by Linda Ross Swanson on September 22nd, 2013

            My father quit school in 7th grade because he was ashamed of his holey shoes and shabby clothing. In spite of his meager education, Papa rose in the ranks at Bonneville Power Administration. He became a supervisor at the converter station in The Dalles, Oregon.
            Papa worked out-of-town all week, coming home on weekends. Every Friday and Saturday night before going to bed, I’d spy Papa on our front porch staring, first at our gigantic maple tree, then, altering his gaze toward the night sky. Outwardly, Papa wasn’t a spiritual man; laughingly labeling himself a heathen. However, he spent an inordinate amount of time standing on the front porch those weekend nights, deep in contemplation with the maple tree and the stars. I believe it is there he found inspiration and consolation, solved problems and found peace of mind.  I’ve been thinking lately about the difference between Papa’s contemplation and my meditation.
            For me, contemplation is concentrating on something, spiritual or not, such as a solution to a dilemma. It’s about listening to conversations in my head, and seeking the responses from my higher self, or listening for the Still Small Voice of God. I’m seeking assistance, help.
 In meditation, I attempt to clear my mind of all thought. When I find myself employing a mind full of monkey, vine-leaping thoughts, I use my mantra to bring me back.
            For me both contemplation and meditation are acts of solitude both attempting otherworldly access, both seeking Divine inspiration.
Next time you’re filled with worry or concern, sit in silence and bring it along. Close your eyes and listen to your breathing. Pay attention to the inhales and exhales. The space between the two. Then, listen as you wrestle with the issue. Invite the Divine to enter the conversation. Create a master-mind group on the other-side, angels, guides, deceased loved ones and friends. Access the collective unconscious in this way. Tap into the Akashic records. Have a pen and paper handy to jot down ideas and thoughts so you won’t forget them. You’ll be surprised at the inspiration that comes, just like it came to my father gazing at the maple tree and stars.

Dr. Joan Borysenko calls meditation a form of “mental martial arts.” She suggests instead of resisting thoughts, just let them come and go. Watch them as if they were leaves floating on a stream. Don’t pick them up an examine them, just observe them floating by.
Some people use a special word, or mantra. In Transcendental Meditation a Sanskrit word is assigned to each student, but you can choose one of our own such as “love,” “peace,” “Jesus,” “Allah,” or even a phrase like “I am Peace.” When thoughts intrude, go back to the mantra. The same is true of Centering Prayer popularized by Fr. Thomas Keating. It is the Roman Catholic equivalent to meditation. He describes it as a state of divine union.
Twenty to thirty minutes of daily meditation or centering prayer will bring you to an interior silence. It takes that long. But, start by practicing 5 minutes at a time. Soon you will yearn for more. Witness how your daily life settles down as you learn to still the mind.

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