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Getting Started with Meditation: Can Being in the Moment Help with Healing the Earth?

Proven Techniques for Raising Human Consciousness and—Hopefully—Healing the Earth

First published June 22, 2023

Can meditation enhance our relationship with nature?  ©IStock/Akarawut Lohacharoenvanich
Can meditation enhance our relationship with nature? ©IStock/Akarawut Lohacharoenvanich

Many activities go by the name of “meditation.” For some people, deep reflection involves something as simple as sitting by a river and watching it flow. For others, it could be doing needlepoint or riding a motorcycle through the countryside. Whatever the activity, if it makes a person more peaceful, most people will say, “Hey, keep it up!”

For formal meditation systems, however, there are masters to learn from and basic practices to adopt. Here is a simple breakdown on the two basic types of meditation.

Mantras and ‘Mad Monkey’ Mind

There are two kinds of meditation: “active” and “passive.” “Passive” meditation involves quietly watching the mind “run around.” Practitioners begin by getting comfortable and observing the activity of the mind without judgment. And, at least initially, what do they see? They see that the mind is a pretty jumpy thing!

“Monkeys in a plum tree”  ©Mori Sosen. Public Domain
“Monkeys in a plum tree” ©Mori Sosen. Public Domain

Some Eastern traditions compare the mind to a mad monkey. To see what they mean, sit for a few minutes and watch the mind go! It flits from topic to image to memory on anything and everything.

But as one settles down, watches the breath, and lets the mind observe itself for a while, the deep witnessing function will draw the mind into deeper states of awareness.

That is the passive technique. One such school is called “Vipassana,” which means to “see things as they really are.” This technique was taught by the Buddha.

The second type is “active” meditation. The mind concentrates on a mental object to accomplish the same suspension of the active mind, to move into the same sublime states of spiritual awareness as mentioned above.

What should a meditator focus on? There are myriad techniques, but many involve the use of sound. Sound is said to be the most subtle of all sensory experiences. In fact, thought itself is sometimes described as “mental sound."

The sounds used for meditation are called “mantra.” In Sanskrit, “man” means “mind” and “tra” means liberating. So, mantras are liberating sounds.

Many mantras are names for God. Others are short phrases to assert the union of the small “s” self and the “S” Self of the Supreme Consciousness. These techniques were practiced by the Buddha, through which it is said he gained enlightenment.

Nepal—Mantras carved in stone.  ©Markrosenrosen/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Nepal—Mantras carved in stone. ©Markrosenrosen/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

A Sincere Heart to Know

Back in the 1970s in the US, when yogis and other Eastern spiritual teachers were all the rage, this author used to hitchhike. On one ride somewhere on Interstate 70 highway, somebody turned around from the front seat to say, “Hey, want to learn to meditate?” [Okay.] “Well, just keep repeating these words in your mind and you get really high!”

But there is more to it. Some of the ingredients for meaningful meditation are cultivating a sincere heart to know the One and making a persistent effort to think and act in ways that reflect an inseparable connection to other people.

This last bit might be called “morality.”

Human behavior involves the endless repetition of various patterns people have learned. Human growth—psychological, emotional, and spiritual growth—depends on progressively altering these patterns and moving toward more enlightened ways of being.

Human growth—psychological, emotional, and spiritual growth—depends on progressively altering these patterns and moving toward more enlightened ways of being.

For the most part, people try not to repeat the mistakes that make them unhappy. They try to create more happiness—and act as ethically as they can.

Healing the Earth

As one improves in meditation, their ability to turn the lens of the mind inward over time, through regular practice, helps them develop an enhanced capacity to notice when they are failing in their outward expressions of kindness, truthfulness, and honesty.

By improving the quality of being present with people and things, people enhance their ability to move deeply into the Inner Realms and experience the presence of God. Or if someone does not like the term “God,” they can say “the Supreme,” “Divinity,” “Allah,” or use other ways to speak of the Infinite Being. The term “Self,” as mentioned above, indicates that the Soul of All can be found within.

This all leads to the healing of the Earth.

Anyone who has been paying attention knows about the ways in which humans are collectively harming coming generations of life by their polluting ways. If people can progressively brighten their lives and serve the people around them, the wave of that shift can amplify the same from other people and bring healing to self, family, community, and the planet. People can catch themselves and be more conscious of the effects of what they do. Further, their uncovered hearts can light the way out of the emptiness of excessive materialism.

As people move deeper into the transformative light of the Infinite, they might do very well indeed. As they expand their spiritual hearts by cultivating their inner life, they can together create a world governed by family feelings for all living beings, abolish mass violence, and make the Earth a haven for all its inhabitants.

While no one knows how far into the vast cosmos the radiance of individual and collective human love will reach, surely humanity can create a bright future for all on this little Earth, putting an end to eons of tears streaming from the eyes of so many.

What is the potential of collective meditation?  ©Public Domain
What is the potential of collective meditation? ©Public Domain

In the meantime, it’s good to take time to do some needlework or ride a bike or contemplate a flowing river. It’s possible one might be inspired to start a meditation practice—try out the various styles and schools; the heart will know when the right teacher has been found.

But do not wait too long to enjoy the practice of meditation. Life is short, after all. Plus, the Earth and all in it are waiting.


*Gregory Henschel is also known as Acharya Govinda. Acharya means “one who teaches by example.” He has been a dedicated meditator and practitioner of yoga for fifty years and has been teaching classes since the mid-1970s. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife Francey and their parrot Scarlett.


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