Thursday, June 14, 2007

Last night's meditation class was wonderful. I suppose I didn't know what to expect since I once went to a "class" that was really a bunch of experienced people sitting around meditating before passing out Oreos and green tea. I was assured by the woman who took my reservation, however, that it did not matter that I had never learned meditation before. It was a class for beginners.

Out of the ten people who participated, I was the first to arrive, 15 minutes early. An older Englishman, tall and thin, with white hair and glasses, scribbling on a clipboard, greeted me and asked me to take off my shoes and leave them on the shelf by the door. It was a nice feeling to be barefoot in there for two hours, actually. We talked as he asked me about myself and why I want to meditate, etc. and then people started arriving. At 7:30 p.m. we began. We went into another room with hardwood floors and pillows arranged in a circle. There were images of Krishna on the wall, and one of Jesus.

For the first hour or so we just talked. He explained the concept of individuality and spirit to us. He said that we are all "in illusion" because we identify with our bodies. If asked to describe ourselves, we say things like, "I'm a woman. I'm American. I'm tall." When in reality, *we* are none of these things. Bodies are matter and matter is dead; the only thing that animates the body is the spirit inside, or the "atma." That is the difference between a dead body and a live one. We wear these bodies like we wear a t-shirt; the t-shirt clothes us, but it is not us.

He then said that we can never be happy while in illusion because matter doesn't satisfy spirit. He said that "atma" is always blissful, you cannot separate the two just as you cannot separate water from wetness. It is a characteristic of spirit to be happy. We just look for happiness in the wrong place. He likened us to fishes in the ocean, in our spiritual element. If you take the fish out of the water and put it on the beach, on the hot sand, can it ever be happy? No. We need to get back into the ocean, and mantra gets us there. Sound vibrations. Connecting to the spiritual side within.

The first type of mantra meditation we did consisted of taking a deep inhale, and then upon exhaling, repeating four syllables. We repeated the word "Gauranga," which means "golden effulgence," which is the radiant glow that appears around light sources (God). We dragged it out, saying "Gaur ... Ra ... Ang ... Ga." At first, it was hard for me to drag out without running out of breath, but it became easier as I took in as much air as I possibly could. We did that for fifteen minutes and there was a really cool hum in the room from everyone doing it over each other's voices.

The next type that we did was a whole phrase. No breathing was involved; we were just supposed to say it over and over. He gave us each a string of brown wooden beads to count how many times we said it. It reminded me of a rosary, naturally, and I thought it was interesting how two religions that are so different can have the same method of repetition in prayer and praying on beads. We spent another 15 minutes saying, "Gopala Govinda Rama Madana Mohana." This was easier without worrying about breathing but you know how you trip up over tongue twisters? Every so often I muddled it.

The last thing we did was with a guitar, which was meant for a group. (The others aren't really.) He played and we chanted, "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare." He smiled and said, "If you're over fifty, you already know this song," and I recognized the words immediately from George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord," even though I'm not over fifty. But he played it in a different tune from that song. Boyfriend said that Hare means something like, "Oh great ____" so I guess we were worshipping Krishna and Rama. I wanted to know why we couldn't worship goddesses too, but you know how it goes.

After grabbing an organic, whole wheat, sugar-free cookie - MMM - I put my shoes back on and found Boyfriend waiting outside. He had come to walk me home.

I can't wait for next week! And to start my meditation practice at home, every day.


fp said...

Jesus would not hold hands with a false god. Stick with the Gospels.

"I mentioned in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte that the West is now experiencing a renewed demand for meditation, which at times leads to a keen interest in aspects of other religions.(35) Some Christians, limited in their knowledge of the Christian contemplative tradition, are attracted by those forms of prayer. While the latter contain many elements which are positive and at times compatible with Christian experience, they are often based on ultimately unacceptable premises. Much in vogue among these approaches are methods aimed at attaining a high level of spiritual concentration by using techniques of a psychophysical, repetitive and symbolic nature. The Rosary is situated within this broad gamut of religious phenomena, but it is distinguished by characteristics of its own which correspond to specifically Christian requirements.

In effect, the Rosary is simply a method of contemplation. As a method, it serves as a means to an end and cannot become an end in itself. All the same, as the fruit of centuries of experience, this method should not be undervalued. In its favour one could cite the experience of countless Saints."

sojourness said...

I don't see the difference between chanting in Sanskrit and chanting "Hail Mary"s and "Our Father"s over and over, except for maybe a Western sense of superiority.

If everything I am looking for is in the church, I wouldn't still be looking.

Hugs my friend.

fp said...

there's a difference between praying to God and not praying to God

praying the Rosary is not just chanting, but rather contemplation. the words are then not empty ones, for without contemplation the Rosary would be like a body without a soul. when we contemplate the mysteries of the Rosary, that is, the events of Our Lord's life through the eyes of Mary who remembered all these things in her heart, we then have a compendium of the entire Gospel.

therefore, "It nourishes the Catholic faith which readily takes on new life from a timely commentary on the sacred mysteries, and it turns minds toward the truths that have been taught us by God." ---Pope Paul VI, CHRISTI MATRI

The Rosary can lead us closer to Christ. And if you want to say those prayers in latin, greek, or hindu the language of the tongue matters not as God listens to the language of the heart. Today was the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The readings at Mass today remind us of the great love God has for all of us. That God, who is perfect, became Man to do die for us, to save us from sin, so that we may be with Him in Heaven. There's nothing better than that. Peoples of both the East and West accept Jesus.

hope to see you guys soon.

fp said...