Meditation—What? When? Where? How?—Part 2

By Mary-Alice and Richard Jafolla

Excerpted from The Quest

THE EXPERIENCE:

Have you noticed how curious and active monkeys are? Yet give them something to occupy them (like a large colored ball to hold) and their curiosity about other things immediately wanes.

That's the way the mind works, but it is infinitely more curious and more active than the most hyper-energized monkey. Our mental activity and curiosity are our most extraordinary assets in the pursuit of knowledge. But it is also our most frustrating liability in our pursuit of knowing God. Why? Because it's so difficult for us to keep our minds quiet enough to listen!

One way to do this is to take a lesson from the monkeys and their large colored ball. In your meditation, find something on which to dwell. That "something" could be internally listening to a sound or a word or paying close attention to your breath. Some people feel comfortable with dwelling on the phrase "I AM, " internally saying "I" as they inhale and "AM" as they exhale. The silent phrase is then repeated continuously throughout the meditation time.

One good way to begin a meditation is by concentrating on your breathing. Just focus on your breath and follow it as you gently inhale and exhale. When you feel you are ready to turn your attention inward, take three slow deep breaths, each one deeper than the previous. These three deep breaths will eventually act as a signal, a cue to prepare you for your meditation. (We will be referring to them as "signal breaths.") After exhaling the last deep breath, switch your attention to your special phrase or word and resolutely follow it. As distractions impose themselves on your mind, gently bring your attention back to this point of focus which will act like a colored ball for your mind to hold onto as you merge with the stillness within.

Disregard all passing thoughts. Become indifferent to them. Of course, your mind will introduce, and attempt to entertain, all sorts of thoughts and feelings. Do not fight them. Just allow these thoughts and feelings to pass through. Keep on gently bringing back your attention to the process. Always be aware of the experience you are going through.

Expect Nothing: Don't be at all concerned with how you are doing. The more you are concerned, the less you are in the stillness. Meditation is not the time for concern about the challenges in your life. There is plenty of time later for that.

If your attention wanders, bring it back to the process of meditation. Don't battle with your mind. Don't try to get rid of thoughts. Nonresistance is the key to success. Your tranquil awareness and focus are really all that are needed.

When you are finished with your meditation, return gently to full awareness. Allow yourself to savor the experience.

A SHORT RECAP

  1. Select a regular time for your meditation.
  2. Sit upright in a comfortable chair and with comfortable clothing.
  3. Begin by concentrating on your breathing. Then take your signal breaths. After the third breath, shift your attention to your special phrase, such as "I AM."
  4. Empty your mind of all thoughts except your special words. As thoughts enter your mind, merely observe them and allow them to pass through. Be nonresistant.
  5. When finished, take time to savor the experience.

DON'T BE DISCOURAGED

If you meditate for the first time and are harassed by thoughts, feelings, and especially memories, don't despair. In attempting to tame the mind to listen, you may have to go through some retraining in the beginning. But if you keep your attention on your "colored ball," you will soon see that the mind will quiet down and you will eventually experience that still, small voice within you.

  1. Take at least twenty minutes each day to spend some time in the stillness. You can do this by meditating or by any other process you may have discovered for yourself. (This time in the stillness is so important that this activity should be adopted as a lifetime habit.)
  2. One of the strengths of a Quest group is being able to select one person to lead the others in a meditation session. This person can slowly read the steps given above, allowing several minutes of silence. This time of silence can be increased as the group grows more familiar with the process.

Plan to set aside one full day this week (or as soon as possible) for silence. You will be doing what Jesus would sometimes invite His disciples to do after an intense period of ministering: "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while" (Mk. 6:31}, and they would depart for a quiet place. 

A day in silence will inspire, motivate, and regenerate you. So tum off the radio, television, stereo, and telephone. Relax. Spend as much time as you can in the stillness, being open to whatever thoughts and feelings wander in. Don't try to control them. But do try to keep them as much as possible on love, beauty, peace, joy, and all things positive.

This venture should be done alone. Or it can be done in the company of one or two other people who will share the space and silence with you. In the latter case, the rules must be set and agreed upon before starling. 

It's a good idea to keep a notebook handy so that you can record all of the insights  and feelings and ideas which you will receive.


The Quest In every human heart there exists the hope of connecting with "something more." Tucked away deep within us, a part of us has always sought—yearned for—that connection.

The Quest opens the way for that connection. It presents eternal truths in a contemporary and very personal way. Whether you are just beginning your own individual quest or desire a deeper spiritual understanding, this guidebook and the accompanying activity book, Adventures on the Quest, will lead you with warmth and practicality through the pilgrimage of your soul.