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Meditation and Mysticism

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"The mystery of the universe is not a problem to be solved.
It is a reality to be experienced."
(Author unknown)

But how do you experience it? One approach is through the practice of meditation.

If there is one word to sum up that practice, it must be "Relaxation". Meditation seems to involve a relaxation of the body and mind, a quieting of the insistent, cynical, "busy, busy" brain patterns that, for most of us most of the time, pass for thought. I hope some of the following will encourage more people to relax, to learn meditation, to investigate mysticism, or just to take up gardening or painting or music, to stop the world and get off, at least for a while, before we ruin everything.

"Modern man thinks he loses something -- time -- when he does not do things quickly; yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains -- except kill it."
Erich Fromm

Only a small minority of people ever have a full-blown mystical experience, and it usually comes unsought, so don't go chasing desperately after the experiences described below. Just try to feel the mystery and beauty of the world every day, in everything you see, and hear and touch and do. But don't try too hard! Relax. And if you can't relax, don't worry about it! You'll learn.

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
Albert Einstein

"I had always found gardening a relaxing activity and on this particular day I felt in a very contemplative frame of mind. I remember that I gradually became intensely aware of my surroundings - the sound of the birds singing, the rustling of leaves, the breeze on my skin and the scent of the grass and flowers.

"I had a sudden impulse to lie face down on the grass and as I did so, an energy seemed to flow through me as if I had become part of the earth beneath me. The boundary between my physical self and my surroundings seemed to dissolve and my feeling of separation vanished. In a strange way I felt blended into a total unity with the earth, as if I were made of it and it of me. I was aware of the blades of grass between my fingers and touching my face, and I was overwhelmed by a force which seemed to penetrate every fibre of my being.

"I felt as if I had suddenly come alive for the first time - as if I were awakening from a long deep sleep into a real world. I remember feeling that a veil had been lifted from my eyes and everything came into focus, although my head was still on the grass. Whatever else I believed, I realised that I was surrounded by an incredible loving energy, and that everything, both living and non-living, is bound inextricably in a kind of consciousness which I cannot describe in words.

"Although the experience could not have lasted for more than a few minutes, it seemed endless - as if I were in some kind of suspended eternal state of understanding. Then it passed and I remained still and quiet on the lawn, trying to absorb what had happened and not quite believing it was real. A profound feeling of peace and joy is what I recall afterwards from these extraordinary moments."

From a description by Wendy Rose-Neill, one of many such descriptions published in "The Relevance of Bliss" by Nona Coxhead.

"Tell a wise person, or else keep silent, because the massman will mock it right away."

"Floating, floating, like a white bird on the water, floating unresisting, effortless - between the real and the imagined, between what comes to me from outside and what wells up from deep, deep down within me - floating, unresisting, without effort, on the surface of the great flowing river of life - smooth, silent river, flowing so still, so silently, that it seems to be asleep, not flowing at all - still, sleeping river, flowing irresistibly."

"Flowing inevitably; silently, irrevocably, into an ever fuller life, into a living peace, so profound, so rich, because in it all my strivings, all my sorrows, are taken into its own stillness and peace.

It is into that stillness, into that peace, that I am now moving - floating - just floating - not doing anything - just letting go - just allowing myself to be carried along - just letting this irresistible, sleeping river take me where it is going; and knowing all the time that it is going where I want to go - into more life - into reconciliation - into wholeness - into a living peace."

Adapted from "The Meditation of the Silent River", published in "Prayer and Meditation" by F.C. Happold.

"I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness, weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."
Henry David Thoreau

"One morning I was writing at my desk in the quiet writing room of our quiet house in Connecticut. Suddenly everything within my sight vanished right away. No longer did I see my body, the furniture in the room, the white rain slating across the windows. No longer was I aware of where I was, the day or hour. Time and space ceased to exist.

"Suddenly the entire room was filled with a great golden light, the whole world was filled with nothing but light. There was nothing anywhere except this effulgent light and my own small kernel of the self. The ordinary "I" ceased to exist. Nothing of me remained except a mere nugget of consciousness. It felt as if some vast transcendent force were invading me without my volition, as if all the immanent good lying latent within me began to pour forth in a stream, to form a moving circle with the universal principle. Myself began to dissolve into the light that was like a great golden all-pervasive fog. It was mystical moment of union with the mysterious infinite, with all things, all people...

"It was the grand purgation, I was washed clean and pure like a seashell by the mighty tides of the sea. All my personal problems fell away out of sight. My ego had drowned in boundless being.....

"Extraordinary intuitive insights flashed across my mind. I seemed to comprehend the nature of things. I understood that the scheme of the universe was good, it was only man that was out of harmony with it. I was inherently good, not evil as our Western society had taught me as a child; all people were intrinsically good..."

From a description by Claire Myers Owens, also published in "The Relevance of Bliss".

"I do not require of you to form great and curious considerations in your understanding. I require of you no more than to look."
Saint Theresa.

"Not in the whirlwind, not in the lightening, not in the strife of tongues or in the jangling of subtle reasoning is It to be found, but in the still, small voice speaking in the womb of silence. Therefore, be silent.

"Let the past be silent. Let there be no vain regrets, no brooding on past failures, no bitterness, no judgement of oneself or of others. Let all be silent.

"Let the senses be still and the vain clamour of thoughts cease. Be still and know. Be still and look. Let the eyes of the mind be closed, so that you may see what otherwise you would not see... abandon yourself... simply, holding on to you may enter the Silence".

From "The Womb of Silence", published in "Prayer and Meditation" by F.C. Happold.

"And all shall be well;
And all manner of things shall be well."
Author unknown.

"Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it, Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it." Goethe.

"I was in a state of quiet, almost passive enjoyment, not actually thinking, but letting ideas, images, and emotions flow of themselves, as it were, through my mind. All at once, without warning of any kind, I found myself wrapped in a flame-colored cloud. For an instant I thought of fire, an immense conflagration somewhere close by in that great city; the next, I knew that the fire was within myself. Directly afterward there came upon me a sense of exultation, a sense of immense joyousness accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination impossible to describe. Amongst other things, I did not merely come to believe, but I saw that the universe is not composed of dead matter, but is, on the contrary, a living Presence; I became conscious in myself of eternal life. It was not a conviction that I would have eternal life, but a consciousness that I possessed eternal life then; I saw that all men are immortal; that the cosmic order is such that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all; that the foundation principle of the world, of all the worlds, is what we call love, and that the happiness of each and all is in the long run absolutely certain."

From a description by the Canadian psychiatrist, Dr. R. M. Bucke, published in the chapter "Mysticism" in William James book "The Varieties of Religious Experience".

Certain types of scientist and their followers can't leave this alone. With the excuse of trying to discover charlatans, they come blundering in, dissecting life to see how it works, "explaining" mystic experience as the mere firing of neurons in a certain part of the brain in a particular pattern, or as an infantile wish to return to the womb. As though their own religion was not based on neurons firing in a particular pattern ("Our neuron pattern is better than your neuron pattern - ours is real, your is false"?). Or as though their obsessive curiosity and desire for control was not itself infantile.
Much as I like and admire science, believe it or not, and much as I distrust talk of God, nevertheless, if God did not exist, it might be necessary to invent Him or Her or It - if only to try to get away from a certain type of scientist!

Since I don't want to get involved in religious debates, I've adapted some of the quotes slightly to be "religion neutral". My apologies if this offends anyone. I'll let Chief Tecumseh, of the Shawnee Nation, sum up for me : -

"Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose the service of your people. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When you arise in the morning give thanks for your food and for the joy of living."

See also Mysticism

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