Meditation isn't a mystery. It is a practice which we can use for fairly 'ordinary' things like relaxing, relieving stress, enjoyment - sometimes it's nice to just float - or we can use it more as a ritual. It can give shape to a life (a mundane one or a chaotic one) with a regular practice and time and means to focus, or it can be transcendental, a reaching towards something which lies outside our immediate consciousness.
Being associated so strongly now with Eastern traditions belies the fact that a process of meditative reaching out has been no less a part of Western culture, though manifested in different forms. From hypnotic prehistoric cave paintings at Niaulx in the Pyrenees, to the asceticism of mediaeval monks, to the hundreds who sit daily on the Pointe du Raz peninsula in Brittany watching the sun set into the Atlantic, to each one who climbs to the top of a mountain and just stands and looks, it has been in the Western psyche too since time immemorial.
In all traditions it is about creating stillness, particularly a stillness of mind, offering a means of approaching a stillness which we start to feel deep inside -
… repetition can be a part - a phrase, a word, a sound, which becomes a regular beat and holds us without intruding
… looking is a way - at an object, a scene, a colour, until we are not seeing the thing, but have a sense of seeing
… following our breathing is another way, until our awareness of our breathing is no more than a sense of a door silently swinging one way and then the other
We could describe all of these and others as channels to a state of ‘bare attention’ or mindfulness, where there is nothing to hinder new awarenesses, which are not normally available to our conscious minds. We have been able to let go of everything but the immediate present.
Not letting go - holding on - is what is often worked with in therapy. Some would say it is the only thing we ever need to work with. From Buddhist teaching we learn that all suffering comes from holding on. So meditation can itself be therapeutic and it can also be part of therapy.
At Le Sentier Tranquille you can learn meditation, if it is new to you, and you can practice it as part of your experience here, if you want that. We have different places which are conducive to meditating and which you can use on your own or with others. We don’t say what should be done when, but we are around to accompany and assist when needed.
If you are interested in learning more about Simon's approach to meditation, click on 'Return to Main Menu' and 'Publications' to see the availability of his two books.