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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.

"You become so open, so sensitive, your antennae stretch so far, that if your eyes were to meet those of another person--man or woman--you would instantly fall in love!"

Sophy Burnham, The Ecstatic Journey, Part 5

Ram Dass tells how once he was giving a talk about his experiences in India. An old lady in the first row kept nodding and smiling in assent, the wooden cherries on her hat bobbing up and down. His vanity was pricked. How did she know about the esoteric things he'd spent years studying? At the end of the lecture, she went up to him.

"I enjoyed your talk."

"How do you know so much about meditation?" he asked.

"Oh," she confided, "I crochet."

I am told that in Thailand and Burma every adult man is encouraged to spend six or eight months in meditation at some time in his life. He is not considered educated without this entry into the spiritual journey, for this is the path by which you discover who you are.

From the beginning I loved meditating. Even my family found it helped my moods. Once my husband said to me, "You're out of sorts. Why don't you go upstairs and meditate. I'll feed the children."

But listen: The meditation I do is nothing compared to the practice of those who are truly serious.

The Dalai Lama meditates for four hours a day, and he is only just beginning, he told me, to sense accomplishment, "like a seed just starting to sprout...."

The Buddha spent two hours a day practicing one particular Forgiveness exercise--two hours a day, sending forgiveness to the world. Mother Teresa insists that her Missionaries of Charity carve out time every day for meditation, and she says that she herself could not do her draining and difficult work without this sweet and daily communion with God. For hours at a time, continuously, a Sufi master, practicing the Muslim mystical tradition, repeats the dhikr, the remembrance of God: La ilaha ill-Allah, he silently cries. "There is no God but God, al-Lah"--until slowly the words seep into his soul, like running water, excluding all other thoughts. His heartbeat slows. So quiet does the Sufi master become that they say he can repeat twenty-one dhikr on one long breath.

Years after I first learned to meditate, I spent several weeks at a Buddhist retreat in Massachusetts. There you go into silence. You do not speak. You avoid all eye contact. Certain orders of Christian monks maintain similar rules. And after being there for a time, I understood why. It's because you become so open, so sensitive, your antennae stretch so far, that if your eyes were to meet those of another person--man or woman--you would instantly fall in love! We rose at four-thirty in the morning and meditated, alternately sitting or walking, until ten at night. Never was I so happy! By the end of two weeks, I was meditating twenty-two out of twenty-four hours a day, utterly absorbed and joyous in the discipline.

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