By Jonni Gray www.drjonnigray.com
There are thousands of ancient forms of meditation. And they are all very serious. Most of them originated from India and other Asian cultures, centuries of years ago. They were created for, and by, men: monks, rabbis, yogis, priests and the like. The men who wanted to support their vows of chastity, celibacy, poverty, obedience….very different reasons than why we, in this present time, would want to take up a meditation practice.
If early sources of meditation acclaim it as the connection to the God-force, then it wasn’t until the mid 1800’s that the concept moved into more philosophical realms. People talked about it in connection with yoga and there was even a literary understanding that went with its mystical powers. But it wasn’t really until the 1950’s and ‘60’s that meditation moved into the streets with common folk.
Nowadays there are many different kinds of ancient and as well as contemporary forms of formal meditation. Some of them branch out into areas that understand the significant functions of the brain and how it all relates to the power of the experience. There are some that are more religious, some more ‘spiritual’, and others more clinical. You may know them by names such as Buddhist, Vipassana, Transcendental Meditation (TM), Kundalini, Zen, Shamanism, Kabbalah, Yoga – in all its countless branches – Bio feedback, Hypnosis, Gestalt, Ericksonian, Neurolinguistic Programming, Feldenkrais, guided imagery. The list goes on.
Different teachings involve some or all aspects of watching the breath, awakening the heart, remembering, experiencing bliss, quieting the mind, emotional healing, reducing stress – although some of these are byproducts of the practice and some of them are fundamental to the practice itself.
You’ll find much information about the scientific benefits: cerebral hemisphere cohesiveness, reversal of the physiological aging process, stress management, etc. The TM movement has conducted the best research over the years, publishing it often, and it holds up under scientific and public scrutiny.
For the most part, I find ancient methods of meditation old, outdated, too ritualized, and sadly lacking in the practicalities of being a human on the planet in the 21st century. Because traditional meditation techniques were not developed for the modern world they are not designed to address your current needs and desires. They haven’t adapted to today’s stressors and unbalancing lives of increasing complexity and accelerated change. How can you be expected to experience the deep stillness and connection and expanded awareness that is the hallmark of authentic meditation while fighting with your busy minds in the intensiveness of the information age? You can’t. But you can navigate this rhythm and change to the best of your ability, by adapting formal, structured meditation practices to the current times, in the same way that you have physical training gyms and studios because you aren’t living the same physically demanding lives in these times.
We’ve evolved. So should your meditation practice. And therefore modern forms of meditation are an ancient art updated for contemporary times. They are for the evolving person.
Modern meditation does not mean minimalist meditation. Modern does not mean without soul. It means, meditation with a clean, unfettered connection to the soul. Modernism is an orientation toward life, a way of living in the current, rather than the past. If you want to move beyond your old stories, your perceived wounds, your perspective of lacking, then this is a new form that expresses the speed and energy of the new times.
Modern science – modern anything – questions everything and finds a new way, a new pathway. Along the way there is always controversy: endless quarrels between those who support the ancient and those who subscribe to the modern. I’ll state up front that I’m not opposed to anything old or ancient. Not at all. I love my antique pieces of furniture, my favourite period films, my nostalgic whims, my socio-historic explorations. But when I connect to the divine, it can’t be just a thing of the past. It needs to be here and now, existing with me, in love with me, fresh and current. Or it’s stale.
My training and experiences (both personal and professional) have allowed me to develop what I term modern meditations, only to distinguish them from ancient and religious-based forms. It’s natural yes, and it’s also an innovative and eclectic methodology that works specifically with your internal guidance systems – whatever you believe those systems to be. And in working with those systems, this style of meditation activates and integrates life-changing experiences.