I was recently asked a question about meditation and it was suggested I put the answer up here as it might merit wider circulation. I hesitated initially because I’m not a teacher of meditation and don’t feel I have anything particularly original to say about it. On the other hand, I have been practising it for thirty five years so maybe that counts for something. For twenty five of those years I sat in meditation twice a day, morning and evening, for up to an hour at a time, but latterly my approach is less formal, and I tend to meditate when I can and for shorter periods. But that just reflects my circumstances and is not intended to indicate any kind of pattern to follow. I mention it only to point out that meditation is an individual thing and, whilst a disciplined attitude is essential, we should never be rigid in our approach. That’s not to say we needn’t bother with meditation if we feel tired or lethargic since often the effort to overcome inertia will create its own energy. But I would counsel against a force-based approach. Meditation is not a military campaign. Practise with diligence but let things happen naturally and at their own speed.
I have no particular system or technique to offer but then I don’t really believe in systems or techniques when it comes to spirituality. Certainly, we need a method to practise and one that is based on a correct understanding of the spiritual path and the relationship of the mind to the soul, but it's the application of the method that matters. Equally important is the motive behind that application. So select a method that suits you but remember that with meditation it’s not so much what you do but how and why you do it.
Let’s start at the beginning. What is meditation? One way of looking at it is as a kind of fasting of the mind. The mind is the barrier to the soul. We cannot become truly aware of the soul while the mind chatters away like the proverbial drunken monkey. That is a fundamental principle of mysticism. So meditation is reducing external and internal distraction to a minimum until nothing remains but the essential. It is a stilling of the activity of the mind so that the spiritual presence behind mind can be known. Normally we are totally absorbed in the ever changing world of phenomena. This is the world of maya as it is called in Vedanta, illusion when looked upon as real but having its own relative reality when seen as the expression of what is truly real. Meditation is the attempt to perceive what is truly real. It is the way we move beyond the phenomenal world into the world from which phenomena take their rise and back into which they fall. But this movement requires us to go nowhere and do nothing other than to sit still in silence.
To some people this seems distinctly unappealing, an apotheosis of negativity. But the emptiness aspired to in meditation is only such when viewed from the perspective of a creature bound to time and identified with form. Time implies constant change, no rest; form demands restrictive limitation, no freedom. The meditative state is actually a state of plenitude because when you reach no thing you come to the root of all things. That primordial ground is perfect peace and total oneness with the source.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. That may be the goal of meditation but is not necessarily how we should think of it to begin with. The chief purpose of meditation is not to be bathed in bliss but to deepen our connection to the spiritual self so that awareness of the soul can permeate our everyday life. The eventual aim is that, instead of being personalities aspiring to the soul, we can become souls operating through the personality. With that in mind let’s turn to practicalities.
I said earlier that meditation is an individual thing and I can only tell you what my approach to it is. However there are certain basics that should be observed and I will set them out here, though I’m sure most readers will already know them as well as I do.
Start off by finding a quiet, peaceful place where you won’t be disturbed. If possible, use the same place every time and don’t use that place for anything else so you can build up a holy atmosphere. People say you should be able to meditate anywhere and that may be so but really the right atmosphere is important. Sit comfortably with the spine straight so that you stay alert. Sit cross legged if you prefer. Burn incense if you like.
Commence your meditation with a prayer or invocation to God, the higher powers or however you conceive the spiritual world. Dedicate yourself to that world in humility and reverence. You are not trying to gain anything. You are entering into a sacred space.
Breathe in deeply, imagining your body to be filled with light. Breathe out, exhaling all the impurities that clog up your mind and body. Avoid thoughts but if they come, don’t fight them, just try not to follow them as they flit across the screen of your mind. Focus on the rhythm of your breathing. Be calm, calm, calm. Feel gratitude and love as you breathe, and try to enter into the stillness and silence that are to be found when thought stops. As an aid to concentration you could focus on a spiritual image or holy person or maybe something from the natural world that reflects a higher reality such as a star, the sun or a flower. It need not be static. It could, for instance, be a fountain of light, gushing forth abundantly and without cease.
Visualisation is a technique favoured by some people whose normal life is so active that they find it hard to turn off. Perhaps in the past, particularly in
In meditation you can ask your inner plane teachers a question to do with your spiritual practice. Hold the question in your mind and, as you do, attune yourself to the vibration of the Master. Keep your mind empty but alert and wait for a response to come. If you find yourself distracted while doing this then try the following exercise.
Imagine yourself entering a beautiful walled garden through an old, wooden gate. You unlock this gate using a key that you find in your hand. Roses bloom and you can smell their delicate scent. There is the humming of bees and the cooing of doves but behind that you are aware of a silence that almost throbs. A warm, bright sun shines. You walk deeper into the garden and the quietness increases. You come to a pair of seats, side by side but facing different directions. You sit down in one, close your eyes and wait. Presently the Master appears. Try to picture his face, wise and kind, with eyes that look right into you but which you know you can trust completely. Ask your question.
It is said that in the Kali Yuga, which is the time of spiritual disconnection we find ourselves in now, spiritual practice is so hard that all we have to do to make progress is call on the Lord’s name. When I was younger this seemed a little too devotional for my tastes, which inclined more towards the knowledge of God than the love of God. Now, a little more battle-scarred by life in this world, I see the wisdom behind it. Its virtue is simplicity. You choose a name that speaks to you and, as you repeat that name, you put your full focus on the spiritual energy of which it is an embodiment. Choose an existing holy name because holy names do have sacred power. Truth is beyond form but some forms do embody truth while others do not.
My correspondent expressed a concern about malicious entities that might possibly seek entry to the psyche during a period of self-emptying. I wouldn’t worry too much about malicious entities. They do exist but they can’t do much, especially if you sincerely consecrate yourself to the divine. Be aware of them but don’t be concerned. The Masters told me to imagine an armour of light around me that would protect me from the evil influences. This armour of light, if firmly held in the imagination is a real thing which dark powers can’t penetrate because the vibration is too high. You don’t have to imagine it all the time but you could visualise it at the beginning of your meditation session and then again at the end as you close down. Regardless of malicious entities, it will attune you to the higher powers.
These are the basics of meditation. Don’t try to force the process, and if it becomes a struggle then just stop for the moment, but be persistent in your practice. Don’t complicate things. Stick with the simple. Stillness, silence, peace are the keywords and what could be simpler than that? You are not looking to experience a higher state or for anything extraordinary to happen. It may do but I would tend to be suspicious of extraordinary experiences in meditation which usually relate more to the psychic world than the spiritual.
Meditation should not be divorced from prayer. At a time when I thought they might, and that prayer was for people who weren’t ready for the inner path, the Masters reminded me that even the greatest saints prayed. In fact, prayer and meditation are not so very different. You might even regard them as active and passive aspects of the same thing. In both it’s the attitude of reverence towards the sacred that matters if you wish to make it a proper spiritual exercise and not simply a quest for reward. The Masters once told me that anything I prayed for in humility and sincerity I would receive. Of course, if you really are praying in humility and sincerity that will determine what you are, or are not, praying for, and perhaps the only thing truly worth praying for is the restoration of the link between the incarnate soul and God.
I'll leave the last word to the Masters. They may have spoken these words to me but they apply with equal truth to everyone.
Call on us during meditation and we will rend the veil that separates you from us.