This power to sustain concentrated attention upon a single line or objective for a long time–a power so greatly admired by Napoleon–comes in the end to those who persevere in these practices.
There are different kinds of meditation. The elementary is concerned with holding certain thoughts firmly in the mind. The advanced is concerned with keeping all thoughts completely out of the mind. The highest is concerned with merging the mind blissfully in the Overself.
Meditation should be begun with a short, silent prayer to the Overself, humbly beseeching guidance and Grace…
The first part of the exercise requires him to banish all thoughts, feelings, images, and energies which do not belong to the subject, prayer, ideal, or problem he chooses as a theme. Nothing else may be allowed to intrude into consciousness or, having intruded by the mind’s old restlessness, it is to be blotted out immediately. Such expulsion is always to be accompanied by an exhaling of the breath. Each return of attention to the selected theme is to be accompanied by an inhaling of the breath.
Every time a thought rears its head, evaluate it for what it is and then push it aside. Every time an emotion rushes up, recognize it, too, for what it is and detach yourself from it. This is the path of Self-Enquiry, for as you do these things hold the will directed towards finding the centre of your being…
As the mind’s movement ebbs away and its turnings slow down, the ego’s desires for, and attempt to hold on to, its world drop away. What ensues is a real mental quiet. The man discovers himself, his Overself.
The wandering of thoughts stopped and the consciousness held steady, the next phase is to turn it–if he has not already started with that idea–towards the diviner part of himself in aspiration, in devotion, and in love. As he continues this inward focusing, the willed effort becomes easier and easier until it seems no longer needed: at this point it is replaced by something deep within coming up to the surface and taking him OVER. He should remain perfectly still, passive, embraced.
Concentration keeps the mind implanted on a particular thought, or line of thought, by keeping off the other ones. Meditation removes the single thought and keeps the mind quiet. This is an excellent state, but not enough for those who seek the Real. It must be complemented by knowledge of what is and is not the Real.
There is one human activity which is continuous, rhythmic, natural, easy, and pleasant. It is breathing. We may take advantage of its existence by combining it with a simple exercise to bring about a kind of meditation which will possess all these four mentioned attributes. The exercise is merely to repeat one word silently on the inhalation and another word on the exhalation. The two words must be such that they join together to make a suitable spiritual phrase or name. Here is one useful example: “God Is.”
The Arabic word for God–Allah–or the Aramaic (Jesus’ spoken language) word–Alaha–form excellent mantric material.
The repeated invocation of a sacred name, with trust in its saving power, eventually keeps away all other thoughts and thus focuses the mind in a kind of constant meditation. In the earlier stages it is the man himself who labours at this repetition, but in the advanced stages it is the Overself’s grace which actuates it–his own part being quite passive and mechanical.
By becoming mindful of the rise and fall of breath, by transferring consciousness to the respiratory function alone, thought becomes unified, concentrated, rested in a natural easy manner.
It is easier for almost all people to think pictorially rather than abstractly, to form mental images rather than mental conceptions. Although the more difficult feat is also the superior one, this fact can be utilized to promote meditational progress. The mental picture of a dead saint whom the aspirant feels particularly drawn to or of a living guide whom he particularly reveres, makes an excellent object upon which to focus his concentration.
If any light flash or form is seen, he should instantly concentrate his whole mind upon it and sustain this concentration as long as he is able to. The active thoughts can be brought to their end by this means.
One of the causes of the failure to get any results from meditation is that the meditator has not practised long enough. In fact, the wastage of much time in unprofitable, distracted, rambling thinking seems to be the general experience. Yet this is the prelude to the actual work of meditation in itself. It is a necessary excavation before the building can be erected. The fact is unpleasant but must be accepted. If this experience of the first period is frustrating and disappointing, the experience of the second period is happy and rewarding…
The following of these exercises is indispensable to train the mind, to create a habit which will make entry into the meditative mood as easy in the end as it is hard in the beginning.
Constant practice is more important for success in meditation than any other single factor.
Meditation that is not accompanied by a deep and warm feeling of reverence will take much longer to reach its goal, if it reaches it at all.
It is not merely an intellectual exercise. All the piety and reverence and worship gained from religion are needed here too. We must pray constantly to the Soul to reveal itself.
Always close your meditation or end your prayer with a thought for others, such as: May all beings be truly happy.”
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