I became extremely interested in mysticism in college so I read St. John of the Cross, Thomas Merton, Thomas a Kempis, a host of mystic masters in the Christian tradition. When I became ill with a very severe illness that left me naar death, I was referred to Herbert Benson, Relaxation Response, which includes a secular technique.
I decided to path together my own system. Since I am Episcopalian, I used the Book of Common Prayer and Lectionary. If I were very interested in a scripture or theme, I would substitute that reading for the Lectionary reading. I kept a journal. The prayer book had extraordinary prayers for those who were ill or in grave trouble. After the prayer book service, I'd read C.S. Lewis or some commentary.
Finally, I decided to use the Russian Orthdodox Jesus Prayer. Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me" and repeat, watching the breathing. I met with some Anglican spiritual masters. I was warned not to do it for more than 45 minutes b/c long periods can trigger psychosis. I kept a kitchen timer with me. I laughed so hard at the 45 minute prohibitoin b/c it was hard to get to five minutes at first. Over time, I build up my time. When I reached twenty minutes, my brain waves changed quite clearly. I felt profound peace. My brain kicked in. I made connections and insights I never would under a normal brain. It was far better than drugs.
B/c I was ill and I wanted to do it at least since college, I spend two to three hours per session. I did it in the am and Compliine or evening prayer at night. After I stopped, I reread my journals. Expecting to find drivel, I found very impressive notes. I am the last person I would expect to meditate and have creative insights.
Yet as cool as the experience was, I find it impossible to do right now. My former church had a Taize service with prayer, music and mystic meditation. It was hell for about ten minutes and then voila-deep peace. Breathing is essential. If I had stray thoughts at first, I thought I screwed up. Everyone has stray thoughts. You just go back to the breathing as soon as you realize you are thinking stray thoughts.