FROM Moon Over Water
by Jessica Macbeth
Gateway Books, 1990

3. Treasures of the Psyche and Spirit

There are other, more subtle treasures that we find as we go - joys of the psyche and spirit. These are like rare butterflies and brilliant sunrises, joys of the moment which may have a lasting effect upon us. Once upon a time long, long ago, practically everything was 'spiritual'. Early people saw everything as being alive, and they saw everything, including themselves, as being divine. By trial and error over the millennia they developed a number of techniques for experiencing a quality in themselves and in the world which they believed to be the presence of divinity. Among these techniques are many of those that we presently practice as meditation exercises.
Those ancient people might not have considered most of the things we have discussed as especially important - they probably took many of them for granted. They lived a different lifestyle, were more in tune with nature, handled stress differently, and probably took for granted a number of the attitudes and experiences that we have to work at today in our industrial, crowded, hurried culture. For them, contact with nature and with a sense of a higher power of some sort was an integrated and inextricable part of everyday life. My first reason for believing this is that they did develop the exercises which have come down through the centuries. My second (and, I think, more important) reason is that many children spontaneously have these magical, mystical experiences of a numinous quality in the world and in themselves - until they learn to think and function in a way that inhibits those perceptions.
These contacts, when refined and clarified, may lead to the experience we now call the 'mystical experience' or 'satori' or 'kensho' or 'nirvana' or 'bliss' or any of several other names. It was discovered long ago that the practice of certain specialized mental (and sometimes physical) exercises lead to these experiences. Those techniques have been handed down for generation after generation wherever such experiences and the inner growth they evoke are valued.
Here the road splits, with some heading up the ecstasy-for-its-own-sake dead end, while others continue on and use the ecstatic experience as an illumination of the shadows within themselves as a driving force for personal and spiritual growth. It is because the experience of ecstasy and the resultant psychological and spiritual growth were originally the primary purposes in meditation and are still that for many people, that I have called the things listed in the preceding pages 'side-effects', treasures found by the roadside.
In modern times we have separated the concepts of 'psyche' and 'spirit'. However, even in that separation, meditation increasingly is recognized today as a valuable aid in the personal growth process. It can help us to clear psychological blocks and to stabilize our emotional reactions, as well as giving us better insight into ourselves and others.
Now that we can begin to see some of the things we might gain from meditating, let's take a look at what meditation actually is.

This chapter originally appeared in Moon Over Water,
published by Gateway Books, 1990
Copyright © 1990 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.
Your comments will be read with interest.
Moon Over Water, Chapter 2
Moon over Water, Chapter 17
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