Monday, January 8, 2018

Quakers, Buddhists and just me

I saw three college students lying in various positions on the floor.  I thought they were asleep but they were practicing their transcendental meditation.  I read various references to meditation and "The Inner Game of Tennis".  "The Relaxation Response" and the audio "The Higher Self" - they all got me meditating.  I didn't want religious renewal.  I just wanted better relations day by day and minute by minute with myself and with life as I live it.

Along came Lynn's leading into the Society of Friends, the Quakers (Thanks, Diane).  I could immediately see strong parallels between the Friends' practice and meditation.  The Quakers started in England about 300 years ago and they were very controversial at the time, partly for their convictions that social and religious rank and war were bad ideas and partly for their approach to direct religion without trained pastors or priests.

Some authors approach meditation as a stress relief tool.  In Buddhism and Quaker religion, sitting quietly awaiting guidance from heaven or holy power is a valuable and much used path.  I knew that being quiet inside was a very old practice, motivated by many different needs and ideas but I wanted directions that did not include religious language, simply because my American public school background wanted something available to all people, of all groups, religions and persuasions.  Even the Quakers are somewhat split between the Christocentric Friends and the Universalist Friends.  

The use of our minds is common to us all, so psychology it is.  No surprise really that a method of quieting the mind used by ancient Hindus well before the Buddha was born and by ancient Christians (see "Lost Christianity" by Jacob Needleman, $4.99 for Kindle) is so simple that it is not easily packaged for modern consumers.  As Dan Harris, the ABC newsman who took up mediation as a stress relief measure, says, meditation has had a very poor public relations exposure.  All sorts of crosslegged gurus on the floor in some kind of special position.  

Two minutes a day, ten minutes a day or a weekend retreat.  Psalm 46 "Be still".  That's the ticket: stillness and silence inside, however much noise there is in the nursery or the alley.  Attend to your breathing or the corner of a picture frame.  The point is that minds wander but training can increase your awareness of when the wandering begins.  As soon as you catch it, back to your breath or the corner.  The timer rings and you are free.

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