In the great task of finding happiness and peace through meditation, there are some simple, useful things to keep in mind. Some of these are mentioned here:
Don’t be too concerned with finding the right technique in meditation. Spiritual master Sri Chinmoy once commented that our own souls are our best teacher – in other words the ability to meditate is already there inside you, accessible in your deepest silences and stillness.
This is why it is helpful to understand that meditation is not so much about learning – filling the mind with theory, techniques, knowledge – but rather about remembering! All you need to know, and your own unique spiritual path, is a remembering of a forgotten part of your inner life that is already there inside you.
One of the great secrets is sincerity – the disciplined commitment to practise. See every effort at meditation as a step on an inner journey, and progress is not measured by your lofty experiences but by the daily steps taken when you practise. Like a marathon, where even the most arduous steps are nevertheless moving you closer to finishing, every moment in meditation is a step closer to happiness, insight, peace. Every day take another step.
This is why the struggle to quieten the mind or the restless body, the addictive habits and repetitions of thoughts, are where you make progress. Right there, that is where peace and liberation are to be won. These struggles are the coalface, the place where you confront the things in yourself that need to be transformed, where you regain mastery of your mind and access to your spiritual heart.
Another of the great secrets of meditation is the role of grace. Sincerity, mentioned above, is like an inner magnet that brings grace into our lives and into our practise.
What is grace? Just as the cry of a hungry child brings the immediate response of the parent, meditation is described by spiritual masters as the cry of the soul for happiness, freedom, peace – and grace is the response of the universe, of God, of an intelligence barely understood by the mind. Grace brings to us all that we need – the people, the understandings and opportunities, the insights. It is the law of attraction operating in the realm of spirit.
Set weekly goals and write up a chart of these goals to aim at every day – your morning meditation, perhaps a shorter evening meditation as well, some reading from a meditation book to inspire the mind, a regime of daily exercise to upgrade your sense of wellbeing and to prepare the body to sit quietly, dietary modifications to improve your health and so forth. How many ticks on your goal chart can you get each day, each week? Try for a perfect week.
Group meditation is very helpful. The energy, aspiration and sincerity of others around you who share your journey will increase your strength, uplift and energise your meditation. Historically it is called ‘satsang’ – the community of like-minded souls that expedite our progress.
Feel gratitude at the very beginning of your meditation practise. This will remind you that you have reached a very special time in your evolution, and that you are awakening, that there is a quiet perfection behind your life that is giving you this special opportunity. You are among a tiny percentage of humanity opening up to a new consciousness – you are part of the rising wave of spirit that is coming into our world just now.
Don’t limit your practise to your morning meditation in your room. Use meditation as a lifeskill and bring it out into your daily life. This is called karma yoga, the conscious application of your meditation into everyday events.
Try this exercise offered by Sri Chinmoy. During your morning meditation, imagine a very beautiful flower in your heart – think of the flower as embodying one quality of your soul that you would like to offer, a quality like strength, love, patience, happiness, peace. Imagine the flower expanding in your heart, the image and fragrance of the soul-flower filling every part of your being and representing your chosen quality for that day – when you go out into your world, feel that you are offering this quality to everyone you meet. In this way, very quickly, you will multiply this positive quality in your nature, you will become what you imagined.
Try to make your meditation heart-centred rather than mind-centred. The mind is incorrigibly busy by its very nature, ceaseless like the waves on the surface of a lake. The spiritual heart however is the depths of the lake, the silent inner space where you experience consciousness without thought, and where silence and stillness offer doorways into an entirely different part of your being. Try to feel a sense of being at rest in this inner space, observe the wanderings of the mind with detachment and let each thought pass away, see how still you can become. Here in this inner realm where the mind is left behind, many discoveries await us – access to the ‘inner pilot’ where we find the wisdom and intelligence of the soul; the ‘remembering’ of meditation as something natural, essential and spontaneous; creative talents; an understanding of what is really important in our life, and of what is not. But much, much more.
Another very powerful attribute of the spiritual heart is the power of love. When freed up from earthly attachments and human wants, this power of love can be greatly expanded, becoming free of personal need and widening into its many manifestations as compassion, sympathy and kindness, oneness with the sufferings of others. One of its aspects is devotion, and this feeling of the heart belongs to a branch of meditation called bhakti yoga. Here meditation moves away from purely self-effort to an inclusiveness, and here again we encounter the idea of grace. In bhakti yoga the practitioner of meditation feels more like a child – his sincerity is enough to bring the loving parent to his side. If there is a fast track in meditation, this is probably it – devotion is like an invisible bridge between man and God, between the finite and the infinite. It is not an irrational discarding of reason, but rather the opposite, the intelligence and wisdom of the heart that sees past the appearances of life to something deeper. The hearts capacity for devotion utilizes one of the most powerful forces in human life – the power of love – and opens the doorway to many most significant inner experiences.
- There will be times during the day when your meditation is easier and more accessible, and it is important to explore a little here. Try meditating on a bus ride, seated in a park, walking down a quiet road or along a seashore. You don’t need to only meditate in your space at home – bring this awakening gift out into your life as well. Once, in a busy airport departure lounge, Sri Chinmoy had a small group of us meditate six or seven times, one minute each time, with an interlude of instruction between each. We were going up and down the ladder of consciousness, back and forth from attentive-mind to silence-heart, standing there amidst so many people. He was training us to understand that the ability to meditate is always there inside us, wherever we are, and that with practise we can achieve an unwavering peace and happiness even in the face of life’s harshest challenges.