Presence and Mindfulness: the Meditative Value of 108

108 prayer beads

By Ethan Indigo Smith

Contributing writer for Wake Up World

Eastern theologians long ago began to recognize and utilize numbers for their potential illustration of metaphysical connection and information. 108 is perhaps the ultimate of all such numerical illustrations.

Many people believe that those who use numerological symbolism are merely placing value on things in some kind of obsessive compulsive behavior. I have had inner debate on this, as well as discussion of such numerological understandings and have come to the conclusion that such can be obsessive projection, but often it’s not. The numerological metaphysical value of 108 is not originally derived from obsessive projection, no matter how many times people have placed it in such a way.

There are some things you simply cannot project or make up. For instance the diameter of the Earth at the equator is 7926 miles. The diameter of the Sun is 108 times that: about 865,000. The average distance between the Earth and the Sun is 108 times the sun’s diameter: 93,020,000 miles. The average distance from the Earth to the Moon is 238,800 miles, about 108 times the moons diameter: 2180.

The relationship of the Sun, Earth and Moon provide for all life and moreover all consciousness on Earth. And the size and distance between the familiar celestial objects are all in the divine proportion of 108. Through this astronomical, divine and miraculous positioning, 108 is symbolic of celestial order and perfection, our microcosmic position in the macrocosm.

The long form of most tai chi chuan styles contains 108 movements, and one of the first yoga systems to be brought to the west, The Five Tibetan Rites of Rejuvenation, contains 108 breath coordinated movements when done in the recommended 21 repetitions and including 3 movements of the sixth rite. The celestial orchestration of Earth, the Sun and our moon is based on a balance ratio of 108, and a reflection of this is the utilization of 108 in some of the most celebrated meditative movements. All serious practitioners repeat mantras 108 times often using mala beads with 108 beads (pictured above).

108 is the key to metaphysical intuition. 108 links the micro and macro further in its representation of time: 1 for the present, 0 for the past and 8 for the infinite future.

108 Emotions in the War World

Among Eastern theology there is said to be 108 emotions, 36 of the present, 36 of the past and 36 of the future. Whether or not there might be more or less emotions than presented is unimportant to the point, that just like our physical bodies can only be well or express disease in so many ways, our emotional bodies express ourselves the same. When we are emotionally disturbed we behave in disturbed ways. We lose our connection to the present. And when we are not present, we are more easily destabilized and tricked into behaving in disturbed ways.

Being emotionally present is extremely difficult the longer one has been emotionally in the past or future. Many people, no matter if they appear to be happy or sad, are simply not emotionally present. In fact much of the mediated entertainment available through commercial media is made to keep one in the past or the future. For example, television is based on taking one outside oneself, away from being present, into say a story about the past or the potential future, combined with commercials that take one away from the present by presenting problems and the ‘solutions’ they sell for the those problems – problems one has faced in the past or may face in the future. Most all entertainment is designed to take us away from the present.

Emotional Presence

Being emotionally present leads to peaceful stability. Being emotionally caught up in the past or the future, upset by what happened or expectant of what might happen, puts us in a mind state that is easily swayed by nefarious manipulators to operate and perpetuate a ‘war world’. Even war itself is based on some idea concerning a past event or some future potential.

One of the best ways to be present is to practice meditation. If you have never meditated or if your ego has convinced you that you cannot meditate, simply contemplate 108. The point of meditation is mindlessness. Meditation is mindfulness, but fullness of mind of the present.

Think of 1 thing; the breath. Allow the thoughts that arise, as distractions from the ego, to come and go like traffic. Be mindfully calm of the breath. Mindfulness of breath enables one to relax, to be present with each breath and, if only for a moment, to think of nothing. This in turn opens up our consciousness so we are capable of thinking of infinity: 1, 0, 8.

Be present and meditate for, if you’re not training, you’re being trained. And in the war world, if we’re not training to be mindful people, we’re generally trained for mindless war – for a war world mentality.

Consider the following, so as to decrease your likelihood of being tricked.

Great doubt, great awakening. Little doubt, little awakening. No doubt, no awakening ~ Zen saying


About Ethan Indigo Smith:

Activist, author and Tai Chi teacher Ethan Indigo Smith was born on a farm in Maine and lived in Manhattan for a number of years before migrating west to Mendocino, California. Guided by a keen sense of integrity, humanity and justice, Ethan’s work is both deeply connected and extremely insightful, blending philosophy, politics, activism, spirituality, meditation and a unique sense of humour.

You can connect with Ethan on Facebook, check out his author page on Amazon, or visit his new websites, Geometry Of Energy and Meditation 108, where Ethan offers lessons on individuation, meditation, the conceptualization of energy, and the metaphysical significance of 108.

Ethan’s books include:

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