Some thoughts on Applying Process to Meditation

Posted on May 23, 2013
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I’ve just finished reading Working on Yourself Alone By Arnold Mindell (See Review below). He takes an interesting approach to meditation, breaking it down into a process and actually showing different types of meditation processes that a person can work with. What I like best is that he shows how to achieve meditative states of awareness using different channels of experience. This is not something usually addressed in works on meditation because the focus is on teaching meditation within a specific cultural context, but the value of this kind of approach is that meditation is approached as a process with specific steps that can be followed and broken down as needed, in order to determine what works or doesn’t work.

Meditation as a process isn’t confined to one way of doing meditation. There are different types of meditation and different results. Pathworking, for example, doesn’t work with the body in the same way that a breathing meditation would work. Perhaps what most interest me with this book is that the author claims that its not pain that motivates people to change but rather a mixture of love, self-discipline, and enlightenment. I think there’s some truth to that, but I think that pain can be a good motivator toward change. Certainly it causes us to be aware of who we are and how we experience life. However, I’d say that following through on sustained change is where discipline, love, and enlightenment come into play. These keep us on track, while also informing us of the progress we’ve made with our work, and even in meditation there is a need to see some kind of result (though how that result manifests is something that can only be experienced as opposed to predicted or defined).

Meditation as a process does, for the most part seem to be applied around the body. What this means is that the body is an essential element of the process. The body needs to be factored in as an essential element of meditation that be examined to understand what is stopping someone from effectively meditating. I think that the mental chatter should also be included in that examination as a symptom that can be explored to discover root issues that the person needs to work on. I’ve used mental chatter or monkey mind in my meditations to discover or explore issues that are stopping me from being fully present in my meditation and this in turn has lead to internal work that has allowed me to process and heal from those issues. Some of that work has also involved movement, which the author touches on at some length. Movement is an overlooked component of the meditation process because of the usual stereotypes associated with meditation, but even in those stereotypes movement is a component that has relevance to meditation and its effectiveness or lack thereof.

I like to apply process to everything I do, because understanding the activity flow and components helps you understand what works or what needs to be changed. A given technique becomes much easier to change or replicate once you understand how it works and what components define it. You can strip away the non essentials and still get something significant to happen because you understand the underlying principles that inform how the process works.

Book Review: Working on Yourself Alone by Arnold Mindell

The author applies a process perspective to meditation, explaining how different meditation techniques work and how to achieve meditation by switching techniques. I found it to be a useful book, especially as he demonstrates it through his own practice. He shows how to switch to different meditation modalities and also shows how to strip the technique of cultural context. One downside of this is that he is stripping away certain contextual information that might be useful for the meditation practice. Nonetheless the author does a good job of exploring how meditation works and what can be done to more effectively meditate.

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