meditation have different benefits. Some of them will work for you more than others. Here are three approaches to meditating.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
manatita44 from london on November 02, 2020:
Beautifully explained. I see you're from Canada, so I'm happy that you know of John Main. I have been to the Monastery, because they are very close to me in London and I guess I'm still a member of the Interfaith group.
They practically are all Benedictines and with some lay people. John Main did a lot of good work and like Father Bede Griffiths and a few more, they are well known. Om Shanti!!
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on September 26, 2020:
Well explained. Interesting and useful.