In spiritual circles there’s much ado about overcoming illusion.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, Maya is illusion and ignorance. Like dirt being removed from an object to reveal its true nature, dispelling illusion reveals truth.
In Zen, the confrontation with reality known as kenshō is the goal you cannot reach by striving. As Brad Warner would say, to get started you should first “Sit down and shut up.”
In Christianity, nepsis (watchfulness) and diakrisis (discernment) cleanse the nous (the ‘true I’) and dispel illusion, allowing entrance to the Kingdom of God.
Luke 17:20-21 (King James Version).
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
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Contemplation, meditation and prayer are the three cornerstones of religious experience and they are practical, evolutionary adaptations utilized by conscious, self-aware, social creatures such as humans.
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How to Meditate*
(Note: Most people call this “meditation” so I’m using that term. But this is actually what I call contemplation, not meditation. For a full explanation of the differences between meditation, contemplation and prayer — their definitions, how they work and how to use them — see Cabal Fang: Complete Study Guide from Querent to Elder.)
The best thing about meditation is that there is no goal, there are no achievements to mark off, there’s no way to measure progress and no need to do so. You just do it. And that is enough.
1. Sit down. Choose your pose — lotus, half-lotus, cross-legged, or my personal favorite, seiza. You can hold your hands any way you like. I personally like hands on thighs, but it’s your call. Eyes open or closed is fine, but when you first start out, it might be better to stare at a blank wall to avoid distractions.
2. Be quiet. Still your thoughts, allowing them to dissipate like ripples in a pond. The more you struggle against your thoughts the more ripples you will make. Don’t resist. Just allow your mind to approach stillness.
3. Breathe. Inhale, hold, exhale, hold, each in roughly the same measure (somewhere in the 4 to 8 second range is fine). Keep airways open during the hold phase — never clamp down on your breath.
4. Practice daily. Ten to forty minutes is perfect, but as little as 3 minutes will be beneficial. I meditate about 10 minutes per day with one long session per week.
* Russ, this is for you brother!
Intense exercise takes its toll, both mentally and physically. It’s important to take days off, and spend some of those days off stretching and clearing your head.
Take a walk or engage in some form of very light exercise for 10 to 15 minutes. Then spend twenty minutes on a thorough stretching routine, followed by 10 minutes of meditation.
Before meditating, quiet your mind by saying a prayer, invocation, affirmation, etc. (lately I’ve been performing the LBRP). If you are an atheist, pray to Truth, to Justice, to Hope, to Mother Nature, to your own Better Self, etc. Prayer is relaxing and beneficial, and you shouldn’t have to miss out on the fun just because you don’t believe in a deity.
If you don’t know where to start with the whole meditation thing, my little ebooklet Wisdom of the Raven explains the differences between meditation, contemplation and prayer, and shows how to get started in each. Get it at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes for just 99 cents.
Incense sets the mood. It’s your little helper, that little something special that gets your head where you want it to be for contemplation, meditation, and prayer. There’s nothing like sitting down to meditate surrounded by the scent of sandalwood, praying to the aroma of smoldering frankincense, or offering a stick of myrrh to the ancestors. It’s a wonderful thing.
The problem is, as we should all know by now, there are hazards associated with breathing in smoke, especially in enclosed spaces.
A few years ago I stumbled across Shoyeido incense. The sticks come in various lengths, but I prefer the 5″ ones in the Aesthetics series (the Honoka is particularly fine). The Honoka sticks burn for about 30 minutes each. The fragrance is great, smoke is low, and it’s made in Kyoto by a family of master craftspeople as it has been for twelve generations. All of that for just $7.95 for 40 sticks.
If you don’t burn incense you should give it a try. If you’ve tried it but you don’t like it, you might try again with Shoyeido. It’s so much better than the cheap stuff, there’s no comparison. Apples to oranges.
The other day my cousin posted a link regarding the war on consciousness. That link led me to Graham Hancock’s TEDx Talk which you can watch below. One of the many fronts of modern civilization’s war on consciousness is the war on drugs. When you think about it, all psychedelics are outlawed, and the only consciousness-altering drugs that are legal are antidepressants (Prozac, et. al.) and those that encourage concentration (caffeine) or checking out (alcohol).
Our culture just doesn’t encourage expanded consciousness or connection with the Universe. But there are still plenty of folks who are hungry to expand their minds. Ayahuasca getaways are all the rage these days, and I can see why. It really looks like the experience of a lifetime. But if you’re like me, you probably can’t afford to go and even if you could you might not be confident it’s morally right to appropriate another culture’s sacred rites. Or maybe you aren’t excited about taking a powerful herbal hallucinogenic cocktail.
The good news is that there are methods for expanding your consciousness that are part of your own culture that are completely free.
If you’re looking for a place to start, read my free eBooklet Wisdom of the Raven. It’ll provide you with the basic info you need to start practicing meditation, contemplation, and prayer. From there you move on to pathworking, guided meditation, etc. When you’re ready, progress to journeying.
The Universe is everywhere. You don’t need a plane ticket to go see it or drugs to commune with it.
In addition to my novels I now have two free non-fiction works available on Smashwords.
The Cabal Fang Martial Arts Manual is an introduction to the martial art I founded in 2009. Open the covers of this remarkable manual and step into the spaces between traditional martial arts, combat sports, and historical reconstruction. Get a glimpse of what is at once a modern self defense method, a strenuous fitness regimen, and a spiritual framework drawing upon the Western esoteric tradition. A seamless blend of the ancient and the modern, the physical and the internal, Cabal Fang is at once a child of the middle ages and the martial art of a new millennium. For all fitness and experience levels — but not the faint of heart. Approx. 22,865 words.
Wisdom of the Raven: The Mystic Way of Cabal Fang is a companion booklet to The Cabal Fang Manual. A blend of fact and fable, the practical and the esoteric, ‘Wisdom of the Raven’ instructs the reader in the spiritual underpinnings of Cabal Fang Martial Arts. Learn the basics of the Three Sisters — contemplation, meditation, and prayer — and how they come together to inform the mystic experience. Approx. 6,563 words.
Park benches are almost as good as massage chairs
Stress. It comes from all over the place. For me it’s been building since I started writing Ghilan earlier this year. Writing a novel in 90 days can kill you. Add to that the stress of caring for an elderly parent and increased stress at work, including travel, and you get DEF-CON 1.
Normally I spend a lot of time in contemplation, meditation, and prayer, but since the book launch I’ve been spending mornings and lunch breaks trying to promote the book.
About a week ago I realized that I need to get back to basics: meditating or contemplating daily and spending Sundays doing as little as possible.
I feel better already.