Emerging Perspectives: Student Chapters

Shifting Focus: Meditative Reflection on the Self and Connectedness

Justin Smith

In the beginning of a meditation, focusing on breathing provides rhythm and a connection between body and mind. My experiences in both guided and solitary meditation begin this way to ground myself and clear my mind, accepting any thoughts that may come through but not dwelling on them. From this awareness of breath, attention is then shifted throughout the body, gradually working from the feet to the forehead. Now that I have pushed up against the boundaries of my body, the next step is to reach out just past myself and focus on the space around me. But what are these boundaries? Meditation practices have roots in various religious ideologies, which analyze these boundaries and deconstruct the notion of the self. While I usually avoid having an end goal in my own meditation, learning about the dissolution of the self has changed my perspectives and techniques when meditating, as well as how I think about myself and my place in the world in general. Meditation now serves as a way of opening my mind and breaking down the perceived barriers around me, in a way that allows me to grow and ground myself…

…Academic writing and institutional learning typically discredit personal experiences as forms of learning, advocating instead for strict scientific methods and analyses that limit and detract from the value of knowledge. As Baer might argue, a balance between strictly scientific thinking and purely spiritual/experiential learning may be necessary (1976). This even aligns with the Buddhist idea of The Middle Path, where an ideal route lies somewhere between extremes and is unique to every circumstance (Josephson, 2021). Anecdotal experiences serve to supplement and strengthen academic ones, and the reverse applies as well – my own experiences with spirituality and nature inform my interests and passions, and studying writing and academic work done in these fields has shifted how I view and seek out these experiences…


Find the rest of this chapter in Emerging Perspectives on Religion and Environmental Values in America HERE.


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