Sunday, May 14, 2017

How to Meditate All Day

In the last blog article I “revealed” the two great secrets of meditation: 1) You have to WANT to meditate, and 2) In meditation you need to open up to a greater Consciousness than your own.

There is a third great secret to meditate deeply: meditate all day! Of course I don’t mean that literally. Instead we should live our active, daily life in the consciousness and awareness of the innate joy (or peace, love, calmness etc) born of sitting in deep meditation.

The great clinical sage of consciousness, Patanjali, author of the renowned Yoga Sutras, defines enlightenment as a process of remembering; of waking up (spiritually); of smriti. Anyone who attempts to remain spiritually mindful during daily activity knows full well how easily forgetfulness overcomes one's efforts like the instant darkness that swallows a room when the light is turned off. 

This, then, is the path to true meditation. Both sitting and actively practicing are needed: they are two sides of the same coin. Those who claim, “I talk to God all day,” and do so to, in effect, excuse their reluctance to sit pray and meditate in silence are of course fooling no one but themselves. Those who sit and meditate daily but make no effort to “meditate all day” simply get “nowhere fast.”

By contrast, those who feel the peace of meditation in every act of the day return home eager to sit and dive deep into the ocean of peace. This is foolproof. This is why this is the third great secret.

The ways to begin this practice are as numerous as the sands that contain the seas. You have to experiment and test the ways that you’ve been taught or which well up within you. Most of this practice is done in silence for the fact that you are likely to be among others at work, school, home and so on. There are times when you might be driving alone in your car or out on a break from work.

In general this “working meditation” is called “practicing the presence (of God).” In yogic sadhana terminology, it might be called japa: silently reciting the name(s) of God. Beyond this, the actual form of these techniques explode toward infinity. You can chant; use mantra; watch your breath; control your breath; “talk” to God, stretch into an asana, gaze devotionally at an image or picture, and on and on and on.

“Meditate on Aum” Patanjali advises; or, on anything that inspires you, he adds! Divine consciousness is ever-present, ever-self-aware, ever happy: it is manifested in a variety of ways but including as a continuous hum: music of the spheres. Thus it is unbroken. Thus it is our goal to achieve unbroken awareness of the indwelling Spirit.

The simple fact that we forget constantly during the day, or, the simple fact that amidst the fierce intensity of concentration upon your tasks with its concomitant stresses and tensions we lose our cell phone connection with the Aum or Amen, true and faithful witness of Spirit immanent in creation, is nothing to decry. Just return to it “as if nothing happened” for it was there all the time, just as gravity works whether we are aware of it or acknowledge its existence. [“As if nothing happened” is the instruction we give to students whose attention upon the breath flags even while sitting in meditation. This is not denial. It is an affirmation of the underlying reality that step by step we return to.]

This, then, is the third great secret of meditation.  “Yoga” means union. Patanjali describes both the process and the goal of life as the step by step and finally the permanent cessation of the mental and emotional reactions to thoughts, feelings and sensations. It is continuous and permanent. It is pure Being. This state is not devoid of feeling. Rather it puts us into the great Ocean of feeling: bliss. Bliss that is unconditioned by passing, fleeting waves of impressions and circumstances which have no permanence. Thus there should not be, other than by degree, any real difference between our “working” meditation and “sitting” meditation.

In this way, we meditate all the time. Both working and sitting meditations create a continuous meditation. Both are necessary to accomplish the ultimate goal of freeing our consciousness from identification with that which is unreal and achieving our soul’s final destiny.

Joy to you on the adventure of awakening!

Swami Hrimananda

P.S. The fourth great secret of meditation is the disciple-guru relationship. I may save this for some future article. Several past articles are already devoted to this vital aspect of spiritual awakening.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Secrets of Deep Meditation!

There are many meditation techniques and styles: too numerous and tedious to attempt to name. But there are TWO SECRETS OF DEEP MEDITATION I'd like to share with you:

1.     Hold your laughter so I can explain what I mean by the most important one: YOU HAVE TO WANT to meditate! Sounds silly, doesn't it? It's not at all silly. Paramhansa Yogananda, the yoga master and author of the worldwide renown spiritual classic, "Autobiography of a Yogi," put it this way: "The soul LOVES to meditate but the ego HATES to meditate. If you have made any serious and consistent effort to meditate at all in your life you know what I mean: internal resistance to meditation must be frequently—too frequently—combated even though our intentions are clear.
It’s not unlike so many other intentions: giving up smoking; eating healthy food, exercising. You want to do what is right but habit, temptation, restlessness, fear—all these and more take their toll on our resolve.  Once you become clear “who’s talking” (devil or angel, so to speak), you can at least call the ‘ol buster out at high noon for a shoot out. You know, in other words, what you are dealing with. Forcing your will upon the subconscious mind is no real solution. It is INSPIRATION that rules the day. As “love makes the world go round” is really a euphemism for the reality that we are ruled by our desires, we can turn this undeniable aspect of our nature to good use if we affirm and draw upon the inspiration that got us to the cushion to begin with.
I mentioned in a prior blog article (the one before the previous one) the suggestion to bring to mind, before you meditate (or perhaps as you are struggling with resistance to meditation) the peace, joy, and inspiration you have already found so often from meditation. In addition, as you sit for meditation, pick up a book of inspirational reading with which to begin. Don’t just plop down and with the attitude of a conqueror, even a reluctant one, push your way through your routine! Chant to open the heart; use affirmations to awaken energy; pray for inspiration.
A friend wrote to me from Europe just the other day, bemoaning the growing fatigue and resistance he was experiencing from his otherwise highly disciplined and lengthy daily routine. No wonder! The subconscious mind will take exact its revenge if your efforts are too strongly tinged with sheer will power and not joy, inspiration or devotion! It was obvious reading his account what the problem was. And, the solution, too!
There are as many remedies are there are meditators. Some of the more obvious solutions range from shortening your meditation to making better use of chanting or other forms of inspiration (as mentioned above, spiritual reading), to varying one’s routines and techniques to fit the present need, and on and on. Going on retreat; renewing one’s vows; re-taking classes or reviewing the instructions; meditating, studying, or being with other meditators.
2.     The other GREAT secret is related to the first GREAT secret: meditation can open us to a greater reality and consciousness. Paramhansa Yogananda perhaps coined the term SUPERCONSCIOUSNESS. Much of how meditation is taught, especially the more clinical forms (often called “mindfulness”), just puts us squarely in our own heads. There’s no devotion; no sense of God or other higher power (using various terms and images). We just sit there repeating our mantra; working with the breath; concentrating the mind; using creative visualizations but never really getting out of our own head (including our own thoughts and mental narratives and self-talk). Maybe we hope to extinguish the ego, or the thoughts, or sense impressions. Maybe we hope to “leave our body” or have astral experiences of light, sound or energy. But, like Mark Twain’s comment on how easy it is to give smoking: “I’ve done it a hundred times!” our meditation is nothing more than a head trip which you’ve done a hundred times but which doesn’t transform your life. A squirrel cage, in other words. Pleasant, perhaps, like daydreaming. And sure, maybe some creative thoughts appear or insights into our life and problems. But, really, honestly? Just “me and my arrow.” (A reference to the theme song of a 1971 cult classic cartoon movie.)
When we lift our eyes and gaze through the point-between-the-eyebrows, we can do so with the intention to receive; to listen; to offer ourselves wholly; to feel the presence of God, one of the Masters, a deity or the sacred image or name of our own liking. However you approach meditation, approach it with the sacredness of entering the “holy of holies.” Behind the curtain of the darkness seen behind closed eyes are another pair of eyes: an unseen ‘person,’ Being, Force, a Presence. It is loving, benign and has waited for you for an Eternity for no other reason than to lift you to a sphere at once blissful and wholly familiar as your own true Self. A place where joy and love and peace are without condition or requirement of merit nor tainted by error. It is omnipresent; omniscient; and unalloyed while ever-new bliss.
One of the greatest insights offered to the world by Yogananda was to state unequivocally that the "joy [peace, love, etc] of meditation" is proof of the living presence of God within you. No stranger; no cosmic dictator in far away space, ready to pounce upon you for the slightest of infractions. "The kingdom of heaven is within you," Jesus Christ said plainly.

Joy to you from Ananda,
Swami Hrimananda
Next article:  “How to Meditate All Day!”

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Meditation: Is the Practice the Same as the Goal?

In the previous article the theme was to remember the "point," i.e., the purpose of meditation: to enter a state of inner peace, or joy, or love. I said this even while knowing that this isn't the "ultimate" purpose of meditation. It is, however, a realistic starting point. 

Much of the article was about remembering to focus on the interim goal of achieving inner peace and not to focus too much on its techniques and step-by-step routine. I went so far as to say that, when pressed for time, feeling inspired, or strongly resistant to your techniques and routine, it may be helpful to draw down that otherwise familiar state of inner peace and to do so without regard to your techniques or routine. 

Never let the practice of meditation eclipse the goal of meditation if that goal can be accessed without the techniques. At the same time, an intelligent and attuned meditator knows that the time-honored, guru-given techniques have the power to take one deeper when practiced as taught.

But in making those points, I ignored, for the purposes of that article, a further and deeper point. It is also perhaps too subtle a point for beginning meditators, at least. But it is one that needs to be expressed.

To start, I'd like to quote my teacher, Swami Kriyananda, from his book "Awaken to Superconsciousness." (This book is one of my favorites and it is the core text to the Meditation Teacher Training course at the Institute of Living Yoga in Bothell.) In Chapter 5, The Basic Attitudes of Yoga, he writes:

The more you seek rest as the consequence of doing, rather than in the process of doing, the more restless you will become. Peace isn’t waiting for you over the next hill. Nor is it something you construct, like a building. It must be a part of the creative process itself.

Thus it is that we err in the practice of meditation if we imagine we'll find that state of inner peace AFTER we do our techniques! Instead. we should recollect and affirm the inner peace we seek in a prayerful and reverent way AT THE BEGINNING of our meditation. As a result, we will infuse our routine and our techniques WITH that inner peace, attuning our consciousness to its ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new omnipresence just behind our ordinary consciousness. 

At the end of our practices as we turn deeper into the silence, going from "doing" (practicing techniques) to "being" (sitting in the silence), we will thus more consistently and more deeply find that state of inner peace blossoming like a flower at the dawn.

With this approach we demolish the false dichotomy between "doing" and "being;" between techniques and their goal. The deep lesson here is an affirmation of and in time the realization that peace is our very nature; that peace (and joy, love, etc) are ours already and always. Isn't that TRUE yoga?

As we experience the truth of this, then resistance to techniques or routine begins to dissolve, even if it is also true that there is a difference between practicing meditation and meditating! The last article posited the idea that the one leads to the other. This article takes this deeper to say that deepest truth is that the practice of "yoga" is the same thing as the goal of "yoga." Yoga means union: Oneness.

Joy to You!

Swami Hrimananda

Articles to come: the one GREAT SECRET of meditation will be revealed. And, how to make every hour of the day a meditation.