How to Meditate, Interview – April 16, 2010
HTM: What form of meditation do you find most effective?
James: My only meditation experience has been with a meditation group.
HTM: Can you tell me about those experiences?
James: For a time period of 4-5 years I was a member of a small Zen meditation group which met regularly (every two weeks). We held two silent meditation periods of 20 minutes each and with a silent walking period in-between. During the first sitting period the leader would read a 4-5 minute statement regarding meditation. At the end a chant was intoned "all evil karma ever committed by me...." then we left in silence. I believe it was meaningful as we remained together for some years. It ceased as various members moved away or lost interest. For me it was very helpful and I still feel I am reaping the benefits from those sessions.
HTM: Will you please tell me more about the chant about evil and karma, and what it was supposed to be about?
James: The chant we used is— “All evil karma ever committed by me since of old, on account of my beginning less, greed and anger now I atone for it all" The goal of the meditation was to empty the mind of all thoughts; easier said than done!
HTM: You mentioned that there were lasting benefits from your meditation practice. Can you tell me more about what these are?
James: What I mean by lasting and I might add continuing benefit, is the sense of peace which I have found within me and detached from the whirly burly of every-day life. I do find that the vicissitudes of life do not get me worked up as they once did; as though I can view them in a detached way—as though these were outside events which can be viewed and thought about in an unemotional way. For me this is a benefit as though I were getting a sense of perspective of my thoughts and reactions.
HTM: It is a common experience for human beings to assume that they ARE their thoughts. Were you able to, prior to meditation, dis-identify with your thoughts— in short, recognize yourself as separate from these thoughts?
James: I believe that it never occurred to me if I were my thoughts or that they were something apart. What I have learned from my meditation is that I and my thinking are somehow bound together and at the same time apart. It is as though I can put my thinking in neutral and at the same time be aware of my bodily existence.
HTM: Does this skill or ability that became active while meditating develop or grow in any way even without meditation? Or perhaps you still meditate in some way, yet not as formally as before.
James: In regarding your last questions, I suspect that my perspective on things might differ from yours, even though I do not know anything of your personal life or experience. First I am in my 90's which means of course I'm looking backwards— things that have occurred— rather than looking forward to things which are sure to occur. You have asked some very fundamental questions which I have attempted to answer; as I see it, your next step should be to try meditation; theory is one thing but practice in another. If there is a group in your area you might give it a try. If not that, you could start meditating on yourself remembering the time tested technique is to concentrate on your breath. You are aware of the theory; now try the practice.
HTM: Thank you for your suggestion. I have actually been meditating regularly for over thirty years. I write about meditation and interview those who meditate to both deepen my appreciation and in order to offer material for others that is encouraging. This interview will appear online for others to read. Sadly, there are some who will never try meditation in any form. I believe in encouraging people to do so, by both modeling and by providing reading material such as this. With all this in mind, is there anything you would like to add in terms of encouragement?
James: I hope that my contributions have been of help to you and others. This has been enjoyable and made me look over what I'm doing and perhaps why.
HTM: Thank you for participating.