The root of the word meditation is similar to the root word for medical or medicate. It implies a sense of attending to or paying attention to something. In meditation you pay attention to dimensions of yourself that are seldom observed or known—that is, your own deepest, inner levels. Meditation involves an inner attention that is concentrated, quiet and relaxed. There is nothing strenuous or difficult about creating this inner attention. There are only two requirements: determination and sincerity.
Meditation does something that nothing else can do. It introduces you to the bliss, fullness and wisdom of your Essential Nature. Once you experience this Self-realization, you are increasingly able to base your actions in the world on your discriminative faculty. This, in turn, improves your physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. Every thought is only a suggestion. It is not an imperial command. If there is consternation in the mind, it means that you are dealing with whatever you are dealing with from the limited perspective of the ego (ahamkara). And that is not you. Before you allow yourself to become emotionally involved with certain habitual thoughts, go deeper within until you reach the thinker of the thought. Now, from the fullness and contentment of the Eternal Witness, ask your discriminative faculty (buddhi) if the thought that is calling your attention is a preya (ego or sense gratification that conflicts with inner wisdom) or a shreya (that which leads for your long-term health and well-being). If the buddhi tells you the thought is a preya, honor it and willingly surrender it back to the Origin from which it has come. Then, re-direct your attention (love) back to the mantra, and you will be led for your highest and greatest good.
In meditation, you are fully alert, but the mind is not focused on the external world or events. In the process of meditation, we ask the mind to let go of it’s tendencies to think, analyze, remember, solve problems, focus on events of the past or on the expectations of the future. Meditation helps the mind to slow down its rapidly changing series of thoughts and feelings, and to replace that mental activity with an inner awareness and attention. Thus, meditation is not thinking about problems or analyzing a situation. It is not fantasizing or daydreaming or merely letting the mind wander aimlessly. Meditation is not having an internal conversation or argument with yourself or intensifying the thinking process. Meditation is simply a quiet, effortless, one-pointed focus of attention and awareness. In meditation, we try to let go of all the many mental distractions, preoccupations, and the fleeting thoughts and associations of our normal waking experience. We do this, not by trying to make the mind empty, which is impossible, but instead, by allowing the mind to focus on one subtle element or object (mantra). By giving the mind one internal focus of attention, we help the mind to cease it’s stressful mental processes, such as worry, planning, thinking and reasoning.
The skills we gain in meditation, to witness our thoughts and emotions, can then be employed in all our relationships throughout the day. Instead of always reacting impulsively to our fear, anger and desires, meditation provides us tools to observe them and then to transform their debilitating energy into thoughts, words and deeds which raise us to a higher level of creativity, happiness and contentment.
For individuals recuperating from any kind of surgical procedure or emotional trauma, meditation is therapeutic from the very beginning. Meditation helps relax the tension of the gross and subtle muscles and the autonomic nervous system, and it provides freedom from mental stress. Individuals who meditate attain a tranquil mind, and this helps the immune system by limiting its reaction to worry and anxiety. Even after just a few days of sincere efforts, meditation will begin to establish new, healthy, habit patterns. These skills increase individual will power and help a person make positive, discriminating choices that will enable them to fulfill the purpose of life. Sound decisions concerning a beneficial diet, healthy nutrition, daily exercise, diaphragmatic breathing and lifestyle selection all become possible when the mind is not distracted by the call of the senses.
QUESTIONS ABOUT ESTABLISHING AND MAINTAINING A MEDITATION PRACTICE
When the mind remains preoccupied by worldly desires, these habit patterns will interfere with your experience during meditation. Before you sit in meditation, it is important to have a determined mind, to inspire and calm yourself by completing a short set of exercises, nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) and a systematic survey of the body. As you begin your meditation, firmly resolve to yourself that you will not be disturbed by any thought which calls your attention. When you learn to witness your entire thinking process without becoming involved with the images, feelings, thoughts and interests, then no thoughts—good or bad, helpful or unhelpful—can disturb you.
Such disturbances occur during the preliminary stages of meditation. If, during the day, you learn to keep the mind free from those thoughts which the buddhi (conscience)advises against, such disturbances can be checked easily in meditation. Throughout the day, by giving up small desires for short-term ego or sense gratifications (preya), we increase energy, will and consciousness. That increased willpower will then come forward to help strengthen and stabilize your meditation. Remember, the mantra is potentially your greatest friend. It generates love, fearlessness and strength to help you do what has to be done when it has to be done to lead you for your highest and greatest good. Follow the mantra.
Your situation is no different from most other people. The basic dilemma is you have forgotten who you really are and therefore you imagine yourself to be what you are not. Since you identify yourself with either your body or mind, your memories and imaginings fill you with fear, anger and desire. If, on the other hand, you are earnest in your practice, you will slowly come to the realization that the real you is that eternal awareness which witnesses all the gross and subtle objects.
Yes, these factors do affect meditation, so the mind should not be encouraged to roam and obsess in sexual grooves. Sex is a biological and emotional necessity to a certain age. Although this appetite should be regulated by the discrimination of the buddhi and by aligning one’s thoughts, words and actions with the precept of ahimsa (non-injury). As far as food is concerned, simple, fresh, nutritious food is the best for helping the student of meditation. However, even though foods that are rich in nutrients are most healthy, overeating is neither healthy nor conducive to meditation. Meditation should not be done either when one is hungry or just after one has eaten.
Anger, like fear and selfish desire, is a root cause of illness and dis-ease. When you give your attention to an angry thought, a torrent of hormones is released which, in turn, harm the body. The time to begin dealing with your anger samskara (deep habit pattern)is not in the midst of an angry reaction, however. Practice japa (repetition of the mantra) continuously every day. The action of repeating your mantra will generate love, fearlessness and strength to help you deal with the anger when it surfaces. Think of this practice the same way you think about putting money away in your IRA. You’re banking energy now to be used at a later date when you’ll need it. Second, when you do find yourself aware of a thought which evokes an angry response, seek the good counsel of your buddhi. Remember, every thought is only a suggestion of what to give your attention to. If your discriminatory capacity advises that the angry thought you’re attracted to is a preya (short-term ego or sense gratification), then lovingly, but firmly take hold of that subtle object and humbly offer it back to the Divine Reality from which it has been manifest. You can accomplish this by visualization. Simply imagine taking the angry thought and offering it into a fire in the “cave of your heart.” As you do this, fashion a little personal prayer: “O, Inner Dweller, right now I feel so angry becauseof this thought. But I hear the advice of my buddhi and I know this anger isnot leading me for my highest and greatest good. Please, Dear Lord, acceptthis offering which I give to you lovingly, earnestly and humbly. Pleaseconsume it in the fire of your light and lead me for my highest and greatestgood.” Then, after you’ve given the thought back to the Divine Reality from which it has come, repeat your mantra for all you’re worth. If you can, go for a brisk fifteen-minute walk, repeating your mantra. By freely and consciously giving up the thought of anger, that samskara is weakened and some of its energy is transformed into positive, useable energy which can be accessed later in service to the shreya. But don’t take our word for it. As a yoga scientist, begin to experiment for yourself and mentally record your experiences. That’s the only way you’ll ever begin to know the truth of the knowledge of yoga.
Meditation and its allied disciplines make the mind one-pointed and inward. When one has learned to arrange his or her worldly duties so that they don’t create any obstacles and when one practices meditation punctually and regularly, then he or she finds it rewarding in a special way: the mind becomes penetrative, one-pointed and starts to fathom the subtler levels of life. These symptoms are the symptoms of the deepening of meditation. But do not expect too much in the beginning. There is no instant method of meditation. Expectation will force you to fantasize, imagine and hallucinate. Expectation will lead you to anxiety, and anxiety will not allow you to meditate. As a result, you will be frustrated and you will stop meditating.
In the beginning, remembering the mantra technically is what is needed. Later on, the aspirant starts to experience joy because this new habit becomes a part of his or her life. Everyone actually loves their habits and when japa becomes an irreplaceable habit of life, then you will feel delighted as you begin to experience the love, fearlessness and strength generated by the mantra.
Meditation is not at all dangerous, but if one is not prepared, then sitting and closing one’s eyes and hallucinating is a sheer waste of time and energy. One should understand the entire systematic procedure of meditation and its allied disciplines and gradually train oneself to become an “insider.” Up until now, you have primarily been taught to learn, watch, verify and know things in the external world. Learning to look, find and see within is an entirely different path. Therefore, learning to practice meditation properly is useful. Many teachers claim that their methods are a “shortcut,” and that other methods are lengthy. But really, there are no such things as shortcuts or lengthy processes. Each path depends entirely on the individual student’s capacity, sincerity and determination. Do not be swayed by such external suggestions. Continue to work consciensciously with your own inner Self, your own body, your own mind, your own senses, your own thoughts. Your own sincerity and earnestness will lead you where you yearn to be.
Yes. Throughout the year we offer numerous advanced courses on various subjects. If you sign up for our mailing list, you will be notified by the newsletter and through email. Additionally, you might want to consider two very real options. First, take the six-week class again. Many of our students have found that having taken the course once before, they were better prepared to assimilate more of the knowledge. Remember, with each day of practice, your personality is transformed and your negative attachment to fears, anger and self-willed desires is diminished. By taking the AMI MEDITATION course a second or third time, you’ll be more focused and one-pointed in your attention and the information presented will be of even greater value to you. Secondly, as we’ve so often mentioned in our classes, the post-graduate course which will be of greatest benefit to you is how you react to your next thought. If you have been conscientious in your practice, when a thought comes into your awareness, the power of your mantra will come forward to supply you the necessary amount of love, fearlessness and strength either to withdraw your attention from the preya or, to give your attention to the shreya. That process is called “meditation in action,” and it is an ongoing process, occurring moment by moment by moment.
WHAT IS THE GREATEST OBSTACLE TO SPIRITUAL GROWTH?
A man was walking down the road carrying several boxes in his arms and was approached by another man who was carrying a manuscript. The latter said ,”I have written in this manuscript the secret for finding joy and fulfillment in life. This knowledge was given to me by my teacher and I would like to pass it on to you.” The first man replied, “I would indeed like to take it, but can’t you see that I am already loaded down. I’m carrying my mementos and am unable to carry any more.” Then he continued on his way. Our situation is very similar. Each of us is loaded down with our cares, concerns, preconceptions, expectations, intentions, judgments and desires. By clinging to these, we are unable to free ourselves and therefore, we become enslaved to our own habit patterns. Consequently, we think the same thoughts, speak the same words and do the same kinds of things every day. The greatest obstacle to spiritual growth is holding on to what we have or had. Growth is only possible when we open up a space in our lives for something to “come in.” Although the concept of renunciation has a negative connotation in our culture, it is the only method for renewal and growth. The sages tell us that it is in giving that we receive, and certainly in our own experience we know that the only way we can inhale the vital life force is to renounce the breath by exhaling. Exhaling is that which makes it possible to receive the inhalation. Meditation and yoga science helps us to let go of our narrow, limited identity so that we can open ourselves to our hidden and previously unknown potential.