As a result both of my recent Three Brains Revisited sequence and partly as a result of being asked a few weeks ago about what my model of meditation is overall, I was moved to go back to my attempt of many years ago to create a set of experiences that captured what I thought I was seeking to do in periods of quiet reflection, contemplation or meditation (delete as appropriate!). I was surprised to find that not only did my explanation of what I thought I was doing hold up remarkably well to current inspection, but also the exercises I had devised to create the right experiences have also stood the test of time and I am still drawing on them even to this day in one form or another. So, it felt worthwhile to share at least a sample of what I worked on at that dim and distant time. So, here, is one of the exercises that I used to help the words come alive — for this exercise I am indebted to Eknath Easwaran‘s excellent and accessible book Meditation: common sense directions for an uncommon life.
Among the advice he gives is this (Pages 39-40):
In meditation, the passage becomes imprinted on our consciousness. As we drive it deeper and deeper, the words come to life within us, transforming all our thoughts, feelings, words, and deeds. . . . . As you commit a new passage to memory, it is good to spend some time reflecting on the meaning of the words and their practical application to your life. But please don’t do this while you are actually meditating. . . . . And avoid choosing passages that are negative, that take a harsh and difficult view of the body, of our past mistakes, or of life in the world. We want to draw for our positive side, our higher Self, and the passages should move you to become steadfast, compassionate, and wise.
Because I am aware that not everyone would connect with Bahá’í Scripture, clearly we can choose any positive passage to which we strongly resonate.
How to Learn Passages:
There is a method I have found useful to help with memorising. I have adapted it from a method for memorising poetry. I sorry to say that I have no record of whose original idea I have borrowed here.
This is the method:
- Read the passage once. Then divide it into convenient short sections, each equivalent to a line of poetry.
- Now read the first section out loud. Take your eyes from the page & immediately say the section again. Glance back to make sure you got it right. If you made a mistake try again. Now do the same with the second section. Repeat the procedure for every section in the passage.
- Go back to the beginning. This time, read the first two sections out loud, look away and repeat them aloud. Check. If you made a mistake, try again. Now move onto the next two sections, going through the whole passage two sections at a time.
- Repeat the passage three lines at a time, then four lines at a time, then five and then six. By the sixth pass, no matter how long the passage, you will have memorised it.
- Recite the whole passage just before going to bed at night.
- Crucial: stop thinking about the passage. Your sleeping mind is very important for memory.
- The next day, you should find (after a glance at the first line to bump-start your memory) that you can recite the whole passage.
In using this method I have found it important, if I am to retain the whole passage permanently, I need to slowly reduce the frequency of repeating it over a reasonable period of time. At first, perhaps for a week, I repeat it every night. Then every other, then every third night and so on until I repeat it only once per week. I can then choose to use it whenever I wish in my daily meditations. It is important to keep it fresh by revisiting it occasionally, may be once every month or two in this way.