Listening for the true self

Meditation is no longer a mysterious, esoteric process practiced only by Eastern gurus or the very religious. Meditation has moved into the mainstream of the American consciousness. Well, perhaps the Ashlander consciousness.

For more than 30 years I have been practicing the art of sitting still at a small altar in my bedroom every morning. Rain or shine. Despite the number of days accumulated, the hours are few. This restless Western practitioner has yet to sit more than 15 minutes at a time.

Yet how often in meditation do I find myself thinking — not meditating at all. And yes, of course, some of those thoughts are quite inspired. But where, oh, where is the true silent experience of oneness with an higher one?

Alas, the brain is designed to think and so, like any obedient servant, it is always busy thinking, thinking, thinking — even when I ask it nicely to stop.

To relax, to let go, to let my higher self be in charge. Please, be still! Even for just a few moments. Fortunately for me, in the course of my studies a new path was opened to me. A simple path that I have shared with many over the years.

This idea of finding inner stillness demands first of all that one become conscious of one's thought processes to notice when obsessive or destructive or repetitive thinking is happening. Thinking that we may call worry or anxiety soon becomes very self-destructive.

In the 1980s, a new therapy for obsessive/compulsive patients evolved called STOP therapy. In this mode the patient was instructed to say out loud, very loudly if alone, or if circumstances did not permit, to say silently to oneself that one word: Stop!

This method was quite successful, for it enabled the patient to relax and gather his thoughts before the next repetitive onslaught.

In my work as a minister I have expanded this simple tool by creating an acronym from the letters and suggesting that congregants, counselees, sometimes even friends, and certainly myself, take these letters as doors to meditation. And they follow each other in a wonderful development.

First, S is standing for silent, and I instruct my fellows to feel the harmony of silence in every fiber and bone. Then follow this quickly with T for trusting. When trust comes into consciousness, great relaxation follows.

But before getting too comfortable we acknowledge the letter O standing for open. In silent trusting we are open to new ideas, wonderful insights, which bring a deep sense of that final letter P, standing for peaceful.

We can affirm confidently, "In silent trust we are open and peaceful."

Now our meditative practice allows us to relax in the presence of our higher selves in the power of silent trust and open hearted peace.

No longer is meditation just for a few moments at specific times or in specific places. It can be practiced for only a moment at any time in the face of any activity and this pause in your day will bring true spiritual renewal and deeper consciousness of belonging. Additionally, it may well bring fresh ideas or directions in the work at hand, for spirit is ever operating. All we need do is be still and let it.

Anne Ainsworth, retired Unity minister, lives in Ashland, enjoys writing poetry and memoir with the OWLS at the YMCA, attending Ollie classes, and occasionally guest speaking.

The Ashland Daily Tidings invites residents of the Rogue Valley to submit articles on inner peace, where do we find it, what path worked and what has been helpful. Send 600- to 700-word articles to Sally McKirgan at To see past articles go to the website, and see listing on left column.

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