"American meditation" turns out to be classical meditation from an interfaith point of view. Certainly we would do well today to ponder what it is in our lives that oppresses, that keeps us in bondage, and be willing to do whatever it takes to live in liberty.
In March, 1775, a group of patriots convened at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia. At that convention a thirty-nine year old man rose to his feet to deliver one of the most inspiring speeches in world history. Although he spoke about the desire to be free from the tyranny and oppression of the British Crown, Patrick Henry’s words could very well apply to the stressful, complicated and uncertain nature of modern American life and our own personal desire for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. “They tell us that we are weak, unable to cope. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week or the next year? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction---by lying supinely on our backs hugging the delusive phantom of hope---until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak---if we make a proper use of those means which the God of Nature has placed in our power.”
Names and forms have changed dramatically since Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech, but most human beings are no less plagued today by the painful stress of daily life, the desire for freedom from worry and the endless search for happiness. In addition to our own personal duties and responsibilities, the world around us presents many challenging uncertainties. With apologies to Thomas Paine, “These (too) are the times that try men’s souls.”
With history as our guide, it’s easy to conclude that the desire to end pain, misery and bondage is universal and timeless. How to fulfill that desire---in the midst of every circumstance and relationship---is the essence of American Meditation.
Concerning such provocative questions, Henry David Thoreau offers some helpful insight. “I went to the woods,” Thoreau explains, “because I wished to live life deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Unlike Thoreau, American Meditation does not require that we “go to the woods . . . to front the essential facts of life.” True freedom and happiness can only be experienced from within our own constellation of relationships. Toward that goal, life itself is the greatest of all teachers---if we can develop an ear to hear and an eye to see.
American Meditation provides the framework to experience the peace of mind and happiness we seek. Unlike the physical sciences which investigate the laws of the external universe, American Meditation is a tool for knowing our internal landscape, the nature of our consciousness. The sages teach that we are citizens of two worlds---the outer world of names and forms and the inner world of thoughts, desires and emotions. To be free, we must learn to act skillfully according to our objective knowledge of both worlds.
Happy Fourth of July, everyone!