In the high-paced Western world, meditation has become a recognised method for countering stress. But its origins were spiritual, in the Hindu traditions of Vedanta, in the Taoist traditions, and in Buddhism.
For Jane Hamilton-Merritt, author of A Meditator’s Diary and one of the first women to be accepted for instruction in intensive meditation in a Buddhist temple in Thailand, her meditative journey went back to the spiritual roots of this practice.
“The desired goal of this meditation is… to provide man with an opportunity to see the truth… that the self is not personal, nor permanent, nor static; and, consequently that the individual does not exist as a permanent and identifiable entity.” – Jane Hamilton-Merritt, from the introduction to A Meditator’s Diary
In a modern society that places such importance of the individual, it is no surprise that Eastern philosophies and traditions are increasingly popular, viewed as an alternative to the feelings of isolation that are prevalent in the individualist Western society. Meditation as Jane Hamilton-Merritt experienced it, whilst being a personal journey, enabled her to find a sense of the flow of the universe, to re-establish her sense of connection with the world, that is often forgotten in the Western world.
And while Jane Hamilton-Merritt was instructed in one particular type of Buddhist meditation, many of the lessons she learnt echo throughout Eastern teachings. Alan Watts, in his book Tao: The Watercourse Way described the Taoist world view:
“Every thing-event is what it is only in relation to all others.”
And in The Book, which draws on the Vedanta traditions from which the practice of meditation originated, Alan Watts explores the idea of the “self” in relation to the universe, interdependent on it rather than a separate entity.
“We are in urgent need of a sense of our own existence which is in accord with the physical facts and which overcomes our feeling of alienation from the universe.” – Alan Watts, from the preface to The Book
Whatever your views on Eastern philosophy and thought, it is clear that it can and does change lives. Perhaps it is time for more of us to start reconnecting with the world, rather than everyone living in isolation.
Have you ever tried meditation, either for relaxation or spiritual purposes? We’d love to hear about your experiences.