B. Blair Dedrick, SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE: “You can’t see anything in a cascading river,” said the Memphis, Tenn., teacher of insight meditation. “But when the water gets to a lake, you can see the sky clearly.”
To see clearly is the point of meditation. It can be a path to better health or spiritual enlightenment, or simply a way to stay attentive to the present.
“When you are thinking, you are always in the past or the future, never in the moment,” Greer said. “When you slow down your mind, you return to where life is most real — where you are living.”
Insight meditation is not a clearing of the mind as much as the ability to have thoughts, acknowledge them and let them go, said Greer, a retired University of Memphis professor.
Mark Muesse decided to try meditation almost 20 years ago to help ease stress. The Rhodes College professor of religion stayed with it because it was successful.
“I’m one of those people who likes to control things.” Muesse said. “Meditation teaches you the more you try to control, the more you suffer. The more you relinquish control, the happier you will be.”
For Daniel Lamontagne and his students, the issue is health.
Lamontagne is the head of Healing Meditation, a business in Memphis that teaches meditation designed to help with everything from improving cholesterol and blood pressure levels to ending alcohol and drug use.
“Good health is a combination of mind, body and spirit,” Lamontagne said. “Meditation is just another aspect of good health.”
Various scientific studies have found that meditation lowers blood pressure, chemical levels associated with stress and the risk for heart disease.
“It’s like a preventative.” Lamontagne said. “Eating well helps, exercise helps and alleviating stress and fear helps.”
When Candia Ludy and her husband were sent on a three-year tour to the African nation of Tanzania in 1981 by Catholic Relief Services, the country was suffering from a severe food and water shortage, its factories were closing, its roads were in disrepair.
“It was a stressful time,” Ludy said. “Probably the worst time in Tanzanian history.”
She took along two books by Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and another by a Zen teacher, used them, and has been meditating ever since.
“I’m sure not stopping.” she said. “It’s my life.”
Buddhism teaches that there are many paths to the same end. Ludy said, “You have to find out what works for you.”
Ludy likens this type of meditation to a gentle form of therapy.
“If you put attention, loving attention, on a problem, it will start to melt away,” she said. “Meditation is a very organic, very natural way to make life sweeter.”
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