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This last year I have participated in more than a hundred public meditations, and even led a couple of them. They have many variations, but the general theme is to spend several minutes in closed-eyed conscious breathing and pouring the attention over various parts of one’s body. This produces a relaxed feeling, and that seems to be a valid goal for most people because they are in various states of free-floating anxiety. Often the meditations are preceded and followed with some music that is sentimental and spiritually enhancing. Usually there is a lecture and often a discussion of responses after the conclusion of the quieter part of the meditation.

Often the stated goal is to empty the mind of all thoughts and the body of feelings and to enter a state of intentional emptiness. That is felt as an improvement for people who are living their lives with unresolved conflicts and have a profound lack of purpose for their lives. They may have many things they are required to do, but they feel they are forced into doing those things. They do not feel any grandeur of purpose beyond what they are doing and live out their lives in a mechanical way with the feeling of fulfilling some worthless and therefore unwanted duties.

For people without a personally chosen goal being filled with emptiness feels better than being filled with meaningless pain. But, being filled with emptiness does have the virtue, for them, of easing the personal pain to the point where they are in an existential position where they have some ability to choose meaningful goals for themselves. This is where the person’s level of psychological maturity determines where they may choose to aim their intended personal being, having moved from constant pain into a milder position of threatened pain. Threatened pain sounds like a bad place to be, but it is better than existing pain, and it gives the person some flexibility to consider options. From this level of threatened pain, they can see how to move to a state of escaping pain altogether, and when in that painless state there is the possibility to choose a relationship with the world that is pleasant and has little or no threat of pain.

It is when a person is in a pain-free state that they have the opportunity to consider their options for moving up to a higher state of maturity. That is when there is the opportunity to move from infant to child, to adolescent, to adult, to mature, to sage. Of course moving to a more mature state of being brings new problems, and as the problems haven’t been encountered before there is the likelihood of falling into a painful condition for a while. That must be expected and endured, but with some experience the individual can move from the new painful condition, to the threat of pain, and from there on to a state of sustainable pleasure at the new level of maturity.

Life expands in meaning as one progresses in their sustainable maturity.