Meditation Practice: Peace and Bliss of my True Self
A recent session led by the Warden at Shanti Sadan
Meditation is an essential part of the focused life that culminates in Self-realisation. Through the power of attention and inner peace we cultivate in our meditation practice, our mind will gain a deeper understanding leading to lasting fulfilment. We will come to realise that our true Self is not the mind, with its strengths and weaknesses, but something far more substantial—something at the core of our being that does not change and is the pivot on which all our experience depends.
By ‘fulfilment’ is meant that which satisfies the deeper needs of our personality—the deeper needs that underlie our life. What do we mean by deeper needs? Generally when we use the word ‘need’, as in ‘I need’, it relates to the needs arising from our circumstances, based on our perception that we lack some necessary thing. There are household needs, and we go shopping. There are business needs, and we may consult a specialist. There are comfort or luxury needs—which are not really needs at all but desires for things we feel are nice to have, and so we say: ‘I need a new shirt to go with my jacket.’
But what are our deepest needs, and how can self-knowledge, brought to light in meditation, meet these needs?
First we can say that in this ever-changing world—which can spring surprises, disruptions and disappointments at any second—we need a source of inner strength in order to meet the multiple demands of life, and this implies a degree of detachment or inner independence. For whatever happens in the outer life—small losses or great—our most urgent need is to keep our mind in such a condition that these changes never make us feel: ‘I am lost—all is lost.’ It is therefore a great gift that meditation is founded on the recognition that there is within us a realm of being that is always at peace, and that we can learn to access this peace more and more as our understanding grows.
The second great need of human nature that is helped by meditation practice is our need for inner peace and the light of higher knowledge. When we turn within and become more aware of our state of mind, we need to know how to tranquillise the mental activity and increase our sensitivity to the pure experience that is ever present at the centre of our being. For within our own being—at its core—is our true identity, our ‘I am’, which is free from all limitations. In this endeavour, what matters is our ability and willingness consciously to calm the mental processes by means of the prescribed techniques. These techniques include concentration on a vital idea that points to our true nature. By this is meant a great thought which identifies our innermost nature as ever complete, pure, illumined and limitless.
In meditation we address these deeper needs and work on our mind in the light of the final solution: that what we need is to realise what we are—to realise that our true Self transcends the mind, yet is the pivot and fundamental Fact underlying—and making possible—all our experience.
Meditation nurtures our inner strength and patience if we practise regularly. It is partly a self-discipline, partly a self-joy, for there is a subtle delight in calming the mental process and infusing our inner being with a vital spiritual thought based on higher truth. Let us now come to our practices.
To turn our thoughts and feelings to this deeper level of our being, we need a peaceful mind and one that is alert and receptive. To prepare ourselves, we approach our meditation in an attitude of reverence and calmness. Reverence makes us open-minded—open to the pure influence that emanates from the deeper Reality within our own being. So let us sit for a minute or two in this awareness.
Breathe slowly and deeply, mentally repeating the syllable OM, hearing the sound O on the in-breath and M on the out-breath.
OM signifies the supreme consciousness, both as the support of the universe, including all minds, and as pure transcendence. Therefore it expresses all that is highest, and when repeating it, there will come into operation an inner force which sets in motion the purest associations within us.
OM may seem to be something outside us, a symbol from a cultural milieu that may differ from our own. But the more research we do into the meaning of OM, the more we realise that it is not external at all, but corresponds to the one unchanging reality within us. When we repeat OM to ourselves with calm attention, it becomes a dependable aid to inner peace.
In this practice, OM is not voiced but ‘heard’ interiorly through associating the natural sound of the in-breath with ‘O’, and the out-breath with ‘M’. In this way, we let thoughts be replaced with the pure light, peace and security brought about by the repetition of OM. Spend four to five minutes on this breathing practice.
Draw an imaginary line of light from the top of the forehead down between the eyebrows, down the nose, lips, throat, heart- region to the navel. Imagine this line to be a line of light, and rest your attention on it.
The line of light is to be imagined as straight, bright, interior to the body. We concentrate our mind on this column of light, as a region that is free of thoughts. The light is still and unchanging. It symbolises that in us which is pure, perfect, peaceful and untaintable—to which we can always turn for support and inspiration. We all have this region within us, this capacity, which is symbolised, through this visualisation, as a line of light. Devote five minutes to this concentration.
Meditation on a text
OM I WITHDRAW MY CONSCIOUSNESS
FROM THE BODY, SENSES AND MIND,
AND REST IN THE PEACE AND BLISS
OF MY TRUE SELF. OM
Our first practice—breathing with OM—strengthens our mind through our self-control and practice of concentration.
The line of light practice prepares us for a deeper understanding. It draws our attention to the centre of our being, both physically and symbolically, associating that centre with light, a light that transcends thought. The meditation text clarifies and deepens this process, leading us to the inner source of peace and light.
In the first part of the text, there is a deliberate turning away from one field of experience—the outer life and its image in our mind, represented as the activity of our thoughts. Instead of remaining at this level, we withdraw our attention from it for a short time. We do this by giving our mind something else to identify with: the peace and bliss of our true Self, the underlying reality that transcends both mind and matter.
It is to this immutable essence, our ever-constant, ever-present Self—denoted in some writings by the words ‘God within’—that we turn for freedom and fulfilment. In fact we do not have to turn at all—simply be. For this deeper principle or reality is our true Self. Through developing these practices, we can rest in it, be in it, so to say, and realise that we are it. Devote six to seven minutes to meditation on the text.
Our efforts to pacify and uplift our mind do have effects which go beyond our personal consciousness, just as a light in darkness, though apparently localised, spreads all around. So let us now share our deeper awareness, by sending out thoughts of peace and goodwill to all without exception.