My name is Carlos and I live in Concord, California, near San Francisco. I practice passage meditation and I also happen to go to church. I was baptized and confirmed into the Catholic faith. My parents raised my brothers and me on Bible stories, rosary prayers, and weekly attendance at mass. Upon graduating from college, I still found myself clinging to the Lord for security, direction, and guidance. At the same time, my brother introduced me to Eknath Easwaran and his method of passage meditation. At first I was merely drawn to Easwaran’s voice and his presence. In time, I started meditating. Meditation deepened my faith by helping me to live it in daily life.
Every day for me now begins with meditation first thing in the morning. I meditate for 30 minutes on an inspirational passage. Often I meditate on the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, or another passage from the Christian tradition. The passages Easwaran recommends for meditation can be found in his book God Makes the Rivers to Flow and online here.
I remind myself of the ideals I have meditated on in the morning by practicing “repetition of the mantram” throughout the day. This discipline is one of the points in Easwaran’s eight-point program of passage meditation (you can see an explanation of the eight points here.) The mantram I chose is the name of Jesus. I repeat His holy name, silently in my mind, whenever I have a spare moment, whenever I can remember. When I repeat the mantram, I call on Jesus continually. It helps me clear my mind of worry, and rely more and more on Jesus’ strength in any circumstance. I can bear with difficult times and get through them by repeating the mantram.
In practice, when do I start repeating the mantram? It may be when I have just have turned off the light at night. I may have just woken up in the morning. I may be sitting in the bathroom. I may be walking or jogging. I may be in my car, taking a moment to pause before turning on the ignition. I may be waiting at a stoplight, waiting in line at the grocery, walking through a hallway, or walking past someone. When I get to work, I may have just seen the sticky on my computer monitor with “M” written on it. The more I practice repeating the mantram, the easier it becomes. However, I try not to repeat my mantram whenever I’m doing something that requires my full concentration (such as while driving or cutting apples).
Easwaran had already passed away by the time I first "met" him, so I heard him through a recorded audio talk. I now meet him daily through his recorded teachings, such as in his audio commentary on The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. I may listen to these before sleeping at night, or when I find a spare (or planned) moment during the day to hear his calming words. I meet Easwaran as well when I observe his manner and his attitude when he teaches from his videotaped talks. I also feel that I meet him when I practice daily the point “spiritual reading.” I happen to read short segments at a time, from any of his books on meditation, which I’ve collected over time. I also read passages and gain inspiration from the works of such figures as Mother Teresa and Thérèse of Lisieux.
Here we see Carlos' meditation corner along with his books for spiritual reading and a stereo for listening to Easwaran's audio commentary.
One point which I’ve shied away from when I started my practice was “spiritual fellowship.” At first I was reluctant to meet with other passage meditators. However, gradually Easwaran has now become more alive for me, not only through his recorded teachings, but through the dedication of friends who also practice passage meditation. We meet regularly for spiritual fellowship (called “satsang” in Sanskrit). Satsang can take the form of in-person gatherings or even through virtual meetings in the BMCM’s online Young Adult eSatsang, where I can read messages from fellow young adult meditators around the globe, who share their questions, struggles, and triumphs in meditation. In fellowship, or satsang, we support each other in our practice as we get together to read his books, watch his videos, and meditate on inspirational passages. We can also share a meal, go on a hike, enjoy a beach walk, or participate in any recreation which benefits our practice. We can also attend retreats offered by the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, the organization which Easwaran founded. At these retreats, I join with experienced meditators in finding renewed focus and fervor in bringing our strengthened practice back home.
Though initially reluctant to meet with other passage meditators, Carlos is now an active member of the YA community. At a recent YA outing in the San Francisco Bay Area Carlos enjoyed the trails and some impromptu frisbee!
Meditation has helped me with a particular challenge I’ve had since taking it up: relating my practice to my parents, who are in the Catholic faith, and do not practice passage meditation. I had a small success in using the eight points during a lunch with them this past Easter. It was Easter Sunday, and I had just attended the Easter service – without my parents. They had already gone to an earlier Easter service, and we planned on having lunch together when I was done. This is the beauty of living a life trying to practice meditation and the allied disciplines. Life is not perfect, but you try to make it as perfect as you can. This Easter, then, took on a whole new significance. For me, it is like participating in Jesus’ life after death; even life amidst death. Even though there may be a kind of “death,” or a tension, between my parents and me, we try to be together on those fronts in which we can be together. For me, “life” here meant finding the time to be together regardless of our differences on how we live our faith. Being together with them on Easter was my first small success.
My second small success, most visibly, was that we all came to a sense of relief. For my parents, my mom in particular, it was the relief that I was not going astray on a wrong, misguided path. For me, it was the relief of experiencing my parents’ relief. Less visibly, I was happy (with the help daily meditation has given me) to be able to look past my anger and my thoughts of confusion – and focus instead on understanding my parents’ point of view, and on finding words to use which we could both understand and share.
During the lunch, my mom recalled reading one of the Blue Mountain quarterly journals. She expressed disagreement with something Easwaran said about God in one of the articles. She was concerned that it was taking me off the path of my faith upbringing. I could have brooded the distraction in my mind, “did he say that?” However I chose to use the point, “one-pointed attention,” to focus just on what my mom was trying to tell me, which was very difficult when my own thoughts were clamoring to be expressed. For at least a few moments, one-pointed attention kept me as clear as possible on what she was trying to say, and prevented me from interrupting her while she spoke.
Yet when she did pause, my one-pointed attention really needed some help. The help came in the form of practicing the point “slowing down.” Though my mind needed to slow down to start giving some one-pointed attention in the first place, my mind needed to slow down even further to allow for time and patience to see what she needed this breathing room for. Make no mistake, slowing down did not mean laying back and slouching.
It meant using the freed-up time for practicing the point “putting others first.” To begin with, I tried to put her first by speaking my thoughts. However, I quickly realized that it wasn’t my thoughts she needed to hear just then. Instead, she needed to see that I understood, or at least was trying to understand her views. We both needed time! I needed the time to put her first by placing myself in her shoes as best I could. She needed time to see that I was listening, trying my best to understand her, and giving her my respect.
I also used the point “training the senses” in this situation. On one hand, I practiced the training of my palate by choosing the kind and quantity of food that was healthy and sensible for my body. On the other hand, I was training my mind to choose healthy thoughts, thoughts that would vitalize my mind instead of wearing it down. In slowing down and in putting my parents first, thoughts of love, respect, and patience came into view, and thoughts of anger or impatience subsided.
Carlos (right) and his brother, who introduced him to passage meditation, at Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.
Remarkably, the love, respect, and patience I was able to foster helped me see the love, respect, and patience my parents were already trying to give me. I joined together with them in spiritual fellowship at heart, as I appreciated their efforts to love as just like my own.
Eventually, the conversation boiled down to a difference in opinions, or a difference in expressing the same opinion. It was really difficult to separate myself from my views and my ways of expressing things about my meditation teacher, Easwaran. However, the effort to try to understand my parents as best I could, and to refrain from speaking when I knew it wouldn’t make things better, has really paid off. I can now sit down with them and have a meal without being overly defensive (or at least not as defensive as in the past). My parents can share their views about God, and recommend ways for me to stay true to my faith tradition, without me getting as flustered as I have before. It can be a real challenge, but it’s a chance to deepen my faith and reliance on Jesus’ strength, deepen my meditation, and deepen my relationship with Easwaran as my teacher.