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Excerpted from The Ecstatic Journey by Sophy Burnham. Copyright 1999 by Sophy Burnham. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"Saying the rosary becomes a meditation, or repeating over and over with absolute attention the Pilgrims' Prayer: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.'"

Sophy Burnham, The Ecstatic Journey, Part 4

Something happens in meditation, something so subtle and elegant that the great teachers and Zen masters and rabbis, the true Masters, are too clever to try to describe it. Was it this that Christ was teaching to his twelve?

Plato called the mystery of meditation theoria. Early Christians called it contemplatio.

Once the Buddha was asked, "Is there God?"

"I will not tell you," he answered. "But, if you wish, I can show you how to find out for yourself." Then he taught the gift of meditation.

The Buddha, the Compassionate One, understood how easily we become dependent on others, asking them to do the work for us. Unlike Christ, he refused to heal the sick.

"I will not make you well," he would say to the leper, the blind man, "but I can show you how to heal yourself." Then he would teach the seeker how to meditate.

Some learned. Others went away irritated that the Compassionate One would not hand them healing or wisdom or love the easy way.

Sages tell us that meditation confers three gifts. First, it brings deep peace and tranquility of mind. Second, it brings clear intuition, wisdom, and insight. Third, if it is pursued with constancy and devotion, it leads to the direct experience of God. Some people claim meditation does no more than transport us to our own interior and highest self, and others that it opens a doorway through which the Beloved comes. All we know is the love and power it confers.

There are various ways to meditate. Each system is designed to break sense-contact with the outer world and especially to stop the shrieking voices in our heads, the constant, taunting inner chatter. Whatever the system in whatever religion, meditation is always done by total concentration on one repetitive act. Perhaps you place your attention on your nostrils, watching your breath pass in and out, each breath as unique as a snowflake. Or perhaps you repeat a mantra, of which the best known is the Tibetan Buddhist Om mani padme hum, the mantra of compassion. Or the mantra is a Christian prayer. Saying the rosary becomes a meditation, or repeating over and over with absolute attention the Pilgrims' Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me." Weeding the garden may become a meditation, or knitting, cooking, eating, walking, painting--doing whatever you are doing, so long as you do it alertly, with absolute attention, watching each movement of your hands or feet or breath.

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