Exclusive Interview with Alan L. Pritz, Author of Meditation as a Way of Life: Philosophy and Practice

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Exclusive Interview with Alan L. Pritz, Author of Meditation as a Way of Life: Philosophy and Practice

Stacey Chillemi: What inspired you to write your book?

Alan L. Pritz: I continually heed an inner calling to teach meditation and writing is an excellent platform for doing so. Not that I’m an extraordinary writer or exceptional meditation practitioner but, rather, because both teaching and writing help clarify thought, deepen understanding, and refine the skill. So on a very personal level, I grow by doing. More importantly, however, is the subject of my work and the source from which it’s derived.   Meditation has garnered significant respect and acceptance in the West, particularly with the advent of medical experimentation and scanning devices that can authenticate long-touted mind/body/social benefits. Yet much of this attention is still confined to a quasi-sterile atmosphere of scientific scrutiny or is segmented into calming and centering practices that, quite simply, don’t cover the depth of spiritual purpose and potential for which meditation is intended.

Life is more than the pursuit of material pleasure. It is, and always has been, a proving ground for spiritual awakening. And meditation is the most effective means to achieve this end.   Paramhansa Yogananda, the author of Autobiography of a Yogi, came to America in 1920 and spent the next 32 years laboring to uplift public understanding of what meditation is and why it is of such significant value. The gist of these efforts resulted in providing scientifically sound, clearly articulated spiritual theory and technologies that facilitate the direct realization of our divine nature and, by so doing, help us to achieve greatest life satisfaction and success. While that sounds grand, I still wanted to do more than parrot the insights of others.

I sought to depict meditative substance and my own 30+ years’ experience with it as one who is neither a saint nor an exalted adept but, instead, an ordinary, albeit dedicated, person who pursued the path, practices, and promises of a renowned spiritual master. Why? – To attest to its efficacy and worth if I found it valid. And I did. I’ve sampled the ‘goods’ and can vouch for them. Recognizing that people sometimes find it easier to relate to the testimony of a B student – me – than that of a straight-A level spiritual master such as Yogananda, I felt my contribution might culminate in one simple yet important distilled truth; that no one need be perfect to begin the process of meditation, but, all will be happier if they do. It is a practice worth developing and a way of life that yields greatest all-around life fulfillment.

Stacey Chillemi: How did you come up with the title?

Alan L. Pritz: It was a process of personal inspiration and multi-party input that, like many things, evolved and shifted until it crystallized into its current state. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?   Meditation as a Way of Life captures the honest efforts and candid insights of a person who is neither an Illumined spiritual teacher nor a monastic disciple, but rather, a dedicated meditation practitioner who’s committed much of his adult life to the teachings and path of Paramhansa Yogananda (Author of Autobiography of a Yogi), one of the twentieth century’s greatest spiritual masters.

It is the instructional journey of an ‘Everyman” – a person not so removed from the ordinary individual that his exploits seem unattainable yet whose resolve in the trenches of inner growth merit attention and serve to encourage others.   A practical – start to finish – guide distilled from the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, it offers specific, time-tested principles and “how-to” practices for cultivating a meditation-based spiritual life, one that transforms enriching concepts into direct experience. Presented in an interfaith manner, it strives for harmony and relevance amongst all seekers of the Divine. The book’s personable narrative, accessible presentation, and universal themes make it enjoyable to read and life-enhancing to apply.

Stacey Chillemi: Did you develop an interest in meditation at the same time that you began doing yoga?

Alan L. Pritz: Oh no. I had been interested in spirituality since I was a young child but the path to attain quality meditation training and the discipline to practice it effectively took many years. The process was preceded by extensive training in martial arts and some challenging steps on my life path before I was ready for that which was to come.

Stacey Chillemi: Why has the meditative aspect of yoga been lost in the West?

Alan L. Pritz: The East boasts ancient civilizations that have experienced the full spectrum of life for thousands of years during which time it was realized that the highest meaning and ultimate value of life lay in spiritual attainment. The West is in a state of relative infancy with an outer orientation that addresses the physical realm and properties of nature, not – as in the case of Yogic tradition – the essence of Spirit and corresponding inner sciences. When bringing the highly spiritual discipline of yoga to the West it could not be accepted at a deep level because the culture and environment were not suited to it. As such, the physical practice of hatha yoga has overshadowed the more subtle meditative disciplines.

But this is gradually changing as world-consciousness evolves. In fact, that is one reason Yogananda came to the West; to revitalize the teachings of Christ Jesus to “Seek the Kingdom Within.” Such is the science of yoga and meditation. It is also another reason why I wrote my book: People who started with hatha yoga are becoming increasingly ready to embrace meditation. I have noticed, however, that many western yoga instructors know nothing about meditation or, what they do know, hails from Buddhist Mindfulness traditions.

The latter are valid practices but non-theistic and focused on “climbing the mountain” in a different way. Yoga is a universal spiritual science that is theistic, albeit applicable to any faith tradition. People have to be okay with that and some folks are still reconciling with dysfunctional religious dogma and doctrines of their past. Again, for everything, there is a season. It takes time for truly spiritual matters like yogic meditation to be recognized and incorporated by a western mindset.

Stacey Chillemi: What are the benefits of meditation?

Alan L. Pritz: Looking at the current medical literature, meditation is recognized as providing broad-based benefit for numerous health conditions; from stress and anxiety to depression, addictions, immune system function, blood pressure, hormonal balance – and there’s much more. In the business arena, meditation is touted as enhancing efficiency, intuition, creativity, social skills, resilience, plus decreased absenteeism arising from stress-related illness.

While these are definitely positive by-products, they are not the main benefit or purpose of meditation. Meditation is a spiritual practice meant to deepen ones direct relationship with and awareness of the Divine. As such, sincere practitioners become more deeply in tune with their inner life and spiritual nature. They awaken to the reality of their soul. Such development manifests as increasing peace, calm, joy, love, wisdom, power – and more, plus contributes to general life and relationship enhancement. The greatest benefit of meditation, however, is the ever-increasing states of unconditional joy.

Stacey Chillemi: Is meditation similar to the state of flow that we enter when we are enthralled with the work that we’re doing – whether it’s painting a picture, writing a book, or solving a mathematical equation?

Alan L. Pritz: No. That is a common mistake people make when describing meditation. The “Zone” or “Flow” referenced is of singular concentration when mental processes stop and actions occur without thought. In this state, consciousness is engaged without the “I – Thou” duality commonly induced by thinking. However, meditation is deeper than that. It is achieved when consciousness becomes singularly concentrated upon and absorbed in a quality of Spirit. Remember, meditation is a spiritual practice and used for specific purposes, i.e. awakening from the delusion of separation from the Divine. Concentration is a precursor to meditation and is a state that can be applied to anything. Meditation arises when the concentrated mind is focused solely on Spirit. This leads to becoming absorbed and expanded in Spirit until a flawless state of the spiritual union is achieved.

Stacey Chillemi: How can a person, who is always moving around, always busy doing things and obsessed with achieving goals, begin the practice of meditation?

Alan L. Pritz: This isn’t uncommon, particularly in a very active world. However, meditation is not meant for religious monastics alone. It is and should be a practical discipline that anyone can engage in regardless of their endeavors. Initially, a good teacher is needed who understands where they’re coming from and can provide meaningful instruction in a way that will take root. I’ve found that without addressing the body first, the mind will run rampant regardless of what is taught.

As such, I recommend starting with a series of easy stretches or, more preferably, a routine of gentle hatha yoga to eliminate excess energy stored in the body as tension or restlessness. This helps to calm the mind and still the body thus preparing it for greater receptivity to meditation instruction. When teaching-related workshops I spend at least one-hour getting people to relax their bodies so they can feel the mind/body qualities discussed during actual meditation instruction. This can be further enhanced in the privacy of one’s home by taking a bath or shower prior to doing stretching / hatha yoga routines because water has a purifying, calming effect. By using these two simple effective steps, bathe then stretch, prior to meditation, it becomes much easier to feel the benefit of whatever technique you practice.

Stacey Chillemi: Do you think that if more people meditated there would be peace in the world?

Alan L. Pritz: That’s like asking the classic chicken or egg question. The impact of meditation vibrations would certainly have an uplifting, positive effect on global conditions but there must be a corresponding receptivity of the general populace to these vibrations and willingness to renounce negative behaviors that perpetuate disharmony. Although I can’t answer this question authoritatively, I truly believe in the subtle influence of spiritual practice on the broader world stage. Just as global warming resulted from the incremental accrual of pollutants, so too can global harmony be steadily enhanced by ever-increasing contributions of spiritual force.

Stacey Chillemi: Do you think it’s important to learn meditation from a teacher or can a book like yours teach you everything you need to know about how to mediate?

Alan L. Pritz: Yogananda said this is a world era when printed material is the most effective way to reach the broadest audience. As such, there is much value to be gained from good books. In fact, I felt that were I to reincarnate and seek a book that’d provide me the quality information needed to start a worthy meditation practice, my book would qualify.

That being said, I also subscribe to a classic ideal; that it is frequently best to learn in person from a seasoned, reputable instructor. If the teacher is notable and engaged, they’ll have interactive, organic relationships with students that can tailor nuances of training that a book or static lesson plan cannot. Both have merit and both have downsides. An excellent book can be far superior to a poor or mediocre teacher yet a really good teacher can add depth and dimension that a quality book may not provide. So, while one can begin learning meditation from a book, I think it’s prudent to receive instruction fine-tuning in person from an excellent teacher.

That being said, I also subscribe to a classic ideal; that it is frequently best to learn in person from a seasoned, reputable instructor. If the teacher is notable and engaged, they’ll have interactive, organic relationships with students that can tailor nuances of training that a book or static lesson plan cannot. Both have merit and both have downsides. An excellent book can be far superior to a poor or mediocre teacher yet a really good teacher can add depth and dimension that a quality book may not provide. So, while one can begin learning meditation from a book, I think it’s prudent to receive instruction fine-tuning in person from an excellent teacher.

Stacey Chillemi: How has your life changed now that you incorporated meditation into your life?

Alan L. Pritz: I have been doing a practice for so long that it’s hard to imagine what I’d be like without it. I’m generally aware of increasing spiritual realizations and the application of these to daily life. Both inner practice and daily study are integrated into my routine and cumulatively have refined my character, enhanced my level of joy, and boosted resilience in the face of inevitable challenges. I view the world through a lens that cannot be divorced from an over-arching spiritual paradigm and my practice keeps me grounded in divine principles that are unchanging while the drama of life is ever-changing.

Stacey Chillemi: What is the most important thing meditation has done for you?

Alan L. Pritz: Validated the reality of God.

Stacey Chillemi: Do you have any advice or guidance for people who are interested in incorporating meditation into their life?

Alan L. Pritz: Yes. Do so! One is never too old and it’s never too late to begin. Discard negative thoughts that suggest sundry reasons for why it’s futile or insane. To quote Nike, “Just do it!” One’s life script is uncertain at best and we can never, ever lose by making efforts to approach the Sacred. Even if your motivations are not so lofty, practice anyway. In due course, the reasons for your engagement will evolve in relationship to your inner experience. Practice over time cannot help but shape you for the better.

Stacey Chillemi: What are your current projects?

Alan L. Pritz: I operate a private meditation training and spiritual counseling-coaching practice for individuals/couples who seek guidance in spiritual development or varied life-issue areas. I also facilitate a weekly, public Sunday Meditation Service as a “church alternative” for whoever wishes to ‘seek the Kingdom within.’ Lastly, I conduct chanting and meditation training locally and nationally.

Stacey Chillemi: Do you have a website people can visit?

Alan L. Pritz: Yes. It is www.Awake-In-Life.com

Stacey Chillemi: Where can people find your book?

Alan L. Pritz: The easiest place is on Amazon.com but it is available in bookstores or other online bookseller sites too.   About the Author   Rev. Alan L. Pritz, an interfaith minister and spiritual disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda began consulting in 1988. He founded Awake-In-Life in 2008 to offer innovative lifestyle management, work/life balance, and performance enhancement seminars for business, healthcare, and educational organizations.

Rev. Pritz also developed and taught a workshop on spirituality in the workplace at the University St. Thomas Management Center. He has written a training component on this topic for the American Management Association, developed an integrative medicine training on Yoga, Meditation, and Spirituality for the University of St. Thomas Center for Medical Affairs, and has written numerous articles concerning related themes for Minnesota Physician, Employee Benefits News, Twin Cities Wellness, and The Edge. His work has been written about in journals including Business Ethics Magazine, Employee Benefits News, and Alternative & Complimentary Therapies. For more information, visit his website at Awake-In-Life.com.   

Herbal Guide Staff


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