UNHAPPY with life, and wanting something better, we may flounder
when it comes to the next step. We know things need to change, but
what to do? And, often, people say something like: "Would
meditation help?" My response is: "Depends what you mean."
In a society where the word "spiritual" has become largely
separated from religion - "He's a very spiritual sort of person,
he's not into possessions" - meditation is perceived as the go-to
activity when it comes to personal development. But what do we mean
by it? It is confusing because everyone uses the word differently -
like the word "sport", where one word describes very varied
My definition would be this: "Meditation is putting your mind to
work for your psychological and spiritual well-being." It is taking
your distracted mind for some simplifying exercise. And we can do
this over a nine-day retreat, or in 60 seconds, as we travel on the
train or wait for our doctor's appointment. Anywhere, in fact,
where we can focus for a moment, gather our scattered selves around
a simple truth, and find ourselves calmed, held, and directed. It
is all about slowing the blood flow in the posterior parietal lobe
and amygdala, apparently.
And placing yet more cards on the table, this is a topical
subject for me, as my book One Minute Meditation is just
published. I focus on the one-minute possibilities to put
meditation into the bloodstream of daily life. Let it no longer be
foreign currency to us, something Eastern, something monastic, with
its own language and experts, with their special techniques -
something we need to take classes in. The hope is that we make
meditation our own currency, something normal, understood and used
every day, almost without noticing.
There are other forms of meditation, of course; and, in this
sphere, the Church should be proud of its tradition of lectio
divina. Here is the slow listening to scripture, a practice
which treats the Word as sacrament: something to be heard, tasted,
and received in ever greater depth by the individual. Here is
scripture pondered and planted in your own soil, free from the
interpretations and agendas of others.
Our meditation may become something else. When meditation leaves
our mind, and fills our being, it has become contemplation, which
is different. Meditation is a boundaried thing, but the birthmark
of contemplation is a sense of space, and perhaps an object held
there. Julian of Norwich contemplatesa hazelnut in the spacious
palm of her hand, and concludes: "It lasts, and always will,
because God loves it."
One Minute Meditation (White Crow, £9.99 (CT
Bookshop £9); 978-1-9101-2103-0).