Each month, we will focus on different aspects of meditation in a positive and respectful way, while remembering not to take ourselves too seriously.
Recently, I asked friends who have no contact with meditation what they would want to know about its practice. Here are some of their questions:
Who are you and why are you writing about mediation?
I am a follower of Santana Dharma, the ancient religion of India. I am a bhakti yogi and devotee of Lord Narayana. Currently, I am a student at the Sanatana Dharma Satsang, studying in their Teacher of Mantra program. I am working to be a certified Mantra Teacher in the traditions of Ancient India and my mantra teacher, Thomas Ashley-Farrand, also known as Namadeva. Bhakti is devotion, celebration, and love.
I am also known around Atlanta and the Southeast for my love of the geek community and my advocacy on its behalf.
Meditation is one of the biggest blessings of my life. When I pray, I ask my ishtadeva, or personal understanding of divinity, for boons and favors. I offer thanks and praise. I release my heart in both its joy and its sorrows. I give my needs and my wants to the divine. When I meditate, I listen. I hear. I learn. In meditation, I am still, but never lost. I am alone, but always connected. In meditation I become a partner in awareness and mindfully embrace the divine.
So what is mediation?
There are those who meditate to find the quiet stillness in themselves. Others search for the voice of divinity. Each group would argue that the other has missed the point of meditation. Indeed, I would suggest they both are embracing identical truths. What are the key elements that make meditation actual meditation? Those who meditate agree that it is a calm stillness, arrived at through practice of techniques of mindfulness. Meditation is a state in which one practices both detachment and awareness by allowing the mind to be clear of thoughts and ego, and merely Be. Beyond these commonalities, there is a wonderful diversity of experience and definitions that narrow down the meditative state into individual experiences.
I intend to share many of these experiences and nuances with you each month.
What is the best way to learn to meditate?
There are many ways to pursue your meditation practice, and each of us will find our own, but many successful practices have common factors:
Find a meditation teacher or group for encouragement, technical advice, and accountability
Review meditation literature, audio programs, videos, and online resources to expand your understanding
Schedule daily sittings as a priority
Begin with short periods of meditation and expand the duration slowly over time
Take your practice seriously, but do not take yourself too seriously. Be patient with yourself as you learn new techniques for meditation and stay dedicated to your practice.
Where can I practice meditation in Atlanta?
Atlanta has the widest opportunities for meditation in the Southeast. You have your choice of meditating with either a handful of participants or a gathering that fills a church. Every meditation group is different; it will be up to you to make the appropriate choice for your needs based on your spiritual attunement, karmic disposition, and personal preferences. Take the time to research the meditation centers and visit more than one before deciding where to meditate. Places to consider include:
The Self-Realization Fellowship (http://www.srfatlanta.org/) practices meditation as taught by Paramahams Yogananda.
Mindfulness Center of Atlanta (http://mindfulnesscenteratlanta.com/) offers training in mindfulness mediation practices and mindfulness-based counseling.
Shambala Center of Atlanta (http://atlanta.shambhala.org/) offer free meditation instruction, talks and discussion to the public every week, as well as programs in meditation, Shambhala Buddhist teachings and other contemplative disciplines
Kadampa Meditation Center (http://meditationingeorgia.org/) provides study and meditation programs in modern Buddhism
How about other local resources? Online resources? Books? Tell me more!
Other local resources can be found at http://purusharthas.net/AtlantaMeditationResources/
A list of the core online resources for mediation can be found at http://purusharthas.net/OnlineMediationResources/
For an ever-growing bibliography: http://purusharthas.net/MeditationBibliography/
Come back, my friend, and meet me here next month. I will tell you more.
Dan Carroll is a follower of Santana Dharma, a bhakti yogi, and devotee of Lord Narayana. He is currently studying in the Teacher of Mantra program at the Sanatana Dharma Satsang. He is also known around Atlanta and the Southeast for his love of and advocacy for the geek community. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.