ABBA – (See also “God” and "Self.")
"Abba" is the name Jesus of Nazareth, founder of Christianity, used when referring to the ultimate state of being, or God. "Abba" means, accurately translated, a familiar form of "Father" such as "Daddy," "Dad," "Pop," or "Poppa." When Jesus said "Abba," he was not referring to his own father or to human father figures.
There are numerous examples of this use in the New Testament Gospels of the Christian Bible, where the stories of Jesus are told. When Jesus was using this term, he was not talking in the abstract, but rather encouraging others to think of the ultimate being, or God, as an intimate personal presence and experience. Meditation can make this presence more obvious and available.
ABOVE-THE-HEAD MEDITATION ENERGY CENTER – (See also "Energy Centers,” “Awakening Experience,” “Born Again,” “Chakras,” “Spiritual," and “Starting Stage of Meditation.”)
Seven meditation centers or focus points are roughly aligned with your spine. They are called, here, “energy centers” (see). They are physical meeting points for groups of nerves or the energy from many nerves. They also are–according to ancient Hindu, Chinese, and other medical and spiritual traditions–excellent points on which to focus in meditation. To read about all of them, see the Guide for “Energy Centers.”
The “above-the-head” energy center tends to be one of the two most important–or, at least, most common or most sought–focus points for people who are using the energy centers to meditate. The other of these two is the “Heart Energy Center” (see). Both are so often used because both play such an important part in the meditation lives of human beings. The above-the-head center is known in Hinduism as the “thousand-petalled lotus.” It also is a primary focus for the traditional form of yoga called raja yoga (see).
This above-the-head center is not a focusing on air or some imaginary or legendary location, Also, it is not disconnected with the physical body.
Most major spiritual traditions also recognize the above-the-head center, directly or indirectly, in meditation life. For example, it probably is the most common source, place, or point of origin for awakening (see) or “born-again” (see) spiritual or religious experiences: those opening or beginning experiences with which so many seekers start. Many traditions also consider it the closest or fastest path to higher or deeper realization in meditation, in part because it is the highest center in or near the human body.
How does your above-the-head energy center work physically? It is at the crown of your head or, more commonly, about one to three inches above it, either at the center or slightly back from the center, depending on where you can most easily find it. Scientifically, it is at the edge of the energy output or “aura” that scientific instruments can easily read as energy being radiated from the body. At this distance, science can build instruments that the brain can not only detect but control if properly trained to do so.
Would you like a list of meditation methods for this energy center? If so, go here to “Energy Centers,” which is one of the Guides listed on the home page.
THE ABSOLUTE – See "God," "Mysticism," and "The Superconscious Energy Center."
ACCEPTANCE IN/FOR MEDITATION – (See also “Dangers.”)
Acceptance in meditation simply means that you are open to the experiences and possibilities that come to you, whether you call this attitude acceptance, openness, submission, or some other name. Such openness does not mean that you must accept anything that comes: you may decide to reject internal thoughts and emotions that are distractions or are wasteful or painful, and even switch to another focus or method of meditation for a few minutes or a few months.
For example, openness in meditation means that if a sudden experience that is positive or neutral comes to you such as a feeling of expansiveness, lightness, peace, or physical cleansing or purifying, let it in; let it come; let it envelope you or dive into it. If you have doubts about whether it is bad for you or negative, then pull out and read more about the experience or ask others about it.
In some situations, such meditation may feel like an act of submission, or bowing to a greater being or force than you. If that helps your meditation, then such submission is not only fine but also well within a number of traditions in meditation systems throughout the world and history.
Another aspect of acceptance is humility or humbleness: the ability to not
become proud, over-excited, or distracted by your own successes in
meditation experience. A lack of humility about your experiences may
distract you from the experiences themselves. But this does not mean you
should maintain a sense of false humility when the time comes that it
might be helpful to someone else to talk about your own experience. Simply
describe your experience in a way that might help the other person or
people, talking about your experiences with neither unnecessary drama nor
– See the Short Guide to the
"Middle Stage of Meditation"
Stage of Meditation"
Also see "Awareness of Awareness Meditation" and the "Superconscious."
AFTERLIFE – (See also "Communion of Saints.")
The "afterlife" means the life after death. Many religions believe in it. The afterlife does not refer to some kind of after-experience in this life, but rather only what comes after human death. For example, many Western religious followers such as Christians, Muslims, and Jews believe there is some kind of heaven and/or hell. Some Hindus and Buddhists also describe layers or levels of heaven (or lack of heaven). Other religions, particularly those such as Zen Buddhism, believe in some kind of consciousness that continues after death by merging with other consciousnesses or a universal Awareness.
However, it is important to note that all "afterlife" states of being and experiences are, as far as meditation is concerned, also available to you in this life. Meditation practices can lead to experiences in your own lifetime of heaven, hell, purgatory, universal consciousness, merging with an earth goddess, or whatever else you are seeking through your chosen forms of meditation or spiritual practices. In meditation terms, there is no absolute, rigid separation of before-death and after-death states of energy or being, but rather a flow and merging in which the energies exist both before and after death.
"As above, so below," states an ancient wisdom teaching, and "As below, so above." They refer not only to the afterlife and your current life, but also to your possibilities in meditation.
However, in terms of actual meditation practices concerning an afterlife, a variety of meditation forms–whether through prayer or simple meditation focuses–do allow or even encourage contact with the dead. You can, according to these meditation practices, contact people who once were alive but now have become canonized (officially designed) saints. You can contact the originators of religions or those close to them such as Jesus and Mary, Mohammed, and Moses or Abraham. You can, according to Christian Catholicism and Mormonism, contact your dead relatives and friends, pray with them, and even help them get to heaven from the non-heaven they now might be in. Paganism also suggests practices for contacting various earth forces and elements.
For purposes of meditation, it is important to remember that such contact can be very positive, neutral, or even very negative, depending on whom or what you are contacting. It is the same as in the real world: you can choose to spend time with people who help you, directly or indirectly, to meditate better; with those who do nothing for you that help or harm you; or with those who are a negative influence and lead you further away from meditation.
One pitfall to avoid is that of thinking your contact with a Supreme Being or of a Founder of a religion gives you special knowledge to teach others. Generally, becoming a fount of verbal language or of instructions from a higher source is not only a distraction but also a narrowing of the intent of this greater person or state of being; at most, it may be meant just for you, and filtered only through your own limited perceptions and experiences in life. While you certainly can help others with good advice, it can be dangerous to consider yourself a "channel" or "voice" for a higher being.
Above all, do what is comfortable for you and may help you grow. As in all forms of meditation, experimentation is allowed, even good; and caution also is recommended using your own research to compare your experiences to others', or using the wise advice of others with whom you talk, or with a master/teacher.
AIR (ELEMENT) – See below. Also see the "Four Elements” and "Maitri Wisdom Meditation."
AIR IN MEDITATION – (See also the "Four Elements” and "Waters of Life.")
Air historically in most cultures from the beginning of time has referred, in general, to the life of thinking. This may include basic talking and internal "verbal" thinking; it may refer to visualizing and using visual forms of communication; or it may refer to more intuitive or highly focused mental activities of any kind.
In meditation, air may refer to your higher energy centers (see); to a feeling of "floating in air" that you sometimes may experience; or to the "air of life" or "breath" of life, also known in many religions and cultures as your "spirit" of "soul." This "breath of life," your spirit, is often considered by such systems to also be your true "self" (see), "atman" (see), or spark of the divine.
For several Eastern meditation methods combined with Western psychology using the element of air as a focus, see "Maitri Wisdom Meditation."
ALCOHOL AND MEDITATION – See “Drugs.”
ALL, THE ALL – See “One, Oneness, the One.”
ALLAH – Name of God in Islam. See "God" and the separate, short "Guide to God in Meditation."
ANCHORITE, ANCHORESS (f.) – (See also "Ascetic," "The 'No' Meditation" and "Apophatic and Cataphatic Meditation.")
An anchorite in the Western middle ages was a Roman Catholic recluse who permanently withdrew from the world and "anchored" in one room or "cell," often attached to a church, typically with a door permanently sealed, and three small windows: one opening into the sanctuary, one into a service area for personal items such as food, and one, usually covered, facing the sun. The recluse never left the cell, was not necessarily a monk, friar, or nun, and was not sealed into the cell as a punishment but rather by personal commitment.
An example is Julian of Norwich, circa 1400 CE, perhaps the most famous
Western mystic of her time, author of the earliest known book by a woman
in English. Many people from throughout Europe visited with her to pass
notes with questions for her and prayer requests. In spite of her severe
physical limitation, she meditated upon abundance, joy, and "divine love."
ANGEL – See "Spirits."
ANXIETY – See “Calming Meditation,” “Emotion,” “Pain,” and “Relaxing Meditation.”
APOPHATIC AND CATAPHATIC MEDITATION – (See also "Ascetic," "Denis/Dionysius of Syria," "Bliss," "Energy Centers," "God," "Nirvana," and the "'No' Meditation.")
Apophatic and cataphatic meditation and theology often are closely linked with mysticism. They are two different sides of the same coin in meditation. Both are concerned about how to reach meditative states, but one does so by getting rid of what is not good in meditation, while the other seeks to develop what is good in meditation.
The word "apophatic" derives from Greek and means, literally, "not showing," "nothing to show," or "no image." In practice, apophatic thinking was developed in the West by the Desert Fathers of the early Christian Church; however, it is a tradition that exists in ancient times, as well, throughout the world. The Desert Fathers and other ascetic followers throughout history lived lives of denial, sometimes very extreme, cutting themselves off from most human pleasures and comforts. Chapter Five of Denis of Syria/Dionysius' (see) Mystical Theology well outlines the denial system of the early Christian Desert Fathers.
Their way is known as a negative form of practice, with "negative" not meant in a bad sense but rather in the sense of getting rid of everything within you that prevents good meditation. In this kind of meditation, you generally work to find and live in ultimate reality by recognizing and then banishing from yourself what it is not. You use silence, ascetic lifestyle, and/or saying "no" to the world. (See "Denis of Syria/Dionysius," "The 'No' Meditation," "Ascetic," and "Nirvana.")
The word "cataphatic" or "kataphatic" derives from Greek and means,
literally, "intensified speaking." In practice, cataphatic meditation also
is known as affirmative meditation. It works to define or experience God
in positive ways. Cataphatic meditation concerns itself with seeking the
fullness or goodness of God. For cataphatic meditation methods, see
"Bliss," "God," "Love," "The Throat Energy Center," "The Third Eye Energy
Center," "The Heart Energy Center," and "Superconscious." Kataphatic
prayer seeks similar positive and affirming experiences or meanings (see
ARCHITECTURE AND MEDITATION – (See also "Arts," "Beauty," and "Symbol.")
"Architecture" means, for meditation purposes, buildings that are helpful to you in meditating. The building may be very simple, such as a wood arch under which you sit, or large and complex, such as a cathedral. It can help you meditate simply by being beautiful or because it is a traditional place for people to meditate.
Architecture usually does not meaning a natural formation such as a beautiful cliff or cave (though occasionally the word is used to compliment natural wonders). Architecture also, for meditation purposes, is not just a highly practical building such as plain living quarters or plain buildings (though these certainly can be used for meditation).
Architecture that helps you meditate often is both beautiful and
specifically built and used for meditation or spiritual practice. Such
buildings may be a simple meditation or prayer room; any religious
building such as a temple, church, or mosque; or a quiet place of nature
where architecture–seating and/or overhead protection from the
elements–have been built to make your meditation experience better or more
accessible. Such places often have a reservoir of "remembered" psychic or
meditation energy from others who have meditated or prayed there.
ARK – (See “Body.”)
The "Ark of the Covenant" is, externally, the box in which the Jewish Commandments received from God by Moses were carried to Israel and kept in its Temple for many generations, until it disappeared. In meditation experience, the Ark is a symbol of the human body. In neither case is the Ark itself a spiritual message or spiritual energy in its own right; rather, the Ark's importance lies in what it contains.
In meditation terms, this simply means that much or most of meditation work and practice occurs in, with, or for the human body. In mystical terms, it means that, in Judaism, a meditator's purified body can contain the Covenant–the connection between meditator and God. In Christian mysticism, the new Ark or body is the body of Christ, or the mystical body of energy that is a meditator's purified body form, combining both the physical and the purified spiritual energies of which any meditator's body eventually is capable.
– See “Posture.”
THE ARTS AND MEDITATION – (See also the "'Third-Eye' Energy Center," "Visualization," and "Writing and Meditation.")
"Art" can mean paintings and drawings, music, sculpture, architecture, and even artistic crafts such as pottery. Meditation and all of the arts often can go hand in hand. Whether you are enjoying art around you or creating it yourself, you can do so in a meditative way.
Enjoying art in a deep, satisfying way is a type of meditative practice as much as is enjoying the beauty of nature. Any time that art helps you rise to a higher or deeper state of being or feeling, and you try to sustain this experience, you are meditating. The same can be true when creating art: your inner being is attuned to both creating beauty and using precision in doing so. This is an experience that brain scientists would say creates cross-brain thinking, or the use of multiple parts of your brain.
To use art as meditation, simply find art, the more beautiful, moving, or surprising to you, the better. Enhance your experience by maintaining it for several seconds or minutes beyond what you might otherwise feel or see. Or if you wish to use meditation in creation, then create something that to you seems or feels beautiful, and let the feelings and perceptions of beauty move into and through you as you create it.
In artistic events such as music, dance, plays, film, and other
time-dependent arts, another way of meditating is to focus on the leading
edge of the event. If, for example, you are listening to a musical
performance, don't get caught in remembering what it sounded like five
seconds earlier. Rather, use the saying "Be Here Now." That means that if
you want to perceive the overall effect, simply follow the leading edge of
the sound. Doing so is, in fact, good practice for "Be Here Now" or "Flow"
meditation, which means simply following everything you are experiencing
second by second by focusing on it as it happens to you (see "Flow
ASCENDING – See “Descending and Ascending.”
ASTRAL BODY – See “Energy Sphere,” “Energy Centers,” and “Soul.”
ASCETIC – See “Retreat" and "Renunciation.”
ATMAN – (See also "Self," “God,” "Soul," "I-Thou Theology," and “Nirvana.”)
“Atman” is the portion of God that, says Hinduism, is within you, and within each other person, animal, and plant. Hinduism says that you can find God–for the sake of limited human understanding–in two main places: you can find “Brahman,” which is the all-encompassing God, who is everywhere; you can find “Atman,” which is the portion of God in you and each other entity. This, says Hinduism, is true even though the two versions of God really are, in fact, just one God. The more highly you are evolved, the more active your Atman is, and the more self-aware you can become.
Your Atman is not a psychic personality, spirit, or complicated soulfulness, says Hinduism. Rather, it is a pure awareness. If it has any elements in it at all, they would be the same elements of which God is composed–as described by various religions (e.g., the Triune God of Christianity, the dual God of other religions, the All-encompassing God and his/her several manifestations or extensions of many mystery, pagan, and occult systems, etc.).
Some Hindus say that even nonliving things such as rocks, atoms, and subatomic particles have a slumbering or unawakened Atman. This is similar to some scientific physicists’ speculations about there being some kind of unknowable quality or state of being underlying even the smallest quantum energies in matter.
Names for Atman in other systems include "Divine Indwelling" (Christian, see), "Purusha" (from Hinduism), "Soul" (see), "Divine Self" (see "Self"), "Psyche" (Greek, see "Plato"), the one who is aware in Nirvana (Buddhist, see "Nirvana"; also see "Awareness"), the "I" in "I-Thou" (Jewish, see "I-Thou Theology"), and many others. See, especially, "Self" and "God" in this dictionary.
ATTENTION – See “Mindfulness.”
AWAKENING EXPERIENCE – (See also “Born Again,” "Holy Spirit," and “Starting Stage of Meditation.”)
An “awakening experience” usually means a first spiritual experience. Such experiences have been observed in trained meditators scientifically, and the scientific results are that such states of being alter how you feel, perceive, and even hear everything around you, along with a calming of your heartbeat and other body systems. Probably a great majority of humans have had at least one such experience.
awakening experience is not just a new or awakened interest in meditation
or a spiritual system. It is not just an intellectual or emotional
decision to try out something new of this type. Rather, it is an actual
inner experience you have that is a first or second time of feeling,
seeing, or hearing the presence of some greater, deeper, or higher power.
Examples include Christian “born again” (see) experiences, first
experiences of some kind of spiritual or deeper-than-usual presence, and
meditative practices that suddenly open a new doorway, ladder, or pathway
into something unusual and beyond normal, average, typical human
AWARENESS, THE AWARENESS – See "Self" and "Nirvana."
AWARENESS OF AWARENESS MEDITATION – (See also the “Flow Meditation.”)
This is a simple, but not always easy, turning of your own awareness onto itself. You watch, listen to, and feel your own awareness.
It is not a greater awareness of something that happened in your thoughts or feelings several seconds earlier. It is not any special higher or lower state of awareness, either. It is, simply, currently being aware of your current awareness. The way to do this is that once you are aware of, for example, your breathing, a thought, or a feeling, you turn your awareness onto itself. Instead of simply watching your breathing, your thought, or your feeling, you dive into the center of your own awareness of it. It is similar to looking in one’s own eyes in a mirror and trying to find the consciousness behind the eyes.
Often the biggest problem with doing this kind of meditation is that a person becomes easily distracted, slipping into normal thoughts or feelings, or an awareness of thoughts and feelings. To counter this, you can choose a specific counting or touching mechanism, such as counting numbers verbally or using a specific repeated touch like bringing together the tip of the thumb and forefinger. This may help you to keep trying to be conscious of your awareness.
Another seeming problem is that you may discover their consciousness cannot be maintained perfectly. It may seem to come in bubbles, episodes, or events of eight to twelve seconds each for the typical person. Some may find their episodic consciousness lasting shorter or longer, perhaps in the range five to thirty seconds. The number of seconds tends to be the same each time for any one given person. After your mind has completed this episode, it will, for just a second or perhaps a few seconds, naturally go into brief lapse of consciousness, an awareness gap, that may last from one to several seconds. This cycle of consciousness and unconsciousness is normal: likely it occurs in everyone. You simply return to your meditation each time a new bubble or episode of awareness begins.
You may find this awareness-of-awareness meditation very calming. You may also find it particularly good for falling asleep. You may also find it is good training for becoming increasingly aware of more subtle or difficult types of meditations. It also can be especially good for discovering something that seems to be pressing on your unconscious or subconscious–a memory, thought, or feeling close to the surface of your awareness but just out of reach: you may be able to find or recover it more easily using this method. And for some meditators, this type of meditation brings on especially more intense or “higher” levels of meditation experience.
AWARENESS OF EACH OBJECT OF AWARENESS – See the "Flow Meditation."
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