Our Best and Most Lasting Gift: The Universal Features Of Meditation


The universal features that most meditations share are based upon the middle path which lies inside of life. All life forms, from a single celled amoeba, to a human, contain internal regulatory processes that dynamical- ly oscillate and continuously restore the middle ground. Temperature and blood pressure are examples of this. Even thoughts and emotions have some natural balance. Meditation utilizes, cultivates, and augments the bi- ology of the middle path and applies it systematically to the body, mind, and emotions. Generally, meditation means reducing extremes and relocating alert rest. Practicing middle path regulation leads to a feeling of relative wellbeing and peace.

Vipassana shares this cultivation of the middle path with all medita- tion, but also has less commonly shared features, such as the focus on sensations, the emphasis on starting with Sila, recurrent references to the Buddhaʼs teaching stored in the Pali Canon, ten day silent courses taught by Mr. S.N. Goenkaʼs tapes and conducted by teachers in his tradition, and the Path of equanimity pointed towards the distant star of Nibbana.

As an expression of the peace that meditation often brings, interper-

sonal relationships may improve, increasing pro-social and altruistic feel- ings. Harmonious moods like gratitude may fill spaces vacated by the re- duction of lesser concerns. Meditation is optimized when it is carried for- ward to create a positive feedback community in which individual medita- tion expands into interpersonal harmony which in turn nurtures individual meditation. For this to happen, there needs to be stabilizing traditions, agreed upon training, and teachers who exemplify wise life choices.

Meditation usually uses focusing practices that distance the mind from belief in its own biased contents, and that reduce clinging to oneʼs sense of self, and these experiences may diminish the prominent and trou- bling cognitive error of overconfidence, also called “blind belief.” Meditation based upon self-regulation, peace, social harmony, and reduced dogma, may someday have an expanded planetary role by helping people realize their impermanence within and reverence for the ancient vast matrix of life, law, time, and change.

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