Apophatic Meditation

Apophatic meditation is an eastern style of clearing the mind to enable inward contemplation.
Has your mind ever been so busy that you'd give almost anything for a moment of quiet?  Do you ever wish you could just tune everything out to get a few minutes of peaceful thought?  Apophatic meditation, meditation that specifically concentrates on focus without image is a wonderful way to bring some serenity into your life as well as give you some time for inward reflection.

Apophatic meditation can most easily be summed up as meditation without pictures or visualizations. Apophatic meditation concentrates on the purity of divine love that fills everything in the world.  You are reflective in this state, yet not stressed or worried.  This type of meditation is very grounding, in that it gives you a place to find your balance in what can be a very stressful, troublesome world.

Apophatic meditation quiets the internal chatter of the mind, stilling all the negative voices that are a part of your psyche.  Historically, it is used in the Eastern yogic schools to teach the disciples consideration for their actions.  Unlike katophatic (active) mediation, apophatic meditation is considered passive, and does not count on visualizations or images.

The first apophatic stance is called concentrative, and the focus of this stance is to enter wider and clearer states of consciousness.  This is a highly intellectual and cerebral approach, and can be considered a little impersonal.  Some examples of the concentrative apophatic stance are the Japanese Zazen meditation, transcendental meditation, and Vipassana, the Buddhist awareness meditation. 

The second type of apophatic stance is receptive, where the divine power is treated as a loving partner.  This is a more directed meditation which can make use of simple prayer words or phrases.  Rather than using the phrase to visualize an image, however, the word only directs the emotion and goal of the meditation. 

One simple exercise is to sit with your back as straight as you can and your eyes closed.  Ground yourself through your sitting bones into the floor and leave your hands on your lap, palms up.  Breathing is an important focus in this exercise, so become aware of your breath.  Realize that there is power in your breath and that when you inhale and exhale you are drawing the divine into your body and releasing it at your will.  Don't try to force your breathing to be different from the pattern that it wishes to take.  If your breath seems shallow, don't force it to deepen.  Soon it will deepen on its own, a reaction to your body calming down and coming to a place of rest.

In this fashion, reach for the divine power that rests not only in you, but in everything on the planet.  If you have a goal for this meditation period, speak the goal out loud, but don't be afraid to let yourself be emptied.  An important part of this exercise is realizing that even if you are empty, you are not alone.

Apophatic meditation is a method where an individual can empty their minds of clutter and distraction and regain their calm with a few moments of simple rumination.

By Karen Basfield