At night we cleanse our minds of our daily thoughts and preoccupations. This is especially so when we enter the dreamless state of our sleep cycle. For our computer hard disk, we periodically are advised to run the programs DISK CLEAN, or DEFRAG or run a VIRUS SCAN.
It is difficult to overcome the chatter of the subconscious mind during meditation. Dubbed the "Monkey Mind," restless thoughts are perhaps the greatest obstacle to satisfyingly deep meditations. The problem is not just restlessness, however. It is not just a habit. The mind is programmed to remain conscious and in control, presumably for the maintenance and protection of the body. This simple fact accounts, at least metaphysically, for why some people have difficulty surrendering to the sleep state.
And yet the gift of meditation comes, like the sleep state, when we surrender our thoughts into the silence of a higher, more conscious state of awareness. Consider what it is like to stare out the window at a lovely garden or a panoramic scene, a sunset, a mountain. For a few seconds, you gaze at the scene and it takes your breath away, or, at least your thoughts--even if just for a moment. Watching an engrossing movie or video can do something similar; so, also when engrossed in a book or writing a story, painting a picture, or dancing.
In other words, we experience this state of mind that is above our active thoughts in various activities even though we don't contemplate why or its effects (which are very calming and satisfying). Like the sleep state, however, being engrossed in an activity, while pleasant, isn't pure in the sense that the object of our attention is something outside our own awareness.
Meditation can turn our attention to the state of awareness it-self: without color, name, form, condition, or expectation. To enter and deeply relax into this state of pure awareness is to wash the fevered brain of many impurities of anxiety, likes, dislikes, desires, fears and fantasies. It is truly an existential experience.
For many meditators, this description does not appeal or invite. Instead, many prefer to enter that state in the presence of a divine being by some name or form. Alternatively, one can meditate upon an idea (like peace) or any mental object that inspires one.
Such a practice is equally rewarding even if the testimony of great rishis and masters suggests that there comes a point when the guru or deity vanishes and we are left on our own at least temporarily to face our own face; or, the face of seeming emptiness, or darkness. But few meditators actually get to this point for it takes great courage of heart and strength of will to meditate to such a deep state. Nonetheless, it is a matter of, shall I say, disclosure to mention it.
For the rest of us, however, even "a little practice of this" will cleanse the heart and mind of the burden of our ego's preoccupations. Seconds or minutes of mindful clarity, transcendent of the intrusion of thoughts, clear as the vast blue sky and swept clean by pure, cooling summer breezes of Being will wash the brain and revitalize the soul's innate happiness.
Is it easy to achieve this experience? Yes, and, well, No! For starters, guess what? You have to actually WANT to enter into this space. The "wanting" has to be positive and energized, grounded in calm feeling, and propelled by what I call "soft" willpower.
Here are a few hints that you may find helpful. Whatever else is your meditation technique, during your practice make sure your inward gaze is raised just slightly as if you are peering through the point between the eyebrows at some not too distant object. This position needs to be soft and gentle, not strained or forced. Think about how we often look up when we are trying to remember something. During meditation, the goal in the use of this technique is to remain in visual contact with that point behind closed eyes throughout your meditation. Normally, the eyes will "drop" whenever thoughts intrude or your attention goes elsewhere. When that happens just bring your visual focus back to this point without making a mental fuss over it. Don't give up. Just keep on re-directing.
Secondly, focus one-pointedly on the details of your technique: for example, observing the flow of breath; inwardly chanting a mantra; visualizing a divine Being. Most techniques will require two or more focal points of awareness.
Generally, at least two, or preferably three "objects" of focus are needed to create a magnetic aura of concentration that has enough magnetism to cauterize or hold at bay thoughts popping up like ads on YouTube. Beneath these focal points of concentration is the underlying feeling of calm but joyful expectation of entering the sanctum sanctorum of "thoughtlessness" (pun). This feeling acts as a motivator or generator of that soft willpower I mentioned earlier. You cannot force a higher state of mind. It comes, as Jesus put it, "like a thief in the night" just when you don't expect it. And when it does, feel free to abandon your technique or simply continue it if you feel too.
But after your technique, the gold standard is to be able to drop all "doing" and enter "being." Rest in the after-poise of your meditation technique sitting in the sunlight of calm Self-awareness above the clouds of interposing thoughts. Even a few seconds of this spacious mind will bring relief and cleansing to the brain.
Is this the end-game, then, of meditation? No, not even close. Rather, clearing the deck of conscious and subconscious thoughts is simply to clean and prepare the vessel of your awareness to receive inspiration from what Paramhansa Yogananda dubbed the Superconscious Mind. You could call this the soul or the atman or anything else if you prefer.
Is this the end game? By no means. The end-game is endlessness and the purpose of this article is to talk about the process of "brain-washing!" Whatever else may come is between you and your divine Self. First things first!
Blessings to you,
Swami Hrimananda, your own Self