I meditated before I became a true believer. I meditated all during my faith-filled years. And I continue to meditate now that I'm in my churchless phase.
For me, meditation is an opportunity to open myself up to…whatever. The motto of the X-Files (American TV show) was "The truth is out there."
Also, in here: consciousness.
Where you don't need anyone else – no preacher, guru, rabbi, priest – to show you the way. Nor do you need to go some place – a church, temple, mosque – to be on the way.
Which might well be no way. I don't know. Sometimes I feel like I'm going somewhere in meditation. Other times, nowhere at all.
Mark Morford's column, "Sit down, shut up, breathe," sings the praises of meditation. He's anti-religion but pro-cushion sitting.
But meditation, well, it abides none of that noise. It brings you into the here and now and plops you into the lap of stillness and reminds you that there is more to it all than mania and media and political moronism, that you have incredible power to change your own habits and tendencies and daily love quotients, that god often speaks in whispers and flutters and quiet little licks on your heart and only when you dial down your raging internal dialogue can you actually hear what the hell she's trying to say. Hell, what's not to like?
After reading countless books about meditation and mysticism, I keep coming back to my favorite: "Open Mind, Open Heart." (I prefer the original edition, maybe because it's so familiar to me; this is the new edition).
It's sort of strange that with all the Buddhist, Taoist, Vedantist, and other Eastern writings on my book shelves, a Christian guide to contemplative prayer resonates so readily with me.
But I'm fine with strange. Some time ago I stopped trying to figure myself out. I like my morning meditation because it's an opportunity to stop figuring.
Me. The world. My wife. Our dog. The "Lost" TV show. Everything.
I like "Open Mind, Open Heart" because it offers up a specific, easy to understand, not so easy to do, method of meditating.
This morning I re-read Thomas Keating's summary of the centering prayer method. It bears a lot of resemblance to mantra meditation, except the word(s) being repeated are downplayed – they're viewed as a pointer rather than a means.
Don't let all the mentions of "God" turn you off if you're not into a personal deity. Keating views God as mystery. Though a male mystery, apparently, along with 62% of people in Britain who took part in a recent poll.
Our experiences of God, however, are not God as He is in Himself. God as He is in Himself cannot be experienced empirically, conceptually, or spiritually. He is beyond experiences of any kind. This does not mean that He is not in sacred experiences, but that He transcends them. To put this insight into another way, He leads us by means of sacred experiences to the experience of emptiness.
Here's the best recommendation for Father Keating's centering prayer method: a Catholic fundamentalist considers it dangerous.