There are many reasons for starting to meditate – seeking to reduce the stress in our lives, sharpen our concentration, improve our physical and mental health – yet all who continue with meditation, soon find that it beckons us far, far beyond anywhere we could possibly have hoped or imagined.
By showing the way beyond our reasoning, thinking and doubting mind, meditation not only releases us from all of the weakness, strictures and limitations of the mind, it guides us into the realm of the loving, beautiful, compassionate, wise, and expansive heart.
Meditation leads us from the finite into the infinite. This journey is not merely a process of incremental growth and integral improvement, though it starts as just that: it effectuates a quantum evolutionary leap in consciousness and a radical reorientation of our identity.
Our infinite heart subsumes, transforms and illumines all of our mind’s limitations, weaknesses, misconceptions, doubts, fears, anxieties, desires and attachments. For most of us, these form the most part of our assumed identity: free of them we are tethered balloons released to fly in the vast, vast sky.
Our transcendent and ever-transcending heart reveals itself as both the way and the goal of our journey – and of the game of life itself.
As a beautiful, fragrant flower blossoms from an unassuming bud, meditation reveals our very purpose, our supreme vocation – to explore and ultimately to become our infinite within, our highest and deepest self. No longer do we identify as doctor, student or nurse: we are a seeker, playmate and lover – of Truth and of God.
Our identity, our sense of self, blossoms from the finite into the infinite, the temporal into the eternal, the personal into the universal.
Roots are the source, fruits the goal. Roots represent raw materials, fruits the finished product. Roots are the inner world, fruits the outer world. It might be said that roots promote aspiration, while fruits attract desire. We are generally more attracted to fruits than we are to roots.
Of course the tree, like life, needs both roots and fruits to flourish. A tree may be judged by the quality of its apples, yet the greatest factor determining the quality of those apples is the health and strength of the tree’s roots. Healthy roots make healthy fruits.
Meditation is attending to our roots, to our inner existence, to the source of our consciousness, our all. There is no more important activity, none more influential and beneficial to the fruits of our health, wellbeing, happiness, success and spiritual progress – all of which grow and flow directly or indirectly from our inner consciousness.
Yet while the tendency of the modern world is to neglect the roots of our being in favour of our obsession with the fruits of our outer existence, the opposite tendency – to focus all our attention on the roots of spiritual practice and spurn the fruits of the outer world as meaningless or of no consequence – is also an unsatisfactory approach to life.
Roots exist under the ground to serve and nourish the fruits above. Fruits are the most delicious part of a tree, its offering and legacy. While it is essential to attend to our roots, to meditate and fathom our spiritual depths, nevertheless we are here in the world for a reason: to utilise the nourishment from our roots to produce ever-more beautiful, fragrant and nourishing action- and service-fruits for the benefit and inspiration of the world.
Yet how do we even know what our dreams are? How can we know what we ought to pursue?
There are so many ideas, ideals, possibilities, pathways and goals before and around us: how to discriminate between an alluring yet empty desire and what will really fulfil us; between what society expects or our family or peers are pressuring us to follow, and what will bring us deep, abiding happiness?
We are each unique. Just as a cow eats grass and a lion eats meat, and to feed a cow meat or grass to a lion will cause serious indigestion, so one person’s greatest fulfilment will be another’s endless suffering. Only we can find our calling, our own dream, and we can only find it within.
In meditation we strip away the superficial and reveal the real. As the prospector swirls his pan in the creek, all lightweight objects and common dirt is progressively washed away, leaving only the sought-after heaviest particles of pure gold; so as we clear the mind of its trivialities and preoccupation with appearances, we are left ultimately with that which is most solid, precious and essential, our inner gold.
Our true dreams are those we are destined to grow into and become. As the future adult is already there in the embryo, so is our future fulfilment embedded within us. The more and the deeper we meditate, the brighter become our dreams and goals, the greater our conviction and eagerness to pursue them, and the clearer the way and means to their achievement.
Meditation is an incubator in which all our possibility-seeds germinate; fertile soil in which our potentiality-trees grow tall; and the sunshine in which our fulfilment-flowers gloriously blossom.
To enter into a silent mind, we must summon all our hearts’ eagerness, intensity, determination and unwavering faith in our soul’s almighty power.
Always focus on the goal: no matter how alluring a thought or emotion may appear, know that it is directly blocking our entry into a realm far more beautiful, peaceful, loving, enriching and fulfilling, so avoid thoughts as you would landmines or deadly snakes.
Imagine you are at the Wimbledon Tennis Championship Final. You are utterly absorbed in an epic game, a cliff-hanger. You can’t take your eyes off the thrilling action. At a crucial moment, someone stands up in front of you, completely blocking your view …
That person is a thought in your meditation, any thought. While watching the game, the game is the only thing that matters; you cannot tolerate any interruption: similarly in meditation, meditation itself has to occupy your entire field of consciousness; you cannot allow any distraction, or you will miss the best part.
Always we must feel momentum in our meditation; the moment we rest or stagnate, we fall easy prey to marauding thoughts.
Imagine you are a speeding arrow, hurtling through clear air. Your aim is infinite space. Your focus is absolute, your speed faster than any thought, which simply cannot approach you. Your only awareness is of the vast infinite ahead and all around you: silent, pure, all-light, ever-expanding, intimate and nourishing. Take any and all thoughts as your enemy: they are bullets aimed to shoot you down, traps to ensnare you, thieves to rob you, viruses to corrupt you, hostile agents plotting to kidnap you – you must evade them at all cost. No compromise: if you let one in, you let them all in, and your meditation is finished.
“Meditation is no meditation When it becomes a victim To endless thoughts.”
– Sri Chinmoy
If our daily meditation practise is an endless train of thoughts because we have surrendered to them as to an oncoming illness or to old age, then we might as well as be chatting or watching television. To compromise in this way is to accept weakness and admit defeat. The task is formidable: while it is inevitable that we will stumble, inevitable we will falter along the way, we must always take setbacks as stepping stones to our ultimate success and victory. Never surrender!
Thoughts come to us in meditation pretending to be our friends, supporters and advisers, and we welcome them because we want to believe they are. So do we deceive ourselves and cut the legs from under our own meditation practise.
It is so easy to blame thoughts for their intrusion: yet it is we who leave our minds’ door wide open for them.
To enter into a thoughtless mind requires persistent aspiration, imagination, daring, courage, sincerity, integrity – and patience.
We must first yearn intensely for this exalted experience; then imagine it is possible and inevitable that we shall be successful in this endeavour; be ready and eager to cast aside all that holds us back – self-doubt, fear, hesitation, insecurity and pride, all preconceptions and even our accustomed identity; be ready to give up everything in the pursuit; and offer all of our self to the task as our sole imperative.
Half-hearted is not good enough. We cannot swim if we only half dive into the pool, and we cannot meditate if we allow part of our conscious awareness to wander elsewhere: our immersion must be complete.
Keep focused always, rest not til the goal is won!
To constantly progress in meditation we must always strive for a silent, empty mind. Only in a thoughtless mind can we experience the true peace, beauty, vastness, clarity, light and joy of our inner being; otherwise though we may have glimpses of our deeper reality, we are selling ourselves short and will never realise our potential.
To silence the mind is challenging because we are accustomed to living and operating from a milieu of thoughts, ideas, comparisons, prejudices, rationalisations and judgements. To extricate oneself from this labyrinth is like separating the pattern from a fabric – seemingly impossible. At a glance, we see the pattern – our outer appearance or personality – rather than the fabric, our inner reality. To identify as the fabric, we must see through our minds’ outer patterns.
Unless we consciously and intensely challenge thoughts in meditation, they will always persist like a background hum we don’t even notice after a while. We are so habituated to this hum, we even imagine it to be necessary and indispensible. Complacency is a great danger in our meditation practise: to accept the inevitability of background thoughts as part of the furniture, is to allow our meditation practise to slide into decline.
Every thought is a blot obscuring the sun, a smudge on the mirror, a germ breathed in, a weed in the garden. True, one blot, one smudge, one germ, one weed does not ruin everything, yet thoughts always bring their friends and soon proliferate uncontrollably: quickly and inevitably the sun is completely blotted out, we cannot see the mirror at all, we are sick in bed from the flu, our garden is overgrown. Our meditation is finished.
Our constant imperative is to not allow even one thought to disturb the sanctity of our meditation.
“Please secure your own oxygen mask before helping children and others around you.”
– airline seat-back safety card
In meditation I sit alone, avoiding others and eschewing all involvement and even thoughts of the outside world, my focus directed exclusively within myself with the avowed goal of my own self-improvement, personal benefit and greater happiness. Meditation would appear the epitome of an anti-social, selfish behaviour.
Yet there is no other activity ultimately more selfless or yielding of more profound and lasting benefit for others.
A doctor sick in bed cannot be of much help to anyone. She needs first to cure herself so that she can be of service to her patients.
The world is the sum of our collective consciousness. We are the world, each of us players on the world team. As each football player who practises his skills and works on his own physical fitness, helps raise the standard of his team so that it will perform better, so each of us who meditates to lift and expand our own consciousness, directly helps improve the consciousness and condition of humanity and the world.
The qualities most needed, both individually and collectively in the world are the security and poise of peace; the oneness and compassion of love; the clarity and wisdom of light; the joy and fulfilment of bliss.
We each become wholesale distributors of peace, love, light and bliss. Through meditation we locate and secure these precious commodities from their source, the limitless spiritual treasure house deep within, store them in the warehouse of our heart, and spontaneously distribute them through the retail outlets of our lives: our interactions with family, friends and acquaintances, our work, social activities and creative endeavours.
In meditation, selfish becomes selfless; my good and the common good are one.
This parable has been retold in many versions, including by Swami Vivekananda at the first Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893.
A little frog had lived his whole life at the bottom of a well. He knew no other environment and yet was content with his life. He had abundant food from the various insects that flew into the well and small water creatures that bred there, so in time he grew quite plump and fancied himself an authority on the world.
One day a frog from the valley happened to fall into the well. “Where are you from?” asked the well frog. “I’m from the valley”.
The well frog jumped from one side of his well-world to the other in two bounds. For him, there was no number larger than 2. “Is your valley as large as one jump wide, or somewhere between one and two jumps?”
“The valley is larger than can possibly be described. You can never jump across it if you continued leaping your entire life.”
Disbelieving, the well frog persisted: “What does your valley look and sound like? How does it smell? What do you eat there?”
The valley frog realised he could never adequately describe the profusion of colours and scents of valley flowers, its rich air, thrill of its birdsong, glorious sunrises and sunsets, majestic mountains or its gourmet variety of delectable insects. “You’ll have to come to the valley to discover these things for yourself.”
“Enough! You’re making this up! You cannot describe your valley because it doesn’t exist. You’re trying to trick me into leaving so you can steal everything here! Get out now!”
To the closed mind, our inner, spiritual realms can never be described. They can only be experienced and realised, so –
Our spiritual heart is a vast, beautiful, wonderful, delightful, sun-flooded garden we can never tire of exploring and enjoying. In the heart-garden all are welcome and all find perfect happiness.
In comparison, our mind is a small, narrow, cramped, cluttered, closed, dim dungeon.
Do you have a few minutes now to step outside the mind-room and into your heart-garden?…
Sitting straight and serene, close your eyes and follow your breath inward. Untie the ropes tethering you to the outer world, its fixed forms and phenomena, fancies and fears floating afar into thin air… focus all your being into a single simple, still, safe silence.
You are a beautiful child eager to play …
Your heart-garden is an endless series of gardens, each uniquely beautiful, remarkable, adorable and endlessly charming, of all delicate shapes, captivating curves, astonishing colours and ravishing fragrances.
Each plant in each garden is a marvellous world; each flower a galaxy of wonders; each petal a universe of perfection, a cosmic poem whose each word, syllable and inflection is a miracle complete. The smallest stick is a joyful toy to play with for endless enchanting hours.
Exploring each garden is its own exhilarating game; the more you play the better it becomes, the more you are energised, inspired and eager to continue. You laugh, chortle, whistle, sing and skip twinkle-toed all at once, a dancing fountain your tears of joy.
In your heart-garden you never grow tired; everywhere you look, everything you hear, touch, smell, taste and feel is new, surprising, thrilling, amazing. Everything and everyone knows you, loves you and treasures you. In your heart-garden you are both Darling and Emperor.
Your heart-garden is forever beautiful, perfect and ready just for you. The cost of admission is one pure thought, one kind gesture, one sweet smile…
“Weapons cannot cleave the soul,
Fire cannot burn the soul,
Water cannot drench the soul,
Wind cannot dry the soul.”
– Sri Krishna, from The Bhagavad Gita
“Above the toil of life, my soul
Is a Bird of Fire winging the Infinite.”
– Sri Chinmoy, “Revelation”
On a sunny day, if we build a mud hut and close in all the windows and the doors, then inside that hut it will be dark. Remove the walls and all is light. Fear is the darkness resulting from our mind-built walls of division and ego. As aspiration and meditation gradually dissolve these walls, the darkness of fear simply disappears.
When we cease to breathe and our heart stops beating, our physical body returns to the elements from whence it came, vital energy departs and the mind winds down to a final stillness. If we were only our finite members of body, vital and mind, that would be our extinction and perhaps something to be feared.
Yet in meditation we have practised silencing the clamour and demands of our body, vital and mind. As they withdraw, so much more is revealed behind, within, around and above them. In meditation we have entered into and discovered as more real than our outer world, the inner spiritual realm of ever-transcending peace, light, love and bliss. Our real self is our infinite soul, which can never be contained by the finite, by time or space and hence can never be subject to physical death. How can we fear that which has no dominion over us?
Most of us feel that we have a soul; through meditation we realise the truth that we are the soul.
No more the fear of death: the effulgence-liberation-light of our soul is the death of fear.
“If you are constantly
Afraid of death,
Then you can never
– Sri Chinmoy
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
– President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Against fear of death, meditation is the remedy.
It is an irony of human existence, that life can be miserable for the fear of losing our miserable life. Absent the fear of losing it, our life might be worthy of the fear of being lost. Fear, misery and death feed off and promote each other – all while we are alive.
We fear the unknown and what we cannot control. Meditation erases fear by offering the light of knowledge and wisdom of control.
Meditation is self-discovery. Our physical death is as much a part of our self as our life. Only by accepting and embracing all of our existence can we fully know ourselves. Only in self-awareness is self-control, and only in self-control is happiness and fulfilment. If we fear to enter the realm of death, we can never fully know ourselves: a life thus lived is spiritually dead.
Thus in life can be death, as in death is the connecting thread of life.
Life is a constant opening of movement, flow, discovery and progress. Spiritual death is a closing of stagnation, complacence, absence of growth and aspiration.
By fearing our future physical death, we ensure our immediate spiritual death and thus cripple the purpose and potential of our life. The fear of death kills us, even while we live and breathe.
Consciousness, like a balloon in the sky is never stationary, always rising or falling. Fear reduces and drags our consciousness down, while it is lightened and raised through aspiration.
To avoid going down, meditate daily to go up, up and up.
Energy comes in many forms: physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy, psychic energy. We derive energy from our food and drink, from air and water, from sunlight, colour, music, art and beauty, from action, interaction, inspiration, ideals and emotions. We also expend energy in many ways: physically, vitally, mentally and psychically.
In simple terms, anything positive in our lives energises us, while everything negative drains our energy. Thoughts can inspire, enthuse and uplift us, or they can dishearten and debilitate us. They can give us wings to fly, or drag us into the pit of despair.
While negative mental and emotional patterns are our greatest energy-sappers, all pointless mental activity is exhausting. Experience shows that the clearer our minds become through meditation, the less energy is expended on mental processes, the more is available for other tasks, and the more open we are to the inflow of further energy in the form of positive, uplifting thoughts and emotions.
The more active our minds when we go to bed, the longer before we can sleep. This is sheer wasted time. When we do fall asleep, much time is still spent “unwinding” our minds and clearing the mental clutter. Only once our mental activity has calmed, are we able to enter into the deeper states of sleep necessary for our bodies’ rest and revitalisation. The less cluttered our minds to start with, the sooner we will fall asleep and the less time is needed for this unwinding phase, and consequently the less sleep we require.
The less sleep we need, the more time and energy we have to enjoy life to the full.
Meditation is the most natural, reliable method to overcome tiredness and achieve better sleep, while increasing the supply of two priceless assets: time and energy.
Time and stress are intimately related. The pressure of time is the oxygen of stress. Without time and beyond time, there can be no stress; stress evaporates. So the surest way to alleviate and remove stress is to go beyond time. To go beyond time we must go beyond the mind – to meditate.
How can meditation take us beyond time? Thoughts, sensations and desires are the footsteps and markers of time. When we go beyond thoughts, sensations and desires, we are liberated from the awareness of time. Time measures the finite; when we fly into the infinite, we rise beyond time for nothing can measure the infinite. In pure meditation, the simple act of silencing our thoughts enables our ascent beyond the confines of the limiting mind and simultaneously frees us from the reach of time and its attendant, stress.
The regular practise of meditation not only takes us beyond the reach of time, it also creates time. The more time we have at our disposal, the less susceptible we are to stress.
How can meditation create time? Regular meditation enhances our capacity to focus, to concentrate our attention on one thing at once, to the exclusion of all else. When we can absorb ourselves utterly in one task, without the constant distraction of extraneous thoughts and desires, we are able to accomplish each task much more quickly and effectively. An activity that might take us one hour when we are being distracted, might take only 10 minutes when we are fully present and wholeheartedly immersed in the task: hence we have more time at our disposal. We have effectively created time, time for the fuller enjoyment of life.
Regular meditation = better concentration = extra time = diminished stress = more happiness.