What is the BEST Form of Meditation?

A Meditation unfolding during the day – Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What is meditation? What is the best form of meditation? I did not even know about meditation until I got to Pathwork. There, in the early years of the Pathwork Transformation Program nearly 12 years ago, we had what were called consciousness classes. In these classes we would come together, sit on our cushions, practice conscious breathing and other meditation techniques. We used what was considered the best text on the subject, Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana. It was not a popular class, and I doubt that I ever got what was intended. Certainly, while it may have given me a habit or compulsion for meditating each day, it was not something I was really into or seemed to “get.”

I took other meditation classes. Still things didn’t stick with me. Prolific consciousness author Ken Wilber suggests that the fastest way to grow in consciousness is to meditate. Well Wilber is the guru of Integral Thinking and all things spiritual, so I assumed I absolutely needed to get with a meditation program if I were to grow in consciousness and in my spirituality.  But what kind of meditation?

Then there was the body of work by Jon Kabat-Zinn, including such titles as Wherever You Go, There You Are. I got his tapes and tried it a bit, but again it did not stick. I became confused and frustrated at my challenges to find a basic meditation practice for spiritual growth.

Meditation is a core practice in Pat’s Awakening Into Presence program. She begins each morning with a 45 minute or so practice and ends each day with another sit. I was a part of this program for a year, but, alas, I was not able to hook up to this style of Tibetan Buddhist visualization-style meditation practice. I got frustrated that it worked so well for Pat, but it seemed, rightly or wrongly, that I simply could not go on this journey with her in this way.

But still, for four or five years I would “meditate,” albeit clumsily and without specific direction, with Pat each morning – sometimes letting ideas or concepts or applications to a problem I was experiencing at that time float up. I even kept my journal next to me, but was very aware that “taking notes” during meditation was a no-no to expert meditators. I could hear the inner critic yell out, “Gary, you are all in your head! Taking notes? What you are doing is not meditation! Get into your body! Just breathe!” So I sometimes did this note-taking download method of “meditation,” inner critic notwithstanding, and other times would just sit and breathe.

Then over a year ago EmbodyBeing came along. Alas, something I could grab onto I hoped. Again, as always, I was faithful to this new practice for over a year, doing it during Pat’s meditation time in the morning and sitting next to her in front of our altar as I had always done, but I could not, once again, truly relate to this new practice, though I have no doubt that it really works for some.

Then a week ago I decided not to do my practice, whatever it would turn out to be, sitting next to Pat in front of our altar, something I had done for ten years. Rather I would go downstairs and sit in a chair on the screened-in deck, if the temperature was above 50, or on the couch in the living room if the outside temperature was too cool.

What would this practice turn out to be? I certainly realized there were many forms of meditation in the Pathwork lectures – entire lectures on meditation in fact, each giving a different slant. Some were oriented toward dialog among inner voices, some toward systematic visualization, but in general what seemed to fit me best went back to what I had done earlier sitting next to Pat upstairs – do a mini-daily review (jot down a few issues that were up for me) and then simply see what arose during a half-hour sit. Of course as things arose, as they invariably would, I would have my journal at hand to jot notes.

What did I find in this time of meditation? Boy was it enlivening to have insights arise that related to my journey and my issues. After this time of “meditation” Pat would come down, having finished her morning practice, and then we would begin coffee time. Following coffee time often I would do my blog entry (even when I meditated with her upstairs), crystallizing and organizing what had come up and what Pat and I had shared over coffee. This blogging step becomes a kind of integration step, grounding the material for me. Now this three-step approach, “meditation,” coffee-time-sharing, and blogging, is something I could do daily, whether or not it could be called a “meditation” practice per se.

I remembered a time when I was in my late thirties or early forties. I would come to work early, before others arrived. Sitting at my desk, I would open my bible and read a passage, writing out how this passage applied to me. I always loved the applications of bible passages to my life. And I would lead bible classes both at work and at church in this same applications-sharing approach. Today I smiled, seeing how what I am landing on today was already in me thirty years ago before I even knew there were practices called meditation. I just knew that my practice of bible reading and journaling nurtured me in some way that was very meaningful.

Earlier Wednesday morning when Pat had come down from upstairs after her practice in order to begin coffee time, she began by inquiring about what my new practice was these days, since now I was leaving her to her practice upstairs while I was doing mine downstairs.  This separation at first concerned her. But then we talked it through and concluded that we were both better off if we each were doing whatever worked for us and then came together for coffee.  This coming downstairs instead of sitting upstairs with Pat was a big step for me, no longer feeling “tucked under Pat’s wing,” so to speak. It felt freeing. I was doing something that really seemed to energize and serve me.

Pat and I then talked about images we each had about how our relationship should look – and part of that “should” was sitting side-by-side in a meditation practice. We smiled and saw that we could drop that image.

Session with Ed

Ed Gutfreund is my body-awareness counselor, and Wednesday at noon I had my session with him. I trust Ed and his wisdom, and I had told him at our previous session that I wanted to talk about meditation, about how to arrive at a good meditation practice. The session with Ed was animated and covered many topics. When we got to meditation and he watched me explain what I was doing, he shared two bits of wisdom that helped. First he noticed how energized and animated I was in describing my three-step practice of Daily-Review-driven meditation, coffee time with Pat, and blogging. Clearly this three-step process informed me. Clearly during this practice I felt my energy and enthusiasm and connection with some source within greater than myself. I was inspired by the practice, whether it was called meditation or not. My energy showed up big time in our session, and Ed mirrored that energy back to me. “Feel that energy, that aliveness in you!”

His second bit of wisdom was from someone whom he respected on this subject of meditation. When this person was asked, “So what is, then, the BEST meditation practice?” the expert responded, “The best meditation is the meditation you do.” I could take this in as affirming that what seemed to work so well for me was, indeed, at least for now, based upon the energy I had for doing it, the best meditation practice for me.

Ed: So how does it feel to realize that what you are doing, what you find is so enlivening, is your best meditation practice for now? Gary: So freeing, so enlivening. I can end my searching, my guilt for not practicing what someone else sees as such a wonderful practice, etc. I am free to be uniquely me in my meditation practice, and perhaps in Life!

Shared in love, Gary