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S s

See “Energy Centers” and “Health Energy Center.”

SACRED (See “Divine.")
SAINTS See “Anchorite" (Julian of Norwich), "Denis of Syria/Dionysius," "Ignatius of Loyola" and "Teresa of Avila.”


SAMADHI – “Samadhi” typically means “enlightenment” (see).

SATCHIDANANDA Name of God in ancient Hinduism ("Sat" = "Peace," "Chit" = "Consciousness/Power," and "Ananda" = "Joy/Love.") See "God," "Trinity," and the separate, short "Guide to God in Meditation."

SATORI – In “Zen meditation” (see), satori means “illumination” or “enlightenment” (see).

SAVASANA (See also "Nidra Meditation/Yoga" and "Maitri Meditation.")

          Savasana is a type of meditation in a yoga position that is easy, simple, and introductory. It is recommended especially for those with problems such as PTSD, anxiety, stress, insomnia, et al. Savasana was developed in ancient times in India as one part of a comprehensive yoga system and has entered the Western system of psychology, especially as "Nidra Yoga" (see), but also in general as a technique of self-healing.

          An example of how you can use Savasana is to lie on a mat (or even in bed: see "Sleep") on your back with your arms out at a 45-degree angle and your feet one to two feet apart; close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and then breathe naturally; and then let your focus become aware of whatever in your body, feelings, or mind is demanding attention or troubling you. Many people choose to focus on one body part at a time; some choose to concentrate on just one body part for the entire meditation (which can last from five min. to an hour–you choose the length of time, as you will); others rotate through two, three, or even many parts of the body, relaxing each in turn.

          For more details on one type of Savasana, see "Nidra Yoga." Many other resources also are available online, in bookstores, and in class offerings, as well.

          Some problems may occur in practicing any kind of meditation. If you are using an introductory type of meditation such as Savasana, you may also see "Problems" and "Psychology" in this dictionary for possible dangers and difficulties. However, those who use Savasana often are learning it to deal with problems they already have, so usually they will experience relief, at least initially, rather than additional problems.

SAVITRI See "Fire in Meditation."

SCRIPTURE (See also "God," “Mind," “Soul,” "Lectio Divina," and "The Western Model of Christianity.")

"Scripture" means the received truth of a religion written for believers to read. A set group of writings, called a "canon," are chosen by believers and kept as a group for that relgiion as its sacred texts. Often followers of the religion consider their scripture to be in some way divinely revealed or given. Scripture is not simply tracts, laws, or stories about a religion. Rather, scriptures usually are the words and stories from the founder of the religion or of those very close to the founder. Examples include the Jewish Tanakh, the Christian Bible, Islam's Koran, the Hindu Vedas and Upanishads, the Buddhist Tripitaka and Mahayana Sutras, and, in other religions, many other scriptures.

The founders of major religions, and often their earliest followers, usually were experts in meditation and mysticism. For this reason, the founders' words often are very useful for meditation practices. However, there are three problems you might encounter in using scripture to establish your meditation practices. The first, a somewhat minor problem, is that not all of the followers who wrote scripture were widely experienced meditators. Some may have had meditation experiences only in narrow areas of belief or practice. As a result, what they say about meditation practices in other religions–or in no religions–sometimes may be biased. In this regard, you might want to keep in mind that most of the founders of religions are reported in scriptures about them to have said that those who practice real meditation practices are not enemies of those founders' beliefs or followers.

Second is more significant problem. Most people read translations of scriptures. And unfortunately, most translators are language scholars, not mystics nor practitioners of meditation. As a result, they often miss mystical and meditation meanings. For example, in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, the "Song of Songs" ("Song of Solomon") and many of the shepherd/mystic David's "Psalms" are works of meditation and mysticism. However, most translations do not reveal this adequately or, if they do, the mysticism is so abstract that you may find it difficult to relate it to meditation practice. This is true in many translations of scriptures.

A third problem is that many of those who teach these scriptures, whether in religious services or schools, are not meditation practitioners or mystics themselves. Thus they not only add further abstraction, away from meditation practices, to their readings of scriptures, but also too often, unfortunately, are likely to interpret scriptures as having nothing to do with modern life, and even to say that one's inner life is far less important than the external material life. You should not expect help with meditation practice from such teachers. (See "The Western Model of Christianity," which also applies to other religions.)

As a result, trying to follow scripture to create meditation practices can be something like putting together a 1000-piece puzzle with just three or four hundred pieces. For this reason, guides to meditation practices in each of the major religions can prove very helpful. And if you are in middle-stage or advanced practices, new and/or alternate translations may help you find more easily the meditation practices of a particular religion.

See "Afterlife."

SELF (See also "I-Thou," “Mind," "Self-less,” “Soul,” and "Centering Prayer.")

In some meditation systems, a distinction is made between the “self” (small “s”) and the “Self” (capital “S”). This distinction means to point out a different between your normal, everyday personality (“self”) from your pure awareness (“Self”). You have this pure awareness and live with it constantly: it is what sees, hears, and feels the world around you and within you.

This Self is not your personality, your mind, or your body. These latter are all part of your normal self with a small “s.” Your Self with a capital “S” is, simply, nothing more nor less than your conscious awareness.

Popular forms of Hinduism, Buddhism, Paganism, and some other spiritual systems say that this Awareness or “Self,” in and of itself alone, is a spark, chip, reflection of, or part of the higher Divine Force or Power that people call God. Thus, say these spiritual systems, every you and everyone else automatically is connected to God.

In meditation, you can gain a deeper, stronger sense of your own “Self” or awareness because it can, in fact, be separated from normal experiences and your normal personality. Finding this awareness, this separation, and this Self is one of the primary experiences of deep forms of meditation.

Note that living with and from this Self does not mean you are always different or abnormal. Even if you reach the advanced stage of meditation, there will be many hours in each days when you are living in and from your normal, day-to-day “self” with a small “s.” This daily self may be changed, perhaps more purified and clearer from the meditation you have practiced and learned. However, it is still a personality.

It is in meditation that the Self is more fully revealed, and with it new experiences, new rainbow raiments to try out and wear, and new perspectives on life. When you reach middle and advanced stages of meditation, you are more quickly and for longer periods of time able to live in your Self, dwell in it, and let it dwell more often in you.

To learn more about understanding of the “self” vs. the “Self,” see “Mind.” For meditation exercises to help you find–or see more clearly–your “Self,” see “Awareness of Awareness” and “Awareness of Each Object of Awareness,” or simply read the “Starting Stage.”

SELFLESS (See also "I-Thou," “Nirvana," "Self,” “Soul," and "Centering Prayer.”)

"Selfless" means, in meditation, "self-less," "without a self," or in a "no-self" state. This meaning is different from the normal usage of the word "selfless," which means to do something unselfishly. "Selfless" as related to meditation is a word that applies to experiences in which one has or feels no "small self" involved–neither a regular human personality nor a regular human ego.

Sometimes this experience is referred to as extinguishing the ego, or "immolation" ("burning away") of the ego. However, none of these definitions or descriptions mean that you will not have an awareness. The awareness that remains when the small self is extinguished is, if anything, an even stronger awareness than usual. This awareness is of the "Self" or "I" (see "Awareness," "Self," "I-Thou," and "Soul").

There are several ways in meditation to work toward experiencing a self-less state. See the specific types of meditation called "Faith," "Awareness of the Flow," and "Awareness of Awareness," and "Centering Prayer." See also the energy centers or chakras called "Superconscious," "Above the Head," and "Heart." Also see "Mysticism" and "Nirvana."

SETTINGS FOR MEDITATION See also “”Moving” and “Still.”

The settings–the times and/or places–for meditation depend very much on you.. Whether you choose to meditate first on waking or last at night–or in the quietest room or corner of nature or in a busy coffeehouse or even in a business meeting–is your own very personal decision.

However, a few basic guidelines may help you. First, there are a number of helpful studies of learning and of memory recall. They suggest strongly that you learn and later use your knowledge better when you use the same location for both the learning and the recall. This is true whatever location you choose, indoors or outdoors, in a room alone or amidst many others. This means that you may improve faster in meditation if you tend to meditate in the same place, or perhaps a few main places, consistently. By doing so, you and your body will better recall what you have already learned and be able to move forward better.

Second, you may find, as do many people, that you can better learn meditation in a group experience where others also are meditating. In short, this means a meditation class. If this appeals to you, then regular use of a class is recommended. However, note that you may prefer meditating alone. Many people prefer this approach, instead.

Third, you may find it easier to meditate at the same times each day or week, if possible. This conditions your body to expect–and reach for–the same or similar physical, emotional, and mental states of meditation more quickly.

Fourth, learning studies also indicate better recall when your body is in the same chemical state–e.g., caffeinated or not, hungry or not, relaxed or exercising–each time. The same likely is true in meditation. You may make faster progress if you meditate when you are in the same or a similar chemical state each time.

Fifth, there is no reason why you can’t meditate in a variety of places, times, and states. Repetition of these conditions may help, but there’s no reason why you can’t regularly meditate in several such conditions.

Sixth, much in successful meditation depends on your own, individual interests, needs, desires, abilities, and comfort zones. This is why it is wise to explore a number of methods, goals, settings, and interests in meditation.

THE SEVEN GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT (See also "Above-the-head Energy Center," "Born Again," and "Centering Prayer.")

          In Christianity's Roman Catholic tradition, there are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which non-Catholic meditators may also understand as seven gifts from the born again experience (see), or from the Thousand-petalled Lotus or Above-the-head Energy Center (see the latter). These seven gifts are wisdom, understanding, knowledge (for more related to these three, see "Third-Eye Energy Energy Center" and the "Throat Energy Center"), counsel (see "Master/Teacher,"), piety, fortitude, (for these two, see "Middle Path"), and reverence (see "Acceptance").

          For meditation practice, these seven traits not only serve as excellent background traits to help you better meditate, but they also are "gifts" that regular meditation practice gradually helps you gain. In addition, each one of these traits can be used as subject of meditation if you are interested in choosing a particular word or phrase upon which to meditate (see "Mantra," “Prayer,” Throat Energy Center,” and “Word Meditation").

SEX AND MEDITATION (See also “Balance,” “Body,” “Health,” “Health Energy Center,” “Pain,” and “Paired Meditation.”)

Sex, like exercise and eating, is neither necessarily good nor bad for meditation. In and of itself, healthy sex often is a good form of exercise. It also can be, if you wish, an opportunity for meditation like most other activities in life. However, bad or inappropriate sex can be not only a great distraction from meditation and a balanced life, but also can be misused in meditation.

Examples of especially healthy sex may include healthy, enjoyable intercourse with a long-term partner you trust, and healthy self-stimulation. Examples of good meditation in sex might be as simple as ever more mindful, meditative focus during intercourse with your partner; or a simple but increasingly developed sense of the physical, emotional, and mental functions during masturbation. Richer, more complex forms of meditation and sex might include tantric (see) meditation systems, or what some pagan (see) spiritual systems call “sex magic.”

In the life of meditation and sex, sex should, at the least, an appropriate and helpful background activity that leads to balance. In other words, it should help your physical, emotional, and mental life and be a comfortable part of it. This does not mean it can’t be exciting. However, it also should bring you great comfort. How you accomplish this may vary quite a bit from how others do so, as there are many physical, emotional, and mental degrees, abilities, and interests in sexuality. Life situations and surroundings also can make a significant difference.

Meditation during sex also can be helpful. You may experience this in several stages. An early stage is the type of awareness that psychologists often recommend for good sexual experiences: mindfulness of the various physical, emotional, and mental events within your sex activity, including both your own and your partner’s thoughtfulness and care. You simply pay attention to what does and does not feel good and right. In addition, just as in beginning a good meditation, you can observe and adjust posture/position (see) and breathing (see). Experimenting is good. If you are involved in non-partner masturbation, you can try many of the same methods as with a partner.

In what might be considered a middle stage of sex and meditation, you gradually find ways to make the experience more specifically centered on a type of meditation–for example, both of you might engage in meditating on your own or each other’s hearts–and/or centered on making some of your sexual experiences more intense. If you choose this latter path, you still should maintain only what is comfortable, respectful, and caring for you and your partner. In addition, an increase in intensity does not have to involve too-intense results, either in the act itself or in how you feel afterward. Moderation, even in the midst of intensity, is good.

Yet another joint meditation method during sex is to become ever more deeply entwined in each other’s awareness. Some couples accomplish this by starting into each other’s eyes or saying key words or sounds. Others do so with eyes closed, even silent, using touch for communication. Again, this should be a mutual–and mutually planned or understood–experience.

You should be aware, though, that trying such bonding experiences with one or both partners thinking it is a casual sexual event may cause problems. Sex in and of itself creates a powerful bond between people, whether with just one partner or both, and such deep entrances of your concentration into the other person’s body and energy field can cause even more powerful bonding. Such powerful bonding can be a wonderful experience to those who are already deeply committed to each other. But it can be like a glue that cannot be unstuck, unremembered, or shaken off for those who do not expect such bonding.

In advanced levels of meditation in sex, you either need to be working with higher meditation energies that can descend into various sexual experiences, or you need the guide of a master teacher or of a psychologist. At the least, you may need careful and full published instructions on how to proceed. Some tantra yoga (see) systems deal specifically with sexuality. Even these, though, should be used with caution, as most of them require the presence of a guru or master teacher.

Sexuality can be powerfully good in life and in meditation. But it also can be powerfully bad, creating negative memories that may take months or years to fully heal. This is why you should approach sex and meditation cautiously.

SHAMAN, SHAMANISM – (See also “Paganism” and “Witchcraft.”)

A “shaman” is a wise spiritual leader in a tribe of people, one who communes with the spirits of nature or other spirits important to the tribe. A shaman is not a political leader, nor a preacher, minister, or holy one in the sense of most major religions, though some shamans also have healing skills. Rather, a shaman is a devotee of the unseen powers and forces of, in, and for the natural world, and translates these to and for tribal members.

An example of a shaman would be any traditional Native American “medicine man” or “medicine woman.” For meditation purposes, the process of becoming a shaman, and the process of looking “behind the veil” of the normal world, are forms, steps, or methods of meditation.

SHARED MEDITATION See “Meditation with or on Others.”

Shavasana See "Savasana."

SILENCE See "Nirvana," the "'No' Meditation," "Centering Prayer," and "Prayer."

SIN, ORIGINAL SIN (See also “Problems," "Emotions," "Guilt," "Repentance," "Renunciation," and "Pain.”)

          "Sin" has many meanings. It is a term used in several major religions, especially those in the West. Its popular meaning in the West is "something unethical," meaning something that a person has done that is ethically, morally, and/or religiously wrong. It does not, in this popular understanding, mean small mistakes, such as forgetting to turn on one's alarm clock; rather, the term is reserved for moderate to serious lapses in moral or ethical judgment or going against strict rules of a religion. For example, disobeying one of the Mosaic Ten Commandments ("Thou shalt not kill," "Thou shalt not worship any other god but God," et al.) often is considered sinful, as is any of a number of more moderate ethical lapses such as forgetting to feed the dog, giving one's child hotdogs for supper three nights in a row, etc. This concept of sin often is tied up with feelings of guilt, doubt, and other negative emotions and thoughts.

          "Original sin" is the theory or doctrine that from the creation of the first human beings (in the West, Adam and Eve), humans have been sinful at the point at which they turned away from following God. In this theory, all of us as humans bear the responsibility for being sinful or ethically bad just because we are human.

          However, "sin" when translated by those understanding meditation, states of inner being, and spiritual experience actually means "error" or "imperfection," one caused by not being connected to the most perfect inner flow of being. In this translation and meaning–as often and thoroughly explained, for example, by the mystic Paul of Tarsus (St. Paul), who was responsible for developing much of Christianity in the decades after Jesus' death–the laws of religions might be helpful, but they are overshadowed, even unneeded, when one has faith, or a direct connection to what in meditation would be considered the highest, deepest state of being.

          An Eastern, particularly Buddhist interpretation for "sin" is that we are born with, or develop, a limited, imperfect ego. This is the small ego of the limited self, busy with its own life and projections and not seeing or experiencing the greater Self (see) that lies within. Meditating on or through this greater Self–and becoming, increasingly, that greater Self–relieves us of sin, says Buddhism, and we become more attuned with higher, deeper states of being and of God.

          As for the Western theory of original sin, it is useful if you understand it to mean that you are, in fact, born imperfect. Everyone is. We are not Superman or Wonder Woman, externally or internally. However, through meditation, you can discover deeper and higher states of being, which in turn help you toward being a better person, both inner and outer. In meditation, we pursue the inner connection that Paul of Tarsus called "faith" (see). Faith is, simply, a specific type of Christian meditation. (See also "Divine Indwelling.)

          This type of meditation called faith means, said Paul, learning to have ever more conscious connection with true being. Paul's viewpoint is much like that of Buddhism, except that where Buddhism talks of the higher Self being a doorway to experiencing higher being, Paul declares that the faith relationship with God as a doorway to higher being.

          In terms of sin and law, Paul says that looking for and finding faith in one of its many forms will not only help you follow the true and necessary laws, but also sometimes lead you to know what exceptions to external, human laws you should make. In other words, the idea of "sin" as imperfection is, simply, an opportunity to seek higher, deeper states of being through meditation so that you, as an individual Self and practitioner of "faith," can find, increasingly, the best way to live and to be.

          For more on the meditation practice of faith, see "faith" and "Centering Prayer." For more on the practice of finding the higher Self, see "Self."

SINGING See “Others, Meditating with/around/in” and "Arts."


SLEEP AND MEDITATION  – (See also "Awareness of Awareness Meditation," "Calming Meditation," "Flow Meditation," "Moving Meditation," and "Nidra Meditation.")

Sleep can be either a problem or a goal in meditation. You might find yourself falling asleep whenever you try meditation, which is a common problem. Or you might be at the opposite end of the spectrum and have trouble falling asleep, in which case you may be able to use meditation to fall asleep.

First, if you have the problem of falling asleep whenever you meditate, you should know that this is one of the most common troubles people have in trying to meditate. There are several ways to deal with it.

One method is to try other types of meditation than the one that puts you to sleep. Try, for example, focusing in a different way, or on a different part of your body. Or take a short nap and then meditate as or after you wake up. You also may drink mild amounts of coffee or tea so you can be more alert as you meditate, or you might change your meditation time of day: meditate when you tend to be at your most alert.

Another method of avoiding sleeping during meditation is to change your posture. If you are lying down, try sitting, either cross-legged or in a chair. If you are falling asleep while sitting, then try standing, either by free standing or by leaning gently against a wall. If you are falling asleep while standing, try walking as you meditate, either inside or outside in an environment not too distracting . Many people meditate even while exercising.

Second, perhaps your problem is the opposite: that you have trouble falling asleep. Meditation can help you with this problem, too. To meditate for sleep, you can concentrate in your mind or body in any way that helps you feel greater calm. (See "Calming Meditation.") You may concentrate on one of your body's major "energy centers" (see), or on a part of your body that may feel discomfort or pain (see). You also may concentrate on an external object such as a color (see; do this with your eyes closed), a sound (see), or soothing music (see).

A more advanced method of meditating for sleep is, for some people, to become the conscious watcher of everything flitting through your awareness. (See "The Flow Meditation.") Even more advanced is to concentrate on your own awareness. (See "Awareness of Awareness.")

You also, in more advanced meditations, can reach the deepest state of sleep in which there are no dreams, only a blank slate of consciousness that we might remember if we are awakened during it. Reaching this state consciously is possible by using the meditation techniques of "nidra meditation/yoga" (see).

SMALL SELF See “Self.”



SNAKE, EVIL In the scriptures of the three major Western religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, a snake in the Garden of Eden was the evil actor who led the first woman, Eve, to commit sin. See “Sin.” This type of snake likely is not an external physical snake, but more a metaphor for avoiding internal meditation practices that can lead you astray (see "Kundalini").

SOCIAL MEDITATION See “Others, Meditating with/around/in.” For more detail, see the short Guidebook "Other People."


Socratic meditation was developed by Socrates, though he called it “discussion,” according to his most famous pupil, the philosopher Plato. Plato is the source of everything we know about Socrates.

Plato’s early Dialogues may especially reflect Socratic beliefs. Socrates believed in meditating upon the “soul” or inner self in its purest form (a form he said is “like the divine”). He also may have believed in meditating on the divine or highest good, itself. However, he said, for a normal person to see the divine is like a cave dweller first looking upon the sun. He or she would be blinded and not sure what she saw. Socrates does imply, however, that this cave dweller gradually can learn to see glimpses of the sun–or of the divine.

Socrates also popularized a method of meditative thinking, which has come to be called “Socratic dialogue.” It is similar in some ways to ancient Indian forms of intellectual meditation called jnana yoga (see).

In Socratic dialogue, you slowly, thoroughly, and mindfully explore all the possible meanings and dynamics of an idea or proposition. You state or visualize–to others or to yourself–an initial idea or belief. Next, either with others or within yourself, you develop every possible meaning, explicit and implicit, in the initial idea. You explore opposites, varying shades of meaning, unspoken assumptions, causes, effects, and more. It is much like you are picking up an onion and examining each layer of meaning, each blemish, each pore, until you understand it thoroughly.

In Socratic dialogue, you usually develop your main idea in discussion with others. In jnana yoga, you might more often do so alone holding the main idea in the center of your mind and then letting words, images, memories, and other associations occur.

SOLAR PLEXUS ENERGY CENTER See “Energy Centers” and “Problems.”

The solar plexus energy center is located in the nerve center at the front of the body in the soft spot that, when you are standing, is below the breast bone. It is infamous in martial arts studies and films for being a point to hit that causes your opponent to freeze in great pain. It also is a source of great energy.

Meditating upon all three of the lower energy centers–the solar plexus, the health center, and the base-of-the-trunk center–is not recommended unless you are working with a meditation master on a regular basis. It is better, say most experts, to meditate on the top four centers–the above-the-head, third-eye, throat, and heart centers –and let energies that are more positive, safer, and clearer then descend from those energy centers to lower ones.

The reason for this is that concentrating on any center stirs up both positive and negative energies, mental associations, and emotions. And stirring up the deep negative energies in the lower centers–without a master meditator, psychologist, or psychiatrist to help you–can be a recipe for emotional or physical self-damage. One of the greatest problems in concentrating on the solar plexus energy center is the development of too-big, even rampant egoism, egotism, narcissism, and sociopathic behavior.

If you would like a list of meditation activities for this energy center, first go to the “Energy Centers” definition in this dictionary. Then see the  Guide to the “Energy Centers.”  Activities for each energy center are listed there.

If you wish to pursue the energies of the solar plexus energy center, there are several safe courses you may try. One is to use the “Awareness-of-each-object-of-awareness Meditation” (see). Another is to use the “Awareness-of-Awareness Meditation” (see). A third is to choose meditations and/or jobs that are selfless, that leave you with neither too little nor too much ego (see “Heart Energy Center,” “Karma Yoga,” and “Starting Stage of Meditation.”)

SOUL (See also “Mind,” “Self,” and "Spirit.")

The “soul” is, in some spiritual and meditation systems, your pure Self that is submerged in normal life and/or that goes on to an afterlife. In other spiritual systems, the soul is your nonphysical form that is said to lie somewhere between, or partakes of both parts of, your own personality and God.

The soul is not simply your normal, daily personality with all of its regular thoughts, emotions, and sensations. Rather, your soul is the higher, deeper, or better part of you, according to how different spiritual systems define it.

One example of “soul” in yoga systems is the divine “Self” (see) or “Atman” (see), which is considered a spark, part of, or human portion of God. In Western Christian and Platonic (see “Socrates”) thought, the “soul” is a purified form of your personality–without all of the lower desires, emotions, or busy-ness of thought–a higher form of your personality that, according to some,  can go to heaven after death.

In some belief systems, the idea of “soul” and the idea of “mind” tend to be somewhat or completely merged. For more on this, see “Mind” and “Self.”

In meditating to find your  “soul,” you may look for your deeper and more meaningful feelings or experiences of inner peace, strength, and love. Through such searching, you may find your own purer, clearer self-awareness in some form. A more direct method is to meditate upon your own awareness –to become aware of being aware (see “Awareness of Awareness”).

SOUL BODY See “Energy Sphere,” “Energy Centers,” and “Soul.”

SOUND (See also “Energy Sphere,” “Energy Centers,” "Music," and “Silence.”)

          Sound can be helpful or distracting in meditation. If it is background noise that is keeping you from meditating easily, then don't just try to ignore it: turn if off, move to another location, or try using earplugs.

          However, sound also can be useful for meditating. One option is to explore what are considered official meditation sounds in different religions and spiritual paths. For example, some Catholic churches within Christianity use bells and other sounds on a regular basis. Islam has its universal call to prayer. A thired example is the sound associated with each chakra (see) in Hinduism.

          You also can listen to music (see). Often, meditations work better with music that does not have words. However, if songs with words help you meditate, then that is good, too. You also can record and replay a single song or even a single sound that helps you meditate more deeply or for a longer period of time.

          However, one of the most common uses of sound is to make your own. You can make sound externally–loud or soft, with an instrument or your vocal chords–or imagine sound in your head.

          If you make sound using an instrument, a number of different instruments (see "music") might work: for example, a guitar, woodwind, drum, or horn; a ritual device from a religious or spiritual tradition (such as a bell or the rim of a bowl); or a device that you make from your own homemade objects (such as bottles filled with different levels of water, or boxes or pans to tap).

          To find a sound that corresponds with a good state of meditation for you individually, you can start using either of two ways. In the first way, you simply go slowly up and down (higher-pitched to lower, or the reverse) a scale or series of pitches, slowly and thoughtfully concentrating or listening to each one to see how it affects your attention and/or your feelings most. In the second, you simply choose a point or location of meditation within or around yourself (see "Energy Centers") Choose either a point or location you know well and frequently use, or one that you would like to learn to use better. Then slowly go up and down a scale of sound to discover which one best corresponds to that point or location within or around you.

        How do you know which sound works best? You usually will feel a slight (or greater) intensification, grounding, or solidifying of your concentration or attention, or of the local point itself. Once you have found a .addition, a sound may work for you for one or several meditations, but then its effectiveness may wear out for you. And finally, your own needs, interests, and sensitivities may change with time: a sound that works well on one day may be insufficient for the same type of meditation several days, weeks, or years later.

SPACE (ELEMENT) See the "Four Elements” and "Maitri Wisdom Meditation."


SPHERE, ENERGY See “Energy Sphere,” “Energy Centers,” and “Soul.”

SPHERE, PSYCHIC See “Energy Sphere,” “Energy Centers,” and “Soul.”

SPIRIT, SPIRITS, SPIRITUAL (See also "Above-the-head Energy Center," “Awakening," "Born Again,” "Holy Spirit," “Prayer,” “Self," Spiritual Grace,” the “Starting” and “Middle" Stages of Meditation," and "Waters of Life.")

In the many methods and types of meditation, “spirit” has multiple meanings. It can mean, for example, a God-sent or holy spirit that sometimes is defined as a type of conscious being–and sometimes as a force, power, or awareness that is holy, divine, or filled with one or many states of higher, deeper being. in some way. Another meaning of “spirit” is as a minor deity, being, or soul of part of nature, such as an “earth spirit” or a “tree spirit.”

“Spirit” in meditation does not mean merely that someone has energy or pep. It also does not refer to ghosts and other macabre, Halloween-like beings.

Several examples of “spirit” in meditation include the Holy Spirit of Christianity; angels in a number of religions, and the Spirit of Love (or of Power or Healing, et al.) in many earth-based, pagan, and Wiccan systems. In the Hindu chakras, spirit is represented in the above-the-head energy center (see), also known as the thousand-petalled lotus. Some belief systems even say that occasionally spirit beings reincarnate on earth.

The word “spiritual” in meditation refers to experiences and people filled with such “spirit.” The word “spiritual” also refers, sometimes, to holy people in various religions, or those who pursue a path of becoming holy, as in “she is a very spiritual person.”

In meditation, “spiritual” is a point of focus (see “Above-the-head Center” and Energy Centers”) and a destination (see “Pathways of Meditation” and the “Starting,” “Middle,” and End” Stages of Meditation). It also is a path in general in which meditation becomes increasingly part of your life.

SPIRITS See “Gifts," "Paganism," and "Communion of Saints."

SPIRITS, EXORCISM OF EVIL See “Gifts” and "Problems."


SPIRITUAL GRACE (See also "Purity," "Divine," “Starting Stage,” and “Middle Stage.")

“Spiritual grace” is a word commonly used in Christian meditation and practice. It refers to a state of–or a person who is in a state of–deeply peaceful, loving, and/or light-filled being. It is not simply a state of being at peace, in love, or feeling intelligent or warm outwardly. In meditation, it does not mean that a person is, simply, gracefully kind or graceful in movement or thought. Rather, spiritual grace is an inner state of being, moderate to profound, of feeling a blissful experience.

Such experiences exist in all spiritual systems, and they happen to meditators who are agnostic, as well. Science has examined people in such states, and it reports that their bodies are calmer, their blood pressure and heart rate lower, and their psychological state improved in its functioning.

SPORTS AND MEDITATION (See also “Exercise,” “Moving Meditation,” and “Hatha Yoga.”)

It is quite possible and normal for you to meditate in sports activities. In fact, the higher your level of attainment in sports, the greater, usually, your  level of meditation in that sport. Meditation in sports does not mean you stop a sport activity to begin meditating. Rather, the meditation happens–and is a natural part of–your sport activity, especially in training but also in competitive games.

In sports meditation, you might sometimes stop to meditate upon what you have just done or are about to do. However, the center of the meditation activity in sports happens in the midst of your activity, your movement, and your understanding and resulting improvement of it.

For example, if you are running, you meditate upon what each part of your body–muscle, tendon, and bone–is doing, one by one and together. Or you might also meditate on the feeling of energy, where it is coming from, where it goes, and how. Or you might find a focus on a specific energy center (see) in your body as you run, or even develop an awareness-of-your-awareness meditation (see) or an awareness-of-each-object-of-your-awareness meditation (see).

As all high-level athletes know, if you want to become ever better at a sport, you must focus and concentrate upon the way you and your body feel, the timing of each of your moves, and other elements of each act or event in a sport. Good athletes become so able to focus on such moves that time seems to slow down for them as they weigh all the possible moves and learn to train their bodies in the best ways possible.

Ultimately, when you learn this kind of meditation, you first analyze such movements, adjust them for maximum performance, and then let them become automatic, again. Meditation skills not only can help you separate and examine the actions, but also let them knit themselves together again in one flowing whole.

Such movement is possible not just in sports but also in breathing (see), posture (see), and daily movement. In the advanced stage of meditation (see), you make daily life, itself, into a sport. You do so by improving physical aspects of your existence, along with the mental, intellectual, and higher-energy aspects you already have been working on for years..

STAGES OF MEDITATION See “Starting Stage,” “Middle Stage,” and "End Stage."

See "Symbols" and "The Arts and Meditation."

STARS (See “Celestial Bodies and Meditation,” “Mind,” and “Reality and Meditation.”)

STARTING STAGE OF MEDITATION (See also “Meditation,” “Middle Stage,” “End Stage,” “Balance,” “God and Meditation,” “Paths of Meditation,” and “Energy Centers.”)

The “Starting Stage” of meditation means that, as a meditator, you are at the stage of just starting or of being a beginner. Beginning meditation methods often involve breathing, correct posture and relaxation, and finding a particular point or method of meditation that works for you.

Beginning or starting-stage meditation in this sense is a beginning time or a beginning event in your life, perhaps the start of a new path that may interest you.

Being in a “starting stage” means more, as defined here, than just “trying out” meditation the first time. It is a stage or period of time when you usually will try several different meditation methods to see which ones might work for you. Also, a starting stage of meditation does not mean that you are otherwise inexperienced or unwise: you can be very smart, very experienced, and even very wise in the ways of the world or in the ways of a business, a profession, or an academic or cultural discipline; however, you may know little or nothing about the practice of meditation.

There are many methods you can use in the starting stage of meditation. In fact, you may already be using some of them in your normal life. The experience of simply focusing hard or carefully on something or someone is itself a type of natural meditation, as are such events as prayer, finding beauty in a work of art or nature, being deeply involved in and focused on a sport, or, perhaps, simply concentrating in a special way to fall asleep.

As a meditator in the starting stage of meditation, for example, you might try concentrating on a specific meditation energy point on your body, such as your heart; or perhaps hold a thought or feeling inside you, letting it simply rest there while you examine it; or use prayer to focus on something or in a repeated way. The list of opportunities is as infinite as the varieties of thought and feeling among humans.  

For a list of meditation methods you can use for this stage, see the Guide to the Stages called Starting Stage.

STATUES (See "Symbols" and "The Arts and Meditation.")

STILL MEDITATION (See also “Moving Meditation.”)

Still meditation means you meditate while remaining still. This can include traditional siting meditation, meditation while lying down, and meditation while standing. Still meditation is not meditation while moving, walking, running, or exercising. While both still meditation and moving meditation can be opportunities to meditate better, you may choose which you like better, or use either.

Still meditation means adopting a physical pose that is comfortable and alert, usually with a straight back and a balanced, equal placement of limbs on either side, and good, deep, relaxed breathing. Often this pose is in a sitting position, cross-legged, but sitting in a chair can work just as well for you, if you wish.

Or if you prefer, you may stand in a still, comfortable, straight-backed position with your arms relaxed at your side, your shoulders back, and your head straight. While you need to maintain a good posture in order to stand, you should not stand rigidly. Both sides of your body should be equally relaxed.

You also may meditate prone: lying on your back. This position is not for you if it will put you asleep (unless going to sleep is your purpose). If you use the prone position, you may want to have your arms relaxed against  your body or your fingers linked so your hands will rest on your body. Usually people keep their legs straight, but some like to cross their legs at the ankles or even spread their legs comfortably.

In all of these balanced positions, you should include deep, relaxed breathing (See “breath”) and a posture that is balanced but not stiff or rigid. You may have your eyes open or closed, whichever is less distracting. The air temperature and and your clothing should be comfortable.

You may be one of many people who meditate in some form–even if you don’t call it “meditation”–in order to fall asleep. In sleep-producing meditation, your position may vary such that it helps you fall asleep. Thus lying on your side, for example, or even, for a few, on your front, may be appropriate. (See “Sleep and Meditation.”)


STRESS AND MEDITATION (See also “Breathing” and “Healing.”)

Stress may be one of the most common reasons you might want to try meditation. A number of meditation forms can help relieve stress. Stress often is an opposite of meditation, as meditation normally causes an increase in relaxation, whereas stress causes more physical and mental tension.

Stress often cannot be cured by meditation; rather, you may need to use meditation and also make other changes in your life for long-term relief. In addition, not all stress is bad: some is necessary to learn and grow.

You should also realize that the kinds of stress that meditation can help are not major, life-threatening, and/or ongoing forms of stress. For such forms of stress, you may need to change your lifestyle, seek medical or physical therapy, or get counseling.

Here are some meditation activities that can help you alleviate or lower your stress levels:

1. Deeper and more focused breathing (see)

2. Postures (see) that relax your body

3. Meditation on specific parts of the body that feel stressed (see “Pain”)

4. Meditation on relaxing images (e.g., a pastoral scene or a person who makes one feel relaxed), focusing on a feeling or meditation experience that makes you feel relaxed (see the “Relaxation Meditation”)

5. Meditation on each thought and feeling you have as it comes to mind, or even on your own awareness (see “Awareness of Each Object of Awareness” and “Awareness of Awareness”).

6. A combination of meditation with new exercises, physical therapy or massage, changes of lifestyle, counseling, and/or hatha yoga (see).

If meditation itself is causing you stress, then you should discontinue that type of meditation and try another. If all forms of meditation cause stress, then you need some other kind of help.

STUDENTSee “Master/Teacher” or "Learning."

STUDYINGSee “Master/Teacher” or "Learning."

SUBMISSION See “Acceptance.”

SUFI DANCE See “Music.”

SUN See “Celestial Bodies and Meditation” and “God.”

THE SUPERCONSCIOUS(See also “Chakras,” “God,” and “Mystic.”)

In meditation, sometimes a higher-than-normal level of consciousness or awareness is described. It has a variety of names, one of which is “the superconscious” or “superconsciousness.”

Superconsciousness does not mean a more intent or intense normal awareness. It has nothing to do with “conscience,” which is a function of feeling guilty or having a sense of wrongness. In addition, it is not just another experience of the above-the-head energy center (see).

Rather, the “superconscious” as an energy center is an eighth center above the other seven energy centers, and it has its own nature, energy, and effects.

For example, Muslim Sufism describes the superconscious as an ever-undefined Glory. This Glory, it says, is 100,000 times brighter than all solar bodies placed together.

This eighth center is approximately eight to fourteen inches above the above-the-head energy center, depending on you as a meditator. It is a level of highest awareness or “super” consciousness to which you may ascend as a mystic. Many mystics compare it to experiencing the mystery of God or ultimate Being. It sometimes is described in ultimate contradictory terms, such as being the brightest darkness, the sharpest softness, and the piercing sound of silence, ultimately full of emptiness, and other such words and phrases as these.

SUPEREGO (See also "Sin," "Emotional Reactions to Meditation," "Ego," "Id," "Unconscious," "Middle Path," and "The Starting Stage of Meditation."

          "Superego" is a psychological concept. It is the "little voice" or "higher intuition" that tells you when you are doing something morally wrong. It is not just a function of memory, though memory may come into play with it. It is not the "superconscious" (see), which is an entirely different type of meditation awareness. Rather, it is tied in with intuiting what is good and bad, moral and immoral, right and wrong, or guilt-free and guilty, like a little automated notice in your head that warns or prompts you.

          There are many interpretations of the meaning of the superego. One example is when you are about to say something hurtful to someone and a part of you in your head (or your heart) says, "Don't do that." Another example is when you are about to eat something bad for you, and you remember, "I was going to stop eating this type of food."

          The superego is a part of you that you can explore in meditation. Meditation can help you look at your feelings of right versus wrong and of guilt and sin to help you find a reasonable, honorable middle path (see) in structuring your life. However, even more important, meditation practices can help you find a deeper sense of self, a deeper reality, and deeper reasons for doing what you do and being what you are, simply by looking more carefully within yourself: see "The Starting Stage of Meditation."

SURRENDER See “Faith," "God,” "Prayer," and "Centering Prayer."

SYMBOLS See also "Third Eye Energy Center,” "Throat Energy Center," "Prayer," and "Centering Prayer."


          A symbol is a word, sound, touch, or image that represents something else with a much larger meaning. Most symbols are words or images. Images can be pictures or objects. In terms of meditation, "symbol" does not mean just any reference to something else (as it does in language studies); in addition, a symbol is not the experience in itself, but rather stands for some kind of experience. In addition, usually in meditation a symbol is not a story in words or pictures (thought it can be in literature), but rather a single word, phrase, or image that stands for a single experience.


          For example, in meditation, "Abba," "Allah," "Abba," "Krishna," "Earth Goddess," "Om," and "Yahweh" are powerful symbolic words in their religions. They signify major states of being and major meditative and even mystical experiences. And in meditation, a Buddha or Krishna statue, a cross, a Goddess pendant, a Kiddush cup, or the "onion dome" image of a mosque are powerful symbolic images. Many more symbolic words and images exist.


          It is important to state clearly that a symbol is not, in and of itself, an experience. It is a material or imagined object. However, in some spiritual practices, a symbol may be accepted as containing, having, or being a channel or instrument for meditation powers or forces. For example, in some forms of Christianity in the ritual of the taking of small portions of bread and wine representing the body and blood of Jesus of Nazareth, worshippers believe that the two foods are "transubstantiated" or made, at the moment of taking them by a true believer, into the actual body and blood of Jesus. In the East, similar beliefs exist for some followers of Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions.


          Whatever you believe about symbols, they can be powerful channels for you to reach meditation states. If such symbols work for you, you should feel free to use them.


          For example, in order to achieve a meditative state, you can say a word or phrase of great importance or meaning to you, out loud or in your mind, repeating it as many times as you wish, whether for a few seconds of a few hours. You can do the same by holding an image in your mind, or having a physical image in front of you. You also can concentrate on the feeling or connection you sense when you are focusing on or praying to a symbol.


          There are a number of other ways you can use symbols, as well. See especially "Third-eye Energy Center" and "Throat Energy Center" for a variety of methods. 



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Text © 2017-2020 by Richard Jewell

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