Hide and Seek: The Power of Awareness
Meditation: Discovering the Inner Self
Simply put, meditation is consciously experiencing the subtler and subtler states of a thought, arriving at the subtlest state of a thought, and then going beyond that state to experience the source of thought, our true Self, pure consciousness.
In India, there is a popular analogy called “dyeing the cloth.” Cloth is immersed in dye and left in the sun to fade, setting a fraction of the dye permanently. This process is repeated numerous times, with each iteration deepening the color’s permanence. Similarly, in meditation, we delve deep within to experience the Self – absolute bliss consciousness. The mind becomes infused with samadhi, leaving a profound impression on the mind. As we return to activity and the effects of the experience fade, a small impression of that heightened state remains. By consistently practicing meditation, neutralizing our unresolved emotional impressions, releasing stress and fatigue, and continually immersing ourselves in the essence of the Self, we raise our vibrational frequency and imprint samadhi within. Eventually, we live our lives in a permanently expanded, joyful, and peaceful state.
Meditation emerges from the most natural and potent tendencies of the mind. It does not seek to control or resist the mind; instead, it fosters a climate of allowing and acceptance.
Classically, meditation is defined as the cessation of mental modifications; thoughts. This is stilling the mind. Yet, it is vital to recognize that the mind is inherently predisposed to think, and opposing its natural inclination is counterproductive. Meditation embodies the antithesis of resistance. This extends to our thoughts, emotions, and our capacity to remain neutral in the face of what is and what is not.
Our minds are almost invariably focused outward, influenced by the orientation of our senses. Yet, meditation gracefully reverses this trajectory, redirecting our minds inward. It becomes a journey within – a quest to unveil our essential Self, an authentic revelation of our true identity.
What Meditation is Not:
Meditation should not be confused with concentration, contemplation, or insight – all valuable practices.
Concentration entails halting the mind’s thought processes or attempting to tether it to a single point or particular thought or emotion. The mind naturally resists being chained, making concentration an arduous endeavor. Meditation, on the other hand, permits the mind to function unhindered, devoid of resistance. It is a practice marked by ease and effortlessness. In fact, the more we cultivate an attitude of effortlessness in our meditation practice, allowing our thoughts and emotions with equanimity, the more profound the experience becomes.
Contemplation or insight guide our attention inward, introducing a specific thought or concept for exploration. We delve into these ideas, allowing our inner wisdom to unveil deeper understanding. In meditation, we do not analyze, decipher, or comprehend our thoughts. We do not investigate or probe our thoughts. Instead, we grant them the freedom to be as they are, fostering a stance of neutrality.
Setting the Stage:
Before we embark on our meditation journey, it’s supportive to create an external environment that resonates with positivity, expansiveness, and upliftment. This external ambiance should be clean, serene, and free from clutter, consistently dedicated to our meditation practice. Over time, the energy of meditation accumulates in this space, further supporting our practice.
Taking a moment for stretching or gentle hatha yoga can help shift our awareness inward. Wearing dedicated meditation attire can also signal our intention to enter this sacred inner space. Accessories like a meditation shawl and an asana (meditation cloth) to sit on add to the vibrational energy conducive to our practice. Lighting a candle or burning incense, if it resonates with us, can enhance the atmosphere and elevate our vibrational frequency.
The physical posture we assume during meditation serves as the foundation upon which our practice rests. A comfortable and steady position is crucial, as any physical discomfort can disrupt the tranquility of the mind. In our body, energy flows through channels, and to facilitate this flow, we might find it beneficial to sit on a cushion on the floor, adopting a supportive cross-legged posture.
Maintaining proper alignment of the pelvis and spine is key to ensuring comfort and proper flow of energy. If we find that our back is rounding or our knees are elevated above our thighs, consider using a cushion or blanket under our sitting bones to provide the necessary height for balance. Gently rotate our thighs inward to open up our hips. Since the primary energy channel in the body runs along the spine, maintaining a comfortably elongated, upright spine is essential. Place the hands comfortably in the lap or on the thighs with palms facing upward. Allow the rib cage to lift, the shoulders to gently roll back, the chest to expand, and the back to broaden. Soften the throat and neck, allowing the chin to subtly move toward the throat. Balance the head evenly and lightly on top of the spine.
If we prefer to meditate in a chair, adhere to the same principles: maintain a comfortable yet upright posture with both feet resting on the ground at shoulder width apart. During meditation, aim to preserve a settled posture, but feel free to make minor adjustments if needed. Our comfort is paramount, as an uneasy body can disrupt the tranquility of the mind. Some individuals may find it more suitable to meditate while lying down.
Typically, meditation is conducted with eyes closed to facilitate going within.
Before commencing our meditation, it’s beneficial to set a clear intention. An intention infuses energy, direction, and purpose into our practice. We can align our intention with the highest wish, the broadest perspective, intending that our practice supports the enlightenment of all beings.
Since the body and mind are intrinsically linked, initiating our meditation practice with a few slow, deep breaths can relax the body and, in turn, relax the mind.
After a few deep breaths, return our breath to its natural rhythm. In meditation, it’s essential to allow our breath to flow naturally. The breath’s pace may vary as our awareness shifts from gross to subtle levels. While meditating, permit the breath to be spontaneous and unforced. Avoid any attempt to control our breathing, as the mind and breath naturally synchronize. Therefore, let the breath flow naturally, in harmony with our inner state.
The Inner Engine of Meditation:
What propels meditation inward? It is the intrinsic nature of the mind to gravitate towards fields of greater peace and happiness.
Despite the turbulence of daily life, our essential nature is one of silence and serenity. Within us resides tremendous energy, even if we’ve remained disconnected from this inner aspect. Our intrinsic nature encompasses bliss, love, vastness, peace, silence, and power. It is our attraction to these aspects of the true Self that powers our inward journey to subtler and subtler fields of thought.
Just as science reveals that energy exponentially increases as we delve into subtler levels of existence, our being has different layers: body, mind, emotions, intuition and consciousness. Each layer becomes progressively subtler and more potent. As we move towards the level of consciousness, our essential Self, we encounter heightened joy, power, peace, expansion and stillness. When we find ourselves in an environment of non-resistance and allowing, our mind naturally gravitates towards this most subtle level of expanded awareness.
For instance, consider a moment when we’re engaged in work and hear beautiful music playing. Our mind instinctively is attracted towards the music – a source of heightened joy and happiness. Similarly, our essential Self embodies bliss, love, peace, and well-being, and our natural inclination is to reconnect with it. The mind naturally journeys towards this field of absolute bliss consciousness, for bliss constitutes a core aspect of consciousness itself.
Meditation harnesses the mind’s inherent drive towards greater happiness. This natural inclination serves as the engine of meditation. Our role is to create a conducive environment that allows this process to unfold – a mindset of ease and allowance.
Our Approach: Allowing and Non-Resistance:
As we begin meditation, our approach plays a pivotal role. It’s essential to enter meditation without the desire to control outcomes or impose a specific result. Often, we’re attached to the idea of what meditation should be – quiet and devoid of thoughts. This attachment may lead us to resist thoughts or emotions that emerge, inadvertently creating more resistance.
Instead, approach meditation with an attitude of allowing. Free ourselves from preconceived notions about how our meditation should unfold. If we enter meditation with attachment – the expectation of a thought-free experience – or aversion – pushing against any thoughts or feelings that arise – resistance mounts. Allow what is – our thoughts and emotions – to simply exist. Approach meditation with the mindset of acceptance.
Meditation is not about striving, but about being and allowing. It occurs spontaneously, driven by the mind’s innate inclination to seek fields of greater happiness. Therefore, create an inner environment of non-resistance that fosters this natural process – one marked by ease, effortlessness, letting go, allowing, accepting and non-grasping.
The Vehicle for Going Within:
To embark on an inner journey, we require a vehicle – a focal point – a thought that holds our attention. In a state of allowing and acceptance, this vehicle can effortlessly draw our attention within, to the source of thought, the Self.
In the realm of meditation, where the primary goal is to delve within and access the finer, more blissful aspects of our being, a suitable vehicle is crucial. It guides our attention through the various layers of our existence, from the physical to the mental, emotional, and finally, to the realm of pure consciousness – the Self. In this pursuit, the mantra becomes our trusted vehicle, leading us progressively to subtler and subtler levels and eventually to the source itself.
The Natural Mantra: ‘So Ham’:
In meditation, we can employ a simple yet profoundly effective vehicle: the mantra ‘So Ham’ (pronounced So Hum). ‘So Ham’ is the inherent mantra of the breath, arising from our essential life force, or prana. This life force embodies our innate capacity to expand, create, and evolve.
In meditation, we undertake the inner journey. We follow the mantra from its more tangible, material form towards its subtler, less concrete, and most vibrational essence. As we do this, we transition from the coarser material manifestation of the mantra to an experience of our essential nature – the essential Self or pure consciousness, often referred to as ‘presence.’
Given that the mind is naturally inclined towards realms of greater bliss, it’s vital for the meditation process to unfold naturally, without excessive effort or strain. Adding effort only serves to draw the mind towards the surface.
Commence our meditation practice with 30 seconds of silence with eyes closed, allowing ourselves to effortlessly settle into our inner space. This creates an atmosphere of allowance, preparing our mind to shift from its outward focus to an inward state. During this time, take two deep breaths.
After this brief moment of silence, gently begin the easeful, silent repetition of the mantra ‘So Ham.’
Meditation, fundamentally, is about letting go. It involves allowing our natural inclination towards happiness to lead our attention towards the Self or pure awareness. To achieve this, effortlessly focus our attention on the mantra, repeating it easily, effortlessly and silently. Rest our awareness on the mantra without exertion. This state of relaxed attentiveness is known as ‘effortless effort.’ In meditation, we employ ‘effortless effort,’ signifying that this practice requires minimal exertion. Attempting to forcefully control our mind or the mantra will only bring it closer to the surface and external focus.
During meditation, rest our awareness on the mantra without any strain. Initially, the mantra may seem distinct and solid, but as we delve deeper into meditation, it might transform into a softer, less defined form. As our awareness experiences subtler layers of the mantra, it can evolve into a mere impulse or gentle vibration. Simultaneously, our physical breath may naturally become shallower as we access increasingly subtler realms of experience.
The mantra might naturally change. Repetition could slow down or speed up, and the mantra might feel clearer or fainter. It can be experienced as a pure impulse of energy or a subtle vibration. In meditation, we journey from the surface to the subtle, from material to vibrational and energetic.
As we travel inward there comes a moment when we go from the subtle experience of the mantra and then transcend the mantra, entering the stillness that is the state of samadhi or pure consciousness. Embrace these natural transitions, and allow the mantra to vanish as we transcend it, entering a state of Self-awareness devoid of thought.
These moments in stillness will invariably result in a return to thoughts.
Embracing Thoughts with Acceptance:
Thoughts, in their essence, are the dynamic products of our mind, arising as impulses of creative intelligence sourced from pure consciousness. It is, indeed, the very nature of the mind to think. In the practice of meditation, when we do not accept ‘what is’, we inadvertently create a resistance, which runs counter to the spirit of meditation – allowance. Accepting and allowing thoughts, then, becomes a vital component of this practice. It is through this act of allowance that we create the conducive environment for our minds to explore subtler layers, allowing the mantra to be attracted to fields of greater awareness and happiness.
In meditation, the act of allowing and accepting thoughts is the key that unlocks deeper levels of experience. This neutral stance, devoid of judgment or resistance, sets the stage for a more profound experience. We must recognize that all thoughts are but varied forms of consciousness, expressions of awareness. Such a neutral, non-judgmental attitude is paramount in meditation.
As thoughts and images naturally surface during our meditation, it is essential to maintain this neutral stance. Watch these thoughts pass by like clouds traversing the sky, without the urge to become entangled or analyze them. These thoughts may vary in nature – some beautiful, some painful, some intriguing, and some vexing. Yet, our response to all should remain the same: neutral, allowing, accepting. In the realm of meditation, there is no room for analysis, judgment, or resistance when it comes to thoughts.
After we commence the effortless repetition of the mantra, our minds often wander and thoughts take center stage. We seldom recognize the transition from mantra repetition to thoughts. We become captured by thoughts and forget we are even meditating. We tend to, at some point, become less captured by the thoughts and think, “I am thinking and not repeating the mantra.” Our practice is to easily return to mantra repetition. This natural phenomenon is an integral part of the meditation journey. When we become aware that our attention has veered away from the mantra, our task is simple: return gently and effortlessly to the repetition of ‘So Ham.’
Many of the thoughts that emerge during meditation are indicative of ongoing integration and purification process. They serve as signposts, signaling that positive transformations are already in motion. Our tendency is to analyze, inspect, resist or even write down our thoughts. This is not what we do in meditation. We accept them and witness them. We allow them to arise, allow them to be as they are, and allow them to pass away.
Should we notice our attention slipping from the mantra to a thought, our course of action is simple – effortlessly and easily redirect our focus back to ‘So Ham.’ The primary objective of meditation is the inward journey towards the essential Self, thus effortlessly returning our attention to the mantra is pivotal.
In instances where thoughts assert themselves with particular strength, making it challenging to return to the mantra, we can opt to passively witness these thoughts or feelings without becoming entangled. Do not force the mantra to compete. Witnessing diminishes thoughts potency, facilitating an easy return to the mantra.
It is essential to remember that meditation should never be a forced endeavor. The mind, by its very nature, is resistant to constraint, and the goal isn’t to forcibly suppress thoughts. In our meditation practice, we are embarking on a spontaneous journey following the mantra to its source. Meditation is a practice rooted in ease, and the act of repetition of the mantra should be gentle and effortless. Thoughts arise in meditation with a similar sense of effortlessness, and returning to the mantra should mirror this sense of ease. Being drawn inward to experience the Self is equally effortless.
In the realm of meditation, when thoughts arise, they may alter the focus of our awareness slightly. This shift occurs because our attention temporarily shifts outward to engage with a thought. This marks the outward momentum of meditation. However, as we continue to repeat the mantra, its power and the pull toward inner bliss – the Self – gradually reorient our awareness towards a state of stillness, consciousness, and Self-realization. This signifies the inward momentum of meditation. This ebb and flow, this alternation between the mantra and thoughts, the transition between the gross and the subtle, the inward and outward momentum – these are all intrinsic facets of the meditation journey.
Typically, meditation has a predetermined duration, usually 15 to 20 minutes before breakfast and before dinner. As our meditation time concludes, take several minutes to gently transition out of this meditative state. Always do so gradually – keep our eyes closed for one to two minutes, move slowly, perhaps rub our hands together, take a few deep breaths, or stretch leisurely. Allow our attention to gradually return to our physical body and the room.
In commencing our meditation practice, we might offer thanks, bestow blessings upon others, or dedicate the fruits of our practice to our own enlightenment and that of the world. Such acts gracefully conclude our practice and set our expanded state into motion, deepening our understanding of giving and receiving while nurturing gratitude.
Much of this book is about revealing our true Self and the resolution of suffering. Meditation can be, for most people, the most significant technique to accomplish both.