One should be aware that meditation is able to bridge the gap between humanity and divinity and the first step is to believe in the possibility and desire such a state. In order to attain the state of meditation, Evelyn Underhill (1930) states that an act of perfect concentration, of passionate focus of the self on a certain point, when the self dedicates itself guided by a pure intention to real or transcendental things is required to be performed. On this condition mystic consciousness is based on and as well is the main requirement that favors pure contemplation.
Concentration and contemplation are two distinct phases in the process of meditation. The characteristics and issues addressed in these phases are given below (Robbins, J, 2003):
Calming the unconscious or automatic movements of the mind
Increased focus and cognitive structuring
Better understanding of one's personality and unconscious defenses
Increased empathy and compassion refined awareness of physical senses, emotions and thoughts enhanced awareness of wakefulness, sleep and dream state deeper understanding of spiritual metaphysical and psychological paths experiences of oneness, perfection and other mystical states.
Perfect contemplation have as an effect and also is based on love and clarity. Love and clarity in their turn are paths that lead to the expansion of consciousness. As long as love is involved it empowers the soul to see into the Truth, to attain a greater clarity of vision.
Forms of meditation
The forms of meditation also suggest a certain type of relationship between the individual and God. The forms described by Nan Little (2006) are the following: basic meditation, walking meditation, mindfulness meditation, imagery meditation, and loving- kindness meditation.
Basic meditation requires a quiet place, a comfortable position, and a specific technique, like mantra. Concentrating on a distinct word focuses attention and permits a deep relaxation of mind and body. The chosen word reflects the intention of the meditator to deal with a spiritual or emotional aspect of his life.
Walking meditation is especially recommended for cultivating awareness of sensation and experience. While walking, the meditator should concentrate on the succession of sensations in the body. The attention is focused simply on the act of walking. The masters advise to take only one step at the time in order to be able to witness the installation of piece of mind. One step at a time is the rule to be followed in other forms of meditation suggesting that transformation and spiritual ability are achieved gradually.
Mindfulness meditation is focused on developing awareness of what happens in the present moment, without making subjective reflections. Such type of meditation seeks to eliminate emotions in relations to given situations or events. Again, the perceptions and sensations in the body are of major importance. However, this type of meditation has been widely studied recently by psychologists and positive results were obtained in programs for stress reduction in patients and for different categories of professionals.
Imagery meditation includes visualizations of certain situations or scenes comfortable emotionally and physically. The details of scenes are imagined and the focus is on the positive feeling raised by it.
The loving-kindness meditation is focused on an emotional state. The feeling is embodied in a phrase that is repeated and confronted with the object of the emotional state; for instance, one may cultivate the feeling of love towards a person and then send the feeling out to them. A negative state or emotion may be transformed in a positive one and then it is sent out. The extended practice of such an exercise leads to a generalization of the feeling of love towards anyone and everyone.
Although there are many forms of meditation the most common elements recognized by many practicing people and writers are:
peaceful location: a quiet place free from distractions, in order to be able to focus attention comfortable posture: sitting, lying down, standing or walking.
A focus of attention: the focus of attention may become a mantra (a repeated word, sound or phrase), a certain object or deep breathing.
An open attitude during meditation in order to be able to deal with distractions, to observe them come and go, without stopping to think about them. Opening the mind also means letting go, while attention is brought to a point the spirit is the passive witness of whatever comes and goes. Opening the mind also allows to listen to the thought, in the sense that one becomes aware of its presence or existence and accepts it as it is.
Mysticism and meditation. Finding God within.
Lawrence LeShan stated that mysticism, both from a historical and a psychological viewpoint, represents a search "for and experience of the relationship of the individual himself and the totality that makes up the universe" while a "mystic is either a person who has this knowledge as background music to his daily experience or else a person who strives and works consistently to attain this knowledge."
Mystics are characterized, as a result of this attainment by the capacity to transcend the aspects of everyday life both positive and negative and to gain a superior understanding and way of life dominated by serenity, inner peace, joy and capacity to love.
This is a general approach to mysticism, the perception of the mystic's role of searching for a lost knowledge, by closing all the channels (factors) that prevent us from knowledge.
It appears that the relationship between mysticism and meditation is of inclusion - mysticism includes meditation. Another unifying thread is their similar results in what a deeper and superior understanding of life is concerned. Added to this, since the limits between the two are difficult to trace the schools based on mediation techniques are often called mystical training schools (such as Zen, Hesychasm, Yoga, Sufi, Christian mysticism, Hindu mysticism, Jewish mysticism, and so on) (LeShan, Lawrence, 1974).
For both Catholic / Christian mystics and non-christian meditators one of the primary goals of meditation is to experience God's love. Teresa of Avila described in her book the Way to Perfection the love experienced during contemplation (cited in Collins, Mary Ann, 2002):
In case you should think there is little gain to be derived from practicing vocal prayer perfectly, I must tell you that, while you are repeating the Paternoster [Our Father] or some other vocal prayer, it is quite possible for the Lord to grant you perfect contemplation. In this way His Majesty shows that He is listening to the person who is addressing Him, and that, in His greatness, He is addressing her, by suspending the understanding, putting a stop to all thought, and, as we say, taking the words out of her mouth, so that even if she wishes to speak she cannot do so, or at any rate not without great difficulty." distinction becomes clear between meditation and contemplation, made by both Christians and non-Christians: meditation is the process for arriving at the state of contemplation. Contemplation refers to a state of total mental silence and physical passivity (relaxation) which opens a channel for the non-verbal communication by "God."
Mystics make use of the same techniques in order to induce contemplation. They may use relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, affirmations or visualizations.
The purpose of relaxation techniques is to relax both the body and the mind. Mind relaxation consists of eliminating distractions. Teresa of Avila confessed that a meditation technique she used was focusing on a religious theme, that was often inspired by the life of Jesus on earth or simply repeating a prayer, such as Our Father:
In case you should think there is little gain to be derived from practicing vocal prayer perfectly, I must tell you that, while you are repeating the Paternoster or some other vocal prayer, it is quite possible for the Lord to grant you perfect contemplation" (Ibid.)
The next step is concentrating fully on God.
However, the persons that do not try to reach necessarily God, do not look for a union with God, may use affirmations in order to attain physical or emotional healing; affirmations of this kind may be self-induced beliefs that refer to one's health, happiness, love etc.
Visualization techniques require a personification of the person; the meditator becomes a symbolic object (such as a bird etc.) through visualization. By this means he enters a state of contemplation where he can be expecting God to mystically invade him.
Hinduism also is familiar to meditation as a way of finding God within. The meditator first of all has to quiet the mind and body, in order to prepare for entering the "true" reality and achieve spiritual enlightenment. The highest level of transcendental state is achieving "pure awareness."
Returning to the mystic, John MacArthur stated that his key feature is his tendency "disdain rational understanding and seek truth instead through…