by Lawrence Wilson, MD
Ó April 2010, The Center For Development
This differences between the meditation-observation exercise we recommend and almost all others are definitely worth understanding completely.
TYPES OF MENTAL EXERCISES THAT ARE OFFERED TO MANKIND
Over the millennia, teachers, prophets, religions, hypnotists, mental healers and even physicians such as Hippocrates have offered people various ways to use the mind in novel manners. We can roughly classify these exercises or practices in the following way:
Movement-related mental practices. These are among the oldest types of practices. They include some of yoga, tai-chi, chi kung, breathing methods and to some degree the ancient Oriental martial arts. The latter often combined movements, even battle tactics, with mental concentration to foil the enemy, increase the combatant’s courage, focus, concentration and insight, and/or to reduce his distractibility and fear.
More modern movement-related mental practices include ‘walking meditations’, and to some degree even protest marches and other types of marches that people engage in for various reasons. In fact, any modern sport such as running can be considered a type of moving meditative practice to some degree, even if this is not its focus.
Breathwork. The breath has a profound influence on the sympathetic nervous system, so it is often combined with meditations. These are excellent for calming the mind for these reasons. Yoga is most famous for integrating the two. However, modern systems of breathing such as rebirthing and other deep breathing methods often combine mental focus with breathing.
Sitting practices. These are somewhat different than pure mental exercises because just the act of sitting for hours is considered an important part of the practice. Zen, in some places, and other practices may be considered in this group. Here the focus is on sitting, rather than focusing so much on what is going on in the mind itself.
Once again, the focus of these exercises is often to calm the body and the mind, rather than change the mind in a particular way.
Purely mental practices. The Roy Masters exercise falls into this category of exercises. There are hundreds of other meditative exercises that are not primarily about movement, the breath, the sitting posture or anything other than the mind itself.
Single Versus Dual Focus. Most meditation, prayers, affirmations and visualization exercises are single focus. This means that one focuses on words, chants, breath, perhaps a candle, or something else. This is not the case with the Roy Masters exercise, as it demands that one look outward through the middle of the forehead and, at the same time, be aware of one’s right hand. This is a lot more difficult to do, as many people let me know. However, it is a special type of training of the mind to focus on two things at once.
Reprogramming the mind versus depgrogramming or just observing the mind. This is an important distinction between various mental practices. Here is a rough breakdown of various practices, in terms of this variable:
1. Reprogramming. This is often a part of exercises such as self-hypnosis, mantra meditations, staring at candles or anything else, visualizations, imagery exercises, affirmations, sitting exercises, martial arts, chi kung and most others.
2. Deprogramming. This is much rarer. It is the focus of the Roy Masters exercise and some Zen and Vipassana exercises, and that is about all.
THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THIS EXERCISE AND MOST PRAYER
Most prayer is a preparation for this particular meditation process. Prayer is single focus, whereas this exercise is dual focus. This is one of the major differences. Another difference is that most prayer is somewhat selfish, though not all. In other words, most people pray to have something happen, or to avoid something that is hurtful. The Roy Masters meditation, and indeed many meditation exercise, is more about pure mental practice, and not about making anything happen or avoiding anything.
Meditation also tends to be far more self-reflective than prayer. In other words, prayer is usually directed toward another, such as God or Jesus or even just the universe. Meditation does not involve this other-focus. It is more directed at oneself and one’s own mind, to train and discipline the mind rather than ask another for anything.
This is another difference, in that meditation is a particular training of the mind. Prayer also requires discipline, but of a somewhat different type, since it is not about training the mind to be still. Prayer is sometimes called a concentration exercise, rather than meditation, because prayer is about learning to concentrate the thoughts in a particular direction or upon a particular subject matter. Meditation is not about any particular subject matter that one decides upon beforehand. Instead, it is about getting in touch with what is already there. This is indeed a powerful difference between most prayer and this particular meditation exercise.
Another difference is that meditation is not about asking for anything. Nor is it strictly about receiving anything. It is instead, a purely mental exercise in which one seeks to become aware of the contents of the mind in a detached and objective way, with no motive to change those contents except to the degree that seeing the contents will automatically lead to alterations in the mind’s content as it is scrutinized due to the meditation process.
Another difference is that meditation is for oneself only. One might say it is selfish in this regard, whereas prayers are often for self and for others as well. However, it is not quite true that meditation is purely selfish. The reason is that as the content of anyone’s mind is purified, that person becomes more aware, more sane, and in almost all cases, more loving and compassionate. In fact, as one becomes more self-aware, one’s capacity for love and truth greatly expands, helping everyone on the planet.
Another difference is that prayer is more specific in its object and subject, whereas meditation is not as clear in most cases, and its object is awareness, not any particular outcome. This has been mentioned above to a degree, but is here repeated for emphasis.
Meditation also has as its goal the downward movement of energy. This may or may not occur with prayers, affirmations and visualizations. However, it is a specific goal of this particular exercise. This downward motion of etheric energy is a very precise training of the mind that has great implications for one’s health and mental development. This is discussed in a separate article on this site entitled Etheric Energy, Downward Flowing Energy And Healing.
The Roy Masters meditation is a much
more powerful aspect of prayer that some people do naturally and some must
learn specifically. One could say
the exercise I recommend is designed to help anyone learn to pray in a powerful
I was once asked by a friend who spent some time with me, “How often do you pray?” I thought about it and answered as truthfully as I can, saying “continuously”.
This is the truth of the meditation I am suggesting. It will lead you to what may be called “a prayerful attitude” that will overtake your life in all your waking and even during sleep. Roy Masters, from whom I learned the exercise, says that one should eventually do his exercise 24 hours a day. It becomes a habit, though not a mindless habit.
More on mantra exercises such as Transcendental Meditation or TM. These exercises force the mind to focus on a word or phrase, usually one that has no meaning, or at least has no obvious meaning for the meditator. This has as one of its objects to shift the mind from its usual chatter and distractions to a neutral focus that does not trigger any particular thought or emotions. For this reason, the practice is quite relaxing, as has been proven with double-blind scientific studies.
However, this, of itself, does not reprogram the mind, nor does it increase awareness too much, although calming the mind always increases awareness to some degree. One could say the goal of the exercise is to calm the mind, which it does very well in many cases if one practices it twice daily for about half an hour each session.
Pure concentration versus meditation exercises. Concentration exercises have as their goal, in general, a shifting of the mind to a different focus or concentration of energy. This can help relax the mind, reduce negative thoughts and emotions, and in some cases is used with affirmations to force the mind to focus on making more money, having more friends or fun, getting what one wishes, and so on.
I would call these pure concentration exercises. They are very good to oppose negative thoughts and harmful emotions and set a person on a better course of thought, attitudes and emotions.
In contrast, meditation usually has a more self-reflective quality to it. In almost all meditative processes, one is supposed to notice the mind’s content and reflect upon it. By so doing, it will slowly change. This way of altering the mind is definitely slower in some cases, but usually far more permanent and secure. Otherwise, when one stops one’s affirmations and prayers, the old negative thoughts can break in again.
Affirmations. These are a subset of prayers, I would say. They are a more modern, pop psychology word for certain prayers that may be used to wash the brain or encourage it to think in certain directions of joy, wealth, health and so on. They also have a curious ability to cause “cognitive dissonance” when they obviously conflict with thoughts in the mind that are their opposite.
For example, if one thinks one is poor, but endlessly repeats the phrase that “I am wealthy”, eventually the two ideas will cause conflict in the person. Here is where the affirmation is helpful by showing the person what was buried deep in the mind. When the conflict arises, one may be tempted to quit the affirmation. However, by continuing the affirmation, perhaps the old conflicting thought will be brought to the surface for examination and release.
The Time For Affirmations. Affirmations, visualization, prayer and the other types of meditative exercise are definitely helpful at the following times:
Š To help one relax enough to do the Roy Masters exercise. Some people tell me they begin their meditation session with a short prayer or affirmation to “put them in the mood for meditation”.
Š To help overcome extremely negative thoughts and feelings that some people experience, at times. Here they can shine. It is a form of brainwashing, but it can help stop the constant harping of the mind on negative, harmful and false accusations, feelings, and thoughts.
Š They can be a first step to enabling one to realize there is help available from other realms, as in using the 23rd Psalm and so many other wonderful prayers and affirmations.
There may be other benefits, but these
are the main ones that I have noticed with prayer and affirmations of many
The problem is, most people are content to just use their prayers and affirmations and do not realize that another type of mental exercise is available to them and is easy to do. Some may believe they have to pay a lot of money to learn “real” meditation, or travel far away, or sit for hours, or something else. None of this is true. Affirmations are a wonderful and often necessary start, but one can go much further with mental exercises. So please do not believe that affirmations and prayer are the whole answer, as many books, CDs, videos and even churches suggest.
New Age versus true meditation. This is an important topic. One can define “New Age” in many different ways. Some people feel this website is all new age because it involves holistic healing, for example. Other people associate new age with a liberal attitude toward sex and other things. Others associate it with devil worship or Satanism, witchcraft and many anti-biblical ideas.
I would like to define it as a negative and disempowering focus on magic. Magic is the use of incantations, affirmations, prayers and many other means to get what you want. In this sense, I am defining it as a selfish movement that often parades as caring, but is always self-centered. It is often liberal politically, environmentally oriented, and narcissistic in its focus, though it usually claims otherwise. It is also often authoritarian underneath, though it vehemently rejects the authority of the church, the bible and other traditional sources of authority such as parents, teachers and others. Often, but not always, it has an Oriental religious focus such as on the teachings of yoga, vegetarianism, animal rights and others.
New age is important because it is critical to understand that the Roy Masters meditation is thoroughly Judeo-Christian, as is this website and holistic healing. What passes for medical care in America and around the world today is not the truth. It is a medical cartel run by drug companies that have brainwashed the public into thinking that for every ailment there is a pill or a potion to cure it. This is, in fact, a new age idea. The bible and other more traditional information sources, including those in the West and the East, have recommended the slower, surer methods of healing such as diet, lifestyle modification and controlling one’s emotions. This is the focus of this website, not any new age thinking.
Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other structured religions - versus meditation. Structured religions differ from the Roy Masters meditation in that the meditation is a pure and simple mental practice that is not affiliated with or connected with any religion to any significant degree. It can thus be practiced by people of all religious persuasions and does not conflict with any of them to my knowledge. Also, it is not a ritual in the sense that it is not part of any larger system of conduct. It is pure and complete in itself, and has a specific goal and focus of watching the mind, emptying the mind and retraining the will and the mind.
Religions all incorporate and utilize various prayers and meditations. However, meditation itself should never be thought of a religion, as they are not. They are simply scientific practices designed to strengthen, calm, or reprogram the mind in some way. Meditations are more like “mental workouts”, in other words. They do not require any belief system and they usually do not have a lot of ritual, dogma, theology or even ethical content attached to them. This is a source of great misunderstanding of meditation, particularly the Roy Masters exercise.