Meditation can serve many purposes: increased happiness, improved concentration and academic performance, clarity and insight into everyday issues, improved health and sleep, etc. This article’s meditation will likely help with all or most of these, but the end goal is none of the above. The goal here is total freedom, enlightenment, nirvana or moksha (all are used as synonyms here). I have included some Sanskrit words in brackets in case you are interested.
No object, gross or subtle, can lead to lasting fulfillment.
I recommend you contemplate deeply on this.
For most of us, after a little contemplation, this becomes obvious to us. However,we can go further: if we continue on this contemplation, we can start to realise that even seeking momentary pleasure or momentary fulfillment in objects is a cause of suffering. Subtlely, we still believe that our fulfillment lies in obtaining contact with the objects of our desire. Subtlely, we are reinforcing the sense of ‘I’ or ‘me’, also known as the ego, and the root cause of suffering is continued.
Contemplate deeply on this.
First, that objects cannot give us lasting fulfillment. Secondly, that getting involved in the world of objects in order to be psychologically fulfilled is already the path of ignorance and suffering.
Similarly, seeking enlightenment or liberation in the world of objects or using an object such as thought as a means of enlightenment is also futile. So, what to do?
When this is realised at a deeper and deeper level within ourselves, dispassion (vairagya) arises. We ‘turn away’ from worldly objects, meaning we no longer look for happiness in objects.
Remember, that experiences are also objects – they are known to us, they are felt and perceived, and they, like other objects, come and go. Peace, love, oneness – all these can be experienced, and all experiences come and go. Insight into the impermanence of phenomena leads to not clinging to such experiences. This is called ‘turning inwards’ or ‘looking within’.
The role of a formal practice
For most people, I recommend a formal practice of spending as much time as you can each day without engaging with thoughts, whilst still remaining awake and aware (ie. not in trance and not asleep).
Formal practice is useful as ignorance, or taking yourself to be a separate self, is so deeply ingrained, that even when the mind is ordinarily quiet in everyday life, it is still stained with this ignorance that is merely dormant, and so insight does not manifest (unless the seeker is especially ripe/ready). A period everyday of being away from thoughts, upon which ignorance depends, is of a great benefit and can greatly quicken the spiritual search.
Actually doing a formal practice, as opposed to simply talking about silence and so on, is one of the best ways of taking the spiritual quest out of the mind or intellect, and transforming clever concepts into genuine spiritual understanding and insight.
Not doing a spiritual practice is one of the best ways of remaining caught in the clutches of the intellect and ego for years to come. Often the mind will come up with reasons and select teachings that say no practice is required, so beware the tendency of the ego to find a way to perpetuate itself rather than foster its own demise.
Sit in a comfortable position with your back upright. This is so you don’t fall asleep and are able to maintain a serene stability of mind for an extended period of time. Having a practice in the same place and the same time of day can be a useful aid to this, as the mind becomes trained to become quiet at that time and place over time.
‘But I don’t like to meditate’
Meditation is not for everyone, and my writings are tips for you to take on board and apply to your life as you feel is best. If you don’t like meditation, then I would recommend you try some other kind of formal practice, be it chanting, yoga or mindfulness, as you see fit. Over time the idea is that these practices will calm your mind, and purify and balance your energies and you will start to be naturally drawn to a more contemplative peaceful (sattvic) practice.
‘I want to meditate but my mind is too busy’
If you feel drawn to meditation, but your mind is too noisy, then, like the example above, I would try some preliminary practices first, such as light exercise, hatha (physical) yoga, chanting or breathing exercises. Try meditation immediately after one or more of these preliminary practices and your mind should be considerably quieter.
Follow your heart and intuition and do what you feel drawn to. Allow this to be your practice as long as it feel right for you. There are no strict rules and better to follow your own genuine path (swadharma) rather than someone else’s if it doesn’t feel right.
A method of meditation
- Prior to meditation, start by chanting for 3-5 minutes. This cleanses the energetic system and allows for a deeper and more awake meditation.
- Take your time to settle down and allow the mind to become calm. I find that spending 2-3 minutes allowing myself to sit with my eyes open and take in my surroundings is helpful in transitioning between being engaged with the world to meditation.
- Also take time to feel the body, allowing each part of the body to be experienced, and also allow each part of the body to relax. Pay particular attention to the forehead, jaw, and shoulders, where a lot of tension is often held. If you can, energetically allow the sense of you to drop down into your chest and belly area and feel relaxed.
- Allow the mind to become relaxed. Take up the attitude that everything is welcome here, and allow everything to come and go. Sensations, sounds, thoughts, all can come and go. Accept what is. Allow your mind to become light, carefree and happy. Happy acceptance is the general aim, not to be a state of mind that is forced, but to be allowed to arise.
- Now start to withdraw your mind. Use an anchor if required: this can be a mantra (a sound that is repeated, such as ‘Om’, which can be repeated for example on every outbreath), an object (either real external object, or better still, a visualised object), or the breath. As the meditation progresses the anchor should become gradually more subtle, so I often start with counting my breaths, then I let go of counting and just stay with the breath, then I just stay with the feeling of peace and happiness for as long as I feel until I am ready for the next step:
- By now the mind should be relatively quiet and also stable in that quietude. There are several options of what you can do here, and as everyone is different, the exact method will vary from person to person. Essentially, notice that even peace and quietude are subtle objects. Either let them go or be aware of them whilst simultaneously knowing they are not you and that you and ‘your bliss’ do not depend on them. Here we are getting in touch with that which is not an object, that which is ever present, that which does not come and go, that which is the nature of presence-awareness-bliss (sat-chit-ananda), that which is the essence of who you are (atman), or pure subjectivity (drik). This process of separating the perceiver/subject (drik) from that which is perceived/objects (drisya) is technically known as discrimination (viveka), or discernment.
- Follow your intuition. The key is to not focus on objects, not to engage with the world of objects, not to identify with the body-mind and to also question this notion of ‘I’. You can rest in I AM and eventually you will see that this I AM is also an object that appears to the ‘real I’ which is not an object. This is the approach from the ‘sat‘ (being) aspect of sat-chit-ananda (reality) Or you can let yourself be aware of awareness, that which is not an object, that which you are, and allow the brightness of awareness to vividly shine and outshine all objects, consuming all objects in its dazzling light. This is the approach from the ‘chit‘ (consciousness-awareness) aspect of reality. Or you can bathe in the happiness that arises when there is no concern for objects and deriving happiness from the myriad phenomena that rise and fall – thus approaching reality from its ‘ananda’ (blissful/happiness) aspect. A fourth method is to ask ‘Who am I’, and search for the root of the ‘I thought’, as prescribed by Ramana Maharshi, and allow this to take you to the Source, which is none other than reality itself, and abide there until all tendencies to identify as a separate ‘I’ or ‘me’ are rooted out. See here for more details on this.
- Note that while it is important not to ultimately get caught up in feelings of bliss and peace, or get similarly locked into a trance state, it can be of benefit to linger here for a while. Why? Because it feels good and it is purifying. The effects of lingering in peace eventually do wear off, but they still have some provisional purifying effect and have value in countering negative tendencies and bad habits/psychological states we may be prone to entering into. Eventually, when the time is right, we can let go of peace and bliss too, but no rush is needed in all this. All in good time. ‘Good things come to those who wait.’
- Be happy, relax, do not cling, have faith
Contemplate how all objects, gross and subtle, cannot lead to enlightenment complete, and rest in your true nature, devoid of objects and full of peace and bliss.
Establish a daily practice and do not allow reasoning from the ego to convince you otherwise. Note how the the ego may resist this. The ego is prone to selecting teachings that lead to its continuance rather than its demise.
Use preliminary techniques relating to the world, body and mind as suits your disposition and take your time. Use an anchor if required, and eventually allow this to give way to a deeper silence in which you are fully awake and aware. There is no rush and this should be enjoyable and relaxing rather than hard work.
Play the long game rather than strive for short term gains. Relax.
Allow yourself to feel any phenomena – notice they are not the essence of you, the subject. Locate the sense of ‘me’, and notice this too is an object. Rest in that ‘placeless place’ where no objects are.
Trust your intuition and be careful not to fall asleep or get (too) caught up in experiences including peace and bliss.
Best wishes to you, practice, practice, practice, and please get in touch if you feel I can be of assistance