It has been interesting to watch the growth of meditation that has occurred in the last 50 years. It has been amazing. What was once considered to be an odd and exotic activity is now a part of mainstream life in Western society. The fact is, though, that there are many different meditation practices nowadays with differing purposes as well. Some methods use mantras and chanting, while others do not. Others focus on ‘mindfulness’ practice, such as what is found in Buddhism and Zen Buddhism. All the various methods can be helpful and some are taught in this School, but what makes this School unique is that we also place great emphasis on the use of inquiry as an essential part of all of our programs and classes. Inquiry is an aspect of meditation.
The goal of meditation to most people is to simply quiet one’s mind and perhaps secondarily to train and focus it. It is to help us handle all of the neurotic, sometimes crazy thoughts that are a common part of our everyday life. This is indeed an important goal, but there can be so much more to it. One of the primary purposes of this School is to assist people to move into higher states of awareness that are translated into everyday life to both enrich that life as well as to take us into new territory of one’s own being. A relatively quiet mind is necessary in order to begin that process.
Meditation – Contemplation
Ordinarily meditation and contemplation are thought of as separate activities, which can be quite legitimate depending on how each is defined. This School regards these activities as interconnected and further that part of one’s learning needs to be the discovery of this connection. The word meditate stems from the Latin root meaning ‘to ponder, ‘ whereas the word contemplate comes from the Latin word ‘templum,’ which refers to a piece of ground consecrated for worship. Thus, when they are combined the two describe a sacred activity that leads toward the discovery of vital knowledge, awareness and experience.
While the School uses many forms of meditation/contemplation, it is the mindfulness practices that are the most emphasized, especially in the beginning. The reason for this is that normally we are not aware of the nature of our own thoughts as we have little experience observing them and in discovering that the act of doing so marks a true beginning of learning how to work with them. Also, this first step is a prerequisite for learning how to inquire, which is one of the goals if this School. True inquiry is the beginning of real philosophy.
To inquire means that we examine, what can be called an ‘essence’ question and one of the most important to discover what is the nature of mind itself. We want to find things out for ourselves rather than from a teacher, a lecture or a book. It must become our own knowing in order for it to be personally meaningful.
We think of meditation solely as a private practice and certainly, it usually is. But it is not the only way. Another way is the use of discourse. Jiddu Krishnamurti was a master at this and so were many of the ancient Greek and Indian philosophers. The nature of real philosophical discourse or dialogue is to reveal the essence of a matter. This revelation is an experience, rather than a mere mental construct or idea. When this occurs, the mind stops. Why? Because it can lead us to realizing that in that area, there is no longer anything to think about. This may be hearsay to many, but it describes the power of true philosophy to assist us.
Inquiry, which is a chief component of contemplation, is a learned skill. It is rarely taught in schools, except perhaps in the sciences, and even then not in a direct way. But it certainly isn’t taught as a part of one’s general education. Nor do we find this being cultivated in public or political discourse. We may not even find it in many spiritual paths, including meditation practice. To most people, this will be a new skill. This is why the first step may be to discover that we have not experienced it yet, which is important because it is when we know that we do not know something that we begin to open to being able to learn.
The Dyad Technique
An extension of the use of dialogue or discourse is a relatively new form of meditation we call ‘partner-assisted’ meditation. This is the culmination and synthesis of many different discoveries made in psychology, philosophy and other forms of meditation into a technique that can accelerate one’s progress in quieting the mind as well as releasing old, outworn thought forms. Much more is discussed in the ‘Foundational Article’ and ‘Program’ sections of this website.