10 tips to inner peace through meditation (This first appeared in Australian Catholic, December 2014)
Transforming the planet into a more peaceful place is a hefty job. The wise suggest we start by cultivating peace within, but that’s easier said than done. So Australian Catholics looked for a guru to teach us about discovering inner peace through meditation.
Fr John Dupuche knows a thing or two about meditation. His meditation journey began 56 years ago, when he took the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises’ ‘long retreat’ as a seminarian and has continued his practice ever since. As the parish priest of Nazareth Parish in Melbourne, a lecturer on meditation at Catholic Theological College and the coordinator of School of Prayer with the Archbishop’s Office for Evangelisation, Fr Dupuche says he couldn’t live without meditation.
‘Parish life is so busy that if I didn’t have this time of meditation I would become scattered. As a consequence of being in the presence of God and more self-aware, I am more aware of people and I can relate to them better,’ he explains. ‘In the stillness, I can be most truly who I am. Therefore to be for others.’
After picking his brain, Australian Catholics compiled a list of ten tips, in Fr Dupuche’s words, on starting a meditation practice and creating some peace in your mind and heart.
- Find your own style
There are many forms of meditation. Zillions of them: the mantra, using a sacred word; focusing on the breath; visualisation meditation and to sit and just to be aware of the act of sitting. Besides sitting, breathing and visual meditation there’s also using the sacred text. Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a different form of meditation but it reaches the same end. There’s a list as long as your arm. It goes on and on. You have to find your own.
- You don’t have to venture to the East
There is an emphasis in the East on silence. I think people, in this very busy world of ours, need silence. They found it readily in the eastern forms of religion, but not in the Catholic Church – although it was there.
There are many spiritual traditions in the Catholic Church. Perhaps a famous one is the Spiritual Exercises, but you have a whole range of styles (the Carmelite, Benedictine, Franciscan traditions and there are many others).
- It’s best to seek a guide
Of course in the Hindu tradition, you would seek for your guru. You would find the guru that suits you. Then once you found your guru, you would ask them to teach you.
More and more these days, people see the need to search and to seek. People need to search for a spiritual teacher from whom they can relate deeply. But find a good teacher.
- A bit of preliminary work
Meditation is not simply…you sit down and you meditate and you reach peace. Before the flowers can grow in the garden, there is some weeding that needs to be done.
The person must make sure that if there’s lack of reconciliation with members of one’s family or one’s work colleagues, they must seek reconciliation and also to be reconciled with one’s self. One’s conscience must be clear. I think a person who lives according to their conscience will more easily enter into the peace of meditation.
- You don’t have to sit like a yogi
We always have these images of people sitting in Padmāsana (lotus pose) from yoga. Well, if you can manage that that’s fine, but a lot of people can’t and it’s not necessary either. It must be a certain upright position, which is finely balanced: not leaning to the left or leaning to the right, not leaning forward, the head straight. Whatever is comfortable, but not too comfortable.
- You can try a mantra
The monks in the desert as they wove their baskets, they would recite a mantra, ‘O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me.’ Mantra meditation has always been a part of the Christian tradition in one form or another. The rosary and even the monks in the monasteries reciting the psalms are forms of mantra prayer. There is really no difference in using that or some other form of mantra. The word mantra is a Sanskrit word that’s true, but we use the words aspiration or invocations. What counts is not the word themselves, but the mood, attitude or heart that’s there.
- Consistency is important
Meditation is a long road. The level of peace will not go as far and will not be as deep, if one does not make it a regular part of one’s day. So regularity is important to the process.
- Bask in the silence
Our relationships when they become very deep they become very quiet. When relationships begin there is a lot of activity, but when they become very profound they become very still like a mother holding her baby. It is a moment of profound stillness, the baby nestles in your arms and you are enfolded in the presence of your child. The child is aware of the mother and the mother is very aware of the child in the stillness.
- Remember that peace through meditation is a gift
One really can’t make oneself at peace. It is given to us as a gift out of love and this is so encouraging. If we see the whole work of meditation as our own effort this could be disheartening. Whereas if we understand that it’s gift, grace and generosity that carries us along then it is so much easier. The more the gift is given, the more we are inspired to work.
- The goal is love
Anybody can sit still for two minutes, but it won’t last or it won’t grow unless it deepens. The more (the meditation) deepens, then the more one becomes aware of loving oneself, being at peace with oneself. The expanding consciousness makes us perceive that in the end all is love. You sometimes hear the phrase ‘all is consciousness’, well, that’s true, but even more true is that all ultimately is love. Consciousness when it’s properly understood and unpacked is love. So in meditation one becomes perfectly aware, perfectly conscious, because there is no resentment, no pettiness and no falsity. Everything is transparent and open, therefore love flourishes. So meditation leads to love.