In this video, Andrew Sullivan (a gay, HIV positive, conservative Catholic blogger) talks about why he started meditating. In his case, it was precipitated by Internet overload and rather scattered thought. For me, each time I restart meditation it’s much the same thing. Not the Internet so much, but if you sit and just listen, there’s a huge amount of cacophony and noise in your head. In mine at least. If you listen long enough, it kinda fades away and you’re left with a stillness. As they say in Eat, Pray, Love, if you leave a vacuum, God can rush in.
God of course is the tricky word. I’m a Buddhist and Andrew Sullivan is a Christian, but at the end of the video he talks about their similarities and how they are all paths towards a universal truth. In a study he cited a minority in most countries said that their religion is the only path to salvation. The people I’ve met who live their religion and are secure in it are generally not dicks about it, though if you ask questions they’re happy to guide.
I personally use God as a word to refer to that peaceful and loving awesomeness which I have felt in moments of meditation and once, rather randomly, after an excellent Indian meal. In Computer Science one concept I remember was that of a pointer. It’s simply a reference that points to something else. To me the word God is like that. It’s a pointer that points at a concept I can’t otherwise name or identify, but I think many people would get, not to belabor the term, my point.
I have seen Christians at meditation retreats, even Christian monastics. You generally take a vow of limited silence, so it’s not like it ever comes up, but meditation itself is not tied to any religion per se. The Buddha himself followed many Hindu (esque) teachers before settling on his middle path. From what I remember of the Dhammapada, it’s not that it’s the only path, it’s more that he found a way that worked for him and shared it with anyone who would listen. Personally I think it’s a good one, though something holds me well back from actually following it. For better reading on that an excellent web designer named Prabhath Sirisena became a monk and now blogs intermittently.
I just know that in my personal life, I can do much more in a day and procrastinate less and also be less grumpy if I just take half an hour in the morning to meditate. Today it was only 25 minutes, and 24:30 of that was random crap and noise running through my head. I had one insight that I should just try to not care about my own issues so much, as I can fundamentally just listen to other peoples problems and then put them down. That’s all I remember. Within that session I had maybe 30 seconds of actual focus on breath, though I can barely hold that for more than two or three seconds at a time. I still feel better, and it is shown to have positive and measurable effects on the brain.
I just know that it makes me better able to deal with the jumble of thoughts and emotions that clutter up my brain, and be less of a douche to myself and others. Sometimes it feels like you’ve turned off an internal television and you can just be for a minute. In those moments I tend to smile.