Sunday, January 27, 2008

The view from the summit

When you reach the summit of the meditation mountain, what do you see? If we can trust the reports of the meditators and mystics who have climbed the mountain before us, we can declare with some confidence that the top of the mountain harbors the source of all love, wisdom, happiness, and joy. Some people call it spirit or soul, true nature or true self, the ultimate truth or the ground of being (or just being itself). Others call it God or the Divine or the Holy Mystery, or simply the One. There are nearly as many names for it as people who experience it. And some spiritual traditions consider it so sacred and powerful that they hesitate to give it a name. As for the experience of reaching the summit, seasoned meditators use words like enlightenment (from ignorance), awakening (from a dream), liberation (from bondage), freedom (from limitation), and union (with God or being). An old saying likens all these words and names to fingers pointing at the moon. If you pay too much attention to the finger, you risk missing the beautiful moon, which is the reason for pointing the finger in the first place. Ultimately, you need to experience the moon — or in this case the summit — for yourself. Of course, you may have no interest in lofty states and experiences like enlightenment or union. Perhaps you bought this book simply because you want to reduce your stress or enhance your healing process or deal with your emotions. Forget about the Holy Mystery — a little more clarity and peace of mind would suit you just fine, thank you very much! Well, the truth is, you’re going to follow the same path no matter how high up the mountain you want to go. The basic instructions remain the same — but you get to choose your destination. Among the most popular stopping places and promontories en route to the summit are the following:
  • Stronger focus and concentration
  • Reduced tension, anxiety, and stress
  • Clearer thinking and less emotional turmoil
  • Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Support in kicking addictions and other self-defeating behaviors
  • Greater creativity and enhanced performance in work and play
  • Increased self-understanding and self-acceptance
  • More joy, love, and spontaneity
  • Greater intimacy with friends and family members
  • Deeper sense of meaning and purpose
  • Glimpses of a spiritual dimension of being
As you can see, these way stations are actually major destinations in their own right, and all of them are well worth reaching. You may be quite content to stop halfway up the mountain, after you’ve reduced your stress, improved your health, and experienced greater overall well-being. Or you may feel inspired to push on for the higher altitudes that the great meditators describe.

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