02/02/2011 02:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Meditation for the Love of It


For many years, my most persistent experience of sitting meditation consisted of futile attempts to stop thinking followed by my chin landing repeatedly on my chest, fairly often accompanied by drooling on my meditation shawl. A bobble-head doll that leaked -- nothing like my inner pictures of the Buddha.

Meditation seemed like this illusive mountaintop to summit, only I kept finding myself barefooted and passed out in base camp.

Oh, I could chant mantras for hours on end, read and gather information with the best, but sitting meditation? That was something on the calendar for mastering "someday".

That is, until I started working with Sally Kempton in a monastery tucked away in the Catskill Mountains of New York State over fourteen years ago. Then under her monastic name of Swami Durgananda, she graciously took on working with an eager group of twenty-somethings one night a week after most ashramites had begun settling in for the night.

A handful or more of us would gather in the small meditation hall, it's walls quietly infusing the space with the echoes of countless mantras and the delicate lingering aroma of sweet smelling champa, under the quiet reflection of a single candle.

Walking to the hall for those evenings with Sally kindled a kinetic joy that sent armies of goose bumps through my body. It felt like getting on the train to Hogwarts with Harry Potter every week to soak up ancient wisdom passed along in secret.

I had my first blush crush on meditation, not yet a fully blown love affair, it indeed had my attention and held accountable by the promise that gained me entry to these gatherings, I was sitting every day.

Those evenings, writes Sally, were fodder for articulating the many precise and powerful doorways into what she calls "the meditation channel in your consciousness - a bandwidth of tranquility, energy, and joy", doorways that overflow from her newest book Meditation for the Love of It.

Having used Ecstatic Breathwork as my primary entryway to meditation for coming up on seven years now, sitting meditation had devolved from that time in the ashram into becoming sporadic and infrequent.

Toward the end of 2009, I started noticing an inner pull to start sitting again, at first subtle, and soon relentless. Around that time, a friend gave me a copy of the EOC Institute's Equisync CD. The disc uses a technology called binaural beats to literally meditate your brain. That night I loaded it onto my iPod, set up a meditation spot, put on the headphones, and was stunned. No bobble-head. No drooling. No passing out. Whatever was going on with this CD, it was keeping me alert, present, and available for meditation. I started sitting two to three times a day, and found those doorways Sally pointed to many years back wide open and patiently waiting for me begin working with again.

Within weeks, the profound stillness in my sitting practice was simply one pause away. Just taking time to internally pause in the middle my day, I'd notice this profound and palpable presence of stillness and well being wash over me. The more attention I gave to it, the stronger it would seem to become. My doorway is generally to notice what Sally points out as the delicate space between any two thoughts. The more I meditate, the more obvious and accessible this space becomes.

Drawing on the wisdom and grace of a timeless lineage of enlightened tantric masters, Meditation for the Love of It is no ordinary book. It is what in Sanskrit is referred to as chaitanya; it is enlivened. What that means is that beyond the tremendous informational education, the book carries within it the ability to reveal within you the experiences it points at. I can rarely read more than a few pages at time before I feel an unavoidable visceral pull into meditation.

Simply put, this is not a book to be consumed on the way to literary prowess, it's a delicacy to be savored, ruminated over, and kept close at hand.