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Medical Meditation methods

  1. Nov 18, 2004 #1
    I have been practicing mediation for about 5 years now. I find that it relaxes my mind and helps me think better but I am interested in transcendental meditation. I find it impossible to clear my mind of all thought and I have yet to attain the blissful, spiritual feeling that is said to come with a quieted mind.

    I have read a book on meditation but have never been instructed on how to do it by an individual. How can I achieve the "no thought" experience of bliss which I have heard so much about? I know meditation is a purely subjective experience but is there some books I can read or some video or audio tapes? I do not have the time or resources to hang out with monks in the himalayas.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks, Robert :smile:
     
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  3. Nov 18, 2004 #2

    Kerrie

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    practice, practice, practice perhaps...we are so "programmed" to have noises and pictures running in our minds from all of the outside stimuli that we have a hard time weening ourselves from it...TV, radio, even social interaction is so much a part of us that we forget to "turn off"...
     
  4. Nov 19, 2004 #3

    Les Sleeth

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    It is good to hear of someone willing to invest 5 years in meditation, and who wants to discover how to take it deeper.

    I am someone who can say that I've practiced for 31 years (in December) each and everyday for at least an hour. This morning I practiced at dawn, and tomorrow morning I will practice at dawn.

    I have friends who say I am either super disciplined or super brainwashed. But neither is the case. I was fortunate enough to learn meditation techniques which kept teaching me. Since I became infatuated with the experience right off the bat, I stuck with it because I enjoyed the experience so much.

    In athletics they say it is good to practice. I play racquetball, and it is interesting to see someone reserve a court to do drills, and then watch them spend an hour actually practicing how to hit the ball incorrectly! I know and used to play with people who play several times per week, and who haven't budged an inch in years in terms of their skill level. Me, I got bored never getting better, so I took lessons and moved on. The moral of the story is, if you practice bad habits, then you will just make things worse, so it is important to learn how to practice in ways that lead to constant improvement.

    When you say you "find it impossible to clear my mind of all thought and I have yet to attain the blissful, spiritual feeling that is said to come with a quieted mind," and that you want to achieve the "no thought" experience, I believe I know exactly what the problem is. People who teach themselves to meditate, or who are taught by someone who thinks meditation is merely a calming of the mind, often believe something about how their own consciousness works which is inaccurate. This belief determines how they practice, and consequently why they get stuck.

    The inaccurate belief is that consciousness is primarily mind. By “mind” I mean, the collage of images, feelings, desires, aversions, beliefs, thoughts, attitudes, biases, etc. that dominate most people’s awake moments. When someone decides they’d like to quiet that, they rely on what they are most familiar with. And guess what that is. Yep, it’s the mind itself. How is an unremittingly moving mind going to quiet itself? It isn’t, which is why so many people give up on meditation. Whatever slight benefit they get from sitting quietly in a room and doing nothing (and that does have a calming effect), along with the fact that one’s practice never goes much deeper, eventually bores one and usually convinces one the benefits of meditation have been exaggerated.

    So what’s the solution? There is a huge secret in all this. In my opinion, if you find it, you will progress, and if you don’t then you will never get anywhere. The secret is, mind is not the primary aspect of consciousness. There is a bright, ever-so-subtly pulsating place inside at the foundation of consciousness, which is already perfectly still. Fortunately for us, there are inward-turning techniques that can help consciousness merge with that brilliant tranquility. When we join it, the power of it automatically stills the mind. That’s how inner peace is achieved in meditation practice, and not by trying to stop one’s mind with the mind.
     
  5. Nov 19, 2004 #4
    I smoke ganja and MEDIATE between my conscious and unconsciousness self. My unconscious self knows better cos it hasn't been programmed by me.

    Consequently I tend to rely more on my unconscious self which manifests itself as instinct and intuition rather than rely solely on my conscious self which is always trying to use reason and logic.

    I've never tried meditation so would be keen to hear how and what to do and the effects of it as opposed to my reality checks using ganja ???

    cheers
     
  6. Nov 19, 2004 #5

    Les Sleeth

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    I was introduced to ganja in Viet Nam, and used it every day for something like 8 years. I quit because it was an interference to, and an inferior experience of, what I could achieve with meditation. The first couple of years I used it, I thought it was "enlightening." Maybe it was in the beginning. But then I started feeling that it made me stupid, I couldn't remember anything, and my brilliant "intuitive" thoughts I'd had while stoned kept turning out to be crackpot nonesense when the drug wore off. So I quit, and have never messed with it again.
     
  7. Nov 19, 2004 #6
    I don't use it that much cos I can't control the paranoia and anxiety while on it but knowing that it wears off is why i keep going back. As a reality check to problems/solutions and thoughts i want an objective perspective on, it does the trick.

    So Les what do you think of when you meditate ???
     
  8. Nov 19, 2004 #7

    Les Sleeth

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    I think for the first time I am speechless (almost). I appreciate your candor, but look at your statements:

    1. I can't control the paranoia and anxiety

    2. As a reality check to problems/solutions and thoughts i want an objective perspective on, it does the trick.

    How can something that makes you paranoid and anxious be a reality check or give you an objective perspective? I am not trying to convince you not to smoke pot, because that's your decision to make. But I would challenge you to think more carefully about what you accept as real while you are stoned. The grand and mystical ideas that weed can bring on are not, in my experience anyway, anything one should take seriously. If you are going to use pot, treat it as fantasy and playtime; but when you are going to make decisions or seriously contemplate reality, do that only when straight.


    The meditation I am talking about is feeling something that's behind everything that you are normally doing with your mind, and not thinking something.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2004
  9. Nov 20, 2004 #8
    Les

    I agree with what you say about the consciousness and mind. However I must admit I've found marijuana very helpful. In the end its a crutch that's best abandoned, but I don't think it does any harm if used right, and can help.

    As for achieving a profound states of consciousness it's a question best answered by a good teacher. I'd suggest joining a Buddhist group. However not everyone is a 'joiner' so maybe working through some books would be a good idea. I found 'The Power of Now' very good, even though it's a bestseller.

    The trouble with trying to achieve things while meditating is, as Les suggests, that 'trying' is something your mind does. It seems best not to try to achieve anything. It's when you stop trying to make progress that things start to happen. If you are trying then 'you' are still you. But 'you' is exactly what needs to be abandoned.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2004
  10. Nov 20, 2004 #9

    Les Sleeth

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    No, I am not a Christian, nor do I belong to any other religion. All I do is meditate which, as I said, I've faithfully practiced for over 30 years (I was taught by someone from India way back then). However, I have studied Jesus and Christian mysticism extensively (including taking a degree in World Religions), and I believe Jesus taught the kind of meditation I practice (samadhi) to his closest followers.

    Since you mentioned Thomas, certain things he reports suggests a special teaching, as when Jesus says, “I reveal my secrets to those deserving of them. . . . . I shall choose one from a thousand and two from ten thousand . . . . if you do not know yourselves, you are in poverty and you are poverty . . . . That which is hidden will be revealed. . . . there is Light in a man of Light who gives Light to the world.” There is a LOT more evidence that that, too much to even outline here. There is an interesting book by Jacob Needleman called "Lost Christianity" that covers some of this.

    Anyway, I believe the secret practice Jesus taught, later known as union prayer, was kept alive in monasteries at least until the 18th century. I have found repeated references to it (I've written a book I hope to publish about the subject one day).

    An example of a reference to the methods of union prayer is seen in the questioning by a doubting aspirant who asks the following question of Gregory Palamas, the then archbishop of Thessalonica in the fourteenth century: “Some say that we do wrong to try and confine the mind within the body . . . and write against them for advising beginners to look into themselves and, through breathing, to lead their minds within, for . . . if mind is not separate from soul, but is joined with it, how can it be reintroduced within? I beg you my father, teach me how and why we take special care to try and lead the mind within and do not think it wrong to confine it in the body.” To this Gregory answered, “For those who keep attention in themselves in silence it is not unprofitable to try to hold their mind within the body. Brother! Do you not hear the Apostle [Paul] saying that ‘your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you’ [I Cor. 6:19], and again, that ‘ye are the temple of God’ [I Cor. 6:16], as God also says, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God.’ [II Cor. 3:16]? Who then, possessing a mind, will deem it unseemly to introduce his mind into that which has been granted the honour of being the dwelling of God? How is it that God himself in the beginning put the mind into the body? Has He too done wrong?”

    Personally I think the practice of union/samadhi is different than all other meditation. There is only one way to do it that I can see, which is to allow oneself to be absorbed by an inner light and vibration one finds within after being led there, as the aspirant says, "through breathing [that leads the mind] within."
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2004
  11. Nov 20, 2004 #10
    Les

    Sorry for that mistake. I must have misrembered. Sorry also for deleting half my post after you replied to it. When I read it again I didn't like what I said.

    That's some amazing stuff you've posted. I haven't got time now to read it properly but I will do later.
     
  12. Nov 20, 2004 #11
    I appreciate your replies and they are insightful. Kerrie suggest practice pracrice pratice.
    I must admit that my meditation in the past 5 years has been spotty. I do not do it daily and once again I got to admit I need to pratice and study it more because I have not given mediation a fair chance. This is why I consulted the philosophy forum, because I want to change my meditation habits and devote more energy and time to it. I find contemplation to be rewarding but I now want to progress to an experience that is not thought orientated.

    As a man who grew up during the 70s, I am no stanger to marijuana. Though I have smoked it fairly recently and have had a change of conscious state that has brought about a few ideas and experiences that were enlightening, pot is not for me and is not the experience I am seeking. For that matter, if I were to choose a substance "crutch", I would prefer DMT over marijuana which is available in smoking form on the internet. DMT is not the expereice I wish to seek either.

    I have taken out a few books out of the library on meditation and I am going to adjust my methods accordingly.
    Thanks Robert
     
  13. Nov 20, 2004 #12

    Les Sleeth

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    No problem, I don't mind being called a Christian. If I lived in the time of Jesus when he could've taught me personally, I would have petitioned to be a student.

    I meant to welcome you back after your long hiatus! :smile:
     
  14. Nov 20, 2004 #13
    The grand and mystical ideas I already had/have before getting irie and the weed helps me rationalise them by making me think outside of myself hence the objectivity.

    The paranoia and anxiety are negative side effects but only short term so I can deal with that. It forces me to face my fears, question myself, deal with them then move on stronger for it once the effects wear off hence a reality check.

    In my experience it can be a crutch but in moderation it does much good. Do a google for "kaneh bosm" and see how others have taken ganja seriously.

    cheers
     
  15. Nov 20, 2004 #14

    Les Sleeth

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    Sure, go for it. I am quite familiar with all the reasons why people say pot is good. I've been around a great many potheads; I was part of this country's discovery of it. Personally I think users are deluded by the drug. In my life, I've never heard ONE SINGLE INTELLIGENT IDEA by anyone stoned. Only to the pothead (and fellow potheads) is it "profound." Every time they try to implement their supposed brilliance it shows itself to be the disassociated fluff it really is.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2004
  16. Nov 21, 2004 #15
    ...keep breathing Les and if all else fails hum
     
  17. Nov 21, 2004 #16
    The method that I originally used and that worked very well for me was simply distracting the mind by being aware of something such as the air coming in and going out as we breath, a candle flame, our hand whatever. We do not concentrate or focus on it but simply keep our attention on it. Our thoughts will stray and we will become carried away by our thoughts, get hung up on them. As we notice this we simply let those thought go. We notice where they come from and where they go then return our attention to whatever we were using. The is a very basic beginning to learning discipline, to learning how to control or quieten our minds without effort, without trying to.
    It has been said that praying is speaking to God, meditation is listening to God.
    Religious or not meditation is learning to be quiet and listening and letting it take you where it will, not you controlling or forcing yourself to go or do what you want.
    It is like listening, actually listening to a story without trying to think of what is coming next or what you would do or say, nothing but listening without doing or trying, accepting what is and what will be.
     
  18. Nov 22, 2004 #17
    Yeah I know what you mean. All I can say is that my experience has been different. But then I started very late, having somehow got throught the seventies unstoned.

    In your post with the quotes from Thomas and all I couldn't quite pick apart the different sources, and am slightly muddled as to who said what to whom. Can you list them so I can follow them up? It sounds like you've got a good list of references I ought to check out.

    I agree with you about Jesus but know nothing of the 'union prayer'. One suggestion I've heard made by scholars is that he grew up in close contact with the Essenes and through them with Buddhists (Buddhism had travelled to his part of the world some time before his birth). This seems consistent with the ease with which Thomism took root in southern India later on. (N.B. I'm not suggesting his teachings were derivative). Have you also read the Gospel of Mary?

    I don't quite agree with you about a 'secret' teaching, but of course I'm guessing. Still, I'd say on the evidence he taught whoever was capable of understanding. But it does seem possible that among his followers Mary, who some say was his favourite disciple, and possibly Thomas, were the only two who grasped the message properly. After that the church seems to have deliberately excised all reference to his more 'non-dual' teachings, discouraged 'mysticism' in general, outlawed the Essenes (some sects of which were founded on the teachings of Mary) and demoted Mary to a bit player, a prostitute with nothing to say. What do you think?

    Thanks for the welcome back.

    Rad - What's this smokable DMT you mention?
     
  19. Nov 22, 2004 #18
    The songs of Bob Marley and his brilliance in implementing them could hardly be called dissociated fluff.
     
  20. Nov 22, 2004 #19

    Les Sleeth

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    Did Jesus offer a Secret Teaching?

    They are all taken from the Gospel of Thomas, and they are all the words of Jesus.

    It isn't easy to research this. The idea of a secret teaching didn't originate with me; it has been debated in scholarly circles for decades. I don't know how interested you are in this subject, but I edited an account of it from something I've written. It takes two posts to fit it here. Good reading! :smile:


    A Secret Teaching?

    The possibility of Jesus offering a secret teaching has been the subject of debate and research among religious scholars and the religiously well-informed. One reason there has been debate may be because no one has been able to suggest a secret teaching worthy of Jesus’ energy—one that would really have made a difference in someone’s life. When the possibility of a secret teaching has been acknowledged, it’s usually proposed the teaching may have been some sort of “outer” event, something purely ceremonial, symbolic, or ritualistic. I will suggest that it was an inner event.

    Prior to the influence of Jesus in Judea the practice of turning one’s attention inward to attempt conscious oneness was virtually unknown. Yet after Jesus, the practice blossomed as it was advanced and advocated by a particular class of Christians. For these mystics, as they later came to be known, the premier practice was a type of inner prayer devoted to “union.” If it wasn’t Jesus who initiated and taught union prayer, then how do we account for the facts that the practice is unknown in Judea before Jesus (or at least unreported), that after Jesus many are practicing, that those practicing claim to be followers of Christ, and that there is significant evidence of a secret teaching given by Jesus to his closest followers?

    If Jesus did teach union, scriptural evidence may point to what someone had to do to receive the inner teaching. Besides the twelve closest disciples, Jesus also had quite a few other people following him wherever he went. It is possible that one of the conditions for receiving the inner teaching was a person had to join this full-time following. The gospels refer on several occasions to Jesus telling people to leave behind their various involvements and follow him. In the “rich man story,” for instance, Jesus tells a rich man who is interested in winning eternal life to, “go, sell everything you have . . . and come follow me.”

    On the road a man said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go,” and Jesus warned him, “Foxes have their holes, and birds their roosts; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” meaning if the man followed he must be prepared to leave behind his comforts since Jesus was perpetually on the road. To another man Jesus said, “Follow me,” but the man replied, “Let me go and bury my father first,” to which Jesus replied, “Leave the dead to bury their dead; you must go and announce the kingdom of God.” Another potential follower said, “I will follow you, sir, but let me first say goodbye to my people at home.” Jesus replied, “No one who sets his hand to the plough and then keeps looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

    In particularly revealing passages Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not renounce his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine . . . . So also none of you can be disciples of mine without parting with all his possessions.” Also, according to Luke, there may have been at least seventy full time followers who Jesus “sent . . . on ahead in pairs to every town and place he was going to visit himself.” (Luke 10:1)

    In other places in the gospels Jesus reminds his disciples they have been blessed with special knowledge. After being asked by the disciples why he speaks in parables in his sermons Jesus answers, “It has been granted to you to know the secrets of the kingdom of Heaven; but to those others it has not been granted . . . . But happy are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear! Many prophets and saints, I tell you, desired to see what you now see, yet never saw it; to hear what you hear, yet never heard it.” (Mt. 13:10–17) In Mark 4:34 Mark claims, “He never spoke to them [the masses] except in parables; but privately to his disciples he explained everything.”

    As the scriptures report, Jesus seemed to prefer describing the nature of his secret teaching in parables such as, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened . . .” and, “. . . it is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs.” This is what it’s like to receive the teacher’s initiating union experience. Just as the parable describes the way leaven continues to expand lifting all the flour (or dough) with it, so the teacher’s initiating experience continues to expand the “hidden” light within the student; and like a mustard seed, though the initiating seed of union experience is small (subtle), its growth potential is said to be great.

    Outside the scriptures possibly the strongest mainstream evidence pointing to a secret teaching by Jesus (other than Gnostic texts) is a document found by Professor Morton Smith of Columbia University. He found the document in 1958 in the library of the oldest Christian monastery still in use, Mar Saba, which is situated in Palestine about fifteen miles from Qumran. The document is a copy of a long lost letter from one of the early (second century) church fathers, Clement of Alexandria, who speaks of a secret teaching only known by Jesus’ closest followers.

    In the letter Clement claims there is more scripture to the gospel of Mark (which he called the “Secret Gospel”) that would explain the teaching. Part of a quote from the Secret Gospel of Mark refers to a secret teaching Jesus revealed to a boy, “And after six days Jesus told him [the boy] what to do: in the evening the youth came to him, wearing only a linen cloth over his nudity. He remained with Jesus that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God.” Clement’s letter also spoke of this special Jesus-teaching as being for “those who were being perfected” and for “those who are being initiated into the great mysteries.”

    That Jesus might have offered a special teaching also provides a possible explanation for the puzzling lines in the canonical Mark gospel describing a scene at Jesus’ arrest at Gethsemane, “Among those following was a young man with nothing on but a linen cloth. They tried to seize him; but he slipped out of the linen cloth and ran away naked.” (Mark 14:51–52)

    Possibly the disciples and early church fathers felt these writings of the secret teaching were to be reserved for the spiritually mature, or that the teaching might confuse the general population, and so decided to withhold the section of Mark's gospel (and possibly other secret writings?) which referred more explicitly to the secret teaching. While the very earliest church authorities might have known of this teaching, the teaching may have been actually taught by the apostles after Jesus’ death.

    Gnostic gospels and Gnostic literature are probably the most often quoted sources of evidence for a secret teaching, and lately there have been many important discoveries about the Gnostics. Gnostics were early Christians, and some of them claimed Jesus revealed a direct inner way to know God they called gnosis. Yet Gnostics eventually became thought of and were treated as heretics because some of their ideas (such as denying apostolic authority/succession, and bizarre theologies) were contradictory to more structured Christianity developing simultaneously in the first centuries after Christ.

    (continued . . .)
     
  21. Nov 22, 2004 #20

    Les Sleeth

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    Part II

    (. . . continued from the previous post)


    While one might resist using Gnostics and Gnostic writings as primary evidence, it is hard to ignore them because they so often refer to a secret teaching and the inner way. A sampling might begin with an inspired Gnostic epistle called the Treatise on the Resurrection by an unknown author interprets resurrection as an inward and spiritual event not requiring death to attain, but death to external pursuits and desires, “do not think fragmentarily nor live in accordance with this flesh . . . flee, rather, from the divisions and fetters, and thereby you have at hand the resurrection . . . . If you are possessed of the resurrection . . . why should you ignore exercise? It is right for individuals to practice in a number of ways for he will find release . . . He will receive again what he first was.”

    Similarly, in a Gnostic verse called Evangelium Veritatis we see “. . . revealed to those who are perfected through the mercy of the Father is the Hidden Mystery . . . through it [the Christ] enlightened those in darkness . . . he illumined them, showing a way . . . . Indeed, those who ate were filled with joy at the discovery . . . and they found in themselves the incomprehensible and inconceivable One, the Father, the perfect One . . . . When he [Jesus] had appeared, teaching them about the Father, the incomprehensible One, and breathing into them what is in the mind when doing his will, many received the Light and turned to him.”

    If the secrets of union experience were kept alive by the most devout, and if things followed the usual pattern, we might look for initiates of Jesus who withdrew from the world to practice union; but exactly who began this cannot be accurately stated. It is thought some of the apostles survived the great calamity of 70 A.D. and other persecutions. While Peter, Paul, James, and Andrew are said to have been crucified or beheaded, that still leaves John, Thomas, Phillip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Mathias, Simon, and James (son of Alphaeus). Several of the apostles seem to have taken up residence in Asia Minor, including John who is said to have lived to a very old age. Some of the (at least) seventy aspirants who followed Jesus must have been candidates for preservationist activity too.

    If an apostle led the retreat to the wilderness to realize conscious oneness, it might have been someone like Thomas. Not only is he credited with having written an apocryphal gospel, with having been Jesus’ most intimate apostle, and with traveling east to India to teach (the St. Thomas Christians of India still revere Thomas as their originator), but the Gospel of Thomas (assuming he wrote it) is inward oriented and there is a strong tradition of Thomas being associated with asceticism. A reason for seeking the source of the preservationist movement in Jesus’ initiates, and in individuals oriented toward asceticism, is because of the great desert monastic populations that sprang up in the fourth and fifth centuries which must have had strong inspirational sources.

    As difficult as it is to imagine, at this time thousands of monks and nuns lived in monasteries from Syria to the Nile, and numerous solitary monks lived in caves and cells in the vast desert wildernesses of eastern Palestine, Sinai, and particularly northern Africa. A quote from a seventeenth century collection of the life and works of these monks describes their lifestyle: “[One such] place . . . [is] a vast desert . . . reached by no path, nor is the track shown by any landmarks of earth, but one journeys by the signs and courses of the stars. Water is hard to find . . . . [in such a place] those who have had their first initiation and who desire to live a remoter life, stripped of all its trappings, withdraw themselves; for the desert is vast, and the cells are sundered from one another by so wide a space that none is in sight of his neighbor, nor can any voice be heard. One by one they abide in their cells, a mighty silence is among them . . . .”

    They and other early preservers of Jesus’ endowment developed a standard for union prayer that lasted for many centuries. Jumping ahead a few generations we find some of the clearest descriptions of union prayer. Teresa of Avila, a 16th century nun and a good example because she wrote explicitly about union experience, “And I say that if this prayer is the union of all the faculties, the soul is unable to communicate its joy even though it may desire to do so—I mean while being in the prayer. And if it were able, then this wouldn’t be union. How this prayer they call union comes about and what it is . . . . we already know since it means that two separate things become one. . . . While the soul is seeking God in this way, it feels with the most marvelous and gentlest delight that everything is almost fading away through a kind of swoon in which breathing and all the bodily energies gradually fail.”

    Besides Teresa there are a great many others. In the tenth century the Greek Orthodox monk Simeon described principles of inner prayer such as found in these excerpts from the Philokalia: “There are three methods of attention and prayer by which the soul is uplifted and moves forward . . . . The distinctive features of the first method are as follows: . . . a man stands at prayer . . . . inciting his soul to longing and love of God. . . . The second method is this: A man tears his mind away from all sensed objects and leads it within himself, guarding his senses and collecting his thoughts, so that they cease to wander . . . . Truly the third method is marvelous and difficult to explain: . . . . the mind should be in the heart—a distinctive feature of the third method of prayer. It should guard the heart . . . remaining always within.”

    The brilliant sermons of the thirteenth century German Dominican, Meister Eckhart, often express his knowledge of union experience, “Go to the depths of the soul, the secret place of the most high, to the roots . . . . I have spoken at times of a light in the soul that is uncreated, a light that is not arbitrarily turned on . . . Thus, if one refers the soul’s agents back to the soul’s essence . . . [a person] will find his unity and blessing in that little spark in the soul, which neither space nor time touches . . . This core is a simple stillness, which is unmoved itself but by whose immobility all things are moved and all receive life . . .”

    Also in the thirteenth century the Italian Franciscan monk, Bonaventura, stated in his famous The Mind’s Road to God, “It happens that we may contemplate God not only outside of us but also within us . . . [through] which one deals with God’s essential attributes . . .” Walter Hilton, an English religious of the fourteenth century explained in The Scale of Perfection that, “. . . prayer is in the heart alone; it is without words, and is accompanied by great peace and tranquility of body and soul.” And the French Carmelite monastic, Brother Lawrence, wrote in the seventeenth century in his Spiritual Maxims, “Actual union is the most perfect kind [of union] . . . Its operation is livelier than that of fire and more luminous than a sun undarkened by a cloud. . . . it is an ineffable state of the soul—gentle, peaceful, devout, respectful, humble, loving and very simple . . .”

    In the eleventh century the monk called Simeon the New Theologian describes how those saints who preceded him practiced union prayer, “Therefore our holy fathers . . . have renounced all other spiritual work and concentrated wholly on this one doing, that is on guarding the heart, convinced that, through this practice, they would easily attain every other virtue . . . Some of the fathers called this doing, silence of the heart . . . yet others called it sobriety and opposition . . . They all practiced it pre-eminently . . . . All the holy fathers wrote about this. . . . One of the fathers says: ‘Sit in your cell and this prayer will teach you everything.’”

    Notice in Simeon’s quote he says, “They all practiced it pre-eminently . . . . All the holy fathers wrote about this,” telling us there is a history established by this time. Six hundred years later Teresa had said, “How this prayer they call union [italics added] comes about . . .” once again indicating it is commonly known in her era. The point is, union prayer was robust, not just an eccentric dalliance by idle monastics. Further, looking at all of history, those Christian’s who were most like Jesus, are individuals who were experiencing conscious oneness (i.e., the mystic “saints”). It seems fairly clear that the route union prayer took was from the desert ascetics and then into the monastery. The desert ascetics were by their own proclamations followers of Jesus, and they in their own time were the most devout, so what else are we to conclude but that Jesus began that pattern with his best devotees?
     
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