Learn to Meditate: a 5-step guide
An introduction to the essential basics of meditation.
What a wonderful thing it is to learn meditation. With practice the mind becomes clear and peaceful, the heart is filled with an inner happiness, our life in every little part is coloured by the inner calm and joyfulness which meditation brings to the fore. Sitting in your favourite place you can learn to still the mind, discarding any distracting thoughts as you follow the breath within. Like sitting on a riverbank watching the water flow by, you watch the play of the mind with detachment, letting everything flow away as you enter into an inner stillness and silence.
Here in this tranquil inner space you are reconnecting with the spiritual part of your nature. This is not an imaginary world, an escape from reality – this is reality, this is what you are in your essential nature, this is what you will become.
If the outer life is the restlessness of the ocean surface, the constant movement of waves, then meditation is the silence of the ocean floor, the tranquility of the depths. Inside your soul, an ocean of peace lies waiting. If you practice meditation regularly you will gradually access this growing calm and happiness – and like the fragrance of a flower, the fragrance of the soul will permeate every part of your life.
Each of us begins meditation with a goal of our own – curiosity, a wish to overcome stress or become more peaceful, perhaps a desire to know ourselves and our potentials more deeply. As we achieve these early goals, new goals emerge and today's accomplishment becomes only the starting point of tomorrow's new journey. And as a flower opens and blossoms, so do we begin to see our own infinite capacities open and blossom and our life flower into a greater happiness, a deeper peace and a more abiding satisfaction.
One of the mysteries of life is that we don't really know who we are. We think of ourselves in such finite terms, as mind, personality, body, profession. But we are essentially spiritual beings trying to reunite with our souls, with the freedom and happiness of our true selves – we are eternal travellers trying to find our way home.
Begin by thinking of meditation as a journey – your own abiding happiness is the goal. If you are ready to begin this journey, then the guidelines in the following pages will greatly help you – and now is the best time to start. Come, let us explore the way forward together...
Our health is founded upon a relationship between body, mind and spirit – and the wellness of each part – and the physical body itself is only one component in the overall equation of well-being. This principle of holistics recognises that a stress free and happy mind and a blossoming spiritual life are major factors in our physical health. Just as stress and negative emotions silently erode our life force, so too the practice of meditation releases a new and positive life force – borne of inspiration, happiness, peace – into every part of our existence, creating the optimum conditions for vitality and health. With meditation even our sleep pattern can change – an improvement in quality, a likely reduction in quantity. More time and energy to live our lives!
Everything Starts Within
The way we feel and function in our outer life is determined to a very great extent by our inner life – our happiness, our confidence, our moods, our consciousness. We often have little power to change events in the outer world, but we can change the way we react to them. When we are happy and calm, difficulties and problems are easily coped with – when we are anxious or unhappy, the same difficulties can become nightmares. Our whole experience of life is coloured by our own consciousness – our life is the creation of our minds! Meditation balances the inner and outer worlds and brings out the bright colours of our nature – joyfulness, serenity, loving kindness, strength. These emerging positive qualities reshape our very experience of life, for everything starts within.
Sri Chinmoy - spiritual master and harmony inspirer
The 'Inner Pilot'
The writings of all the great sages and pathfinders over the centuries share many recurring ideas and truths – one of these is a belief in the wisdom and beauty of the human soul. Sri Chinmoy describes the soul as our 'inner pilot' – it is our highest Self, our truest Self, our in-house life guide. The more we listen to our soul, the more our outer life will flourish and prosper – and it is in the silence and stillness of meditation that the wisdom of the soul can most easily be felt and experienced. In everything of life – decision-making, problem solving, the search for fulfillment and purpose – the inner pilot is there to show us the way and we can learn to access it through our deepening practice.
The Soul's Special Promise
The great sages also tell us that each soul is unique and has something very special to accomplish on earth. It is by listening to our 'inner pilot' that we begin to feel and understand what our life's deeper purpose is and then our outer life becomes increasingly in harmony with this knowledge. The discovery and fulfillment of the soul's special promise brings us great happiness.
Power of mind
The many techniques employed in learning meditation share a common theme – harnessing and concentrating the power of the mind. By-products and benefits of this effort are numerous – an ability to focus and concentrate quickly, enhanced memory, a stillness in the meditating mind which enables us to access deeper, intuitive, creative and inspirational parts of our being.
Power of Heart
Sri Chinmoy places great emphasis on the spiritual heart in our quest for happiness, for it houses many of our most powerful spiritual qualities. A widening, deepening capacity for love; compassion for others; a oneness with all of life; inner wisdom; a desireless happiness, like the fragrance of an inner flower, spreading out into our life – a treasure trove waiting to be discovered! The heart is an egoless, unhorizoned consciousness and living 'in the heart' is one of the secrets of real happiness. One of the principle forms of yoga – bhakti yoga – is centered in the spiritual heart as well. Here, the power of devotional love is directed out to God and sees divinity in all things.
A Peaceful Life
Meditation will make you a very peaceful person. This peace comes about through a growing self-acceptance and self-confidence, and through an inner poise that comes from a deeper part of our being. This peace is not something passive and fragile – it is very powerful and dynamic. This kind of inner peace will lift you above success, failure, the positives and negatives of life – it leaves in us an adamantine poise and a sense of calm detachment in the face of life's changing fortunes and tribulations. People who have developed inner peace are very powerful.
Meditation is the awakening to our true nature, a spiritual path to enlightenment, self-realisation, oneness with God. This is why one should always feel gratitude for the impulse to meditate – we have consciously begun the great journey of awakening that lies at the very heart of all human life.
One of the nice things about meditation is that we don't need to know very much – we are not filling the mind with knowledge and technique but rather unlearning, emptying the mind entirely. Nor is there any dogma or belief system required – you only need to feel that you yourself can blossom into something more, that the nice qualities in your nature or the moments of peace in your life can be greatly multiplied.
Meditation is entering into the energising silence, inner peace and expansive happiness of the soul. But to reach this inner plane, you need to create the necessary conditions in your outer life which will support this self-discovery. The first secret here is sincerity – no matter how busy or demanding your outer life may be you need to commit to a regular daily time to practice and create a focal place at home where this practice can become established. Like a plant growing in the sunlight, your special place and special time will be sunlight to the soul.
Find a corner of your room or a small space that feels right – set up a low table with a clean cloth over it and place there a candle in a holder and a flower or two in a vase. Add one or two personal items if you wish – a photo of a spiritual master, some prayer beads, a meditation statue, whatever connects you to the feeling of spirit. You can sit there on a cushion, on a meditation stool or on a chair – whatever suits you. Ideally you should sit about one metre back, at eye level. Find some incense that you like as well – this creates a special feeling and adds a little of the ritual and the sacred to your practice. Simple, meditative music – a bamboo flute, a single voice singing a slow, peaceful song – can also surround us in an atmosphere of tranquility that quietens the mind, opens the heart. Every little thing like this will help us to get started.
Can we help?
Challenges and obstacles often arise in our meditation practice and these are a very natural part of our learning experience. Often a practical suggestion or a small shift in technique is all that it takes to leave these hurdles behind.
If you have any questions regarding your personal meditation practice that you feel we may be able to help with, please feel welcome to use our Contact Form.This course has been translated into: Japanese.