Like many of us who were brought up in the traditional church, we may not have come across the concept of meditation.

Perhaps when we started questioning or investigating other beliefs such as Buddhism, we may first have come across this practice.

Those of us who went through the Hippie era knew of the popular practice of recording artists and movie starts having their own guru’s.

Some of us were fascinated by the writings of Lobsang Rampa, whose real name is Charles something, and he also explained the path to enlightenment.

So very many methodologies were proposed, and if we really went in depth into the writings of Tibetan priests or Sufis, we often did not understand what they were actually saying.

Countless people attempted meditation as they saw it and failed hopelessly.   Perhaps for many, the feeling of frustration was what was achieved.   Then we went to loads of “talks” on meditation in the hopes that we would learn “how” to meditate.   We were encouraged to use various methods that would plunge us in to a state of nirvana – to stare at an imaginary flame, to look at rainbow colours in our mind’s eye, to recite mantras, etc etc.

We are privileged to be in the presence of those who meditate as a way of life and whilst we respect their greatness, I personally find myself exceedingly far away from that persona, BUT, I do not feel any less ‘godly” that they are seen to be, I am just different.

These and other revered people from the Spiritualist way of life say that in order to be able to mediate, one would need to give up our current way of life, to give up eating animal flesh, give up alcohol and other social vices, become abstinent, to supplicate oneself, to pronounce one’s mantra that has been given to us by a guru, to ‘go within’ for a number of hours every day.

I found this very intimidating and immediately was frightened off by these seemingly impossible demands.   Initially I thought that because I was not able to put this in to practice, that I would never be able to achieve the ultimate goal of been able to meditate, and not, therefore, become the human being that God wanted me to be.

This sense of definite failure almost stopped me in my tracks before I commenced the journey.

Many attempts were made, including a weekend at the Buddhist Retreat learning how to meditate – I didn’t get it!   Nonetheless, I had a pleasant time.   Perhaps what stayed with me from that weekend was the easing oneself in to the morning – up early at 6 for an hour’s meditation practice and then a meal and an act of quietness from waking moment until 10 am when one was allowed to speak for the first time.   Of course, the other memories were the incredibly hard futon mattresses one slept on, which forced the swallowing of a muscle relaxant tablet first thing in the morning to enable me to unlock my sore body out of a form of straightness; and the memory of wonderful vegetarian meals that almost made me give up meat eating.   Another memory which stays with me is the bossy Buddhi8st who tried to explain to us novices the intricacies of meditation.

I have come to the realization that true meditation is a philosophy, a way of life – yes, obtainable but with a different set of rules, and at a different level of belief.    This is the near-ultimate state of being close to God and is achieved by some.    However, it is not to say that any one of us are no less important in the eyes of God.

So, when we know that this form of dedication is not likely to happen in this lifetime, what do we do?

In discussion with my Spiritualist peers, we have spoken about contemplation rather than meditation.    In dictionary terms, contemplation is “thinking about something in a deep and careful way and for a long time”.   Being contemplative is “someone who is deeply thoughtful in a serious and quiet way”.

Yes, we can be contemplative by asking questions in our mind’s eye and believing that we will be given understanding and wisdom to use to move forward, to help out in our community, to those who are troubled, to settle anxious minds.   In this practice, one has to be close to God to receive such rewards.    Being able to contemplate successfully, if I can put it like that, requires – like meditation – repetitive practice, a way of life.    But it also requires one to persevere with the struggle of getting to the state of mind in order to be able to sit in contemplation.   Many practicing contemplators and meditators have spoken of days/weeks/months where they are at odds with themselves and out of the willingness to put themselves before God in their form of reverie.

So, what do we do if we are not at the contemplative level – we may not have questions, or if we have them, we may not know how to frame them; or have the confidence to ask them without feeling just a little bit awkward?

Perhaps, we can find “our special place” in order to have our “quiet time”.

Having quiet time requires a sense of peace, a feeling of comfort and no insecurities, to be enveloped by the warmth and protection of God.   We can be anywhere physically that we want to be – the garden, near the sea, watching flocks of birds, looking at animals playing, watching clouds moving across the sky, listening to a glorious music piece, looking at bright stars on a clear night, watching ants or bees at their work.

What this requires is tuning in with those surroundings and not being distracted by noise interference, worries that you may have.

To sit quietly and absorb your environment – instrumental by God by the way – and achieve a sense of peace, or spiritual wellbeing, of hope welling up inside you, attaining a feeling of joy – this is an absolute indication of your connection with God, who has smiled upon you that day.

When one has this sense of wellbeing, it rubs off on to other people – it calms the angry soul, it allows you to be kind, or kinder.  It allows you to think with clarity, and yes, with new found wisdom, or old wisdom uncovered.

It also means that we need to be alone with ourselves in order to encourage this communication with God and that is not to say that you should not be with other people who are similarly communicating with God

In medical terms, we are advised to seek balance in order to have mental and physical health.   There is a theory that out of our 24 hours, 6 should be work, 6 sleep, 6 personal needs and 6 social – friends, family etc.

Most of us have a somewhat slewed arrangement with not as much as 6 hours for personal needs for example.   For our own mental health, we need to have ‘quiet time’ and particularly for our spiritual health, we must have quiet time. Our quiet time can be a superb thing – what a divine opportunity we have to get to know ourselves better, to wonder in delight how special we are, and to have that sense of wellbeing that can only come from God.

Our special place will usually be different to the next person’s – and one really just has to find somewhere we feel safest and most at peace, and closest to God.

You may ask – but what about prayer ? Yes, I’m sure we are closer to God here but in my view, this is an act of conscious communication where we think of things for what we are grateful, where we give thanks, where we ask for miracles.

The same can be said for those who are Healers – but this is another form of being with God = but as facilitators of God’s energy.   We are closer to God in these situations and true healing is not “done” to achieve accolades or earn good points.

So, prayer is so important, but there is a difference that I personally feel between praying, and experiencing a quiet time.   I believe that the purpose is different.    Experiencing a quiet time with yourself and God is a very personal one, almost a self-growth experience whereas the aim of prayer is usually to give thanks to God, to solve problems, and for the benefit of the universe and its peoples.

Putting “quiet time” in to practice can also be fraught with problems.  Many of us can easily find a place where we can communicate with ourselves under God’s watchful eye, but setting aside the time to enjoy this experience is usually what trips us up.   In to-day’s lifestyle, even if you are retired, we are racing from one intended achievement to another.   It is really difficult to find quietness in a house filled with children, or dealing with barking dogs, doorbells or telephones ringing.   Some of us are too tired in the evening after work, and others are just not morning people.

So, what is asked of us?

We are asked to commit to a process, to share a time with God each and every day.    Whether it is at a level of meditation, or contemplation, or having quiet time, it still needs routine, a commitment to and regularity of practice.

Would it help if we noted down in our diaries, our daily appointment, with this act of giving over to God? – probably, especially if we were the type of people who looked in our diaries each evening for the next day’s programme.   We do this in business, so why not in our personal life.   Appointments are not hit or miss events, and we would keep appointments in business when we felt like it.   Luckily, our God is a loving and forgiving God – so there is no likelihood of disciplinary hearings when we fail to keep our appointments.   If we find that we have excluded our quiet time/contemplation/mediation from our daily programmes despite making appointments, then we seriously need to relook how we can arrange our lives around the all-important connection in God’s light.

Practice usually does go a long way to making perfect – and I cannot help feeling that the intensely regular practice of quiet time, will soon pave the way to achieving contemplation, and who knows, an even greater commitment to meditation.

Let this become an addiction.