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DA'ATH See “Gnosis."


DANCE(See also “Chanting," Groups," "Music," "Singing," and "Yoga.”)

Meditative dance is a time-honored method that enables dancers to draw ever deeper and closer to inner and/or higher states of being through movement, especially (but not always) in groups. Meditative dance is not normal social dancing or dancing for art, though each can lead to meditative states. Meditative dance has the explicit purpose of dancing as a method of meditating.

Examples of meditative dance are many. They include dancing in circles while singing or chanting, swaying to chants or music while meditating, and even, as in one type of Islam, whirling in dance (in which worshippers are nicknamed "whirling dervishes") to create a transformational, deeper, higher meditative state.

The earliest forms of communication by and between ancient human beings may have included dances while chanting. The earliest form of language may actually have been singing. This, in turn, say some anthropologists, may eventually have led to people using spoken words without song or movement. Throughout history, West and East, there are written, painted, and sculptured records of people dancing for spiritual purposes. In an apocryphal ("apocryphal" means "not accepted in the traditional scriptures") Christian New Testament book, "Acts of John," the Christian founder, Jesus, stands in the center of a circle of disciples and tells them they have to dance to understand enlightenment.

Dancing, like some forms of yoga, is movement that engages the body in exercise. They also engage the vagus nerve, which scientists know as a part of the brain that encourages attachment and sustained relationships, as well as the ability to modulate other organs. Thus dancing (and some forms of yoga) encourage communal joining with others and positive emotions. 

You may practice this kind of meditation by doing it alone or with others. To do it alone, simply start by moving rhythmically in patterns that are slow or moderate in speed and help your body feel a rhythm and/or an openness to higher, deeper states of being, as if you are inviting them into yourself. Dancing to music may help if the music is the kind that helps you feel more connected to deeper, higher feelings; the same is true of chanting. You may want to start with slow, natural yogic or exercise movements to music or to a favorite chant.

You may want to join a group or watch a group online that is using "sacred dance," "dance and meditation," "wisdom dance," "conscious dance," or even "religious" or "ritual dance." You can practice these same movements at home alone, or invite others to join you. Most major and even some smaller cities have meditative dance groups.

See “Energy Centers” (Lower), “Kundalini,” “Occultism,” “Pain,” "Psychology," and “Problems.”

DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL/SPIRIT(See also “Depression,” “Mind,” “Nirvana,” and “Self.”)

This phrase has specific spiritual or religious meanings, especially in Christian mystical literature, but the experience exists for some people in all religions or none. One meaning is as a state of mental and/or emotional emptiness that is rather complete and is neither pleasant nor unpleasant; rather, it is more like the uncovering of one’s own blazing consciousness. This kind of “dark night” will eventually lift, though it may take days, weeks, or even months. (See “Nirvana.”)

This “blazing awareness” state of being is like constantly being in meditation, as most or all thoughts, images, and feelings are stripped away, and one is constantly aware of the present moment and what is in it (see “Awareness-of-each-object-of-awareness Meditation” and “Awareness-of-awareness Meditation”).

The other meaning is, for example, as experienced by St. Teresa of Calcutta (“Mother Teresa” of India). This version can be a type of depression or deep sadness or emotional pain that can last for days, weeks, or even, as in her case, a lifetime.

Those who experience it for a few months at a time might be experiencing “SAD”: seasonal affective disorder –which is called “seasonal” because it occurs especially during winter, and is related your body not having enough sunlight. Everyone’s body needs sunlight to produce vitamin D. In fact, insufficient sunlight at any time can cause SAD.

For example, even in summer, you can get SAD if you work in an office all day, go home using mass transit, and stay in your house the entire evening. As little as ten minutes of direct sunlight can make a difference. Vitamin D supplements and sunlamps also can help.

Another kind of depression, deep sadness, or emotional pain can, in a small number of people, be a more permanent part of their biochemistry. If this happens to you, it may not have started until you were fourteen to twenty-two years old.

You may be vulnerable to this especially if your depression lasts more than several months. Often (but not always) such depression is just mild to moderate. If the above methods of avoiding SAD do not work, then you should consult a doctor. Longer-term depression often can be helped by prescription medication.

In addition, do you use illegal drugs or alcohol excessively? If so, you may be self-medicating to avoid depression or emotional oversensitivity. Again, talk with a doctor.

A third type of dark night of the soul is a fairly typical but short depression that often is quite severe but generally only lasts for roughly three months. It can strike at any age, and a significant minority of people experiences it at some point in life. Usually it goes away by itself, but prescription drugs also may help this kind of depression.

With or without prescription help, this kind of depression may tend to change your personality, at least inwardly, because you discover that many of your inner qualities and ways of feeling that you took for granted no longer exist or happen during your depression. Later, in this kind of depression, your personality usually returns, to the extent that you want it, but some people find an altered view of their own understanding of self (see “mind” and “self”) or reality (see).   


DELUSION (See also “Illusion,” “Mind,” and “Reality.”)

In meditation, many delusions are possible and can be very distracting. Examples of somewhat typical delusions among those pursuing the life of meditation include discovering that you are a reborn great spiritual leader such as Jesus or Buddha; your mission on earth is to convert everyone to your own belief system; others must be made to obey your own intuitions or powers; and many more. While of course there may be some part of truth in some of these for a very few people, or in advanced spiritual states, for most of us, such beliefs and thoughts simply get in the way.

Are you convinced you have become psychic? Perhaps you have, but test it. Do you believe you can save humanity? Perhaps you can, in some small way, but what are your specific methods and results, and can you actually work hard at them for many years? Do you think you have invented a new way of living? Maybe you have, but does it really matter to anyone but you and, if so, why and how?

Always test, apply rational thought, and then return to the central focus–meditation. Meditation should not be a door to delusions, but rather an entry to more, better, and more thorough rational and scientific thinking, and further meditation.

Even as you discover more about yourself or others through meditation, however important they may be, do not step away from personal and spiritual growth–if that is what you want–by stopping meditation. Brief breaks are allowable.

However, the path of meditation is not for gaining power over others, but just for power over one’s own self and one’s choices (except when you use whatever power you might have gained to help others better meditate). Meditation can help you create more feelings of clarity, aesthetic appreciation, love, purer pleasure, and even healing in yourself and in others. However, it is not for sowing confusion, distaste, disagreement, lusts with no high meaning, or even pain–whether in others or in yourself.

DEMONS, DEMONIC See “Evil” and "Spirits."

DENIS OF SYRIA/DIONYSIUS THE AREOPAGITE/PSEUDO-DIONYSIUS See also “Apophatic and Cataphatic” and "Spirits."

          St. Denis of Syria–also known as Dionysius the Areopagite and Pseudo-Dionysius–was a mystic and meditation practitioner of the way of denial, or the "Apophatic" way (see). Chapter five of his Mystical Theology, which he wrote in the sixty century CE (AD), outlines very well the way of denial of the early Christian desert fathers. (For more, see "Apophatic and Cataphatic Meditation.")

DEPRESSION (See also “Dark Night of the Soul,” “Emotion,” “Pain,” and "Psychology.")

Depression is just one of many conditions in life that you may sometimes hope to cure by meditation. However, though you can meditate during depression, you usually cannot very successfully meditate yourself entirely away from depression.

That is because most depression has much to do with your biological self–your body. Depression thus requires changes in your external life, in addition to whatever aid meditation may bring. Depression often requires help from one or more professionals such as a doctor, a counselor, or a body therapist of some kind for physical, massage, or acupuncture therapy.

Again, meditation may help depression or other deep emotional problems such as anxiety. But it rarely works alone. Of all the problems, perils, and pains in our lives, depression provides an excellent example of the need for additional help.

Some depressions are very deep, very soul shaking, leading some to even take their own lives. Other depressions are mild or moderate and continue that way for weeks, months, or even years. While meditation may help in lessening or getting rid of depression, many forms of depression are physically or even situationally based, and meditation cannot cure them: some people need up to ½ - 1 hr. of daily direct sunlight, or more Vitamin D for depression.

Perhaps 10% or more of the population experiences a very deep depression once in a lifetime. Thankfully, such sudden onset of depression usually ends in roughly three months.

Another type of depression, not uncommon, is manic-depressive illness, or bi-polar disease. It is not, as may sometimes happen in meditation and its aftermath, simply moving in a few minutes, hours, or days of being very energetic and feeling great to being very tired and emotionally down. Rather, bi-polar disease usually has cycles of high and low that occur over many months. Also, bi-polar disease often is best treated with a mix of prescription drugs, exercise, healthy eating, and, if you choose, meditation. The great majority of bi-polar people need help from certified psychologists, psychiatrists, and/or medical doctors.

Patience–and a counselor with whom to talk–often are your best health practice for this. Other people experience low to moderate depression through much of their lives. if this is you, then you may need psychiatric medication, along with regular exercise (see) and a better diet (see).

For all such conditions and situations, two elements continue to be very important: get help from others, and make changes in your external life. Meditation may help during such times, or it may not–much depends on the person, the situation, and the need.

DESCENDING AND ASCENDING MEDITATIONS (See also “Energy,” “Energy Centers,” “Energy Sphere,” “Middle Stage of Meditation,” and “End Stage of Meditation.”)

In meditation practices, some people–including both new practitioners or “born again” (see) initiates, and a large number of masters and mystics from many spiritual and religious traditions–describe various types of awareness, light, love, power, or other forces that “descend” or “ascend.” These experiences are physical forces and psychological experiences that are very real in some way in how they happen and feel in your body, and they likely have energy correspondences that scientists are just beginning to measure well, if at all.

There are two major types of “descending” and “ascending” experiences. In the first, which is not uncommon in meditation, your own awareness seems to be located at a point higher or lower than–or outside of–your body. In the secondyou may feel, see, or otherwise sense some energy or force moving downward from above, or ascending upward from below.

The first–in which your awareness seems to be located elsewhere, often above or below one’s eyes or internal focus–is not uncommon during meditation. You may have experienced this outside of meditation, too, especially as a child or in the midst of an extreme situation such as a medical procedure, a wound, a drug experience, or another unusual event. As a result, you see what is in front of yourself from above your head (or even higher, or to the left or right of your body). Or you might feel like you have returned to your body after being “outside” of it. Such experiences happen to many at one time or another.  

The second type–of forces descending from above or ascending from below--is especially common in meditation and in “born again” (see) spiritual experiences. In born again spiritual experiences, for example, you may see, feel, or hear some kind of energy force, spiritual state, or even spiritual being descend from above, and come down into your awareness or your head. Whatever this experience is or means to you individually, it is so common among people that it gradually will be explained and quantified by science.

Other types of descent may include the movement of such energy deeper into your body and its energy centers (see); or, in specific healing experiences, into the parts of your body in need of healing. Such experiences are described in spiritual and mystical literature as descents of light, love, spiritual “waters” (see), or even, sometimes, the descent and temporary indwelling of some kind of spiritual being (but compare this to “Illusion”).

Ascending forces, powers, or experiences may be of mixed types and of mixed value to you. Many meditators describe an ascent of their awareness to higher, spiritual or heavenly realms. Others describe how their words, such as internal words or songs (see “Prayer” and “Mantra”) or feelings of love lift to higher levels.

Such ascents are, again, a type of energy movement that someday will be explained by science. However, if they happen to you, you should consider such experiences rationally, read and ask about them, and be sure they are not some kind of illusion or delusion (see).

Sometimes science cannot offer answers. Then you can look to the common experiences of master meditators now and over thousands of years of actual practice.

According to spiritual, meditation, and yoga masters, you may find that some ascents may even be dangerous if you attempt them without an experienced guide in person. Examples of what can happen to you include, but are not limited to, ascents from lower energy centers (see) in the body, such as the power center at the navel, the desire/health center between the navel and the base of the body, and the center at the base of the trunk.

Some yoga systems, as well as some (but not all) pagan and Wiccan spiritual systems, may encourage meditations and rituals that can awaken energies in you at these lower levels. Again, you need guidance–master meditators–who help you in person over years of time to use such systems safely. Letting such energies loose on your own, individually, can be powerfully destructive of your personality, something like exploring your  deepest unconscious fears, doubts, and negative emotions without the help of a counselor. (See “Dangers.)

DESPAIRSee “Depression” and “Emotion.”)

DETACHMENT (See also "The Flow Meditation," "Beginning Stage of Meditation," "Breathing," and "Emotion.")

"Detachment" means, in meditation, to be detached from normal thoughts and emotions, to unhook from them, let them go, or to concentrate in a way that prevents them from interfering. Detachment does not mean to leave the world and become a hermit, nor does it mean that you must give up all earthly thoughts, pleasures, and life. The best example of detachment in meditation is a person sitting in meditation, easily able to focus on his or her focusing method or point, without day-to-day thoughts, feelings, memories, or concerns interrupting the person's focus.

          In meditation, especially in the beginning stage, you may often find difficulty in detaching from normal thoughts and feelings. Developing a good place, method, and breathing patterns for meditation can help quite a bit. Breathing alone can help calm the mind and body. If greater calm is needed, you might try movement-based meditation, such as walking meditation (see "Moving Meditation"). Often, establishing a good meditation practice has to do with establishing a method or methods that bring you the most calm and peacefulness so that you can more easily detach yourself from the normal hubbub of life.

          Another helpful point about learning detachment is that if the distractions of thoughts and feelings are present but not capturing you–or you are not grabbing onto them like a ball and then running with it–if these distractions are, in other words, just simply there but not bothering you, then this, too, is acceptable in meditation. In fact, one type of meditation actually allows you to be an awareness of the flow of such distractions, simply watching them pass by without affecting you: see the "Flow Meditation."

DEVI, DEVIS See "Spirits."

DEVOTIONAL MEDITATION See “Heart Energy Center.”


DIFFICULTIES WITH MEDITATIONSee “Problems” and “Pain–Physical and Emotional”)





DISEASESee “Pain–Physical and Emotional.”

DISTRACTIONSSee “Detachment," "Emotional Reactions,” "Emotion," "Pain," and "Problems."

DIVINE (See also "Divine Indwelling," “God,” "Born Again," and "Superconscious.")

"Divine" in the world of meditation, spiritual studies, and religions, means holy, sacred, of or from God or a spiritual power or being, or otherwise taking part in spiritual powers of joy, love, peace, strength, et al. "Divine" does not mean, at least in meditation practice, simply something that is "good" or "beautiful" (though in the day-to-day world it can mean either of these). It also is not limited to just a divine person: powers, forces, spirits, and angels are sometimes called "divine" by religions and other spiritual systems.

The simplest and most common example of "divine" is to refer to God as the Divinity. Angels in different religions are referred to as being divine. And sometimes when people have had a meditation experience that to them seems to be a part of, or come directly from, a high spiritual state of being, they may say they have had an experience of the divine.

Uses of the words "holy" and "sacred" have similar meanings but are more generic and broad in meaning. In other words, while still being limited to talking about meditation or states of spiritual being, they aren't quite as tied into direct experience of a divine being. Rather, "holy" and "sacred" may mean something that is divine; or they may instead refer to something that is derived from, or comes out of, the divine but is not, itself, the divine: for example, sacred prayers, holy scriptures, et al.

In meditation, if you have an experience that feels well beyond normal external, emotional, or physical experiences, then certainly you may refer to it as being in some way holy or sacred. And if you have an experience that seems to be of or from God or ultimate being in some way, you are welcome to call it divine.

However, what you name it, while useful in describing it to others or even perhaps remembering it yourself, is not the experience. A helpful goal in meditation is to seek to find such experiences again, perhaps by meditating upon them in your memory to invite them back into your inner life, or perhaps by doing whatever your meditation practice was when you experienced them. If they are truly divine, then you are nearing the central sources of what meditation is about, sources that can change your inner and outer lives.

Reading about what others have experienced and talking with them about it also can be an excellent help. Such study not only can help you better understand your own experiences and what to call them, but also help you find these experiences and others like them more easily.

DIVINE INDWELLING (See also "Divine," "Centering Prayer," “God,” "Born Again," "The 'No' Meditation," "Awareness of Awareness," "The Flow Meditation," and "Superconscious.")

The "Divine Indwelling" is a Christian term from the "Centering Prayer" (see) movement. The Divine Indwelling  is a divine state of being that you have within yourself. It is, in general, the higher and deeper "Self" (see) in you that several meditation and spiritual systems mention. The Hindus call it the "Atman," which is a divine spark or chip of God (called in this viewpoint, the "Brahman"). Other systems say, simply, that this is your consciousness in its purest, most undiluted form.

In the "Centering Prayer" movement's Roman Catholic origins, the Divine Indwelling is the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost within you. Depending on the branch of the movement, you either have this within you from a baptism ritual or an internal, spiritual baptism such as a born-again (see) experience. The developer of this movement, Thomas Keating, calls the Divine Indwelling "the heart of the spiritual journey" in his Intimacy with God.

In any of these viewpoints, this Divine Indwelling does not mean that you–in your normal, day-to-day personality–are a god or the God, and it does not mean that God is dwelling within you secretly, completely hidden forever from you. The point is, at least in general meditation terms, that your conscious awareness, by itselfand not including the flow normal outward objects and inner thoughts and emotionsis a spark, chip, or piece of the universal awareness that is sometimes called God.

Examples of this are, simply, the conscious awareness of every human being, even every animal with awake awareness, and, some meditation experts would argue, especially those who follow pagan religious practices and those from some Eastern traditions, every part of the universe–plants, bacteria, even rocks and planets–have some sort of conscious awareness, even if in lower forms such as rocks it is a slumbering or barely awake awareness.

In terms of the "Centering Prayer" movement, many of its followers believe that if you have been baptized [either by ritual or in a "born-again" (see) experience, depending on the branch of the movement], then you have this kind of awareness within you. This is so even if you are not aware that you have it: it is a divine (not in any way regularly human) awareness waiting for you to discover it within yourself.

Names for the Divine Indwelling in other systems include "Atman" (Hindu, see), "Purusha" (Hindu), "Soul" (see), "Divine Self" (see "Self"), "Psyche" (Greek, see "Plato"), the "I" in "I-Thou" (Jewish, see "I-Thou Theology"), the one who is aware in Nirvana (Buddhist, see "Nirvana"; also see "Awareness"), and many others. See, especially, "Self" and "God" in this dictionary.

How do you meditate to find this Divine Indwelling or higher Self (see)? Look for your own awareness. See "Awareness of Awareness," "The Flow Meditation," "Centering Prayer," "The 'No' Meditation," and "Nirvana."

DOUBTSee “Emotional Reactions” and "Emotion."

DRINK See “Food and Drink.”

DRUGS AND BODY IMPLANTS (See also “Delusions,” "Distractions," "Gifts," Pain for Meditating," and "Problems.”)

Drugs and sensory implants may be good, bad, or neutral for meditation. “Drugs” refers to both prescription and nonprescription chemical enhancements. “Sensory implants” refers to physical devices implanted under the skin or in the body for medical or other purposes.

Drugs sometimes may be useful to meditation. In general, drugs–whether nonprescription or prescription–may be helpful for meditation if they tend to help you be more productive, at peace, and/or aware. On the other hand, they may be more harmful for meditation if they tend to distract, prevent, or disturb you, or if they tend to make you less aware or less conscious.

For example, pain relievers in smaller quantities may allow you to meditate more easily. And relatively harmless stimulants in small amounts, such as in coffee, may help you be more alert for meditation.

Another class of drugs, psychedelics, is loosely defined as drugs that have a psychological or sensitizing effect on awareness. Sometimes psychedelics may help you achieve deeper or higher levels of awareness. However, sometimes they may create too much disturbance or confusion for you.

In addition, many of them—with the exception of marijuana –are illegal. Moderation and balance in their use is, at the least, almost always required for meditation purposes, especially so that the body and mind can readjust afterward to life’s normal needs and work.

Sometimes you should never or rarely use psychedelics, or you should use mild versions only. This is because you may find, if you are more highly sensitive, that you may have an experience that shatters or deeply disturbs your normal life. In this regard, psychedelics are similar to trying  some of the more dangerous forms of energy-center based meditation (see “Dangers”).

Such dangers in the use of stronger psychedelics are the reason why experienced users often suggest, if you are taking such drugs for personal growth, that you do so in a neutral or pleasant environment with adequate sleep and nutrition beforehand, and with a person you trust. If you are using “trip”-producing psychedelics for meditation, these are conditions that, at the least, you should meet before you start.

Note that “speed” and “downer” drugs are not psychedelic, and they are not, except when taken like coffee or by prescription, very useful to you for meditating. In larger doses, they and alcohol (see “Food and Drink”) tend to strongly inhibit meditation.

Sensory implants are, like drugs, potentially useful or harmful. Examples of sensory implants may include heart monitors, medical dosimeters, magnets, listening devices, and many others. If they help you create more calmness, peace, and awareness and are not dangerous to a balanced life–for example, heart monitors that help people stay alive and keep their hearts healthy–then they may aid your meditation.

(See also “Western Model of Spirituality.”)

"Dualism" has been used throughout Western history to indicate an artificial division in something to do with religion or spirituality. The term does not simply mean a division in belief: usually the term is used negatively to describe a false separation between spirit and earth. For example, early offshoots of Christianity that preached that you must find God and renounce all earthly matters were labeled "dualistic" because they separated, almost completely, God from earthly life.

Meditation is non-dualistic. It assumes that you can find higher, deeper ways or levels of being simply through meditation, and that your meditations also can help your daily life here and now.



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Text © 2017-2020 by Richard Jewell

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First edition: 1 Sept. 2018. Second edition: 1 Sept. 2019. Free Use Policy

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