If an agnostic has the quality of not having to be right, do we automatically know what an atheist feels when he or she claims the belief that there is no God? Would that feeling be the same feeling the religious fundamentalists love to feel? The rightness of it all, with the “all” hidden in a cloud of faith and words.
It’s wonderful to know and feel one is right. But what makes it wonderful? Traditional religions are zero-sum games, so everyone not believing as one should believe gets the ax.
The members of each of the thousands of religions are feeling sorry for rest of the world because even the very good and faithful folks of all the other religions will not end up in their god’s favor because their god has not been acknowledged.
And yet a deep natural freedom and relaxation can be found by living life not having to know for sure about some of the most important issues which confront us in life. And the benefits of freedom and relaxation are hidden because as human animals we are unknowingly trapped in a stream of language of our own making. Being trapped allows us to experience becoming free and relaxed. Being trapped by language is the setup to the ultimate spiritual game.
How is the game played? Sometime during a person’s life he or she may begin to ask the questions of Who am I? and Why am I here? When one gets past the answer “You are a child of the only true God and you are here to serve Him”, then one may start looking for better answers, and all of a sudden, folks with answers are everywhere, and normally, they are asking for money.
Eventually, one might come to the sayings of the great sages of history. They give the same answers but expressed in a different ways. Of the major religions, Buddhist teachings come the closest to reality for me.
There are many factions in Buddhism just as there are many in Christianity. Main-line Buddhism teaches there is no afterlife, or god, and we suffer and are trapped by the strong habit language.
Buddhists use Zen meditation to escape from the language corral and as a centering tool to deal better with suffering and desire.
Only in the sweet silence of the present moment can a human sense the universe as a tree senses it. How is this possible? We are able to feel the universe because our bodies are units of its expression just like trees are.
We identities are in the way, and can be explained away, but what we need most is a daily period of silence.
It’s best to have the practice of sitting down in a comfortable position daily and then with eyes closed paying attention to one’s breath or a mantra for at least 20 to 30 minutes and by calmly coming back each time without blame or regret for not paying attention to every moment.
Getting better at paying attention is part of the trip, and this skill opens up the world to the seeker.
In this game, everyone can win because attempting is the only posture needed, sitting comfortably with silence as the horizon.
For those interested, I recommend the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal talks on Zen meditation and practice by Shunryu Suzuki. It is a small book (138 pages) and is full of practical advice and insights. In it he states “The world is its own magic.”
I learned to meditate using Transcendental Meditation (TM) which the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi made popular in the western world a little over two-thirds of the way through the 20th century. Shunryu Suzuki arrived here in the USA a little before the Maharishi, and their messages are still changing lives.
Their work prompted science to test and then adopt meditation as an important tool. We are fortunate to have had these missionaries from the east.
Suzuki’s book recommends you eventually be able to sit with legs crossed to meditate which takes a bit of dedication.
TM recommends “a straight-back chair with feet flat on the floor.” I have found that a comfortable car seat works well too. (Of course the car stays stationary if you’re in the driver seat.) The traditional Hindu mantra “OM” will work for anyone.
While researching TM in the early 1970s, Dr. Herbert Benson used the word “one” as a mantra instead of a TM mantra and found almost the same results as a similar group of TM students using the TM mantra given to them by their TM instructor. All of the participants of both group’s breathing rates, types of brain waves, and galvanic skin responses were recorded during their meditation and the results were almost the same. For the full story read Dr. Benson’s famous book The Relaxation Response.
It turns out almost any short nonsensical sounds ending with m or n will do the job. These two sounds have ending sounds which vibrate naturally (the mantras can be repeated silently in the mind or sounded out) and the vibration can last several breaths until it fades on its own and then restarted after a period of silence.
There are no rules. It’s what feels best for you that counts. TM recommends two twenty minute periods of meditation each day. A seeker can use meditation to lessen stress, gain a more positive attitude, better sleep, etc.
Today there a various digital meditation aids available which give positive results and work well along with traditional meditation.
It’s best not to be concerned about enlightenment. Then and only then, the sages say, can the mystery: the universe (in the form of your amazing body) come calling.
There are copies of the two books above being sold for bargain prices on Amazon.com and ebay.com. Libraries also may have copies.
All the best,