The importance of spiritual reading

Everyone learning meditation has to deal with one common and recurring challenge – how to quieten the busy mind. The mind is the restlessness of the ocean waves, always moving – meditation is the silence of the ocean floor. Rather than always being an adversary, however, the mind can also become an accomplice in the quest for inner peace. It responds to music, it is inspired by lofty ideas, is curious about the possibilities of meditation and can become a channel through which many of our deeper and creative talents and feelings can find expression.

One very effective way of preparing the mind for meditation is to read about a spiritual subject for ten minutes or so before you begin your practice. This displaces all the other energies and thoughts in the mind and replaces them with inspiring and positive thoughts. Spirituality lifts the mind up above its preoccupation with everyday things – it becomes inspired about its own new possibilities, co-operative and willingly calm during your practice time, responsive also to the subtler feelings and energies of the spiritual heart. But you need to be careful what you read – avoid intellectual or excessively 'mental' books about meditation or anything that over-stimulates the mind with thought.

One text that has been an enduring source of guidance and help for me is Sri Chinmoy's wonderful guide book – Meditation: Man-Perfection in God-Satisfaction. We each have our favourite spiritual books and this is a standout favourite for me. Here's why...

The great spiritual masters who have lived on earth over our long history are like pathfinders who have made the journey of self-discovery before us and pioneered new paths for seekers like ourselves to follow. Their writings and teachings, their music, the legacy they leave behind, is like a map of the journey that we ourselves have now begun and helps us greatly in finding our own way forward. They are like mountain guides who, having navigated their way many times up to the mountain summit, come back down to show others a sure path up to the high peaks.

In Sri Chinmoy's writings we find such a gift. Having attained through years of intense practice a very advanced mastery of meditation, Sri Chinmoy is a teacher whose knowledge of meditation flows from direct insight and experience. With the authority of one who has climbed to the mountain top, he sets out each step, each stage of the journey with clarity and common sense.

Mountain and Sri Chinmoy

Meditation is a landmark classic, an anthology of meditation techniques ranging from simple to advanced and containing a wealth of practical advice and inspiring teachings for the inner traveller. Each chapter offers a theme topic about some essential aspect of meditation – including mastering the essentials; meditation in the spiritual heart; mantra and japa; increasing receptivity; practical applications of meditation; finding your spiritual path; problem-solving through meditation; the role of diet and exercise; the role of the Guru. And helpfully, each chapter, too, has a question and answer section featuring Sri Chinmoy's responses to the most commonly asked questions and problems encountered during practice. It is a wonderfully comprehensive and helpful book about meditation and a standout among the many that I have read – it has the insight and power of direct experience, direct truth. I sincerely recommend it to all those who have an interest in mastering meditation.

So, in summary, immerse yourself for a time in a little preparatory reading. This will bring inspiration and understanding to the mind and align the mind with the aspiration of the heart to meditate. We are bringing into our lifestyle a proven and positive habit that will help to create the conditions in which our spiritual development can flourish. As though magnetised by the energies and currents of spirit, the different parts of our being will swing more and more towards the pole of enlightenment, happiness, inner peace. Through small additions such as this our meditation can blossom.