Set aside a special, separate place to meditate. This could be a corner of a room or any quiet and private place. It is much better to have a quiet place to meditate because here you can build up your own vibration or feeling, and the other activities you’re involved in won’t interfere. The reason I say ‘separate’ is because each place in your house or apartment carries its own vibration. For example, the kitchen makes you think of eating or cooking. Therefore, if you try to meditate there, you will be distracted by those thoughts. If you meditate on your bed, the tendency will be to fall asleep. It is important to remain alert and conscious when you meditate.
Make Your Special Place Beautiful
Set up your special area so it is comfortable, inviting and inspiring. The mind will think up a thousand excuses why you can’t meditate today, so you have to trick it by loving your special place. It will be so appealing to you that you will be drawn to it first thing every morning.
Setting Up Your Meditation Area
Here are some suggestions: Get a little table and put a nice cloth on it. Place a candle and a flower in a pretty vase there for your concentration exercises. If there is something else special for you either of a sentimental or a spiritual nature, place it there also. Many people feel comforted to have a picture of their spiritual teacher or have a religious figure. A painting of Jesus or a statue of the Buddha or anyone you identify with is very helpful.
When to Meditate
Mediate as soon as you get up. Needless to say, the earlier you meditate, the better because earlier in the morning you are fighting off fewer distractions. Especially if you have a family, you’ll want to get up a little earlier so that you can have that special quiet time to yourself. This is the time that you can energize yourself for the day.
As soon as you get up, take a shower if possible, to wake yourself up, or at least wash your face and eyes. Brush your teeth so you will feel fresh and awake. If you think you’re going to starve, drink something very light like juice.
As I have mentioned previously, the Supreme or God can be whatever He, She or It is to you. Every religion and spiritual tradition see the Supreme in its own unique way and that is because the Supreme is not limited by our human conceptions. The Supreme is whatever you need Him or Her or It to be, whether it is personal, or in some traditions, impersonal. For example, ‘God’ could be Light, Truth or Energy. Try this exercise.
MEDITATION ON THE SUPREME
Sit quietly and breathe peacefully. Try to concentrate on your spiritual heart. From the depths of your heart ask the question: What is the Supreme? or What is God? Don’t immediately allow any preconceived ideas or notions of what you have been told. Allow your inner self which is in communication with the Supreme to tell you. Listen to your heart and hear what answer comes. Whatever you hear will be the right answer for you.
When I was young, I was sure I didn’t believe in God. To my intellectual mind God was a crutch for weak people who couldn’t rely on themselves. I was very existential. Then one day I heard that my grandfather was dying. Of course, my poor mother was very upset, and I found her in the basement all by herself crying. It was hard for me to see my mother cry, and consequently I found myself doing the strangest thing. I started to pray. “Please God, don’t let my grandfather die; my mother will be so sad.” This was such a spontaneous action; it happened before I even knew I was doing it. I said to myself, “What the heck am I doing? I don’t believe in God.”
Well, my grandfather did die, and I hope it wasn’t because I reneged on my prayer. The point is that calling upon God or the Supreme is so natural and spontaneous when we desperately need an all-pervading force to make sense out of our lives. And just to reiterate the power of the mind, I went right back to not believing in God again, until I seriously began to feel an emptiness in my life at age 19. Nothing external made sense to me anymore. People were inconsistent, full of emotional problems and full of ego as far as I could see. Even my best friends and all the things I thought brought happiness – money, relationships, good food, drugs, alcohol, family – none of those things completely satisfied me. There was always a degree of satisfaction, but it was fleeting- nothing lasted, and there was very little to count on.
When I turned to books on eastern thought, I read about people who studied meditation and about the concept of a Universal Being. This Being could be defined in many ways – it was not just the old man with a beard shooting down arrows and judgments. I immediately felt an affinity with this philosophy. When I met Sri Chinmoy, and he referred to the Supreme, a genderless, all-pervading, all-loving and unconditional Creator who put something of Him-or-Her-self into everyone, I could identify with that. When I began to meditate, it had nothing to do with the Supreme, but after some time I inwardly realized that my own highest self was none other than a part of the Supreme. I saw that I, too, could embody the attributes of the Supreme.
The more I meditated, the more I realized that perfection was what the True Goal was and that if I kept it up, I could eventually reach this perfection, and then I would be eternally happy and peaceful. It is a lofty goal and an ultimate reality for one who dedicated one’s life to meditation, but it is not impossible. One gets faint glimmers of this perfection in meditation. One sees and feels, even if it is only for one second, that all can be perfect, that all is really love and peace, but we just don’t allow ourselves to partake of it. Once you have had even a flash of that Universal Love and Oneness, there is no turning back. You want and need to find it again in your meditation and you will if you are regular and constant.
MEDITATING ON NATURE
Have you ever climbed a mountain and looked down at the incredible panorama, breathed in the pure, fresh air and felt ‘on top of the world’? Have you ever sat on the water’s edge at sunrise or sunset and felt the immense power of nature’s beauty? Maybe you’ve had your own spiritual experiences in nature. Its pristine purity reminds us of the beginning of creation, before humanity cluttered it up with cities and noise. In nature you can be alone with your Self, without outer obstructions to your peace. Ultimately your peace is within, and you can find it anywhere, but until that time it is helpful to remind yourself outwardly that peace can be felt.
Many of history’s greatest writers and poets have had their most profound experiences while meditating and writing about nature. Some of the greatest mystics had profound experiences sitting at the foot of a tree. The Buddha, for instance, had his Enlightenment experience while sitting under the Bodhi tree.
Next time you have the opportunity to be in nature, or if you live in natural surroundings, take the time to meditate on something that inspires you. For example, if you want to experience height, meditate on or on top of a mountain. If you feel the need for expansiveness, meditate on the sky. In each case try to become one with the object of your meditation. Identify with its main qualities and then try to feel the same quality inside yourself.
The very fact that you are inspired by an aspect of nature and that you can identify with it, proves that those very qualities do exist within you. Once you have identified with the quality, feel it grow and encompass your being until there is no difference between you and the mountain or sky. These qualities that you have brought forward from within yourself will stay with you throughout the day and will be there for you to call upon when you feel the need.
In the next chapter I’d like to introduce you to what Sri Chinmoy calls the ABC’s of meditation. These are some helpful hints that will enhance your meditation. Now that you have quite a few exercises and techniques under your belt, it’s important to know how to utilize them. Study the ABC’s carefully – you’ll find that they’re tremendous aids in meditating, concentrating and in your life in general.
Sit up straight and breathe quietly through your nose. Relax every part of your body. Close your eyes. Take your hand and point to the place in the CENTRE of your chest where you feel your inner self is. This is the place that wells up with joy when something wonderful happens to you. When you have found your spot, keep your hand there and place all your concentration there.
Now imagine a beautiful garden right in that spot inside your heart. See all the beautiful flowers. Place all your favourite flowers there and even try to smell their fragrance. Now, imagine that there is someone in the garden, a beautiful child – the most beautiful child you’ve ever seen. He or she is perfect in every way. This child is you and you are enjoying the beauty and fragrance of the flowers in the garden.
The child-you is playing very happily in the garden, receiving joy from the perfection and scent of each flower. Stay in this beautiful garden for as long as you want to. Feel all the tremendous sweetness, purity, spontaneity, self-giving love and peace that a very young child has. This is your soul, your inner self. Identify with these special qualities and know that they are the real you. They are there to call upon whenever you need them.
When you feel ready, leave the garden, knowing that it is your own special place that that you can go to any time you want. You are safe and peaceful there, happy and contented. In your heart-garden you have no worries, no concerns; you are like an innocent little child enjoying the beauty and sweetness of life as it should be. Even when you open your eyes and return to this world, the peace you felt there in your heart-garden will remain with you.
USING POETRY FOR MEDITATION
Poetry is a means of expressing the inexpressible. Poetry touches the deepest part of the reader, especially if the poet has tapped his or her innermost self to express something that will inspire others. Sri Chinmoy, my meditation teacher, was one such poet who ‘received’ his poems while in a state of meditation and expressed very profound thoughts beautifully and concisely through the medium of his poetry. An entire Phd thesis has been written on the poetry of Sri Chinmoy by Dr. Vidagdha Bennett from Melbourne University in Australia.
To use poetry as a means of entering into meditation is very beneficial. I have chosen a few poems here written expressly about meditation on the heart. Take each one as a meditation technique. Allow the words to bring you into your deeper self. Meditate on as many or as few poems as you like at a time. They are also useful to memorize and repeat at a time during the day when you need to be reminded to enter into the heart. The link to the source of these poems is underneath each one.
My heart longs to be dissolved in wings of air
And fly in the unhorizoned sky.
I long to open up all my heart-doors
In the delight of my liberation-life.
May my life begin with the breath of a new hope.
As you read or listen to each poem, try to see yourself as the main participant, the one who is doing the action sand receiving the results. It is your heart Sri Chinmoy is speaking about in each poem. Each of us has a heart that in reality is connected to the Universal Heart which is the source of all, the Supreme.
There is another very important aspect of meditation – faith. The more you do the meditation exercises regularly, the faster you will see results. But you must have faith in yourself and in the power of your higher self to come forward. The more you believe in your own higher qualities, the faster you will see them manifest in your life. Always give the best you can, be consistent, be regular (do at least one concentration and one meditation exercise twice daily), be open-minded and NEVER GIVE UP. I know I have said this before, but it bears repeating at this stage. You may feel determined at the beginning to meditate every day, but then you miss one day for some reason. DON’T STOP even if you miss. Try to do it every day, but if you can’t, do it when you can. Be determined to get to the point where you do it every day.
I started meditating 46 years ago, and I have never missed a day. That’s not to say that it’s always a good meditation, but I know instinctively I must never miss. This is true, especially for the morning meditation. It’s best to meditate very early in the morning, but again if you wake up late, meditate then. Try to make it the first thing you do every day.
I’m sure you wouldn’t go through one day without eating, in order to strengthen your physical body. Feel that meditation is ‘food’ for the inner body – for the soul. It must be fed for INNER strength. Just as your body and mind become weak and tired when you don’t eat, so your soul recedes and hasn’t the strength to affect your life positively if you don’t FEED IT. If you go for days without eating, you’ll get so weak you won’t be able to function normally. It is the same with the soul – your inner self. Try to respect your soul in the same way that you respect your body, by feeding it daily. The more you feed it with meditation, the stronger an influence it will have on your life.
What is a strong influence of the soul, you ask? First you will experience a peace you have never felt before, an inner calm that helps you deal with any situation in a rational, compassionate way. You will have more energy, determination, happiness, oneness with others – that is, a strong empathy with others. You will tend to see the good in others just as you will see the good in yourself more and more. You will begin to see more clearly your purpose in life, why you have been put on this earth and what gifts you have to offer.
Meditation gives you the capacity to discriminate, to see things more clearly for what they really are. Meditation increases your intuition. Those little hunches or flashes you’ll get are messages from your soul leading and guiding you to do the right thing. If you have a very strong ‘feeling’ about someone or something, and it won’t go away even if you try, you are definitely getting an inner message and should heed it. How many times have we said, “I should have listened to my first feeling?’
As your inner self comes more forward day by day as you meditate, you may notice your mind trying to get in the way. This a natural phenomenon. Up until the time you started meditating your mind was all you had to go on. The quality of the mind is limited compared to that of the heart or soul. Again, you’ve probably had the experience where your heart said one thing and your mind said another. If you followed the mind’s indications, you were probably sorry afterwards and said to yourself, “I wish I’d listened to my heart.”
With the meditation you learn to trust the heart, and you try to use the mind as an INSTRUMENT of the soul or higher self. The nature of the mind is to analyze and contradict. We’ve all had the experience where our mind tells us to do one thing one minute and the very opposite the next. It’s simply not reliable.
The mind is helpful if you are using it in higher mathematics or science or somewhere where the intellect is necessary. It is not useful if it is getting in the way of your inner peace. Remember that in meditation we are trying to silence the mind. Give it a rest! It needs it just as your body does. Let the mind play its role and the heart play its role, which is inspiration and aspiration for a more peaceful, happier, productive life.
For this reason, as I have indicated before, it is important to meditate on the heart. This is not the heart muscle, but the spiritual heart, which is right in the centre of your chest. Remember the exercise where you point to yourself and say ‘me’? You will instinctively point to that place in the body where your spiritual heart is situated. Of course, you would not find it if you had an operation to locate it. It exists on a subtler plane in the subtle body. The next few exercises will be specifically on the heart so that you can develop the habit of meditating there. If you make it a practice to always meditate with your inner self concentrating on that point within your chest, your meditation will be much easier and more productive.
If you feel that the breathing techniques have worked for you, you can try this more specialized technique involving a little more concentration and discipline. ‘Pranayama; is a Sanskrit word which means ‘control of the breath’. According to Sri Chinmoy: “Although we all breathe, most of us do not know how to breathe properly. Yet if we can breathe correctly we can free ourselves from disease and ultimately we can even defy death.” Sri Chinmoy, The body, humanity’s fortress, Agni Press, 1974
There are three steps in this curative reinvigorating form of breathing: inhalation, retention and exhalation. It is most effective if you breathe in the name of the Divine One in whom you have most faith. I call this Divine Being ‘Supreme’. I will use this term while explaining the exercise. You may substitute ‘Jesus’ or ‘Buddha’ or ‘God’ or ‘Jehovah’ – you get the idea. You are basically calling on Divine Power to act in and through you by means of the breath or Prana, which is divine energy.
Begin by breathing in ‘Supreme’ to the count of ONE. Hold your breath for four counts repeating ‘Supreme’ four times. Then breathe out for two counts repeating ‘Supreme’ twice. Your breathing pattern will be like this: IN: Supreme, HOLD: Supreme, Supreme, Supreme, Supreme. OUT: Supreme, Supreme.
Do this exercise only as long as you are comfortable. Stop any time you feel you are forcing it. Breathe normally and resume when you feel ready. This exercise has been known to conquer fear or nervousness and give immediate energy and courage. I have often used it before approaching a class full of new students. And in my other persona as a ventriloquist. I use it to conquer stage fright before performing in front of a large group of puppet–eating children.
Mantras involve another way to meditate, and it is one that is used around the world. I’m sure you’ve heard the word ‘Aum’. It’s a Sanskrit word which means ‘seed sound’. There are certain words which can invoke the deeper part of your being and help it to come forward into your conscious being just by repeating the words. Mantras have to be repeated within the framework of your meditation to be most effective.
Very often we have the inspiration and the need to meditate, but we just can’t calm our minds down. The next set of exercises I’m going to explain are specifically for this. They involve both concentrating on a specific word or phrase that will bring you deeper into yourself, and the repetition of syllables or words that will accomplish the same purpose. These are mantras.
In using mantras, you should invoke or call upon a spiritual quality such as love, light, peace or delight. As I have said before, these qualities already exist within youand they are just waiting to be called forward to play an active role in your life. They are desperately waiting to replace your old negative emotions and qualities.
Always try to remember that anything negative is not really you. You are your highest self and the more you call upon it by meditating and repeating these good qualities, the sooner the old negative ways will disappear. Your life will be filled with much more peace, light and joy. It’s basically up to you how much you want the higher to overcome the lower. The very fact of wanting it has already indicated that you are on the way to having it.
MEDITATION EXERCISE CHANTING MANTRAS
There are various effective mantras, but the most powerful and easiest to remember is AUM. It sounds like OM with a long O. It is very powerful way to begin your meditation, as it both calms your mind and energizes your entire being. It has been said that AUM is the sound that created the Universe Sri Chinmoy commented, Aum is the actual sound of the creation; it is the Originator, the Mother, the Breath of Creation. From the sound AUM, Creation came into being. Earth’s cry meets Heaven’s smile, part 3
So when you repeat it, either out loud or silently, you are creating your own powerful universe.
AUM should be chanted correctly to have the most effectiveness. The ‘M’ sound should last three times as long as the ‘AU’(OH) sound.
It is also most effective if it is repeated out loud. Sri Chinmoy says: “When one chants AUM out loud, one touches and calls forth the cosmic vibration of the supreme Sound.
It is best to chant Aum out loud, so its sound can vibrate even in your physical ears and permeate your entire body. This will convince your outer mind and give you a greater sense of joy and achievement.” https://www.srichinmoy.org/resources/questions_answers/aum
Repeat AUM out loud seven times. Feel the ‘A’ sound in your heart centre, the ‘U’ sound in the centre of your throat and the ‘M’ sound in the ‘third eye’ area. This is in between and a little above your eyebrows. Repeat it seven times or as long as you feel comfortable. After you have chanted it a certain number of times out loud ,try chanting it silently. You will do your silent chanting within your spiritual heart centre located
in the centre of your chest. Allow the experience to take you where it will. Feel that with each repetition of AUM, your heart is expanding with peace, which eventually will permeate your entire being.
Here is a variation on that exercise as explained by Sri Chinmoy: “When you chant AUM please feel that life-energy, divine energy, is entering into you through your crown centre.
The breath that you breathe in through your nose is very limited: but if you can imagine that there is a big hole in the top of your head and that life energy, cosmic energy, is entering into your body through that big hole, then naturally you will be able to accelerate your purification and increase your aspiration and hunger for God, Truth, Light and Bliss.” Sri Chinmoy speaks, part 5
MEDITATION EXERCISE WITH JAPA
When you repeat a mantra over and over it is called ‘Japa’. This repetition of a spiritual quality or Divine name can be very effective in keeping the mind occupied on something positive. It can eventually lead you into meditation where the mind stops and allows the quality you have been repeating, to come forward in your being. When you repeat the quality, try to feel it reverberating inside your spiritual heart.
Choose a quality that you feel you really need to bring forward at this moment. It could be love, peace (shanti), light or joy, etc. Sri Chinmoy suggests,
‘If you care more for the concept of peace, divine peace, then please chant the word “peace” inwardly or repeat it to yourself. Try to hear the sound, the cosmic sound that embodies that word. The word “peace” will be a seed-sound reverberating in the very depth of your heart. If you want light, then please repeat the word “light, light, light.” While uttering the word, chanting or soulfully repeating, please feel that you have become that word, or divine quality. Feel that your very existence, from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head, has become love, or the quality you are repeating. All your nerves, your subtle body, your physical body, everything, everything is flooded with love. The quality has that magic power. Love. Peace. Light. Delight. You choose the divine quality which you wish to embody and become.’ AUM — Vol.II-3, No.10, October 27, 1976
Another way to use Japa is when you are very frightened or need protection in times of crisis. If you can repeat the name of the Supreme over and over very quickly, your fears will disappear, and you will feel the protection of the Divine Force, which will inspire you to act appropriately. When you do this, you are effectively allowing the higher part of yourself to take over, and the Supreme will work through you to ensure that the correct thing is done to ward off the situation.
I know many people who have done this and used this ‘formula’ to get rid of would-be attackers and thieves. They repeated ‘Supreme’ over and over again out loud ,and the attackers took off. Never underestimate the power of your own soul, which is the instrument of a higher force of Divine Protection. Meditation teaches us this.
In the next chapter we will explore the power of faith.
Here’s a variation for when you are feeling sad or depressed. The imagination is a very powerful tool for changing the way we think and feel. More and more people are using the positive power of thought to make their lives more creative, fruitful and peaceful. If you can change your thoughts from negative to positive, you are effectively changing everything in your life. Countless books have been written on the power of positive thought. Sri Chinmoy stated:
By adding the purifying and powerful tool of the breath, you can enhance the power of your thoughts and create immediate, concrete results.
BREATHING EXERCISE # 2
This time when you breathe in, feel you are breathing in ‘joy’ or ‘happiness’. Imagine whatever it is that gives you a deep feeling of happiness. Don’t think of a fleeting happiness, think of something that always makes you happy. Feel that special joyful feeling as you breathe in through your nose and feel it spread to your heart and then to ALL parts of your being.
When you breathe out, exhale and expel the sadness or depression that is inside you. Imagine it flowing out of your nose and exploding into nothingness. Immediately breathe in ‘joy’ again. Continue doing this exercise until the joy and happiness have completely overtaken the depression. You will feel delighted and exhilarated, and you should be very proud of yourself. By allowing the positive to overrule the negative, you have made a very concrete step in your progress towards the goal of lasting peace and fulfilment.
BREATHING FOR ENERGY
We’ve covered breathing for stress and for depression, and now we will do one more breathing exercise for energy. We do many things to deplete our energy in the course of a day and not too many things to replenish it. This exercise can be done for only five minutes with hours of positive results. The longer you do it, the longer the effects will last. As with all breathing and other meditation exercises it is helpful if you sit with a straight back.
For the first version of this exercise you will breathe through the nose as you did before. Feel that each time you are breathing in, energy is entering into you. Feel that with each incoming breath a great flow of energy from the universe is filling your being with that same power. As you exhale, feel that with each outgoing breath all tiredness and weakness is leaving your body for good. Feel the fatigue or exhaustion dissipate into nothingness as soon as it leaves your body. If you have trouble finding the energy to breathe in, use your imagination. Visualize something that unleashes great energy, such as a surging wave in the ocean or a powerful electrical current. Or simply allow your own inner being to interpret the right energy for you.
Second Variation: This is another way of breathing energy. This time when you breathe in, feel that the energy is entering you from all parts of your body– through your eyes, your ears, your forehead, your shoulders, the crown of your head, etc. Imagine that each of these places is a door and when you breathe in you are actually opening this door. This exercise will fill your being with cosmic energy and will send you a lot higher than any caffeine fix or artificial stimulant.
Breathe Out the Negative
A similar exercise involves breathing out negative qualities or anything that is bothering you. Exhale what you don’tlike and don’t allow it back into your being! Let’s say you hate someone and sincerely don’t want to be filled with such a negative emotion. Imagine the opposite of hate, which is love, and each time you inhale, breathe in real love. Breathe out all the hate or bad feelings, and you will be filled with the new positive quality. Once again you will have rid yourself of a destructive force in your life, sending you forward on the road to happiness, peace and perfection.
(please see previous article, ABC’s of meditation, ch2, part 2.)
ABC’s of Meditation, CHAPTER THREE
BREATHING EXERCISES FOR STRESS AND DEPRESSION
Let’s face it – some days are going to be a lot more stressful than others. If you do your morning meditation exercise, you will be able to cope much better with those stresses, but sometimes you need to do something right on the spot. The boss wants it yesterday, the kids are sick, the fridge is on the blink; you just don’t know how you are going to survive one more second on this planet!
Wait! Don’t cash it in quite yet! Use this time-honoured, sure-fire quickie meditation technique. It’s fast, you don’t have to be seated, and nobody even has to know you’re meditating. It is your own little secret tranquilizer- natural , of course! Results are usually instantaneous. If you can breathe, you can do it.
From time immemorial, taking a deep breath has been known to calm a person down in times of stress. Breathing is one of the most ancient yogic forms of entering into higher, meditative states, especially by controlling the breath. Some yogis could actually control their breathing to the point of stopping their hearts – with no adverse effects! Yogic breathing can be extremely effective if it is done quietly, calmly and through thenose, not the mouth. Imagine you have a thread in front of your nose, and when you breathe in and out, it doesn’t move. That’s how quietly you should breathe for these next exercises.
BREATHING EXERCISE # 1
No matter where you are, stop for a second and consciously feel that you are breathing in peace. With each incoming breath feel real peace entering into your being. Say the word ‘peace’ or ‘shanti’ (Sanskrit for peace) and think of what the word means to you. When you exhale, still through the nose, breathe out all your anxieties. Feel as if you are expelling them, and as soon as they exit your body, they are gone forever. Visualize whatever you need to really get rid of them. Whatever works for you is the right thing.
This will all be happening very quickly, and your own higher self will deal with getting rid of all the negativity as long as you really let it go. Now immediately breathe in peace again and feel it calming your entire being down. Feel the peace entering into your system through your nose but spreading to every part of your body. Feel each muscle and each limb relax as peace enters into it. Then again expel any worries or anxieties that have remained in your being.
Take as long as you need to with this exercise until the peace is solidly transmitted to your system and all the stress-causing anxieties have been duly exhaled and expelled. I guarantee that you will FEEL LIKE A NEW PERSON. The great thing about this exercise is that no one even knows you’re doing it. But the people around you will definitely see a big change in you after you’ve done it. And please feel free to share this little secret – your living and working environment will surely improve drastically. I have suggested this to students before their exams, and they have felt it really helped them calm down!
(please see previous article, ABC’s of meditation, ch2, part 1.)
VISUALIZATION EXERCISE # 2
This is another visualization technique to help you enter into the depths of your own highest being. Close your eyes and picture the ocean or the sea. Now see yourself diving downward as far as you can go to the very depths of the sea where all is silence, peace and beauty.
Now identify with the vastness, the silence and the tranquillity. The stress and tensions of the outside world have remained at the top of the sea. They are like the waves and the turbulence, but you are not affected by them here in the silent peaceful depths. If you have thoughts, just imagine that they are like little fish swimming by. They don’t affect you or the tranquillity of the ocean depths.
Enjoy the peace and silence for as long as you can, and when you feel ready, slowly swim back up to the surface feeling energized and transformed by the beauty and the peace you have experienced. Know that experience is now residing within your own heart and that you can call upon it any time you need it.
VISUALIZATION EXERCISE # 3
This is another visualization technique that helps you to identify with the vastness of your own spiritual heart and helps you to see your place in the cosmic scheme.
Sit with your eyes closed and picture a rosebud inside your heart centre. Remember that it is situated directly in the centre of your chest. Choose a colour that is special to you. Colours have spiritual meanings; for example, pink is the colour of self-surrender to the Highest, mauve is the colour of Divine Grace, white means purity, red is power, and yellow is energy. 
Slowly see the bud inside your heart expanding petal by petal. The rose opens one petal at a time until it is fully expanded, and its heavenly fragrance is encompassing the entire room. The rose continues to expand until it fills the city, the province, the country, and eventually the entire world and universe. This tiny rosebud has blossomed from your heart and has become part and parcel of every aspect of your existence, and is in reality, part of the universe.
You and the universe share this beautiful, fragrant, soft, divine rose. Enjoy the feeling of oneness, of expansion, of peace and beauty, and know that it has come from within yourself. Now, slowly in your own time, see the rose beginning to close up. It starts in the universe, comes back to the earth, the country, the province, the city, your house, your room, your body, and finally closes back into its original bud form inside your spiritual heart. Do not allow any thought to disturb the peace and expansive feeling you are experiencing. Enjoy the experience and know that it is stored inside your heart to call upon when you need it.
(please see previous article, ABC’s of meditation, ch1, part 3.)
Hopefully now you have tried one or more of the concentration exercises (in the previous excerpt), and you probably have your mind under control. That is, your thoughts won’t be flying through your head like wild bats.
So, the next step is to move from concentration in the mind area to focusing on the heart area. When I speak of the heart, I am referring to the area in the centre of your chest. This area deep inside you houses your Essence, your inner Self, the real Eternal You, that which isn’t going to die when your body does. This Centre or spiritualheart, as it often referred to, is the part meditation puts you in touch with. Try this: Spontaneously point to yourself and say ‘me’. You will instinctively touch the centre of your chest. This is your spiritual heart.
Why is it so hard to find, you’re probably asking yourself. You and thousands upon thousands of people have been asking this question since the beginning of time. We also ask, “Who am I?” and “Why am I here, and what am I supposed to be doing?” The only way you are going to find out is to meditate. The answers are already there waiting and anxious to be uncovered by you.
The ‘real’ reality is like a beautiful piece of coral lying at the bottom of the ocean. You can’t see it when the waters are rough, but when they are calm, all the beauty at the depths of the ocean is there for you to behold and experience. Your active mind is like the rough waters, and the coral is your Real You.
THE FIRST STEP
The first step in meditation is learning to CONTROL YOUR THOUGHTS. Ultimately, you want to STOP them, but believe me, that is no easy feat. It takes years of practice. However, it is very easy to control your wild thoughts. The first step is to evaluate them.
Stop for a minute and listen to what’s happening inside your head. How many thoughts were good, happy, productive? How many were useless, mundane or counter-productive? It’s up to you to encourage and enlarge on the positive thoughts and eliminate the negative ones.
When I first started to meditate, I had terrible problems with my mental activity, so I asked Sri Chinmoy what I could do. He gave me a very simple and practical solution. He said to imagine that my mind was like my house and that positive thoughts were like my good friends coming to my door. Of course, I would open the door and welcome them. Conversely, the negative thoughts, I should treat as my enemies and just slam the door on them, as I knew they only wanted to harm me.
When I first tried this technique, my mind reminded me of an old silent movie where everything was speeded up. All I could visualize was doors flying open and doors slamming. Soon my mind calmed down, and I benefitted greatly from this discrimination of the positive and negative.
I’m sure it’s becoming clearer to you now that you have to train the mind to cooperate just as you would train the muscles when you are preparing for a sports event. It is a matter of practice and perseverance. If you keep doing the exercises every day, you will see results quickly, as millions before you have.
Now, we will begin some meditation techniques that will help you see images that evoke certain feelings within you. We call these “visualization exercises”. After you have relaxed, are sitting comfortably and have done one or more of the above concentration exercises, you are ready to visualize.
VISUALIZATION EXERCISE # 1
Close your eyes and picture a beautiful blue sky. Make it the most beautiful blue that you can imagine. There is nothing in your sky, no clouds, only blue vastness spreading into eternity. You long to become one with this sky. You want to merge with
it and become one with its infinite, peaceful vastness.
Feel yourself floating upwards into the sky. Don’t evaluate or analyze how – just know that you can and are making it happen. Take as much time as you need to feel that you and the vast, blue, infinite sky are one. Enjoy the feeling, experience the sensation of vastness, of Infinity. If you have any thoughts, see them as birds that are flying by and away from you. You and the sky are not affected.
If you have any fears or worries or concerns, just let them dissolve into the infinite blue and leave them there. When you are ready, slowly come back into your body, but don’t leave the peace and expansiveness of the sky behind. Know that it has become part of you and you part of it. Your own inner self is as vast as the sky – it is only for you to discover and experience it.
If at any time during the day you are feeling stressed-out or unhappy, that experience is lodged deep inside you, ready to be relived at your request. Because the meditative experiences invoke a reality that is part of you, they cannot be lost. Each meditation is stored within your heart as a solid part of your existence.
(please see next article, ABC’s of meditation, ch2, part 2.)
An excerpt from Chapter 1 of a book (A Beginner’s Course in Meditation) by Devaki Groulx:
(please see previous article, ABC’s of meditation, ch1, part 2.)
ABC’s of meditation, ch1, part 3: Concentration Exercises
Technique # 2: CONCENTRATION ON A FLOWER
Any flower will do, but I find a rose is best because of its beautiful fragrance and large petals. Make sure your back is straight and you are breathing normally and quietly. Concentrate on the entire rose. Identify with what the rose represents – beauty and self-giving. Feel these beautiful qualities within yourself.
Now look at one petal of the rose and see nothing but that petal. Now go back to the entire rose and see only it. After a few minutes close your eyes and see the rose inside your mind. See its perfect shape, its colour, and its fragrance. See nothing but the rose.
If unrelated thoughts come to you, ignore them and they will stop bothering you. They can only disturb your concentration IF YOU GIVE THEM IMPORTANCE.
Now FEEL the beauty, purity and joyfulness a rose exudes.
Identify with these special qualities and see them inside yourself. Picture the rose inside the very centre of your chest. This is where the real YOU abides. See the beautiful rose there and feel and know that your soul or spirit is beautiful.
Any time during the day that you may feel a little down, remember the beauty of the rose inside your mind and inside your spiritual heart (situated in the centre of your chest), and it will comfort you. This means the real YOU is starting to come forward. Sometimes you may find it difficult to concentrate on an object. If this is the case, you can try concentration on a WORD.
I find this very effective for focusing and quieting the mind.
TECHNIQUE # 3: CONCENTRATION ON A WORD
This word should evoke a positive and productive feeling inside you. I find the most effective words are spiritual qualities such a joy, happiness, peace , light, sincerity, honesty or anything you feel you NEED in your life. If you repeat this word out loud or silently, you will soon feel the essence of that quality filling your being. This is because you already have these special qualities within you and you are now recognizing them.
For a very special experience try repeating the name of God in whatever form you see or feel ‘Him’ or ‘Her’ or ‘It’. I have found the repetition of the word ‘Supreme’ over and over invokes a very special presence within myself and leads me directly from concentration into meditation. When you invoke a powerful word, it must be done with utmost sincerity and feeling. Repeat the word slowly and in a soulful manner. FEEL the essence of the word as you say it. FEEL it spreading throughout your entire being. If your mind tries to intrude with other thoughts, ignore them and go back to your special word.
Now you are ready to try meditation. In the following chapters we will explore various ways of achieving this wonderful state of being.
An excerpt from Chapter 1 of a book (A Beginner’s Course in Meditation) by Devaki Groulx:
(please see previous article, ABC’s of meditation, ch1, part 1.)
LEARN TO RELAX
You’re probably saying “But how can I relax if I don’t know how to meditate?” Meditation will put you into a very deep state of relaxation, but before reaching that stage you have to PREPARE YOURSELF TO BE RECEPTIVE to the effects of meditation.
Sit comfortably on a chair with a straight back or cross-legged on the floor if you prefer. Breathe in deeply through your nose and breathe out very slowly. Each time you breathe in feel
that a different part of your body is relaxing.
Start with the head, the neck, the shoulders – one at a time then the chest, your arms, your hands, the waist, the spine, each leg and each foot, and even your toes. After you have relaxed every part of your body you are ready to start with the first step –
Everybody needs to be able to concentrate to accomplish even the most mundane task, so it is crucial to be able to focus your mind before entering into a much more profound activity such as meditation.
Try this simple exercise: completely empty your mind of all thought for the next two minutes. GO! If you are like 99.9% of the population, your mental activity probably went something like this… “How can I still my mind?” … “This is ridiculous” … “No one can make their mind completely quiet” … “OK mind, shut up, will you?” … “OK, I’m quiet – hey, no I’m not. I’m thinking about the fact that I’m quiet.”“What will I have for dinner?”. “Shh, you’re supposed to be quiet…”, etc. Don’t feel badly – everyone has this experience. That’s why you have to learn to concentrate on one thing at a time and give it ALL your attention. This thing could be a sound, and object or even your own heartbeat. Try this simple exercise I learned in my theatre days to help actors prepare for a role:
Wherever you are sitting right now, stop a minute and listen
to a sound that you hear outside the room that you are in. Try to isolate one sound and listen only to it.
Next find a sound that is inside the room you are in. Isolate and listen only to it. Disregard the sounds from outside the room.
After a few minutes, stop thinking about the sound in the room and listen to the sound of your heart. Ignore all other sounds but the one inside your heart. If you think of something else, keep coming back to the sound of your heart beating rhythmically inside your chest.
CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve just accomplished the first steps in concentration. Here are some more techniques you can try. Before each one, you should make sure you are relaxed, preferably sitting in a comfortable chair. You can try these exercise lying down, but be forewarned, that great concentration state you reach may be dreamland. You need to be alert to do these exercises.
You may want to try these and other meditation techniques I am going to give you in quiet, peaceful surroundings. This doesn’t mean you have to move to the country. Just pick a time when the kids are at school or asleep and your attention will not be required. If necessary (and this is advisable for reasons I will reveal later), get up 15 minutes earlier so that you can have some peaceful time to yourself. I personally find that the earlier in the morning I meditate, the easier it is. When the whole world is peaceful, it’s easier for you to tune in.
TECHNIQUE # 1: CONCENTRATION ON A CANDLE
Sit with your back straight in front of a candle which is at eye level. Look at the candle from the bottom up until you see only the flame. Try to block everything out but this flame. Become so involved in the flame that you become part of it. If your mind plays tricks on you and tries to distract you with inane, irrelevant thoughts, just ignore it and keep going back to the flame.
Think of the flame as an illumining light that is giving clarity to your mind and burning away all UNNECESSARY, UNPRODUCTIVE thoughts. Allow your thoughts to be only of light, illumination and the burning aspiration to become happier, more peaceful and more purposeful.
Never be discouraged if you don’t have what you may consider success. It is all relative. When you start anything you have to go through a practice and learning period. “Practice makes perfect”, as the old adage goes. Sri Chinmoy’s motto is “Never give up!’
With concentration and meditation, as with life, there will be easier days and harder days, but I promise that the easier days will become more and more frequent with time and practice. If you had given up after trying out anything else in your life after not succeeding perfectly, you’d never have lived this long. You’d never even have started to walk as a baby because you’d have given up the first time you fell down!
Have the perseverance of a baby learning to walk, and you will experience the thrill of accomplishment in your concentration and meditation. And never give up because you are afraid of failure. Try to see failure as an experience, a way to learn and improve – a stepping stone to success.
Now that you’ve had your confidence boosted, try this next concentration exercise :
An excerpt from Chapter 1 of a book (A Beginner’s Course in Meditation) by Devaki Groulx:
Who Needs to Meditate?
Your life is hectic, to say the least. From the minute you get
up until the heavenly moment you drop off to sleep, your hours
are full – TOO FULL! By the time you’ve gotten yourself and
your family out the door, put in a day’s work, coped with the
daily responsibilities of domesticity, relationships, finances and
the like, you have no time left for yourself. Sometimes you’re so
stressed out, so pulled at from both ends, you feel like a taut rope
beginning to fray and maybe even to snap.
Perhaps another scenario suits you better. You’re pretty
happy, things are going well in your life, you have wonderful
friends and family, but somehow you feel that time is flying
away. Life is passing you by and you’re not quite sure what
you’re doing here or are supposed to be doing, Eating, sleeping,
going to work, attending social events – that can’t be all there is!
Maybe things are NOT going well. Your relationships are
in trouble, you hate your job, and nothing is the way you would like
It to be.
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you are ready to
learn to meditate. Meditation is so simple and basic. It has
brought results such as peace of mind, tranquility, clarity
of thought, confidence in oneself and humanity and a sense of
life to thousands all over the world. You can learn to
live life as it should be lived, regardless of your race, religion,
colour, sex or financial situation. You don’t have to be a
religious or mystical person. Meditation is for all.
I personally know hundreds of people including students,
business people, teachers, politicians, factory workers, artists,
athletes and members of every profession you can think of who
make meditation a daily practice in their lives.
I, myself have personally taught hundreds of people to
meditate, and most of them didn’t think they could do it! Practically
all had results almost instantly, and the rest noticed it very soon after they
made it a regular practice. My husband and I, in the last 35
years, have taught every age group from youngsters to
octogenarians. The only prerequisite is the willingness to set
aside at least 10 minutes a day. Everybody, including you, can surely find 10 minutes, which
could be the best time investment you’ve ever made.
Later, you can gradually increase the time.
Before I explain my step-by-step plan, let me tell you how I
got started on this road to a better life. I was 19 years old and
had a very nice, comfortable middle-class existence in a large,
interesting city. I was fortunate enough to have travelled a lot
with my family. I had lived abroad and seen many exciting
places. I had wonderful friends, a supportive family and a career
all picked out – I was going to be an actress!
So, what was the problem? I couldn’t explain it, but
SOMETHING was missing. There was a deep gnawing feeling
deep down inside me that I couldn’t identify. I just kept feeling,
“There has got to be more, doesn’t there?” Over and over I asked
myself this question. I pored through books on parapsychology,
the unexplained, the mystical and Eastern thought. It all made
perfect sense to me, especially books and articles written by great
literary minds who had turned to the Eastern idea of meditation
in spite of their Western upbringing.
Then I met a very charming and charismatic woman who had
been meditating for years. She had a certain indefinable quality
of peace and inner wisdom that I felt I wanted to have too. So,
gathering up all my courage, I asked her if she’d show me how
to mediate. She was so happy to help me and explained things
immediately. I knew she had a meditation teacher named Sri
Chinmoy – I was familiar with his work, as I had been reading
some of his books.
What she showed me was so simple I couldn’t believe I’d see
any results. She told me to practice every morning and evening
for 15 minutes each time. The specific technique she showed me
I will reveal to you later in this book. Because I want so much
to be like this lovely lady, I followed her instructions and had
immediate results. I was amazed. Things happened so profoundly
to my inner self, which I had just begun to discover, that I
changed my entire life.
I contacted my friend’s teacher, Sri Chinmoy, who was then not very
well- known, but soon became a highly respected and revered spiritual teacher. He accepted me as his student. This was almost 45years ago. Since then all the techniques I have learned and later taught to others, have come from him and his vast inner knowledge of the
higher Self. I am grateful that I can share them with you.
Now let’s step on to the road of self-discovery, to inner peace,
happiness and purposefulness through heartfulness meditation.
The best time to meditate is just after getting up each morning. A good night’s sleep will leave us refreshed and clear-minded, with no residual problems or worries rattling around inside the mind. Perhaps more importantly, you are less likely to fall asleep while meditating, because you are rested and ready to begin a fresh new day. If you do become tired while meditating, try some quick and easy exercises to re-invigorate the body. If you are a little hungry, perhaps a glass of juice or a fruit can tide you over until after the meditation.
Ideally you would begin your meditation at 6:00 am each day. The world is definitely in a peaceful state, the vibration around us is calm and quiet. Construction noise has not yet begun and traffic is less agitated. You may choose to have a shower before meditating, especially if it helps to wake you up and keep you alert. A shower is like a purification ritual, letting us begin the daily meditation process with a clean body. If you do meditate at 6:00 am, it is okay if you return to bed briefly to catch that last hour of shut-eye.
The good news is, there are a few other times through the day when it is also advisable to meditate. Many people get a lunch break, that is a good time, preferably before you eat your meal. It is always best to meditate on an empty or nearly-empty stomach. Meditating after a big meal is not optimal, as your body is very busy digesting, when you want it to be calm and still.
When you get home from work, is another great time. You can purge your day-to-day thoughts and worries, and perhaps open your heart more in preparation for a pleasant evening with your loved ones. Meditation can be used to eliminate mental concerns as well as become clear-headed.
Meditating before supper is great timing, since after a large meal you may feel sluggish or lethargic. While eating, chew thoroughly & try to feel that you are absorbing all of the positive energy and nutrients that your food holds, instead of gulping down the food in a hurry. Anything that we do calmly and consciously aids in our overall development of a beneficial environment for meditation to grow within us.
The next great opportunity to meditate is at sunset. At the end of the day, the level of activity, noise and disruption in the world around us is gearing down. Sunset is renowned as an opportunity to sit quietly and watch a beautiful natural spectacle, in case the sunset is visible to you.
Finally, meditating before bed is also advisable. This lets you once again clear away any disturbing thoughts or emotions that may have arisen through the day. Focusing on purity or light is a gentle way of enhancing one’s sleep pattern. By meditating before bed, you may find that you rest better, or may need fewer hours of sleep. Of course, this improves with time and practice, it may not be immediately evident for introductory meditators.
Finally, any time when you feel receptive is a good time to meditate. Some people like to supplement their main meditation with several short meditations through the day, very briefly, even as little as 2 minutes helps. One hugely important trick is to meditate every day, so if you have not done it yet, do it now!