A Facebook friend posted this article entitled 18 Spiritual Teachings That Will Alter Your Mind and Improve Your Life. The sixth item on the list reads:
All meditation is good meditation.
And another thing: it is perfectly fine to meditate for 30 seconds. If I meditate for half a minute, then take a little break (because, damn, that was tough!), then start again—that is A-OK. Some days it may be 30 minutes, others 30 seconds. The key, I’ve found, is to pause regularly throughout the day. In this way, I integrate meditation into my life and not just as a part of my formal practice on the cushion.
I sometimes I wonder if meditation is doing me any good. I cannot quantify any benefits I have received from meditation. I really just have a hunch that it is doing me good. At the very least when I meditate it is time I am spending alone and not in communion with electronics or hearing ideas from other people. I do have to contend with my wandering mind which is similar to hearing ideas from other people but while meditating I can pay special attention to that and rise above it (so to speak). So it is a little different.
Meditation does make me feel more peaceful and sort of resets my mood. It also does sometimes give rise to inspiration and creativity although that is not its purpose. It really does not have a purpose because having a purpose implies some future reward or goal which is in contradiction to the idea of rooting myself in the present moment.
The centering prayer technique suggests that meditation is a window when God or the Holy Spirit can come into me. In other words meditating clears out the rubbish that may be blocking my communion with the divine. I suppose the divine, if it exists, exists in a timeless realm so whether I meditate for 30 seconds or 30 minutes doesn’t matter on that level.
Meditation is a break from doing and a conscious act of being. I like the idea that there is no bad meditation. Sometimes if I am not vigilant my ego will tell me that I am meditating wrong. Meditation is a state in which I can observe my ego and say, “I know what you’re up to.” When I hear my ego telling me that I am doing it wrong and at the same time am aware that my ego is telling me this then I know I am doing it right.
Like all this spiritual stuff when I begin to try to quantify the benefit or measure it in someway it is probably my ego that is doing the thinking. My ego labels, it judges, it defines. These are all useful functions in their own place but should not be used exclusively at the expense of every now and then experiencing the whole of reality and the present moment in all its vast complexity. This is what I do when I meditate.
What is the point of prayer? How do I know it is accomplishing anything? There have been many times in my life where I have prayed in the form of asking for something that did not come to be. This might suggest that there is nothing to prayer. That it is at best ineffectual and at worst an ubsurd and foolish waste of effort. I know the advocates of prayer will say something like “God always answers prayer it just might not be the way you expect.” I find this clichéd and unconvincing.
If there is something more to the universe than materialism and mortality (which I suspect there is but having no way of proving) then I want to communicate with it. I want to approach it in some way. Prayer seems to be the way to do this. This is an external prayer. That is, a prayer that originates inside of me and travels to some external recipient. But prayer can also be a way to communicate with my innermost self, the part of me that is still in communion with that something more, the divine. This is an internal prayer, a prayer that originates inside of me and travels deeper down to an internal recipient. This is meditation (perhaps).
So essentially, prayer is a form of communication, like a phone call or an email. In everyday life these types of communications are sent, received and responded to. Some are sent and received but not responded to. Some are sent but never actually received. This seems like a more reasonable way to look at prayer than the “God always responds to prayer” mentality. It accepts the possibility that the communication could not have been received or received and ignored (for whatever reason). But there is something unsatisfying about looking at prayer in that way. It’s too mechanical. It reduces prayer to the level of logic and materialism.
I want prayer to be more than this. I want it to breach the chasm between the everyday world and the divine. It seems to me the divine is so wholly other that it cannot be reduced to merely another recipient (like me but more powerful) who may either choose to respond or ignore my prayer. The divine is beyond my comprehension.
Why do I want to communicate with the divine? My motivation is more than simply asking the divine to intervene in my material existence. It has to do with communing, being in relation with, being near. Because as beautiful and interesting as it is, ultimately there is something unsatisfying about the material world. There is an inner longing for that something else, that long-lost realm I used to call home.
This inner longing does not prove the existence of the divine but perhaps it can be seen as evidence thereof. It is enough for me to base my faith upon this. It gives me enough reason to pray, to reach out to that hidden, mysterious, long lost home.