In the CHAPTER NINETEENRegularity in meditation is very important. Set fixed times for yourself, say between 4 to 6 in the morning and 8 to 10 in the evening, and keep firmly to these times. Start with perhaps half an hour’s meditation daily and slowly increase the time.
People who are not accustomed to getting up earlier than usual will probably find they fall asleep. Don’t sleep, for you are merely wasting your time getting up early. If you want to sleep, it is better to stay in bed. There are various methods of combating sleep: one is to go to bed earlier at night, another is to go for a shower or wash either before you start to meditate or when you start to feel sleepy during your practices, or both. Another method is to use autosuggestion. Suggest to yourself that you will not sleep before you start the practice, and at various times during the day you can repeat the resolve so that the idea goes deep into the subconscious mind.
If you find that you are more tired after meditation than when you started, it is a sure indication that you are trying too hard, perhaps fighting the mind. Remember, meditation should be a source of joy, and anything that gives joy cannot possibly result in tiredness. It is only things that cause unhappiness, which are out of tune with our nature, that can result in fatigue. So if you feel lethargic or tired after meditation, check that you are not practising incorrectly.
One of the biggest obstacles to meditation is physical
tension. If there is pain, stiffness or general tension in the body, the awareness will tend to dwell on the body. The ability to transcend the body to attain meditation experience will be impossible.
An excellent and simple method of systematically relaxing the body is to tense it as much as possible for some time and then release the tension. This appears contradictory, but if the reader tries it for himself he will indeed find that he can attain greater states of relaxation. Compare this with an elastic band. If you fully stretch an elastic band and then release it, it will reduce to a length that is even shorter than its normal unstretched length. All tension in the rubber is reduced to a minimum.
It is the same with muscles; tense them as much as possible for a short time and then release the tension. They will relax more than they are normally able. After experiencing extreme tension in the muscles one then experiences the extreme opposite. All the different parts of the body should be tensed in turn. It is best to lie flat on your back. Start with your legs and tense each in turn for as long as you are able without strain. Relax each completely for twenty seconds. Repeat the same procedure with the arms, fists, feet, abdomen, shoulders and finally the whole body. Then relax your body for a minute or so and start your meditation practice.
There are various obstacles to meditation. As already explained, the main impediments are physical and mental disturbances. Many physical ailments can be removed or
relieved by practising asanas and other yogic techniques, as well as by trying to meditate. Asanas are not described in this book and the reader is advised to refer to a book on asanas, such as Swami Satyananda’s Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha.
Mental disturbances of all types: jealousy, hatred, pride, selfishness, irritability, etc., can all be rooted out by a number of methods. The methods we have given in yamas and niyamas, together with autosuggestion, will be found very useful. Mental problems will also automatically disappear if the reader develops the method fully described in chapter 5, where self-identity is removed from one’s role in life and the mind-body, to the centre of consciousness. In this way external events as well as bodily and mental disturbances will have little or no effect on the individual, depending on the degree of perfection of the new identification.
What about states such as depression? This can be rooted out by the above methods. Another good method of removing it, if only on a temporary basis, is to chant Om as loudly as you can for half an hour or so, or walk in the countryside or the mountains and commune with nature. These are all excellent therapies.
Anger is another common hindrance to meditation. Its root lies in egoism and identification with the trivial things in life. Practise the method of ‘self-identification’ (see chapter 5, ‘Reprogram Your Mind’), or try to feel that you are part of existence as a whole.
Doubt is another hindrance to meditation. One often
wonders, before attaining any kind of transcendental experience, whether or not meditation might be a hoax, something that will never measure up to its high claims. If one feels in this frame of mind, read books on great saints or by people who are trying to describe their meditational experiences. You will find such enthusiasm and awe in their writing, that you cannot fail to reinstate your belief in the great transcendental experiences that lie ahead.
Use the methods given in this book to remove your mental disturbances or develop your own techniques. In this way you will remove the biggest obstacles to meditation. Often we have disturbances which we experience without knowing what the cause might be, due to an unconscious conflict, complex, fear, etc. Meditation is a method of recognizing and eventually expelling these problems. Yet at the same time it is difficult to meditate in the first instance when one is disturbed by these deep problems. To overcome this hurdle, one should first try to remove the known mental disturbances by autosuggestion. This will make the mind a little more relaxed.
Though meditation itself might be impossible, the practitioner will start to recognize manifestations of the deeper part of his mind coming to the field of consciousness. Many of these manifestations will be deeper conflicts. Once the conflicts, phobias, etc., are recognized, they can be removed through autosuggestion. It is a linked process; the more you purify your mind, the more you are able to meditate; the nearer you approach meditation or start to see the deeper aspects of your mind, the more you are able to remove your deeper, ingrained complexes. The
deeper you delve into the mind, the less your problems will become. Eventually transcendence will take place, perhaps even remain on a permanent basis, not only when you sit down for meditation practice.
The aim is eventually to transcend rational thought. When this occurs, meditation will take place. The aim of meditation is to dive deeper into the mind, beyond the realms of rational thought. Therefore, when performing meditation practices, try to reduce intellectualization as much as possible. Merely let the mind follow the mental actions necessary for execution of the practice. The practice of antar mouna is an exception in that in certain stages one actually uses the rational mind, but again the eventual aim is to transcend the intellect.
Object of concentration
Although any object can be chosen for meditation, it is generally found that objects with some deep meaning or significance for the individual are most conducive to attaining deep concentration. The mind is more likely to be riveted to the object and thereby less tempted to wander onto other thoughts. If the object of concentration has little or no significance to the practitioner, then the mind will surely wander and perhaps there will be a temptation to strain the mind by forcing it to concentrate. This will give mental tension, which is definitely not conducive to meditation.
The object should be chosen with discrimination. The practitioner might want to meditate on a form of God. If he
was born in a Christian country, it is more likely that he will attain success in meditation if he concentrates on Christ or any other figure associated with Christianity. If the individual comes from Asia, it is more likely that one of the incarnations associated with Hinduism or Islam will be more auspicious. This is not a hard and fast rule and there will be many exceptions, such as an Englishman who finds that Buddha is the ideal object of concentration. The reader must find out what is best for him by experience, by knowing his own background, and if he feels any identity with a particular manifestation of God.
The object of concentration need not be an incarnation. It can be anyone or anything, but again it is preferable that it is something that the mind automatically identifies with. For example, it can be a cross, the yin and yang symbol, Om in its symbolic form, a flower, the moon, a candle flame. It is important, we emphasize again, that it is something the mind is automatically attracted to, that the mind spontaneously wants to concentrate on without effort.
Often people consider that they are not really attracted to any particular object. Yet, after practising various other forms of meditation which do not require any special object, they suddenly find that while watching their mind a manifestation in the form of a vision or image shows itself. This symbol arises to the field of consciousness from the deeper realms of the mind. The awareness of this image will strike one with its intensity. He will find immediately that it has great significance for him, even though perhaps the same object previously had absolutely no meaning for
him. He might be very surprised at the form of the object, for it might seem very alien to his culture or way of life. When this happens, and it is a very common occurrence, this symbol should be adopted as the object of concentration. If necessary a drawing can be made of it and trataka performed on it, to develop the ability to eventually see a clear internal image.
Remember that it might be difficult initially to keep the mind on the chosen object. With practice, however, it will become easier. Only patience and perseverance are required. As pathways or habits are made in the mind, so the practitioner will find it progressively easier to concentrate on the object of choice. The mind will eventually automatically centre itself on the object, it will go in no other direction. Though a concrete object is the most useful in general for concentrating the mind, sublime ideas can be utilized for purposes of concentration. A few possibilities are love, compassion, infinity, eternity, existence and consciousness.