By Ray Yungen
The meditation most of us are familiar with involves a deep, continuous thinking about something. But New Age meditation does just the opposite. It involves ridding oneself of all thoughts in order to still the mind by putting it in the equivalent of pause or neutral. A comparison would be that of turning a fast-moving stream into a still pond. When meditation is employed by damming the free flow of thinking, it holds back active thought and causes a shift in consciousness. This condition is not to be confused with daydreaming, where the mind dwells on a subject. New Age meditation works as a holding mechanism until the mind becomes thoughtless, empty and silent.
The two most common methods used to induce this thoughtless state are breathing exercises, where attention is focused on the breath, and a mantra, which is a repeated word or phrase. The basic process is to focus and maintain concentration without thinking about what you are focusing on. Repetition on the focused object is what triggers the blank mind. Since mantras are central to New Age meditation, it is important to understand a proper definition of the word. The translation from Sanskrit is man,meaning to think and tra, meaning to be liberated from. Thus, the word literally means to escape from thought. By repeating the mantra, either out loud or silently, the word or phrase begins to lose any meaning it once had. The conscious thinking process is gradually tuned out until an altered state of consciousness is achieved. But this silence is not the final objective; its attainment is only a means to an end. What that end entails was aptly described by English artist Vanora Goodhart after she embarked on the practice of zen meditation. She recounted:
[A] light began seeping through my closed eyelids, bright and gentle at first, but growing more and more intense … there was a great power and strength in this Light … I felt I was being drawn upwards and in a great and wonderful rush of power that rose eventually to a crescendo and bathed me through and through with glorious, burning, embracing Light.
Such dynamic experiences as this are what New Age mysticism is really all about … not just believing in some doctrine or a faith that is supported by some creed but rather a close personal contact with a powerful Presence. The renowned occultist Dion Fortune acknowledged: ‘shifting the consciousness is the key to all occult training.’ In other words, meditation is the gateway to the ‘light’ Goodhart experienced. The ultimate objective of the meditation effort lies in the concept called the higher self. This is thought to be the part of the individual linked to the divine essence of the Universe, the God part of man. The goal is to become attuned with the higher self, thus facilitating the higher self’s emergence into the physical realm bringing the practitioner under the guidance and direction of God. This connection is referred to in New Age circles as: awakening, transformation, enlightenment, self-realization, cosmic consciousness and superconsciousness. This is also why an interchangeable term for New Age is metaphysics. Metaphysics means that which is beyond the physical realm (the unseen realm) and being intimately connected to those powers not perceived by the normal five senses.”