The Art of Meditation
The Monkey Mind
It has been called the “monkey mind”. It is that stream of consciousness that keeps flitting from one thing to another like a monkey jumping from branch to branch
Even when you are concentrating your mind drifts off to fantasise about something you are going to do next weekend or an unresolved problem you must face tomorrow.
But you have the power to stop the antics of this monkey mind and achieve the “quiet or still” mind that is essential to develop your spiritual nature. Meditation is the method for exercising this control.
An Inner Centre of Peace
As the pressure of the world increase and multiply, many persons are turning to the practice of meditation as a step toward a calmer life, toward the release of strength and wisdom in their lives, and most important, toward direct realisation of the wellspring of strength and peace within themselves.
In this spiritual search we must not lose sight of the fact that it is an inner journey. For just as the ocean has quiet depths, untroubled by agitation on the surface, so has every human. In those depths—the true centre and source of all that we are—abide stillness, peace and beauty. And we can reach this inner centre
Consciousness focused on the inner centre can release the power of the divine potential that is true spiritual nature of every man and woman. But most of us, engrossed in the activities and self centred endeavours of everyday life in the physical world, shut out our spiritual nature and the light that flows through it from the one Energy Source
It is a natural law that our attachments and our constant busyness—our fears, desires, habits, doubts and judgements—severely limit the amount of power we take in.
By meditation we can remove the obstacles so that the door to those spiritual levels of consciousness can be opened. Then creativity and inspiration flow into our lives, reducing the urgency of our problems and allowing us to express love and peace in all that we do.
Meditation is perfect stillness—silence of the body, silence of speech, and silence of mind.
To find stillness of mind we have to learn the delicate art of allowing our actions, our thoughts and our feelings to be whatever they are, but not let them control us. We cannot force the mind to be still, but we can withdraw our consciousness from its restlessness. Meditation is our deepest natural state -our pure consciousness—which we experience once our minds stop being busy. It is difficult for us because it is really doing “nothing”—it is just being what we are .
A Science Centuries Old
Meditation has been a central focus of most spiritual traditions, but because it takes place in silence and alone, it is less well known than more social practices like preaching and singing , However, precise instructions in meditations set down thousands of years ago by the Indian sage Patanjali, are still available to us today, stressing the need for a pure life based not on greed and sensuality, but on harmlessness, truthfulness, simplicity, and contentment.
Patanjali’s first instruction to the mediator is to “hinder” or slow down the “modification” of the mind—to stop it from identifying with, or responding to, stimuli. He then sets out the following four steps necessary to master the art of meditation:
To observe with undivided attention develops the awareness or “mindfulness” that is essential in meditation. We must be continually aware of the conditioning that lies behind our thought-feeling and try to act more and more from the centre of stillness, which is our real Self.
Concentration is necessary to discipline the “monkey mind”. We must learn to hold the mind steady on a physical object an idea, or a revered figure, and bring it back when it slips away. The mind tries to take control, but by carefully watching the process of our thinking we can learn to ensure that we and not the mind, determines the content and activity of our consciousness.
Meditation proper begins where active thought ceases and one becomes aware of the inner meaning of the object of meditation. It is like going from one-pointedness to no point and thus experiencing wholeness.
In this final stage the meditator becomes completely one with the object of meditation. This brings about an expansion of consciousness that lifts one out of the little self into a greater Self . There is no longer an “I” and an “it” being meditated upon. There is only the One Reality.
How to Meditate
Each person tends to have his or her own way of meditation, but the following general techniques are common to all traditional methods:
- Meditate regularly at the same time each day in a private place.
- Sit in a comfortable position with spine erect.
- Relax all muscles- deep breathing is helpful.
- Deliberately withdraw your attention from all outer stimuli.
- Practice one of the specific techniques outlined below.
- Radiate the peace you have experience outward to the world.
- After about 15 minutes slowly come back to normal consciousness.
As aids to stilling the mind, several specific methods are used by meditators, some of which are outlined below:
A. Concentration On Breathing
Concentrate on the breath going in and out of the nostrils. Do not try to count breath; let them flow naturally, but focus your awareness on breathing. This keeps your concentration in the present moment—the only gateway to higher consciousness.
B. Using Mantras
Mantras are words that by their special vibrational qualities, link us with the spiritual levels of consciousness. Chanting a mantra like the ancient Indian “Om” (amen is the English equivalent) is a powerful aid in meditation.
C. Focusing on an Object or Idea
A symbol or an aphorism such as “I am one with the Divine” can be used as a focus to initiate meditation.
D. Emptying The Mind
Many meditators simply try to empty the mind or still its activities, knowing that if this can be achieved an expansion of awareness will follow.
Techniques that interfere with one’s control of the mind are not recommended as they can cause serious harm to the individual both physically and psychologically. The use of drugs as aids to meditation is also discouraged, for though they may open up paranormal awareness, drugs do not take consciousness to spiritual levels. In fact all practices that either promise to awaken psychic faculties or encourage the meditator to give control of the mind to external agencies are not part of true meditation.
The Purpose of Meditation
The ultimate goal of meditation is the same as that of yoga—to allow the individual self to experience the greater Self, the Oneness which we can think of as God or Nature.
This experience is the greatest spiritual achievement any individual can enjoy.
Suggestions For Further Reading
- Approaches to Meditation Virginia Hanson, ed.
- Meditation: A Practical Study Adelaide Gardner
- Finding the Quiet Mind Robert Elwood
- Concentration and Meditation Christmas Humphreys
- Concentration, An Approach to Meditation Ernest Wood
- Why Meditate? Vicente Hao Chin, Jr
- The Silent Encounter Virginia Hanson, ed.