Meditation is a personal experience and what works for you may not work for someone else. Each person will discover what works for themselves – all roads lead to the same goal.
Make a meditation spot – a shelf, corner of your room, a tabletop. And put on it some objects for concentration – a candle, a flower, a photo. Make it attractive, appealing to you.
This spot will pick up a vibration, a special atmosphere. It is your meditation spot. Have you been in a sacred spot like a church or temple, or watched a beautiful sunset or sunrise and felt something peaceful and uplifting? Your spot will pick up this sacred vibration and you will feel calmer just sitting there.
Whether you sit on cushions or a meditation stool or a chair, being comfortable is important so that your focus is not on any discomfort. Change positions if necessary during your meditation to remain comfortable. Lying down is not recommended as sleep is often close behind. We want and need to be conscious. Keep your back erect and relaxed. Likewise, if you are hungry, then appease your appetite with some juice or water. Wait two hours after a full meal before meditating. We need the energy to be free.
Pick a time of day that works for you and stick to it, then there is an inner readiness at that time. Your inner being will know it is your time to meditate and will be ready to open the door.
Have you ever found yourself waking up and discovered your alarm did not go off for some reason but something woke you up on time?
There are many, many concentration exercises that have been taught and used over the centuries. Depending on the day, certain ones will work for you. And perhaps some will never work for you at this time. Your inner being is the guide to your meditation and you will find yourself doing some at this moment and perhaps different ones on another day. “Correct” is only what works for you at this very moment.
Perhaps you have chosen to concentrate on your breath, focusing your attention on the breath as it goes out and as it comes in. And perhaps you have chosen to close your eyes but after a few minutes you start to get drowsy and daydreamy. Then you know it is time to partially open your eyes to keep you alert and aware.
As Sri Chinmoy wrote: “There is a vast difference between what you can get from the mind and what you can get from the heart. The mind by nature is limited; the heart is unlimited. Deep within you are infinite peace, light and bliss. To get a limited quantity is an easy task. Meditation in the mind can give it to you. But you can get infinitely more if you meditate on the heart.
When you meditate, feel that you are a child standing in a flower garden. This flower garden is your heart. A child can play in a flower garden for hours. He will go from this flower to that flower, but he will not leave the garden because he will get joy from the beauty and fragrance of each flower. Feel that inside you is a garden and you can stay in it for as long as you want. In this way you can meditate on the heart.”
Meditation is a listening, a quietness, a calmness. Initially this may last only a second or two before the mind kicks in, the “monkey mind”. Gradually, over time, the length of the silence, the stillness, will increase. This is when you have moved from concentration to meditation. You will know when you are meditating correctly when you feel a peace, a quietness, a calmness, a happiness, a satisfaction, an inspiration, a calm energy, a love for the world, for others, for yourself.
Like developing a muscle, every day, you will develop a meditation muscle. Your regularity, punctuality and sincere effort and longing for the results will bear fruit. Patience is required, as is determination. We do not get a master’s degree in one year. We start in primary school, then high school, then university. Slowly and steadily you will make progress. There will be many joys and encouragements. To master a musical instrument or to become an athlete takes regular practice and through gradual progress your capacity increases.
Meditation is our birthright. It is simple and natural. We all have meditated spontaneously in our life. From being a newborn – all soul and light – to later those moments when you just feel elevated watching a starry night sky or joyful watching a beautiful sunrise or peaceful at sunset. A moment of oneness with Mother Nature – the calmness of a lake, the power of the ocean, the ebb and flow as water laps on the shore, the beauty and fragrance of your favorite flower.
These moments are your meditation moments. We practice meditation to experience these again but now the experience is self-created. They come spontaneously, directly from within. They were your experiences before, felt within, but evoked from without. In meditation, through meditation, we connect directly to these inner experiences. For peace, joy, beauty, satisfaction and inspiration are within us as a solid foundation.
THOUGHTS IN MEDITATION OR TAKING THE PUPPY FOR A WALK
The number one reason seekers give for coming to learn meditation is to learn how to still the thoughts, how to have a calm mind.
The mind is like a restless monkey that enjoys pinching and biting and never leaving you alone. On its own it rarely stops for a second. Thinking and meditating are radically different things. Meditation requires a still mind. To experience meditation we start simply with trying to still the mind. How to do this? We begin by practising concentration.
We can concentrate on our breath or an object or on a positive word or expression. And during this concentration on one thing, there comes a stillness. In the stillness is the meditation.
To stay concentrated takes practice. Just like training a puppy, when training it to heel, each time it wanders we call it to “heel”, over and over again until gradually it starts to listen. (See photo below.) The puppy treat is a moment of silence and stillness. Gradually these moments increase. And gradually your capacity for concentration increases.
A beginner to meditation will perhaps start with 5 or 10 minutes a day of practicing concentration. If you feel the inner urge to continue longer, please do so.
Increasing the power of concentration helps in our ordinary daily activities because there is a power in concentration. The intensity and focus in concentration means more can be accomplished and more successfully.
QUESTION: What is the difference between thinking and meditating, or are they the same?
Sri Chinmoy: The mind is not necessary for meditation, because thinking and meditating are absolutely different things. When we meditate, we do not think at all. The aim of meditation is to free ourselves from all thought.
Thought is like a dot on the blackboard. Whether it is good or bad, it is there. Only if there is no thought whatsoever can we grow into the highest reality. Even in profound meditation thoughts can come in, but not in the highest, deepest meditation. In the highest meditation, there will be only light.
Even reflection, which is a quiet kind of introspective thinking, is far from the disciplined vastness of meditation.
(MEDITATION: Man-Perfection in God-Satisfaction, pg.34, 35)
Question: Why is it that I am constantly bothered by thoughts?
Sri Chinmoy: The reason that you are constantly bothered by thoughts is because you are trying to meditate inside your mind. The very nature of the mind is to welcome thoughts – good thoughts, divine thoughts, undivine thoughts. If you want to control the mind with your human will, then it will be like asking a monkey or a fly not to bother you. The very nature of a monkey is to bite and pinch; the very nature of a fly is to bother people.
The mind needs a superior power to keep it quiet. This superior power is the power of the soul. You have to bring to the fore the light of the soul from inside your heart. You are the possessor of two rooms: the heart-room and the mind-room. Right now the mind-room is obscure, unlit and impure: it is unwilling to open to the light. But the heart-room is always open to the light, for that is where the soul abides. Instead of concentrating on the mind proper, if you can concentrate and meditate on the reality that is inside the heart, then this reality will come forward. Then, when you are well-established in the heart, when you are surcharged with the soul’s light, at that time you can enter into the mind-room to illumine the mind. But first you have to bring to the fore the soul’s light, which is available most powerfully in the heart. The light of the soul will not torture or punish the mind. On the contrary, it will act like a most affectionate mother who feels that the imperfections of her child are her own imperfections. The heart will offer its light to the mind, and in pin-drop silence it will try to transform the nature of the mind. (MEDITATION: Man-Perfection in God-Satisfaction, pg. 44)
Question: Ideally, should one reject all thoughts during meditation?
Sri Chinmoy: The best thing is to try not to allow any thought to enter into your mind, whether it is a good thought or a bad thought. It is as though you are in your room and somebody is knocking at your door. You have no idea whether it is an enemy or a friend. Divine thoughts are your true friends and undivine thoughts are your enemies. You would like to allow your friends to enter, but you do not know who your friends are. And even if you do know who your friends are, when you open the door for them you may find that your enemies are also there.
Then, before your friends can cross the threshold, your enemies will also enter. Again, you many not even see any undivine thoughts, but while the divine thoughts are entering, the undivine thoughts, like thieves, will also secretly enter and create tremendous confusion. Once they have entered, it is very difficult to chase them out. For that you need the strength of solid spiritual discipline. For fifteen minutes you may cherish spiritual thoughts and then, in just a fleeting second, an undivine thought will enter and your meditation will be ruined. So the best thing is not to allow any thoughts in during your meditation. Just keep the door bolted from inside.
(MEDITATION: Man-Perfection in God-Satisfaction, pg. 39 , 40)
Some of the many gifts of meditation you will benefit from include:
. Improved physical health – Stress, tension and negative emotions silently erode your life-force. As you decrease these negative influences through your meditation, you will experience positive effects on your physical health, from increased vitality to a greater sense of general well-being.
. Deeper sleep – Meditation will have a positive effect on the quality and the quantity of your sleep. As your mind becomes calmer through your practice of meditation, you will fall asleep more easily and sleep more soundly.
. You will be happier – We tend to seek happiness outside ourselves – where we are, what we possess, who we are with – but meditation helps us to realize that real, lasting happiness is an experience which flows from within and exists independently of our outer circumstances.
. Better life decisions – In the whole history of the world, you are unique, and you have a uniquely special path to follow in life. In the silence and stillness of meditation, you will perceive more clearly the still, small voice within that can guide you safely along your life’s path. By bringing you closer to your life’s purpose, meditation sets you free to become more truly and uniquely yourself.
. Spiritual growth – At the very core of your existence lives a being of great beauty, wisdom and delight. This being is none other than your own highest self. Through meditation you will grow into your highest self, and all of its inner wealth will be yours to use in your day-to-day life.
. Inner peace brings outer peace – Everything starts from within! As you develop more inner peace through your practice of meditation, your outer life will become more peaceful as well. Little things start to happen as your outer life is touched by the expanding fragrance of your inner life: problems fall away or are resolved more easily; your dealings with people become deeper and more fulfilling; and you develop new and greater outer capacities.
Beyond speech and mind,
Into the river of ever-effulgent Light
My heart dives.
Today thousands of doors, closed for millennia
Are opened wide.
Right now fear, doubt, anxiety, tension, and disharmony
Are reigning supreme.
But there shall come a time when this world of ours
will be flooded with peace.
Who is going to bring about this radical change?
It will be you: you and your sisters and brothers.
You and your oneness-heart will spread peace
Throughout the length and breadth of the world.
True inner joy is self-created.
It does not depend on outer circumstances.
A river is flowing in and through you carrying the message of joy.
Consciousness is the spark of life that unites each one of us with the universal life. Without consciousness, everything is a barren desert. When we enter into a dark place, we take a flashlight to see where we are going. If we want to know about our unlit life, we have to take the help of consciousness.
Consciousness is like a ladder. You can go up and down the various rungs. If you can meditate deeply, each plane of consciousness will present itself before you. The first rung is the physical body. The second rung is the vital. The vital is a term used in Indian philosophy. It embodies emotional, aggressive, and dynamic qualities. The third rung is the mind. Above the mind is the spiritual heart. It is in the spiritual heart that one feels the “quickening” of the soul. The soul knows no birth, no decay, no death. It is eternal. It is immortal.
Before taking human incarnation, the soul gets an inner message about its divine purpose on earth. It is fully conscious of its mission. But during our lifetime, the workings of the physical mind may sometimes cover up the divine inspiration of the soul and its true purpose. Then the mission of the soul cannot come forward. Only if we aspire with the mind, heart, and soul can we learn the purpose of our existence here on earth.