I came to a kind of spiritual practice way back when, from within the wave of human potential movement that reached Sweden in 1980ies. My first brand of “meditation” was no meditation at all, but a daily contemplation of a passage in the blue book of A Course in Miracles. From there onward came years and years of studying my inner life, singing with abandon, observing my breath, dancing into stillness, serving selflessly, and sitting at the feet of many spiritual teachers from both the east and the west. I practiced Dynamic with Osho, Bhakti with Amma, Advaita with Gangaji, Vipassana with Jack Kornfield… and many others in between. And then in 2003 I came to Sahaj Marg – today also called Heartfulness – and I found something I did not know I had been looking for: An unchallengeable connection with something bigger than “me”. Early on, I described it as if “I was being connected with” (rather than me being the one reaching for connection) and that my habitual loneliness dissipated with every mornings’ practice.
I really believe that all forms of meditation and spiritual practice – regardless of its underlying philosophy or religion – has potential to bring us perspective on how we experience ourselves, find a condition inside that is different from the regular motion of mind… And in stillness, our unity is to be found.
It’s not all the same thing, though, does not all have the same result. Most research that reach my social media feed today is on “mindfulness” or “vipassana” meditation of Buddhist varieties. And it seems that at least in western media, the word “meditation” has become synonymous with “mindfulness”.
But it’s all different: If you spend hours every day watching your breath, you will develop agile awareness of the present moment and a kind of sensitivity to nuances. If you instead spend such hours calling out names of the Divine – expressing yearning for merger – or in selfless work for others (think ‘Mother Theresa’), you develop more outward focused qualities, like generosity. And, if you spend your daily practice in contact with divine light in the heart, well what can I say? I see lots of warm friendliness and joy in our gatherings.
It is always problematic when we make assumptions about meaning of words, when the same word means rather different things to different people. As a thought experiment, we can equal the term “meditation” to the term “sport”: anyone who partakes in any kind of sport will think of “sport” from the perspective their own practice. Some will think “sport – aha, something like soccer”, others will go “sport – oh bicycling on country roads”, and so on. Admittedly, we’re more used to knowing about “different forms of sport” than “different forms of meditation”. And many forms of meditation will look the same from the outside: you cannot know if the sitting person is watching their breath or silently repeating a passage. But none the less, the word “meditation” has very diverse meaning to different meditators…
For some, prayer is a form of meditation. For others, doing the dishes or running a marathon. Or spinning cotton, like Gandhi did (and encouraged others to do, as an act of political significance). Not to mention partnered activities at various levels of intimacy. One of my teachers talks about “being in the zone” as a way to experience connection to the greater wholeness. Which can happen also in creative pursuit or at work, when we loose sense of time and space and ‘self’ as we get absorbed in the activity.
So it’s all different. And there is unity. Perhaps the greatest unity is about our shared impulse, our individual-yet-common pursuit of that quiet, that beingness, which has potential to connect us to the unity of life itself.