It's easy to become a little overwhelmed by the amount of information about meditation and this short section is to simply focus on some of the essentials. The saying 'you have to bite the apple, not discuss it' is a useful reminder that everything we need to know about meditation is already inside us and will simply emerge out of our practice. In Sri Chinmoy's lovely words "Your mind has a flood of questions. Who will answer them? Your silence-loving heart."
Some Key Meditation Secrets:
1. Start with sincerity – set achievable target goals and commit to a regular daily practice time and to setting up a personal space or shrine dedicated for this purpose. Make your meditation place inspiring and special. Sincerity means prioritising meditation over everything else during your practice time – no phones, no distractions, no other responsibilities. Treat your daily meditation as a golden opportunity, a sacred time – if you say to yourself 'I have no time to practice today' you have failed to understand how much your meditation will change your outer life in a hugely positive way. Everything starts within! From sincerity, too, an inner habit will develop and after some time your meditation will become spontaneous – the inner compulsion will never leave you. At the beginning meditation is something unusual. Later, not to meditate will be unusual. Your inner pilot will compel you to meditate – it is your soul's necessity.
2. Meditate in the spiritual heart centre where so many of our powerful spiritual qualities are housed, and bypass the busy mind. The heart is like a vast sky, an unhorizoned realm of consciousness – peacefulness, silence, vastness, an expanding love, oneness with others, delight, are all found here. Work with some of our heart exercises to familiarise yourself with this form of meditation – it will become very powerful through practice.
3. As you learn to access your spiritual heart more, you will begin to feel a sense of aspiration, the longing of the soul for freedom, happiness, fulfillment, satisfaction. This conscious inner cry will steadily grow inside your heart and pull you towards your goal. Aspiration is the heart's mounting cry for true fulfillment. It also brings intensity and enthusiasm and makes you always want to go higher, deeper, farther – you try always to go beyond, far beyond your present level of attainment. Folding the hands over the heart centre intensifies aspiration and gives us the feeling of meditation as a special and sacred activity.
4. Sincerity and aspiration act like a magnet and attract, as the child's cry draws the loving concern of the parent, a special concern from the higher worlds. Sri Chinmoy calls this 'Grace' – the compassion of God flowing into our life, our meditation. If you believe in God in some personal way or have some feeling of your soul's connection with a divine, benign intelligence, this secret is enormously powerful. Your meditation is less self-reliant, self-effort and more a gift of Grace – everything will be given to you by God because you are His child and He (or She) loves you. Feel like a child when you meditate and call out to the loving parent to help you find your way, to give you the experiences you need and to keep you moving forward along the best path for your self-discovery.
5. The habits that shape our lives can either help or hinder our progress – and we ourselves can best judge their impact on our spiritual life. Remember the principle of holistics – the mind-body-heart-soul interconnection – and that what we do in one part of our life will affect all the others. The physical body, for example, needs to have well-being, fitness and vitality to enhance the quality of our meditation – if we are unwell or physically restless, even sitting still in a chair for ten minutes to meditate will be very difficult. Exercise helps the body to have stillness, to co-operate in the effort to cultivate inner peace. Many spiritual paths also recommend a shift towards a more vegetarian diet – the food we eat impacts on our consciousness as well and affects the energies in the body, mind and subtle nervous system. Smoking, drinking and drugs are a common feature, too, in our modern lifestyle but from a spiritual point of view they diminish the purity of our mind and body and slow our progress.
The body can be a temple – or a dungeon. You choose! But an energetic, pure, disciplined physical is a perfect foundation for the blossoming of our spiritual life – body/mind, physical/spiritual go together. Feel open enough to embracing new things, not caught by your own habits to the extent that you no longer even have the freedom or willpower to change them. An excellent selection of Sri Chinmoy's writings on this subject can be found at Body-Mind-Spirit.
Thus lifestyle is important – if you meditate deeply, then wander off to a horror movie or watch television all night it's rather like pouring water into a bucket with holes in it. All your inner wealth will drain out of you. Sri Ramakrishna, a great spiritual master from the late 1800's, sometimes illustrated this point in a striking analogy to three different kinds of dolls. Here the doll represents a seeker, a searcher of truth – one doll is made of salt, one of cloth, one of stone. If you lower the salt doll into the ocean, (the ocean of ignorance/the world), it will simply dissolve; the cloth doll will be saturated with worldliness but yet retain some of its shape and spirit; the stone doll will remain untouched and the water will simply run off it. If you want to become a stone doll, able to move about in all of life with your spirituality undisturbed and intact at all times, then be careful what you do. Let your meditation and the inner guidance it will provide show you how to perfect each little part of your nature, show you the things to do or not to do in your outer life.
6. Another secret of meditation is the great advantage you may find in following a particular spiritual path which is like a specific route up a mountain. Each spiritual path has its own practices and guidelines so that your way forward becomes increasingly defined and specific, a series of sequential steps and recommendations that lead you progressively towards your goal. The path that you may eventually commit to will also be discovered only as you yourself become ready and through your regular practice of meditation and your aspiration. Where before you may have dabbled in many different forms of meditation and read widely, now you begin to zero in on the best possible way for you to proceed. This is not a mental decision or choice but again an inner feeling emerging out of your blossoming – the path is inside you and will be discovered there as you become ready.
7. If your meditation and your spiritual life are very important to you perhaps the greatest advantage of all may come your way – the opportunity to have a real teacher. A spiritual teacher is not simply another of the many people who will come into your life at different times to help you, but a spiritual guide or guru of the highest. Guru means the one who brings illumination – a real guru is a highly evolved spiritual master who can transform your journey from an often stumbling and uncertain walk into a high-velocity sprint towards self-realisation, enlightenment, God. A spiritual master is your private tutor who undertakes to guide you on your journey and has the capacity to greatly expedite your progress. It is a great blessing to have a living teacher of this kind. This kind of teacher sees everything about you at a glance – your soul's best way to meditate, how to remove the blocks and obstructions that mar your practice, the steps you need to take to move forward quickly.
A spiritual master has journeyed to the furthermost realms of consciousness and knows the path well. In them you see your own highest potential, your own true nature manifested. Their peace, poise, wisdom, compassion, detachment and measureless calm are what you yourself can one day claim as your very birthright. The guru-disciple relationship is immensely special but this privilege has to be earned through an attitude of openness, a willingness to change and a warrior like dedication to the goal.