How does meditation work?
Dawn Jackson, instructor, Dipamkara Meditation Center, a Buddhist temple in Huntington:
Like anything else, meditation requires training. The mind does what it wants to do. Through meditation, you get your mind to do what you want it to do. The purpose of meditation is to make your mind calm and peaceful. The goal is to be free from worries and mental discomfort.
Meditation doesn't make things magically go away. You just learn to deal with things from a different, calmer, more peaceful frame of mind.
In the short term, meditation tries to help you deal with everyday things in a way that external circumstances don't control how you feel. You don't want the circumstance to dictate your happiness.
We use the ocean as a metaphor. When the mind is not peaceful, it is like being churned around by the waves. For example, when you're angry, jealous or upset, that is considered the waves. We're trying, through meditation, to access a deeper, calmer part of our minds, to get below the churning waves. You acknowledge that the churning is there, but you want to get to a calmer place before dealing with them.
Sister Barbara Regan, Cenacle Retreat House, Ronkonkoma:
Some people see meditation as a way of tuning into themselves and away from outside distraction, but there is no mention of God. It also is a form of prayer, a way of quieting your inner self, screening out distractions and coming to a state of focused attention and awareness.
The quiet one experiences during meditation is a gift of God, and not so much a product of one's meditation technique.
We know that God is spirit. You can't sit down with God and have a conversation with the two of you sitting on the couch.
Through meditation, you open yourself up and quiet yourself so you can better experience God. It is a way of becoming more focused on God.
There are different kinds of prayer. Meditation is a type of prayer that takes place in silence. People think of prayer as asking for something or thanking God for something or speaking to God. I regularly pray for others and their needs, but that's only one kind of prayer.
With meditation, I become more the receiver of God's word and God's presence. Meditation is entering into silence to be with God. With meditation, I become open to God's presence and God's word.
Kanaiyalal Lakhani, trustee, Jain Samaj of Long Island, Plainview:
We believe in the effect of karma. What you have done will affect what will happen to you in the future. We also believe in reincarnation. We all will be reincarnated until we reach a God state.
Meditation is a way for you to get control of your physical body so you can be closer to the God that is in each of us. Our goal is to evolve through meditation to the point that we are on the level with other gods and leave the earthly level. Most die without reaching this enlightened level and return to earth through reincarnation in an attempt to get it right. That's where karma theory comes in.
When we meditate, we sit in a temple or prayer room, close our eyes and concentrate or repeat a word, a god's name or phrase. Through karmic understanding, you reach higher levels of meditation and eventually higher levels of understanding.
If I were helping someone to learn to meditate, I'd tell them not to try to meditate the first time. Instead, just close your eyes and be silent for 15 minutes. You will get something from it. You should be calmer afterward. You're hoping for a period of time to leave behind all the distractions of your life.
In Jainism, meditation is predicated on the idea that all of our happiness and suffering comes from our mind. Once you can control your mind, you can control your feelings.
Akiva Wharton, known spiritually as Akiva the Believer, leads Jewish renewal services and is an ordained Jewish drummer and author, Huntington:
Meditation is part of the religious renewal service I do. Part of every Jewish service is the amida, a standing silent prayer. Sometimes, we do the amida; sometimes, we do a silent meditation -- either directed (by me) or undirected. You're attempting to access that deepest, holiest space that is in each of us through meditation.
We're all made in God's image. So, there's some deep, inner divine spot in all of us. Jews believe the soul is pure. We don't believe in original sin. We come to earth pure. Then, we each build a veil, known as a klippa, around that pure soul. Even with a veil of evil around it, the soul inside that klippa is pure.
Simplistically you can say that through meditation, you're trying to get through the evil part to get to the good part. Most people don't have that much klippa. Instead, I'd say, you're trying to get through the chatter, to still the distracting voices so you can access that pure soul, that spiritual space within each of us.