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Bernie Schreck

Is there a common ground among different meditation traditions?

There are so many different approaches and methods of meditation, you might wonder if there is a common ground.

Along with a few friends, I’ve been leading a weekly meditation open to anyone in our local community in Puna, Hawai’i.  The people who join us have been exposed to a huge range of meditation approaches.

I was recently asked to lead a Question and Answer Session for the group.  As I prepared a few introductory words, I began to reflect on what might be the common ground among all meditation practitioners.

I found this a challenging reflection simply because there are so many different methods and traditions of meditation.  Everyone seems to have a different idea of what meditation is.  Over the course of my own exploration of meditation, I have met many fellow travelers.  In talking with them, I’ve realized how different our understanding and practice of meditation actually is.  Sogyal Rinpoche often jokes that even James Bond was sent to a Zen Farm to practice meditation in order to get back his license to kill!

So how can we find common ground? There’s one image that came to my mind that most practitioners can probably relate to:  meditation as a journey. Clearly, it is a different journey for everyone. For some, it is a journey to the top of the highest mountain in the world.  For others, it might just be a relaxing evening stroll around the block.  Some may not even have a goal and just enjoy the walking. Then there are serious practitioners who even look at meditation as a “journey without a goal”.  But, in spite of all these differences, there seems to be a common sense of a journey.

Given that we are all at different places in our life, we are understandably looking at meditation with different purposes in mind. Maybe some of us see meditation as a practice that helps us deal with the stresses of life. Some meditate to reduce pain or lower their blood pressure. Others meditate just to relax or enjoy the peace and bliss that sitting quietly can bring.  Still others are searching for the same awakening that Buddha attained.

HimalayasIf we can look past our differences, we can celebrate together the way we are all making a personal journey. We don’t need to judge whether one goal is better than another.  Even the longest journey starts with going to the next town.

We might start with one goal and, then, as we go along, it might keep changing. The stroll around the block might become a successful climb to the top of Mount Everest. Or the wannabe climber might decide to stop at the first close-by hill and settle for the pleasant view there.

The What Meditation Really Is website explores meditation in all its aspects - including the highest summit it can bring us to:  the realization of the nature of our mind and the discovery of who we truly are. Sogyal Rinpoche is a master at showing us directly the highest realization that we can reach through meditation. He has a special gift in his ability to take us up to that summit, and give us a glimpse and personal experience of the full realization that meditation can bring. But if we want to live there, we actually need to make the journey ourselves.

While this site will explore all levels of meditation up to the highest, everyone is welcome. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by the extreme climbers.  We are all a big family.  What brings us together is our interest, love, and  passion for meditation.

But we also have our unique personalities.  Sometimes, it might be a little awkward when the member of the Mount Everest expedition tries to talk to a hippie meditator who is standing at the road trying to hitch a ride. The climber might start to talk about how his hooks and ice climbing gear are helpful on his journey and the hippie might pass him his joint and talk about how life just flows nicely when you are high and you always end up getting the perfect ride. If they both are open and curious it might be a very enriching conversation.

My hope is that the What Meditation Really Is website, blog, and forums will provide a space where everyone feels comfortable. You are warmly invited to join us in the forum now and give your two cents on how we can create a supportive community. How can we find common ground between all different levels and kinds of meditation? If you are new to meditation, tell us what would help you to feel welcome.  And be sure to let us know if the Mount Everest expedition team intimidates you!

As I prepared for my meditation group, I also brainstormed a few thought-provoking questions that might be of interest to any practitioner. I will share these in my next post, which will focus on how to make our meditation practice meaningful.