What is meditation?

For years in my teaching I have stressed the importance of having a daily spiritual practice. I have not, in the recent past, talked much about what meditation is and how to have a "daily practice." This section of the Ordinary Life website is going to be devoted to this subject.

In short, meditation is learning how to relate in a wakeful, conscious, compassionate way to the whole of our lives.

In order to do this, we need a time and place. I recommend having a designated spot in the place where you live to do this. 

Below is a picture of the "altar" where I do my daily sitting. It has on it various items from various religious traditions that I have picked up in my travels - prayer beads, statues, etc. Having a place to sit regularly gets one in the frame of mind to do the sitting and doesn't offer as many opportunities for distraction.

My "altar"

As time passes I'll add here various "prayers" and sayings that you might useful during your daily practice.

Some time ago I came up with this: "The central truth of and for spiritual practice is 'paying attention' and developing the resources to be present to 'what is.' Central to this spiritual practice is growing in the capacity to be non-judgmental."

So, here is a suggestion. Make a commitment to sit fifteen minutes a day and simply pay attention to your breathing. Count your breaths if that helps. Notice how quickly your mind can drift off to another place. Don't judge yourself for not being "good" at this. Just notice.

Several years ago James Finley challenged me to come up with a prayer that would contain my entire "theology." No more than a dozen words. Here is what I came up with and it is what I begin and end my sitting with -

Holy God, me safe within You.

Holy God, You alive within me.

Feel free to use it.

Carl Jung was asked shortly before his death, "Will we make it?" His answer was, "If enough of us do our personal work." Having a daily spiritual practice is part of that work.