Awakened Living Study Program, Lesson 6: MEDITATION
Dear brothers and sisters: Good morning and thank you for attending our weekly Awakened Living Study Program. My name is Alaye Soteme and I will be your host. Our topic for today’s Study is MEDITATION. May we focus our full attention on this study for the lessons of life because knowledge is POWER, knowledge is SUCCESS, knowledge is FORGIVENESS, knowledge is WISDOM, knowledge is ENLIGHTENMENT and knowledge is AWAKENED LIVING.
All quotes relating to GOD are interpreted in a Universal sense; in other words our use of the word GOD does not refer to any religion, cultural Gods, saviors, or created Gods. GOD is the underlying ESSENCE of the Universe. GOD has no chosen people, GOD has no Sacred Text and GOD has no Sacred Place! The Universe is the Sacred Text, the Universe is the Sacred Place and all creatures are Testaments of GOD!
Further you are here to look at life from a different angle. You are not here to follow what others have put in place be it their religion, their Gods, their sacred texts, their beliefs or their way of thinking. You are here to share your LIGHT with the world. The beliefs of our ancestors are our liabilities. Our challenge is to look at life in ways that promote interdependence and destroy all forms of discrimination including racism, tribalism, nationalism, nepotism, fundamentalism, fanaticism, favoritism, exclusivism, chosen people and racial superiority.
Lastly, none of the quotes here is absolute or written in blood. They are all human thoughts and ideas based on their experiences and according to their levels of consciousness. The Awakened Living Study Program is a platform to study what others have said and improve on them. Do not for any reason use the quotes as mantra for life because you are the LIGHT!
You may offer an appropriate prayer before reading, discussing and reflecting on the famous quotes and the Sacred Texts verses. You may use the following prayer:
O LOVE who pervades the universe, we thank you for this opportunity to learn. We pray for LOVE to manifest amongst us to guide our readings, discussions and reflections. We specially pray for peace of mind and save us from all distractions and concerns of mind and body so that we may learn the lessons of life for our guidance and the transformation of our lives. In the name of Love, the Earth and the Universe, Amen.
The Study Leader may make announcements at this time. Welcome new members, recognize birthdays or anniversaries; make an award or recognize a contribution; announce Circle of Life successes. This is also an opportunity for anyone to share an experience, give thanks or make a request for special prayers.
The leader or an appointed person will stand and read the opening thoughts. The opening thoughts explain the topic of discussion. You may use the information below or explain it in your own words.
Meditation is not something we usually talk about because it is better done than said but whether we know it or not everyone partakes in an aspect of meditation. Many meditate on their material possessions, some meditate on their addictions, others meditate on how they could take advantage of living things, some meditate on the wrongs done to them and how they could get even, and still others dwell on hatred and animosity. On the other hand some people meditate on their dreams, others meditate on peace on Earth, some meditate on love for all things and others meditate on safety on the highway and in the air. Growing up in the plantation in Ogbokuma, Nigeria I remember my grandmother praying for airplanes as they flew over our thatch house. She didn’t know any of the people in the plane but that did not stop her from praying for them. There are many people like that in the world that care for the good of all living things. In effect they constitute the balancing effect for all the negativity that goes on in the world. All the same both negative and positive thought processes are all forms of meditation because the people who engage in them become so absorbed in their thoughts that they become one with the object of meditation. Achieving one-pointed meditation is the height of creativity and we become what we think about most of the time. If what we think about most of the time is love, compassion, understanding, caring for others, getting along with our relatives or realizing our dreams of helping the poor, saving the children, healing the sick or feeding the hungry meditation could foster creativity and enrich our lives. But if what we think about most of the time is hatred, revenge, envy, our addictions and our material possessions we have a problem and we need to talk about meditation in order to bring about the things that bring peace to our lives rather than worries and sickness.
Take turns to read the famous quotes and discuss what you have learned from each quote. Please give credit to the author of the quote and as an assignment for presentations each person may choose an author and find out more about the author to share with the group during the next session.
1 Practice meditation regularly. Meditation leads to eternal bliss. Therefore meditate, meditate. Swami Sivananda
2 Through meditation and by giving full attention to one thing at a time, we can learn to direct attention where we choose. Eknath Easwaran
3 Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end. ~Jiddhu Krishnamurti
4 Spiritual meditation is the pathway to Divinity. It is a mystic ladder which reaches from earth to heaven, from error to Truth, from pain to peace. ~James Allen
5 Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul. ~Marcus Aurelius
6 In meditation, you are calm and receptive. You are like an open door providing a kind of cross ventilation so that the air of divinity can move through you. ~Gurudev Shree Chitrabhanu
7 Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity. ~Sivananda Saraswati
8 One hour of contemplation surpasses sixty years of worship. ~Muhammad
9 Meditation is the most significant because it opens the door for all other significant things: love, prayer, God, light, music, poetry. ~Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
10 You cannot see clearly, because you are so full of expectations, hopes, desires. Your eyes are covered with many layers of dust: you need a deep cleansing of your eyes. That's what meditation is. Let the thoughts disappear, the hopes disappear, the desires disappear. Then you have a clarity, then your eyes are perfect mirrors. Only then, in that silent state of your vision, will you know the secrets of the beyond. ~Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
Take turns to read all the sacred text quotes and discuss what you have learned from each quote. In your discussion compare and contrast the quotes. What did you learn from the similarities and differences? What quote inspires you? What life lessons did you learn from the quote? Please give credit to the sacred text during your reading by mentioning the name of the text and where the quote could be found.
1 Health, a light body, freedom from cravings, a glowing skin, sonorous voice, fragrance of body: these signs indicate progress in the practice of meditation." Shvetashvatara Upanishad 2:13
2 Still your mind in me, still yourself in me, and without a doubt you shall be united with me, Lord of Love, dwelling in your heart. Hinduism Bhagavad Gita 12:8
3 Those who eat too much or eat too little, who sleep too much or sleep too little, will not succeed in meditation. But those who are temperate in eating and sleeping, work and recreation, will come to the end of sorrow through meditation. Hinduism Bhagavad Gita 6:16-17
4 Spiritual Yoga leads to light: Lack of Yoga to darkness. Considering the two paths, let the wise man walk on the path that leads to light. Buddhism Dhammapada 282
5 Within the lotus of the heart he dwells, where the nerves meet like the spokes of a wheel at its hub. Meditate on him as OM. Easily may you cross the sea of darkness. Hinduism Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.6
6 The Master said, "Hui is capable of occupying his whole mind for three months on end with no thought but that of Goodness. The others can do so, some for a day, some even for a month, but that is all." Confucianism. Analects 6.5
7 Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be silent. Judaism: Tanakh, Psalm 4.4
8 This book of the Torah shall not leave your mouth; you shall meditate therein day and night, in order that you observe to do all that is written in it, for then will you succeed in all your ways and then will you prosper. Judaism: Tanakh, Joshua 1:8
9 On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Judaism: Tanakh, Psalm 63:6
10 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Christianity: New Testament, Philippians 4:8
11 The wise man should surrender his words to his mind; and this he should surrender to the Knowing Self; and the Knowing Self he should surrender to the Great Self; and that he should surrender to the Peaceful Self. Hinduism. Katha Upanishad 3.13
The teaching story is a story, a parable or thoughts related to the topic of discussion. An appointed person will read each story and the group will take turns and discuss. What does the story mean to you? What did you learn from the story? Did the story add anything new to the topic of discussion? How has this study enriched your life?
Our first Teaching story is the Meditation Guide from the Bhagavad Gita: Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 6.10-27
Those who aspire to the state of self-discipline should seek the Self in inner solitude through meditation, controlling body and mind, free from expectations and attachment to material possessions. Select a clean spot, neither too high nor too low, and seat yourself firmly on a cloth, a deerskin, and kusha grass. Then, once seated, strive to still your thoughts. Make your mind one-pointed in meditation, and your heart will be purified. Hold your body, head, and neck firmly in a straight line, and keep your eyes from wandering. With all fears dissolved in the peace of the Self and all desires dedicated to God, controlling the mind and fixing it on Me, sit in meditation with Me as your only goal. With senses and mind constantly controlled through meditation, united with the Self within, an aspirant attains Nirvana, the state of abiding joy and peace in Me.
Arjuna, those who eat too much or eat too little, who sleep too much or sleep too little, will not succeed in meditation. But those who are temperate in eating and sleeping, work and recreation, will come to the end of sorrow through meditation. Through constant effort they learn to withdraw the mind from selfish cravings and absorb it in the Self. Thus they attain the state of union. When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a lamp in a windless place. In the still mind, in the depths of meditation, the eternal Self reveals itself. Beholding the Self by means of the Self, an aspirant knows the joy and peace of complete fulfilment. Having attained that abiding joy beyond the senses, revealed in the stilled mind, he never swerves from the central truth. He desires nothing else, and cannot be shaken by the heaviest burden of sorrow. The practice of meditation frees one from all affliction. This is the path of yoga. Follow it with determination and sustained enthusiasm. Renouncing wholeheartedly all selfish desires and expectations, use your will to control the senses. Little by little, through patience and repeated effort, the mind will become stilled in the Self. Wherever the mind wanders, restless and diffuse in its search for satisfaction without, lead it within; train it to rest in the Self. Abiding joy comes to those who still the mind. Freeing themselves from the taint of self-will, with their consciousness unified, they become one with God.
Our second Teaching Story is Meditation Guide from the Upanishads: Hinduism Svetasvatara Upanishad 2.8-15
Holding the body steady, with the three upper parts erect,
And causing the senses with the mind to enter into the heart,
A wise man with the Brahma-boat should cross over
All the fear-bringing streams.
Having repressed his breathings here in the body, and having his movements checked,
One should breathe through his nostrils with diminished breath.
Like that chariot yoked with vicious horses,
His mind the wise man should restrain undistractedly.
In a clean, level spot, free from pebbles, fire, and gravel,
By the sound of water and other propinquities
Favorable to thought, not offensive to the eye,
In a hidden retreat protected from the wind, one should practice yoga.
Fog, smoke, sun, fire, wind,
Fireflies, lightning, a crystal, a moon--
These are the preliminary appearances,
Which produce the manifestation of Brahman in yoga.
When the fivefold quality of yoga has been produced,
Arising from earth, water, fire, air, and space,
No sickness, old age, no death has he
Who has obtained a body made out of the fire of yoga.
Lightness, healthiness, steadiness,
Clearness of countenance and pleasantness of voice,
Sweetness of odor, and scanty excretions--
These, they say, are the first stage in the progress of yoga.
Even as a mirror stained by dust
Shines brilliantly when it has been cleansed,
So the embodied one, on seeing the nature of the Soul,
Becomes unitary, his end attained, from sorrow freed.
When with the nature of the self, as with a lamp,
A practitioner of yoga beholds here the nature of Brahman,
Unborn, steadfast, from every nature free--
By knowing God, one is released from all fetters!
Who Should Meditate and How and When and Where?
Some of the questions have been addressed in the meditation practices discussed in the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. As I said earlier everyone meditates when we get absorbed in our thought processes to the extent that we become one with the object of meditation. The challenge though is to focus on worthwhile thoughts and that requires practice. Meditation is a spiritual disciple and it is meant for all to practice. Practicing meditation requires preparation. You need a place for meditation, a secluded quiet place that you could be alone for some time. You may meditate at a corner of your living room, or bedroom, at a corner in your work place, outside by a river or in a wooded area. You may decorate your chosen place of meditation according to your taste.
Next is the time for meditation. Certain times are good for meditation; good in the sense that one is more likely to have positive results at those times as compared to other times. But in fact it all depends on the state of mind of the individual. Thus one could meditate at any time provided one is physically ready and mentally present during the meditation.
If you want to use sound in your meditation it is a good practice. Sound is an important part of meditation in the sense that it calms us down, elevates our consciousness and attunes our minds to the inner reaches of our being or the soul if you like. The proper sound takes us out of this world into a mythological place of joy, love, health and peace. In other words sound has the tendency to take us within. While there we could heal our selves and experience peace. Meditation sounds are many and it is up to you to choose the ones that compliment your being.
If mediation sound is not your thing you could replace it with meditation music. The type of meditation music to use in your practice will depend on your preference but it is important to choose the ones that touch your soul as opposed to your body. Music that touches your soul induces a meditative mood within you but the ones that touch your body makes you want to dance.
Next is the position for meditation. The position you assume during meditation is an important one. Your goal for a meditation position is comfort. You want to be comfortable in the position you assume and without any kind of irritation irrespective of the duration of your meditation. You can use any meditation position as long as it is comfortable for you but not too comfortable as to fall asleep.
Next is the duration of meditation. It is not important to have a time limit for your meditation but as a beginner it is advisable to meditate for a comfortable time period like 5 minutes and gradually increase it to as long as your comfort demands.
Next for the student of meditation food and exercise are worthy of consideration. According to Adelle Davis we should: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper”.
And Samuel Johnson reminds us that: “He who does not mind his belly will hardly mind anything else”. For our physical fitness we can learn from Jon Wickham: “Physical activity is an excellent stress-buster and provides other health benefits as well. It also can improve your mood and self-image”.
Finally, your goal for meditation is also important. I have reserved goal setting to this point in order to emphasize the point that you need a goal even in your meditation practices and more so if you want your meditation to be enjoyable. Determine what you want to get out of it, write your goal on a cardboard and place it where you can see it. Do you want peace of mind, do you want to quit a bad habit, do you want to lower your blood pressure, do you want purity of thought or do you want to develop your self-confidence? You know what you want from your meditation but whatever it is the goal should be such that it motivates you to action and guides you in the direction you want to go. Finally it is also important that you DECIDE to complete the whole program the moment you begin. In other words do not give up at all!
The most notable forms of meditation are concentration meditation and mindful meditation. In concentration meditation the student focuses her mind on an object like a flower, a candle flame, an apple or the breath. The practice is to train the mind to stay focused on the object. Do not give up when the mind strays to other thoughts. Just go back to the object again and again until you master the process. This may not happen in a week, a month or even in a year but each practice is a step in the right direction.
Mindful meditation on the other hand is a meditation practice that pays attention to the present moment and notes the sensations within and on the body without any form of judgment. When you concentrate on your breath for example you are aware of the sensations that accompany your concentration. You are aware of the tensions and relaxations in your body, you are aware of the movement of the heart, you are aware that you are breathing and you are aware of the things that are happening in your body because of your breathing. However the mind may wonder off to other things but in all cases bring it back to the breath.
You may begin your meditation with concentration meditation and later move into mindful meditation but my approach is to begin with what is familiar; what you know and what you do. Have you ever thought about reflecting on your day at the end of the day as a meditation practice? How about visualizing the activities of the next day as a meditation practice? Beginning with what you know and moving to the unknown is characterized as a process of gradual awakening as opposed to sudden awakening but the benefits are tremendous. I am of the school of gradual awakening and I strongly encourage you to follow the path of gradual awakening.
The benefits of meditation are so many that some have even divided them into physical, emotional, mental and spiritual benefits. Who could believe that a practice that was once guarded and reserved for initiates is actually good for all of us irrespective of our goals? We owe a lot to the scientific investigation of meditation for this breakthrough. First on a physical level some of us have had several jobs and some still do just to make ends meet and in the process we become so tired and unfulfilled that our life seems to slip away. Meditation could help us to relax by releasing the tensions within our body and making it possible for us to think better and make the choices that could change our lives.
On an emotional level, most of us react to our environment. This is probably an evolutionary trait to help us deal with the threats in our environment. But there are no wild animals chasing us now; we have evolved to a level that it is the wild animals that are afraid of us but we still have our traits of “fight or flight” irrespective of the circumstances. Meditation keeps us calm when confronted with life threatening situations. In this way we are able to assess the situation and provide an appropriate response or intervention. Our thinking on an evolutionary level could be overwhelming because it is everywhere without discrimination. Non-discriminative thinking may be good if we are focused on growth oriented thoughts but it could also be harmful if our mind is absorbed on the negative side of life. Meditation comes to our rescue and helps us to think about the things that are good for us. When we think about what is good for us and what is good for our neighbors most of the time we become fulfilled.
Finally the spiritual benefits are what most people consider when they think about meditation and in our ignorance we think that we are going to be enlightened without even knowing what that means. The Buddha did not become enlightened overnight. His history is there for all to read and learn. Thus when I talk about the spiritual benefits of meditation I think about developing compassion for all creatures, loving unconditionally, giving to whoever asks, and achieving unity consciousness. I believe these are the qualities that lead to enlightenment.
The closing meditation presents the highlights of the Study. The highlights should include among others what you have learned and what aspects of the study are worth noting. The leader or an appointed person may share the closing meditation. You may use the thoughts and information provided below but I encourage you to use the contributions of the participants and current relevant information.
With the benefits of meditation in mind I encourage you to use your meaningful experiences of the past when your mind dwells on negative and unfulfilling thoughts. Most negative thoughts catch us off guard and before we know it we are seriously dwelling on the thought to the extent that it literally consumes us. The first positive step in dealing with a negative thought is to follow it to its cause. Is the negative thought a resentment, is it anger, or is it a loss? Who is the person at the other end of the thought? What happened? If the thought is a recurring one it is important that you address it immediately and stop it on its track. If the thought is just a distraction and has no internal value you may replace it with a positive past experience as soon as you realize it. In order to make meditation enjoyable for the beginner it is important that you first determine what you intend to get out of it. In other words set a goal for your meditation program. It could be peace of mind, quitting a bad habit, purity of thought or developing your self-confidence. The goal should be such that it motivates you to action at all times. Second and most important is for you to decide to complete the program the moment you begin. Life is a meditation and we become what we think about most of the time. Learn a new way of thinking and become what you really want to be. By the creative thoughts we hold we could change our lives and that is the secret of life!
You may accept gifts and donations at this time for the work you are doing. It takes effort, time and money to put the Study Program together so I encourage attendants to give. An appointed person may now pass the donation bag. The leader may bless the gifts after the donations.
Always close your Study Program with a prayer or an affirmation. Pray for guidance and direction during the week. Pray for everyone present. The leader or an appointed person may offer the closing prayer. You may use the sample prayer if needed.
A Buddhist Prayer
May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be freed from their illnesses. May those frightened cease to be afraid, and may those bound be free. May the powerless find power, and may people think of befriending one another. May those who find themselves in trackless, fearful wilderness--the children, the aged, the unprotected--be guarded by beneficent celestials, and may they swiftly attain Buddhahood. In the name of Love, the Earth and the Universe, Amen
You may serve refreshments after the Study. This is a time to relax and socialize. Get to know the people in the Program with you and I mean really know them well. One of the secrets of success is connection so I encourage you to know the people around you. The host may decide what to serve or he or she may ask the attendants what they want for refreshments before each Study Program.
You may now entertain the group with your talent in music, songs, dance and poetry including playing musical instruments. This is also a good time to share some Awakened living tips for the benefit of the group.
Circle of Life
The Circle of Life depicts different aspects of your life. You are at the center and the different aspects radiate outwards to form a circle as long as they are in harmony. You can pinpoint an aspect of your life at any given time and find out if you are in harmony with the rest of the circle. If an aspect needs improvement you may have an uneven circle. Your challenge then is to work on the area that needs improvement in order to keep it in harmony with the rest of the circle.
There are 12 aspects in this version of the Wheel of Life including Health, Spirituality, Family, Relationships, Education, Mission, Finances, Work, Play, Personal Development, Environment, and creativity. Take time to answer the following questions and begin to work on the areas that need improvement.
1. Are you healthy?
2. Do you have any bad habits like drinking, smoking, pornography, fast foods, etc?
1. Are you spiritual?
2. When was the last time you meditated, chanted, affirmed or prayed?
1. Do you have a family?
2. Are you happy with your spouse, children, and parents?
1. Do you have friends?
2. Are you happy with your friends, co-workers, boss?
1. Do you have a degree?
2. When was the last time you read a book?
1. Do you have a mission statement?
2. What is your life mission?
1 Are you financially stable?
2. Do you have any debts?
1. Do you have a job, career?
2. Are you happy with your job, career?
1. Do you play regularly?
2. When was the last time you played with your friends, children, spouse, parents or pet?
1. Do you lose your temper often?
2. When was the last time you took a class on human development?
1 Are you happy with your environment?
2. How are you reducing pollution?
1. Are you sharing your creativity?
2. When was the last time you wrote a poem, painted, sang, danced, or played a musical instrument?