‘In meditation we consider carefully divine things and we pass from one to another, so that the heart may feel love, it is as though we would strike a flint, to draw a spark of fire. But in contemplation the spark is struck – the love we were seeking is here. The soul enjoys silence and peace, not by many reasoning’s but by simply contemplating the truth. Meditation is the means, contemplation is the end. The one is the path, the other is the end of the path’.
St Peter of Alcantara
The word meditation from latin = meditari – to think, to dwell upon or exercise the mind and mederi to heal and medha a Sanskrit derivation = wisdom. In Tibetan language it means to become familiar with and to cultivate positive thoughts.
There has been an increasing interest in meditation for some time and people have taken up meditation for a variety of reasons. Some feel that it is a means of reducing stress and tension, for others a means to increase their ability to concentrate or become more spiritually aware.
The workings of the body and mind are intimately connected and the quiet, relaxed mental state reached during meditation has corresponding effects on the body. The quieter the mind becomes the more rested and still the body grows. Meditation has a wonderful soothing effect on the nervous system, which benefits all the bodily systems.
It is generally agreed by people who meditate, that the quiet state of mind reached during meditation leaves a feeling of relaxation, a renewal of energy and is very uplifting. This then gives much more meaning to life.
What meditation actually is cannot be answered in words alone, it is something to be experienced through practice, rather than be described. People who begin meditation automatically alter their approach to life as it brings about a change in the individuals perception of reality.
Anyone with an interest in meditation must realize that discipline is required; the giving up of a little time each day is important. This is not easy at first but there will come a time when you would miss your quiet time if it was denied you. We all know how important practice is; Swami Sivananda says that ‘ an ounce of practice is of much more benefit than a ton of theory’.
The second aphorism of Patanjali is – ‘Yoga is the control of the thought waves of the mind’.
(read Mascaro’s Upanishads P60, part 3)
So, what do we need to do to help control this wayward mind? We can: –
- find a quiet place; one that is draught free and warm enough, for it is very difficult to meditate in a place that is either noisy or cold. A place that you can keep solely for meditation, where you may put some flowers and a candle; a place that is conducive to a feeling of well-being.
- find a comfortable seated position that can be held without strain for about twenty minutes; so you may need a cushion, a stool or a comfortable upright chair.
- cultivate a passive attitude, not expecting an instant state of concentration/meditation for it takes time to gently draw the mind back to the object of concentration. Patience is needed before total one-pointedness is achieved and it could be that this only occurs after many ‘sittings’, but like Robert Bruce we try and try again.
- find a means whereby concentration is encouraged i.e. through the means of a mantra, or some pranayama/breath control, etc.
‘Day after day, let the Yogi practice the harmony of the soul; in a secret place, in solitude, master of his mind, hoping for nothing, desiring nothing.
Let him find a place that is pure and a seat that is restful, neither too high nor too low, with sacred grass and a skin and a cloth thereon.
On that seat let him rest and practice Yoga for the purification of the soul; with the life of his body and mind in peace; his soul in silence before the One’.
There are many different methods of concentration that lead us into meditation. We need to choose that which suits us best. These different ‘paths’ or ‘methods’ can be divided into three areas: – Sight, Sound and Breath.
The use of sight, involves the focusing on a visual object like a lighted candle, crucifix, concentrating on a colour or visualization.
When sound is used it is often by use of a mantra or gong.
‘With upright body, head and neck lead the mind and its powers into thy heart; and the OM of Brahman will then be thy boat with which to cross the rivers of fear’.
The use of pranayama, breath control is a very good way to quieten the mind. Simply observing the slow movement of the breath is help in itself.
‘And when the body is in silent steadiness, breathe rhythmically through the nostrils with a peaceful ebbing and flowing of breath. The chariot of the mind is drawn by wild horses and those wild horses have to be tamed’.
We can also concentrate/meditate on abstract ideas, such as love, peace or compassion. This is not so easy, so may be practiced later than subjective meditation.
As with everything else, practice makes perfect. Perseverance is important.
“During concentration, one keeps a tight rein on the mind, during meditation the rein is no longer necessary for the mind stays of its own accord on the single thought wave”.
“Meditation is a movement of thought limited within a circle but in contemplation there is a silence of thought. Meditation is the mental activity of the thinker, contemplation is the silence of the poet”.
Many of you will have seen the above before, so please forgive the repetition
Eventually/hopefully, unless our routine is broken, the above discipline will mean that mediation stays with us. In other words we are constantly in a state of meditation or shall we say more often than not ‘for Yoga comes and goes’. As stated in my last message (July), it is a state of watchfulness.
Mantra practised for some time becomes part of our consciousness just as the peacefulness felt in meditation. Those of us who use mantra regularly know how it just surfaces unexpectedly and those times when all around is in turmoil, we are relatively unaffected and can act from our still small centre, decisively and purposefully because we are not troubled by the constantly incoming multitudinous thoughts and feelings that are contagious.
Practise of any kind is important, we are given techniques to follow until one day we do not need them anymore as we live in a state of constant watchfulness. We become the mantra which keeps us constantly in tune with the infinite. Even here we can slip back for already said ‘yoga/union comes and goes’. So vigilance is needed for it is too easy to be complacent.
No need to search anymore for answers or different approaches for if you have to keep searching it could be because your practise/discipline or faith has not been adequate of that life’s traumas have kept you away from your practise. You may have spent a long time endeavouring to practise techniques that do not suit your temperament.
To recognise the Divinity which is ever-present, the essence of all is not an easy task. To believe that we are pure divine spirits can be difficult. We live in two worlds simultaneously, the world of the spirit and this material world. The material external world tends to restrict our view of our true nature which is pure spirit. Meditation can be a way to understand and become in tune with both.
Meditation has many added advantages, just to name a few – it helps us to see more clearly, listen more attentively and walk a little slower!
Yoga – to yoke, to bring balance between the two worlds in which we live but also to realise the union between what we call ourselves, the Divine and all that is.