A bi-weekly meditation group
Blue Mountain Center of Meditation
Friday night and what to do? Thought I needed a change from my usual Netflix at home. My routines have changed a bit lately, and I haven’t been doing the yoga thing or the following head-clearing meditation. I thought I’d multitask and get my Filet of Soul off my plate and clear my head all in one shot.
I’d visited once before the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation Satsang, which makes its home the first and third Friday evenings every month at the Yoga Loka, 6135 Lakeside Drive. In fact, it was one of my inspirations for this column. They practice the Eight Point Program of Sri Eknath Easwaran in their meditation.
Easwaran was an interesting guy. He came to the United States from India and founded the Blue Mountain Center for Meditation in Berkeley, Calf., in 1961. He was a successful author and lecturer until he died in 1999. He’s still around through his books and videos, though, as I discovered Friday.
Mary and Dan Dugan lead the group, although it’s a pretty gentle form of leadership. Anyway, the group meets at 7:15 p.m. This particular Friday was unusually intimate, just the Dugans, Dick Manning and myself. The Friday evening meditation has three parts. First we read; each person reading one paragraph from Easwaran’s book, Meditation, going around the group until we’d read most of the chapter. Second, we watched a DVD in which Easwaran spoke about the topic we’d just read about: One-pointed attention. Third, we meditated for 30 minutes. We finished about 9:10 p.m.
The Eight Point Program to meditation includes these aspects: meditation; the mantram; slowing down, one-pointed attention; training the senses; putting others first, spiritual companionship; and reading the mystics. I guess that’s more of a description of a way of life than a program.
The DVD lecture was quite interesting. Easwaran was a funny guy, dry, not the type who’d fall down for a laugh. It was pretty apparent he’d read a good many books in his life. He told an anecdote about the men who climbed the Himalayas to illustrate the concept of one-pointed attention. He contrasted the mountain climbing strategies of Edmund Hillary and Reinhold Messner. He said Messner considered climbing Mount Everest with oxygen and Sherpas and all the rest of the equipment cheating. Messner has climbed the world’s 14 8,000-plus meter peaks without oxygen. Easwaran thought this was a pretty good example of one-pointed attention. Messner literally changed his physiology with his mind and his practice so that he could do what scientists said could not be done.
This group uses a phrase or mantram to enhance meditation. As I understand it, any spiritual text will do, although a frequent example used that night was the Prayer of Saint Francis. (I’m guessing many people will be more familiar with the song that begins “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.") Mary was kind enough to give me a sheet with a variety of possible mantrams: St. Francis’ prayer, Psalm 23, and The Upanishad’s, “Invocation.”
I’d be pretty foolish to describe my observations of other people’s meditation. As for my own, some are better than others. A half-hour is a pretty long time if you can’t get to that meditation place, and the fact that I hadn’t memorized a text kept distracting me. In the end, I got there, but I gave up trying to do the whole poem and just attended to the “for it is in giving that we receive” bit. I know I got where I wanted to be because when Mary rang the ending bell, it startled me, and I didn’t know what it was.