Ascension - everyday meditation
A historical perspective
Ascension is a mantra-style meditation that has it's roots in Transcendental Meditation (TM). The originator of the technique R. Vaughn Adams usually known as Maharishi Sattishiva Isham (MSI) originally trained as a TM teacher. At some stage after 1988 he began teaching the meditation techniques which he called the Ishaya's Ascension.
The origin of the meditation techniques is not clear. It seems likely that MSI created the techniques himself before passing them on to others. MSI's book First Thunder describes his instruction in the techniques by a group of monks called the Ishayas, but the book is clearly a work of fiction, although believed as truth by many practitioners of the techniques. Some of the other philosophy associated with the Isahayas Ascension is also questionable (Who are the Ishayas, 2008; Scribe, 2008). Scribe has written the most objective, authoritative account of the history and mythology of the Ishayas which I have found (2008). This is one person's account of events. How can we believe that it is accurate? I lived at Society for Ascension over a five month period, and over this period many of these events were described or occurred around me. Although I cannot vouch for the entire account, there is a high level of coherence between my memory and Scribes account of the time I was there (see Gana & The SFA after Gana).
Dogma aside, the techniques which are described here are the most effective meditation techniques which I have experienced, and I have personally used at least eight forms of meditation over the years.
Training in the Ishayas Ascension techniques is usually facilitated by an Ishaya monk. An Ishaya monk has typically renounced their life to live with other Ishayas, and follow the path to enlightenment. The initial training in these techniques takes place in a first sphere weekend in which almost the entire weekend is spent practicing the techniques described here. More advanced techniques are grouped in other spheres.
Ascension as described here is equivalent to the first sphere of the Ishaya's Ascension. It should be noted that this is not associated with “Ascension” in the Christian or new age tradition.
Ascension aims to reduce stress which has accumulated in the nervous system as a result of experience. It is believed that this stress becomes encoded into entrenched beliefs, behaviours, and physical tension. Through Ascension, this accumulated stress is dissolved, resulting in expanded experiences of consciousness.
The ultimate aim of ascension is to experience the ascendant – what Christians call the holy spirit, Taoists call the one, or Buddhists nirvana. Every spiritual tradition has a name for the transcendant experience. With regular practice of Ascension (20 minutes three times a day) it can take up to a year or more for some people to experience the ascendant especially those who have have practiced little or no meditation before, but it happens to almost everyone at some stage.
Other benefits of Ascension have been described as
- Mental clarity
- Understanding self
- Greater enjoyment of life, and sense of purpose
The Ascension attitudes
The praise attitude helps you to focus on the positive in your life, and reminds you that thinking positively or negatively is a choice that you make in every moment.
This attitude relates to the world of experience. We typically think of our body as part of us, and that the world extends beyond our skin. But are we our bodies? Sometimes in meditation we notice our thoughts, and then realise that we are not our thoughts. We notice our feelings, and realise that we are not our feelings. Finally we may have the same experience of bodily sensations. What in that case are we?
The gratitude attitude has two primary effects.
- It teaches us that we can see the world as a cup half full instead of half empty by helping us to focus on the wonderful gifts that our lives bring us every day, rather than thinking about what we don't have.
- It subtly shifts our perceptions to where we experience ourself as an observer of our body and our world. In this space we may ask ourselves – If we are not our body, or our thoughts, then what are we?
Initially this attitude just reminds us that "we're ok". As the experience of this attitude deepens, we become aware of the unconditional love that is always around us, and flows through us. When faced with the unconditional love of the one, it's clear to see that the only thing that limits the love that we experience is our own self-judgement.
The fourth attitude is the cognition attitude. The cognition attitude helps us to stablise the experience of the ascendant in our lives, and it ties the other three attitudes together.
Recommendations for practice
The Ishayas recommend that you meditate eyes closed for 20 minutes 3 times per day, and use them as often as possible when involved in everyday life. While this is ideal if you are interested in gaining the most benefit from these techniques, in many people's lives 1 hour of meditation a day can seem a bit difficult to fit in.
For stress management purposes 20 minutes of meditation once per day is still typically beneficial.
Remembering to use the techniques regularly through everyday life can be challenging, but it is worthwhile making the effort. It is possible to set little reminders around the place to trigger your memory.
Anyone beginning the practice of any meditation technique needs to realise that meditation is a long-term practice, and this is true of Ascension. One should not expect dramatic results immediately. The efficacy of the attitudes deepens over time as the neural pathways associated with these attitudes become stronger.
Caution: When an individual is suffering from mental illness, especially when the illness is related to psychosis, it might be advisable to limit the amount of meditation which is done to 20 minutes per day (Payne, 2005).
Payne, R. (2005). Relaxation techniques – a practical handbook for the healthcare professional (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, USA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.
Scribe (2008). Ishayas' Ascension, The International Society of Ascension. Retrieved October 7, 2008 from http://brainmeta.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=14724
Who are the Ishayas (2008). Retrieved October 7, 2008 from http://www.theishayatradition.org/whoaretheishayas.html