But first, a disclosure: we've run out of elements! Viewing the 8-Fold Path from the point of view of the elements of creation worked so long as we were still within duality, the play of opposites. Now, however, we come to Oneness: or at least the beginning stage of Oneness.
First, so let's go back to the term "meditation." If you've been reading this blog series all along, you know that in the previous stage, SUPER ETHER ("Dharana"), we perceive higher realities but we retain our sense of separateness. (As in "I am feeling peaceful.") So now, in the stage of dhyana, we enter into such states (we identified eight aspects of soul consciousness in the last blog) such that our separateness expands (or merges) into the state. Here's where our intellects go on tilt, along with our language skills.
How can the ego merge with Peace (or Love, Wisdom, Aum sound, Inner Light, etc.) being thereby dissolved without having some aspect of ourselves LOST? This reality being described can only experienced, not described. "You have to have been there!"
Nothing is lost in this state of Oneness. Everything is gained. Think of it this way: the ego expands into the state of super-consciousness. Consider, for a moment, that in this process ego has been already stripped of lesser identifications: with the physical body, e.g., and with states of consciousness born of duality. So what is it, then, that expands or merges? Pure consciousness or self-awareness. Consciousness cannot be destroyed, only expanded. And not in time or space, merely, for we are speaking of an abiding consciousness and reality that is eternal and omnipresent--just behind the restless sway of maya (duality).
Paramhansa Yogananda described the ego as the soul (to the extent) identified with the body (and personality, likes and dislikes, memories, etc.). The ego has no lasting reality of its own for the very things it holds to itself are evanescent and always changing, destined for the ash heap of time and space.
The soul, by contrast, is eternal. It never changes, never is born or dies. In this view, even the concept of "expanding" misses the mark somewhat. It's perhaps more like "waking up," or, as Patanjali himself describes the process, "smriti," or memory. It's the ultimate "aha moment." Peace (and each of the other aspects) are consciousness itself. They are like facets of a diamond: not separate from one another. Peace produces joy. Joy, love. Vitality, wisdom. And so on. The eight aspects of superconsciousness are, in fact, holographic: each is contained in the other.
Going back to the process of the experience, what happens is that the meditator enters into dhyana for various lengths of time but always returns to ego consciousness. This can, of course, extend over many years and indeed lifetimes if the individual keeps returning to his bad old ego haunts, only to climb back up the tree of life back to this stage. More practically speaking, each foray into superconsciousness burns up and purifies more karma and refines the body and nervous system to survive in the rarified atmosphere of superconscious.
As Emperor Soul steadily reclaims his kingdom, he is preparing himself for the next and final assault: the merging of the soul (a separate spark of divinity) back into Spirit. Hence the subject of the next blog and the eighth and final stage: final union with God, which Patanjali calls Samadhi.
As we affirm attitudes and states of superconsciousness both in daily activity and in meditation, we begin to attune ourselves to this state of the soul. Experiment, therefore, in meditation with visualizing one or more of these states. You can experiment with one each week. Here are some seminal suggestions which are perhaps best used after your meditation techniques as a prelude to entering the inner silence past doing into Being:
PEACE. Visualize the full moon bathing the landscape of your mind with rays of ineffable peace. Let the peace-light enlighten every cell of your brain and body, then, have it surround you in an aura of peace. Then send rays of peace out from your heart in blessing of all beings.
WISDOM. Visualize the sun at midday. Not a shadow or nook remains untouched by its healing rays. Feel not just its warmth but its enlightenment. Let its powerful light dissolve all sense of separateness.
ENERGY. Imagine that within yourself, like at the center of our earth, there exists a cauldron of molten fire. All lower elements such as earth and water are being assimilated into the fire of vitality. Being at your own center, it fires you with the desire and enthusiasm (and strength) to go within, into the inner silence. There the molten fiery prana begins rising through the volcanic chamber of the spine upwards its exit at the spiritual eye.
LOVE. Visualize Divine Mother - beauty, compassion and wisdom incarnate --- coming to you with the reassurance of Her eternal love. Let Her love fill you and dissolve all sense of separateness.
CALMNESS. You are floating in deep space: billions of miles below, above, and in all directions. Stars, planets, and galaxies all float in your mental space. You are calm, confident, and connected with all life. Nothing and no one can harm you, for you are One with all things created.
AUM. Imagine you are hiking in the forest. Step by step the sound of a roaring waterfall grows steadily louder and surrounding all space by the time you reach the waterfall’s edge. You sit beside it and begin to absorb its healing soothing vibrations until you are lifted out of yourself into the remembrance of your true and eternal Self.
LIGHT. Visualize a golden light at the point between the eyebrows. Feel this golden light flooding you with its enlightenment dissolving you as you gradually merge into it.
BLISS. Begin at the heart center. Feel the bubble of joy that resides beneath all restlessness. Let this bubble expands upward to the spiritual eye and then all around of you. Feel a bursting smile within you. Let that bliss expand outward in all directions until nothing exists except that Bliss.
During the day, you can create an affirmation or find one for each of these in Swami Kriyananda’s book, “Affirmations and Prayers for Self-Healing.