Meditation is rarely easy. But for some, the practice seems too centered on a faith or belief system that may not match their own. Alan Pritz, an interfaith minister and spiritual disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, offers Meditation as a Way of Life: Philosophy and Practice to people of all religions.
Based on the mind-body principles of meditation from a classical yogic perspective, the book is full of concepts — concepts that Pritz encourages us to learn before we move on to the actual techniques. He writes in depth about awakening, self-consciousness, self-awareness, reality, enlightenment, and mysticism, and gives readers a sense of the essential attitudes and behaviors necessary for inner awakening. These, he writes, “are the cornerstones of spiritual training.” And, he posits, “Although soul growth is a delicate thing to measure, there attributes, when perfected, demonstrate proof of soul maturity.”
Once we as readers have a substantial understanding of the spiritual journey that enables a spiritual awakening, we move on to more of the praxis. Pritz provides concrete directions on how to use our energy, also referred to as life force, chi, qi, or prana. Energy-building practices are as important as meditative ones, he writes, and he includes exercises and sequences for both.
Finally, Pritz covers concentration and how to control it consciously and with mantras, bringing us to the pivotal point: attaining self-realization through meditation.
The path, Pritz knows, is difficult and long. “Even small steps forward are significant,” he encourages us. What we do in our practice, he writes, helps make internal connections more enduring.
And to help us keep at it, Pritz offers some wisdom. “Take solace from Yogananda’s counsel that saints are merely sinners who never give up,” he writes.
Pritz shares that a friend who read a draft of the text asked for a roadmap, a how-to-proceed guide, and the author complied. So, for more practical and commonplace questions about meditation, readers can turn to the end of the book.
Meanwhile, the appendix covers spirituality and religion, complete with Mayo Clinic definitions, presumably to aid those who might feel conflicted. (Though if someone has enough doubts about whether meditation jives with their faith, they probably won’t get all the way to the last pages.)
This is a thorough tour of meditation, and the concepts can be dense to navigate. One can certainly flip to the end for that easier roadmap — but as Pritz demonstrates, the truth is in the details.
Meditation as a Way of Life: Philosophy and Practice
Quest Books, August 2014
Paperback, 288 pages