Meditation is not (or need not be) any sort of religious devotion. But it must become a way of life if it is to be of any help to you. It need not require sitting for endless hours on a agonisingly uncomfortable three legged stool or painfully cross legged on a small cushion in an ascetic monastery. Although no doubt that would benefit me enormously!
Perhaps Thich Nhat Hanh’s approach is the most helpful. Quiet, peace, tranquility and time are a necessary part of it for most of us, although the real devotees claim to be able to maintain calm in the middle of a storm of modernity – sitting in Piccadilly circus, on a bus, or at the Ginza crossing. Lucky them.
It seems to me that it must become so much more than all of that – it must pervade every aspect of your life and govern every action you take and every word you speak if you are to make true progress. Nirvana need not be a “snuffing out”, a meditative way of life need not result in quietism. But it must be active rather than passive.
It’s no good being a hypocrite or speaking with a forked tongue. That will spoil any sense of peace and no amount of “meditation” will perfect the soul until and unless we can dispense with sarcasm, wit, polemic and criticism.
I wrote an article earlier today on the awful debates in the House of Commons. And suddenly realised I was veering back towards destructive (self destructive) criticism of the sort which has corroded my persona for far too long. Why be critical when I know I am every bit as foul on occasions as the animals which inhabit that particular zoo?
Unless we can snuff out anger, jealousy, greed and pride we may as well whistle in the wind for “peace on earth” let alone peace in our own minds.
So no, meditation is not just for Christmas. It is a long, arduous and sometimes tedious journey – no wonder the Eastern philosophers need re-incarnation. One lifetime certainly seems too short to get anywhere near eudaimonia let alone moksha.