Sunday, October 2, 2011

Questions for Dr. Duckworth: Regarding Meditation, Chanting and Prayer Classes

Interested in some the upcoming classes re: sound and meditation. These:

Meditation, Chanting & ‘Prayer’ 6:30pm-7:30pm
Thursday: Oct 6th - Buddhist-style meditation
Thursday: Nov 3rd – Hindu-style chanting
Thursday: Dec 1st – Christian-style Contemplative Prayer
Cost: tax deductible goodwill donation to IAALM

As someone without a lengthy faith background, I'm interested in your approach to these evenings? If not what an attendee might "expect," what would be some of the components of these classes? Again, it's only interest that incites this note.

Morris G.


Good morning, Morris. If there is one thing that I can assure anyone participating in any classes or programs I conduct, it is that you should have no expectations. How much more true must this be if the studies have to do with 'calm', 'peacefulness', stress-reduction, 'living in the present', being here now. Anticipation or expectation takes you away from the "here it is" moment and places you in a non-existent future "is it here yet?" Living in the non-existent future, besides being a form of insanity, disallows living in the present. Our self-awareness is most often centered in our thinking processes. We are programmed from the earliest years to identify 'self' with the phenomena of thought; "I think, therefore, I am." and to reference 'self' to time and time is that place where past and future are invented and maintained. "What did you do on summer break?" "What are you going to be when you grow up?" And all this activity has the brain in hyper-drive 24/7. (a lot of insomnia situations involve a lot of thinking). We become brain activity addicts. We forget how to have a quiet mind and even fear that if our mind gets quiet, isn't active, we will die or go insane (see earlier remark about insanity). Qi flows continuously; death is observed when Qi no longer flows. The heart beats steadily until it doesn't and then you die. Lungs enjoy a little rest while operating but if you stop breathing, you will die. All the other organs work sometimes and don't work sometimes. Your stomach isn't digesting 24/7 and you eyes aren't open 24/7, so it is quite reasonable to realize it is a good mental health, physical health and spiritual health practice to give your thinking brain a rest. Seems simple enough but we are addicted to thinking; it is an opiate that is very powerful and that is why we need to address this issue front on. We need to quiet the mind. We have all experienced being in the present, being so invested in the present moment that neither past nor future nor self nor other is thought of or identifiable. The most common experience of this that most of us may relate to is the phenomena of orgasm. This sense of non-dualist existence may be fleeting in an orgasm but is attainable for extended periods... even forever, through the practice of quieting the mind. In fact, the Eastern sense of Enlightenment has been described as "the orgasmic bliss of union with the present moment."

All peoples have discovered and charted ways and means to bring the mind to "Still point." Zen Buddhist sitting/walking, Hopi dance and 'prayer', Australian walk-about, Hindu yoga (practices that bring union), Sufi Dance and singing, Earth-centered practices, sensory deprivation, psychedelics, Pentecostals talking in tongues, meditation, focused breathing, tantric practices, Gregorian Chant all can lead to the absolute quietude within.
Unlike you, I have had a lengthy "faith" background. I spent my early teen years in a Catholic seminary, exposed to wondrous, sacred Gregorian Chant. I met monks who were extraordinary practitioners of Bhakti Yoga (they did not know it by this term), that is, living a life of love. In my early twenties, I intellectually studied Zen, Christianity and psychedelics but a major turning point came when my mentor, Richard Alpert, went to India, return as Baba Ram Dass and taught me Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and Hatha Yoga. He taught the lessons needed for me to sit quietly and also to raise my voice in praise of the Universal Life Energy which we are. He taught me Buddhist meditation techniques to quiet the mind; he taught me Hindu Sacred Chants to open and cleanse the heart, he taught me hatha yoga so that my body could be relaxed, in union, as I meditated and chanted. Through years of meditating and chanting, I arrived to the Kototama Principle, the logos of Universal Consciousness and self-hood. Through the study of Kototama, all the lines, all the boundaries, all the separation ceases. We begin to grasp how close to home is the statement of Jesus, "I and my Father are One."

I am long-winded, Morris, but the questions inside the questions must also be addressed. Patients/clients and students have asked me about "stress-management" and "How does one meditate?" and "why are you cheery (most of the time)?" "How do I deal with depression?" "Self-Esteem?" "I can not make clear decisions, what should I do?" Answer: get quiet.
So, I am offering an opportunity to learn about sitting quietly. My method of silent meditation is the Buddhist method taught to me by my teacher, Ram Dass, in 1968. It is the method of classic meditation I practice to this day.

Through Ram Dass, I also learned Sacred Prayer, Mantra/Japa/Kirtan and the way of solo and group singing to bring quiet to the heart. Devotion to ones inner live energy and maintenance of the direct connection to the Universal manifestation of self expressed through conscious use of voice is a gift we should alot ourselves.

I have been blessed with many visitors, travelers, teachers who have stayed in my life for short and long periods. They come in many forms and models. There were Tibetan monks who spoke no English; they flew into town. There was the Franciscan monk who could not stop talking; he arrive on a motorcycle. Some arrive via print and The Way of the Pilgrim introduced me to a 19th century Russian Orthodox monk who wondered the countryside continuously repeating the prayer, "Lord, Jesus Christ have mercy on me." (As you know, his prayer was not in English....but you get the point....don't you?). There are ways of saying "Hallelujah" that are very contemplative. There is one main component - Sharing the experience. I hope this answers your question and I'd love to hear more from you and whomever else wants to participate.

Thank you.

Thomas Duckworth

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