Meditation Practice

A recent session led by the Warden of Shanti Sadan

What does it mean to be truly awake? The usual meaning of ‘to awaken’ is to be roused from sleep. But there are added meanings and these are to do with insight—with something understood that was not understood before. We may even say: ‘At last, I have awakened to the fact that so and so is the case.’ And that understanding is permanently established in our mind until it is superseded by some greater and more profound insight.

In life we may, if we are fortunate, have several such insights. Each one produces a further advance in our understanding. From our point of view as people interested in meditation, let us consider a key insight—an awakening shaft of light—that can make all the difference to our approach to life. It is the clear realisation that our happiness depends, not on factors outside our self, but on our state of mind.

This may seem so obvious that it is hardly worth mentioning. And yet it is easy to miss this insight. Are not many of us convinced that fulfilment will come through outer arrangements, achievements and acquisitions? It is only when we find ourselves feeling incomplete and unsatisfied, despite our gains, that we may come to question the convictions that have so far guided our life.

A person of great wealth—a shipping magnate of international fame—was asked late in his life if there was still anything missing from his experience. He answered quite simply: ‘Peace of mind’.

Even among those who agree with this conclusion, and who also yearn for peace of mind, the way forward might not be clear. Are we aware, for example, that peace of mind is progressive? Do we understand how it can lead to self knowledge of the most fulfilling kind? Do we realise that many have thoroughly explored this possibility of an inner unfoldment of consciousness, and arrived at perfect peace? And are we willing to let go of fixed ideas about our character and development, in order that inner changes may take effect?

We have every reason to be thankful that we are in touch with safe and traditional methods that really will help us to progress in inner peace. These methods are presented in the form of our meditation practices. The instructions are simply expressed but the philosophy behind them is profound in its implications for our ongoing development.

The non-dual philosophy teaches that we are not just body and mind, but that underlying our experience there is a deeper reality which is free, infinite, untouched by suffering, transcending all life’s changes. No words can do justice to this reality, but it is indicated by such terms as consciousness absolute, pure being, supreme Bliss. This reality is with us and in us all the time. It is, so to say, awaiting our attention and discovery. And the most effective means of entering this depth in ourselves is through the peace of mind we cultivate in meditation.

We may ask: ‘Is this deeper reality some kind of ideal realm that our self will encounter and embrace at some future time?’ Not at all. It is the true nature of our self. It is an eternal truth and therefore applies to our own being at any given moment.

What bars us from recognising this fundamental fact about our nature? It is that our mind is filled with ideas that assume that we are the limited personality and nothing more. The deeper reality is not experienced by our senses or by our mind in its ordinary way of operating. So it seems to be non-existent.

In one sense we are the limited personality, and it is no good pretending otherwise. But this sense of self identity is based on our world view when our mind is active and extrovertive. The crucial point is that when our mind is not turned outwards, and when it is made inwardly peaceful, our view of the world and our view of our Self are very different.

But even if we disregard these deeper implications of meditation, we will find ourselves—through regular daily practice—capable of creating in ourselves a partial peace of mind. This limited degree of peace will help to relieve us from worry and tension, and add balance and harmony to our daily living. Any degree of control or leverage over our mental life is worth cultivating. And we will gain and mature this power through meditation.

The methods are direct and simple, but if we take them up, we will be able to influence and guide our thinking processes. We will learn how to fill our mind with thoughts and feelings that make for our deeper well-being. It is from this inner basis of stability, harmony and control, that we progress more deeply in meditation. This means that we become intuitively aware of that deeper infinite realm of the true Self.

The practice of meditation is based on the insight that our well-being depends on the state of our mind. This understanding, once gained, will never leave us. It will remain as a living impetus at the core of our being. And we will not be able to rest until we arrive at the greatest awakening of all. That final awakening is the recognition of the essential identity of our innermost self with that infinite Self that is the Self of all.

The practices we are going to do are designed to help us on both these levels: firstly, to lead us into peace of mind; secondly, to expand our consciousness in the light of the true Self. They are presented in such a way that we are kept conscious of the ultimate goal—self-realisation, because that goal is the truth about our inmost centre even now.

1. Inner Preparation

This is the time when our normal everyday thoughts can be set aside. We turn our attention to the source of our being. And we do this by sitting for a minute or two in reverence and calmness. Feel that this supreme consciousness is within and around you. Mentally bow to this infinite power.

2 Breathing Practice

Breathe slowly and deeply, drawing up the in-breath as if from the navel to the space between the eyebrows. With each breath, say silently: ‘Peace’.

This practice will help relieve us of tensions and pacify our mind. Once we have learnt how to do it at the dedicated time of meditation, we can do it during the day as opportunities present themselves. It will always have a beneficial effect on our mood, and our own calmness will have a good influence on those around us. Devote four to five minutes to this practice.

3 Visualisation

Our visualisation practice is:

Picture a blue, cloudless sky extending all around. Feel the freedom, vastness and purity of this great space. When other images enter the mind, let them dissolve in the blue sky.

By contemplating the sky as symbol of the infinite, we change our focus from the limited thought forms to that which is free and boundless.

The image of the blue sky is one of freedom and expansion. As we know, the sky is always there. We can lift our eyes to it at any time. Similarly the supreme consciousness is ever present as our own higher Self. It is the power behind the mind. Infinite as space, yet at any time we can turn to it and connect with it, so to say, through our thoughts. And if we do so, our mind will become receptive to help from the highest source within us. Spend five minutes on this practice.

4 Meditation Text

OM I AM THE LIGHT WHICH REVEALS
THE PASSING THOUGHTS.
I AM SELF-ILLUMINED, INFINITE, ONE IN ALL. OM

Our meditation text takes our understanding a stage further. Our attention is directed towards the ever radiant, ever infinite reality that underlies the mind. It is also the light that reveals our thoughts, the innermost awareness that itself transcends thought. This is identified as our true Self.

The text makes clear that when we say ‘I’, we are not referring to the Self in any personal sense. It is supra-personal—one in all. And we might add that this sense of being at one with all inevitably brings peace to our own heart, and harmony in our inner and outer life. Apply your mind to this form of meditation for six to seven minutes.

5 Closing Practice

Our own being is not separate from the being of the whole. Through meditation this ideal is seen as the fundamental truth. Let us end our session with a closing practice, and devote a minute or two uniting our mind with the whole, and sending out thoughts of peace and goodwill to all without exception.

B.D.

This article is from the Summer 2019 issue of Self-Knowledge Journal.

Cover of Self-Knowledge Journal Summer Issue