A recent session led by the Warden at Shanti Sadan
In meditation we turn our thoughts from the noise and pressures of the outer world to the source of life and consciousness within our own being. That source seems to be hidden, but through our ongoing efforts we learn how to create conditions of peace and harmony in our mind, and it is these conditions that will lead to the fulfilment of our highest human potentiality, the freedom of self-realization.
It is true that in life we may get help and courage from some wise saying that we hold on to as we meet the daily challenges. For example, there is the well-known advice: ‘Count your blessings and discount your woes.’ The idea is that we can, hopefully, cheer ourselves up and recover our sense of perspective if we remember the positive aspects of our situation—the freedoms, advantages and faculties we still enjoy— and if we do not allow our mind to indulge in ‘gloom and doom’.
But such advice as ‘count your blessings’ is easier to prescribe than to practise. For we are being urged to help ourselves by thinking differently. And this is not so easy, unless we have some way of practice that involves our mind—unless we have developed the power of choice in the world of our thoughts. In fact, as the owner of our mind, we do have this power to turn our thoughts and feelings in any direction we wish to. But if we are not aware of this inner power or have no practice in how to apply it consciously, we need to learn or relearn this skill. This is well worth doing, for our ability to stabilize and uplift our mind is the greatest skill we can develop in life.
As we try to meditate, we gain an understanding of the challenge posed by the mind, and how it yields to our guidance if we attend to it regularly and with love. In due time we discover that our mind has higher facets, and that the more peaceful our mind is made, the more revealing it becomes. What is revealed are powers, qualities and virtues relating to our innermost nature, which transcends the mind. This can be indicated by a story.
A man went to a spiritual teacher and the teacher asked: ‘What are you looking for?’ The man answered: ‘I am looking for enlightenment.’ The teacher replied: ‘You have your own treasure house. Why do you search outside?’ The man asked: ‘But where is my treasure house?’ and the answer was: ‘What you are seeking is your treasure house.’
The story has many lessons about where and how to seek for lasting happiness. But one of its implications is that our very interest in this teaching about our deeper nature, our willingness to hear about it and enquire into it, indicates that this great realm within us—our treasure-house, the potentiality for enlightenment—is astir with life, and its vital, though hidden, influence, is the prompter of our interest. This is our inner bond with what is highest in us—the thirst that senses the presence of the ‘illimitable fountain’ close at hand—in our own heart.
This deeper reality is our ultimate identity—our true and only Self, and it is the one Self in all, just as in a circle, billions of radii have the same central point. The Self is the source of all wisdom, bliss and peace. The great gift of the higher meditation is that it helps our mind to uncover this innermost aspect of our nature. In so doing, our mind will reflect more and more of the light and delight that emanates from our true Self. This becomes possible when the mind endeavours to still itself and, through inward focusing, withdraw into this depth of our own being.
Let us now turn to our practices.
We approach the meditation in a spirit of calm introversion, leaving behind thoughts of our business in the world. In peace we feel we are approaching a deeper Reality and we mentally bow to this divine power with our mind open to its guidance.
Breathe in, imagining that you are drawing the breath up from the navel to the spot between the eyebrows. As you breathe in, fill the mind with the thought, ‘I am. I am’. If possible let the out-breath be the same length as the in-breath. (Do this for four minutes, or 21 breath cycles)
The affirmation ‘I am’ is a key to the depth and fullness of our being. When our mind is active, our ‘I am’ appears to possess qualities, and our thoughts tend to be variations of ‘I do’, ‘I know’, ‘I think’, ‘I have’, ‘I said’, and so on. These pathways of thought seem to claim and colour the ‘I am’. They are transient, limited, and often tinged with anxiety. But the ‘I am’ in itself is free from transience, tension and limitation. Always: I am. We can think of ourselves without ‘I have’. What I have may grow or diminish, or be taken or lost. But all the time, whatever I have or lack, ‘I am’. We can think of ourselves without ‘I do’. Every ‘I do’ has to be followed by rest, when ‘I do not’ do anything. ‘I am’ accompanies ‘I do’ and it also accompanies our rest from doing.
In our breathing practice, we give our attention to being, not doing or having. Our ‘I am’ has no wish or fear. It is complete, ever at peace, one in all, infinite. We enter this practice aware that we have a key to the deeper truth that underlies the mind—the truth of Being. If other thoughts appear in our mind, we say ‘no’ to these diversions—everything can wait during this short period of practice.
Draw an imaginary line of light, from the top of the forehead, down between the eyebrows, down the nose, lips, throat, heart-region, to the navel. Imagine this line to be a line of light and concentrate on it. In the beginning you can draw your finger down this line if it helps you to visualize it. Then sit and just think of this line of light. (Six minutes)
This practice, like the breathing practice, helps us to draw our attention away from the uncontrolled mental activity and to centre inwardly with the help of an image—the line of light. This line of light symbolizes the power, radiance and centralness of our ‘I am’. We visualize it extending from the top of the forehead to the navel. Imagine this line of light within you, a lit interior pathway, a refuge free of thoughts, danger and disturbance, ever established in the peace of pure being. We focus on light within, centred in this consciousness, safe in its purity, inwardness and perfection. The concentration deepens the more we fill ourselves with the thought of this line of light, its purity and perfection within us. Rest in this line of light, dismissing all other thoughts.
Meditation on a Text
I WITHDRAW MY CONSCIOUSNESS
FROM THE SENSES AND THE MIND,
AND REST IN THE PEACE AND BLISS
OF MY TRUE NATURE
The first part of the text refers to two levels of withdrawal. First we withdraw from the senses, signified by our sitting still, free from stimuli, focused within. But what does it mean ‘to withdraw from the mind’?
The challenge, recognized by all who meditate, is that when we turn within, our mind still sometimes loses itself in thoughts which have nothing to do with the meditation. What do we do when this happens? As soon as we notice that our attention has wandered, calmly take a deep breath and bring your attention back to the words of the text and refocus. The idea is:
If my mind drifts into dream
I bring it back to my central theme.
We all have the power to do this, because we have a higher faculty which has authority over the wandering mind, and in meditation we take our stand on this higher faculty, which relates to our Reality, our ultimate Self. Through this focusing of our inner energy, we create, so to say, a channel through which our consciousness is reconnected with the peace and bliss of our true nature. Through the authority and confidence with which we affirm our meditation text, the light of the higher Self-knowledge is awakened in our being. Devote eight minutes to this practice.
We mentioned earlier that we have the power to guide our mind, to become receptive and open to this inner revelation. But we have to attend to our practices regularly and with love. The power that will help and drive us on has its source in our deeper nature.
As well as our dedicated periods for meditation, the practices can be applied, with great advantage, for brief intervals during the course of our day. For example, the line of light, where we bring our attention to our deeper centre, can help us overcome stress, confusion, nervousness, and revive our innate inner strength.
Let us end our session with thoughts of peace and goodwill to all.