Interfaith: Meditation practiced around the world – Ventura County Star

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It’s 5:30 in the morning, and I’m sitting at a window facing east.

The sky is brightening. The birds are beginning to stir.

I see the sky burst red, pink and orange. I sit and breathe and watch.

I put on a meditation from an app on my smartphone called Insight Timer.

The soothing voice of spiritual teacher Michael Stone begins a meditation by guiding me into a relaxed, comfortable sitting position and conscious awareness of the flow of my breath, in and out, in and out.

For 30 minutes, the sky displays its magnificence, and I gently move into stillness, peace and the day ahead.

Meditation is practiced around the world by a global community of people who meditate for a thousand different reasons.

Some are working to heal heart and blood pressure conditions, while others are seeking release of anxiety and stress.

Others love making a connection to a sense of transcendental interconnectedness.

Many people simply wish to deepen their inner peace and express gratitude for their blessings in a profoundly relaxed experience.

In Hinduism, Vedic teachings state that the universal divine self resides within your heart, and the way to recognize divinity is to focus your attention inwardly in a process of contemplative meditation.

In the Jewish tradition, students of the Kabbalah meditate in order to transform their basic inner nature with the fundamental external nature by internalizing symbols and gradually absorbing their characteristics.

In the Christian scriptures, we are encouraged by the Apostle Paul to focus our attention on whatever is true, right, honorable, pure, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy.

Within Islam, a goal of meditation in Sufi practice is to prevent the mind from wandering, as the heart focuses on God. Spoken words in prayers, chants and singing actively entreat God through repetition of the holy names.

There are many forms and traditions of meditation, but the essence of meditative practice often includes five main things:

Sitting: Find a quiet place without interruptions. Sit in a comfortable but supportive chair. Make it a practice to sit in the same place at the about the same time each day for about 20 minutes.

Music or object: Relaxing music or a flower or scented candle to focus on can assist.

Breathe and relax: Take several deep, slow breaths. Relax your neck and shoulders, back and hips, legs and feet.

Image: Visualize a calming scene. Many people see aspects of nature, such as the surf rolling in and out at a peaceful beach or sense a stream in a beautiful forest.

Specific religious aspects: There are so many possibilities. The meditator could emphasize gratitude to God, affirmations to the divine source of all good or prayers for blessings sought for the meditator or for others.

Whatever your reason for meditating or style of meditation, make the goal to open your heart, clear your mind and rest your body.

Let this be a time to be intimate and gentle with yourself.

Know that it matters to the world that we are learning to calm and make peace within ourselves.

The Dalai Lama said, “If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”

Let peace begin with me.

The Rev. Molly Rockey is the spiritual leader of Unity of the Oaks in Thousand Oaks. To find out more, you can visit www.unityoftheoaks.org or call 496-6901. Rockey is a member of the Conejo Valley Interfaith Association, which meets monthly and welcomes clergy and representatives of all faiths.

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