“Remember your highest meditation,
Then with your determination
Give life to that imagination.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Sometimes, meditation comes easily and effortlessly. Other times, no matter how hard we try, we can’t escape a maze of thoughts and distractions. We’re like a bird, which despite running and flapping its wings, just can’t get off the ground.
At such times, one of the most effective techniques to launch us into flight, is also the simplest: just remember once when you had a good meditation.
Consciously recall a particular time when you had a deep and satisfying meditation, and make that memory the focus of today’s attempt. Recreate every detail of the scene in your imagination – the sights, sounds, impressions and most importantly, the feelings of that experience. Surrender to the essence of that meditation-moment and absorb yourself fully in the thrill of its expansiveness, soaring beauty, unconditional love, clarity, freedom and all-immersive oneness.
It is very helpful to keep a spiritual diary, in which we record impressions of lofty meditation experiences. Then when the time comes to re-read what we have written, a particular word or phrase might be the trigger to unleash an inner flood of bliss – first in our imagination, and then for real, blossoming in our heart as conscious reality.
Just as remembering traumatic events brings forward negative thoughts and emotions, and recreating happy or funny moments produces an immediate smile, so recalling a good meditation can effectively revive the breath and reignite the flame of that meditation within us.
As meditation is self-discovery, every profound meditation is a glimpse of the spiritual treasure we house. This treasure never goes away, though it sometimes hides or is covered over. The act of remembering removes that veil, and lo! – we are inhaling sublime meditation.
“Seek truth in meditation, not in mouldy books. Look in the sky to find the moon, not in the pond.”
– Persian proverb
Wouldn’t we all like to know the truth? Not just the relative truth about who pulled the trigger, what causes hay fever, or is the earth really flat – but the absolute Truth of all existence.
We have looked around all our lives and drunk deep of outer world experiences. We have joined with science in its admirable struggle to discover truth in the material universe, and while making wonderful progress in our understanding of how cicadas ‘sing’ and what induces magnetic polarity to switch, still we are no closer to knowing who we are, where we have come from, or where we are ultimately headed.
We all somehow sense that there is such a thing as Absolute Truth, this Absolute Truth is attainable, we must be part of it, and it must be within us. So to find it, the only truly reliable place to seek must be within our own consciousness, beyond the boundaries of our present knowledge and the mechanisms of our present way of knowing.
Indeed, the quenchless thirst for Truth is one of the oldest, most compelling motivating forces drawing us into meditation and the spiritual life.
We – and the Truth we embody – are infinite. The Infinite can never be grasped by our limited, limiting and ever-changeable minds. While our mind lunges at truth, our heart embraces and reveals truth. While our mind’s speculative theories constantly change, our heart’s oneness with peace, love and joy ever deepens, expands and radiates.
Sri Chinmoy answers our eternal question perfectly and poetically:
“O Lord, where is the Truth?
‘Where your Beloved is.’
Who is my Beloved, Who?
‘In Whom your life is Peace.’”
“Each time you enter a new year,
Be determined not to bring
Your old self with you.”
– Sri Chinmoy
“Unfortunately, we do not pay enough attention to the new year which takes place every second in our lives. The new year is not just twelve months or 365 days. It is something that begins at every second in our life of aspiration.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Each New Year we make resolutions. Sadly, like turtle hatchlings emerging by the thousands, precious few of our resolutions make it across life’s perilous beach to the ocean of fulfilment. Year on year, the same story…
Why do so few resolutions survive? Because our human nature is stronger than our human will. For our resolutions to bear fruit, we must access our divine will and divine nature, which are one and the same.
So the only resolution worth making, is the one that can bring forward our divine nature: self-transformation. Transformation can never be forced or mandated: it can only grow and blossom naturally, from the fertile soil of meditation and spiritual discipline.
The New Year is certainly significant: yet in the spiritual life, every second, every moment is significant, for inside each moment, Eternity breathes; inside each breath, Infinity sings; inside each heartbeat, Immortality dances.
The old to be torn down and replaced is not around us: it is within our thinking, criticising, dividing, suspecting and limiting mind. The new – yearning eagerly to be fulfilled – is even now blossoming within our heart, nurtured by our all-loving, all-illumining, ever-expanding and ever-liberating soul.
To be sure your New Year’s resolutions translate hope and promise into action and fulfilment, before making any resolution, resolve to meditate. Your meditation will reveal the resolutions you need, along with all the guidance, means and assurance of their fulfilment.
Meditation is the best gift anyone can ever give us – a gift we can only give, and receive, ourselves. Our meditation is also the best gift we can ever give to the world – for inside our meditation is all the treasure and answers to the world’s every longing.
The practise and discipline of meditation is the gift we must continually give to ourselves: the experience and enjoyment of meditation is the gift we must continually receive ourselves: the embodiment of meditation is the gift we automatically share continually with the world. Giving, receiving and sharing are equally indispensable.
Practise, the gift we give, is the aspiration-seed: enjoyment, the gift we receive, is the realisation-plant: transformation, the gift we share, is the manifestation-fruit we offer for the world’s nourishment.
Meditation is also the greatest bestower of gifts to us, in us and through us. Every quality we most need and yearn for in ourselves – peace, love, light, freedom, joy, gratitude, devotion, surrender – the most precious gifts any human can receive, are all nurtured, nourished, increased and strengthened though meditation. In turn, as these qualities are cultivated and grow as our meditation practise matures and deepens, their beauty and fragrance inevitably spread as gifts to all around us.
Yet for all that meditation gives, it also takes away. While meditation is blessing us with so many positive, divine qualities, its further gifts lie in what it removes from our consciousness, stealthily and steadily – everything we don’t like or wish could be improved in ourselves. All our fears, doubts, insecurities, depression, illusions, desires and attachments are uprooted; while prejudices, false beliefs, pride, anger and ego are gradually transformed through meditation.
Meditation gives us a daily fresh start; an ever-new goal; our clear mission and Path to self-discovery and God-fulfilment.
The notion of dragons guarding treasure goes back through Norse, Greek, Egyptian and Sumerian mythology, at least as far as ancient China, where dragons guarded bodies of water. These tales may have evolved from a common ancestral story, though more likely their similarities arise from our shared human experience: anything worth getting has to be fought for, and no worthy prize comes easily.
If the treasure of life is all that we value most – love, peace, light, aspiration and joy – then the dragons guarding this treasure are the tendencies standing in our way – pride, fear, doubt, hesitation, desire, attachment, distraction and delusion. While life’s real treasure is all in our spiritual heart, the dragons are undisputed bosses of our minds.
Meditation is the treasure-seeker’s most powerful, reliable weapon to charm and disarm all our inner dragons, enabling us to discover, claim, enjoy and share our inner treasure with the world.
Just as the dragons of mythology retreated and disappeared in the light of reason and understanding – no-one actually believes they are real any more – so the dragons of fear, doubt and illusion, which appear so real in the living nightmare of our mental perception, dissolve and evaporate in the light, peace and bliss of meditation. The more one meditates, the more one grows in the inner light, courage and conviction that exposes these dragons as illusory and ephemeral, unreal.
As long as we do not come near or actively seek any treasure, dragons don’t threaten us; they leave idle people well alone. So whatever dragon appears in life, take heart – for its menace is the sure sign that true treasure is near at hand, and you are close on its trail.
To slay each dragon –
– meditate –
– to claim and become the treasure of treasures.
“If you don’t invite God to be your summer Guest, He won’t come in the winter of your life.”
– Lahiri Mahashoy
It is common to pray, meditate, to invoke or turn to a higher power only when we feel helpless, in challenging times of stress, loss or desperation. Sometimes the urgency of our cry may elicit the consolation we crave, the solution we seek: other times, not.
An Olympic athlete trains for years to be ready and focussed, physically, mentally and emotionally for the moment of competition. For the spiritual seeker, inner discipline – prayer and especially meditation – is constant preparation. This inner training not only prepares us to meet, brave and endure life’s moments of greatest stress and challenge – our own Olympic competition; our meditation to a large extent removes hurdles and obstacles from our life’s path even before they appear.
Just as those who consciously practise good diet, positive thinking and regular exercise are more likely to enjoy good health and less likely candidates for the hospital emergency room, so the practise of inner discipline is proactively to ensure our life’s smooth flow, happiness and bountiful fulfilment, the best insurance against life’s practical, mental and emotional curveballs.
So much conflict, chaos and calamity flows from our insular egos’ inherent fear, pride, doubt, insecurity, jealousy and suspicion. As meditation lifts our consciousness above and beyond our egos’ snares and brittle fault lines, whole catalogues of self-inflicted catastrophe are averted.
While meditation may not change our outer circumstances, its regular practise profoundly alters our perspective and understanding, and hence our acceptance of and response to life’s ebb and flow. Instead of being tossed and turned capriciously by our life-river’s surface waves and whirlpools, meditation draws us into the sure deep haven of our soul-current, safe, steady and certain.
There is no limit to what meditation can achieve for us, if we practise consciously, conscientiously and consistently. Meditation is like sunlight or electricity: a latent power, available to all, which can be harnessed for an infinite variety of applications and purposes.
Through meditation we can transform our habits, attitudes, beliefs, even our personalities. We can challenge and dissipate fears, phobias and anxieties; transcend dislikes and prejudices; overcome stress; replenish enthusiasm, vibrancy and energy; expand existing capacities and develop new ones.
Meditation is so successful in every field, because it goes to the very heart of our existence, to the core of being itself. Meditation rescues and lifts our consciousness up out of the division-delusion, confusion-chaos and quandary-quagmire of the insecure, finite, time-bound mind, into the all-loving, all-knowing, all-embracing and all-becoming infinitude of the immortal soul.
If we walk in mountainous terrain in the pitch dark of night with no torchlight, we will inevitably fall off a cliff. Because our source is infinite, as long as we pretend to be limited and flirt with the finite, denying our essence and cutting ourselves adrift from truth, we are constantly perpetuating problems, dancing with disaster and courting catastrophe.
Meditation opens within us our reality, and the reality of everyone and everything of our universe. The dense darkness of night surrenders to the blazing light of day. Questions no longer arise when the answers are self-evident before and within us. Problems are not so much solved as dissolved: like disappearing wisps of cloud, they simply no longer exist.
In the depths of eternal silence, everything already breathes; all is done, all accomplished. So whatever our purpose, whatever our mission, whatever our goal, it can, must and will be discovered, revealed and fulfilled in and through our ever-blossoming meditation-heart.
“The acceptance of the spiritual life
The life’s real turning point.”
– Sri Chinmoy
We all feel we can be happier, better, wiser, more creative, more fulfilled. We feel there is something higher or deeper we have not yet grasped, there is more to discover, feel and experience – more for us to receive and offer to the world.
Our goal is forever beyond our present condition, so to reach our goal requires a journey of sorts, starting with a change of direction. A change of direction requires a turning point.
A turning point can be something as simple as opening a book or deciding to walk to the shops – leading inexorably to the single significant reorientation of our life’s trajectory, the moment we embrace meditation as more than another tool for self-improvement or gratification: rather as our long-sought, destined pathway to self-discovery and God-realisation.
Life’s turning point is the moment a bud blossoms into a flower; the moment a pupa emerges a butterfly; the moment a spaceship releases its booster rocket to soar free of the earth’s atmosphere; the moment the striker’s foot connects with the ball to fire it into the back of the net. If the goal is ever to win at life, meditation delivers life’s forever-winning goal.
From being lost in an alien outer world of illusion, meditation rescues us to find ourselves in our inmost intimate heart of ever-revealing, nourishing, blossoming reality.
The moment we sincerely, wholeheartedly embrace meditation as our own, announces our lives’ irrevocable turning point from unhappiness to happiness, from confusion to clarity, aimlessness to purpose, pessimism to optimism, frustration to fulfilment, insecurity to self-confidence, selfishness to selflessness, self-loathing to God-love, pride to humility, ignorance to illumination, desire-bondage to aspiration-freedom, sense-slavery to self-mastery, from human animal to divine human.
“Everything that is
Is a golden opportunity to realise God.
Therefore, do not withdraw
From the battlefield of life.”
– Sri Chinmoy
To bring forth toothpaste, the tube has to be squeezed. To shape a horseshoe, the iron must be red hot. To create a beautiful poem can take hours of agonising.
Universal law is continual growth and advancement through evolution – a process we are part of whether we choose to be or not. We are all evolving, consciously or unconsciously. Evolution proceeds within and all around us in a flow it is impossible for us to resist.
This pervasive, perpetual current of evolution inclines us toward our cherished goal, to yearn for that higher state of our soul, for the peace, love, wisdom and creative joy we intuit as our birthright, yet right now are a far cry from our present condition, which we are apt to perceive as incomplete, unfinished and unsatisfactory.
So it is our lot and destiny to seek self-improvement and progress – yet no progress comes without change, and no change occurs without sacrifice.
It is human nature to resist change and to resent the necessity of sacrifice – at least, when that change and sacrifice apply to our selves.
Yet change we must, and sacrifices we must make – so whatever inspires us to make the sacrifice and effect the change, should be welcomed as blessing and benefactor. Sometimes that inspiration comes in the guise of happiness and success – other times through misfortune and suffering. While one type of experience may be more appealing than the other, each can be equally effective.
Personal trials and tribulations always present opportunities for spiritual progress. While we do not seek or embrace them, when we can humbly and gratefully embrace their lessons, we become the unquestionable, inevitable winner.
Only our souls’ will power can tame our mind’s incessant flow of thoughts – but what and where is our souls’ will power?
Imagine your spiritual heart – around the centre of your chest where you feel the presence of love, light and joy – as the home or residence of your soul. Don’t try to see or imagine the soul or to form any specific idea of what the soul looks or feels like. Just feel that your soul is God’s ambassador within you, a ceaseless fount of healing love, revealing light, compelling truth and enthralling delight flowing in and through your heart and all around you, always. Have faith that your soul can accomplish whatever is needed.
When concentrating – on a flower, candle flame or image – feel that your soul’s indomitable willpower is flowing from your heart, up through your third eye to surround and enter the object, which is embraced and enveloped by your heart. As the object merges into you, its inner truth is revealed within your sweep of self-awareness.
The notion of objectivity relies on the separation of subject and object. This separation is an invention of our mind, necessary for its reason and analysis to function. Thoughts are the tools of reason, the language of objectivity. In the heart where there is no separation, there can be no ‘other’, no object: hence – no thoughts.
As the heart concentrates, it includes. Internal subsumes external: object merges into subject. Thinking is redundant.
Concentration now melds into meditation on the self, as the whole superstructure of objectivity quietly collapses; its foundation of separation dissolves in oneness; its pillars of reason crumple into the sea of love; its myriad nuts and bolts of thoughts and concepts, simply evaporate in the all-illumining irradiant light of pure being.
We know that to meditate effectively, we must clear away all thoughts and distractions, which are as pervasive in our consciousness as sight and sound. To be rid of thoughts and distractions would appear an impossible task: can we be sure we would even exist in their absence? What about: “I think, therefore I am”?
It is said that the mind can be cleared through the power of concentration, which serves as an overture and gateway to meditation. Once concentration is mastered, thoughts will remain at bay and meditation flows of its own accord. We are instructed to focus our mind on one object, typically a candle, flower or image.
Yet how can we best summons the mind’s energies to such an effort? Our first instinct is to use the mind itself to clear the mind, to think about how to rid ourselves of thoughts. This process is self-defeating, and doomed: we might as well put a fly in charge of stopping flies from landing on us, or ask a bull to reconstruct the china shop. While concentrating, the mind keeps the object at a distance, employing its customary methods of perception – reason, analysis, description and classification. We find after a short while of such attempt, we develop a headache as the mind grapples with itself. The object remains apart, as thoughts tumble upon further thoughts, leading to frustration or exasperation.
There is another way to concentrate, using the power and method of our spiritual heart.
Just as the mind concentrates using its capacity of objective reason, so the heart concentrates using its inherent specialty – which is love, and the identification of oneness. Oneness-love is the fastest, truest way to knowledge, for here there is no separation between subject and object: they merge as one.
“What concentration can do in our day-to-day life is unimaginable. Concentration is the surest way to reach our goal, whether the goal be God-realisation or merely the fulfilment of human desires. It is concentration that acts like an arrow and enters into the target. He who is wanting in the power of concentration is no better than a monkey.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Concentration is the single most essential skill and capacity we all need in life – which we are never taught. When I was in school, I well remember the teacher remonstrating with me as I gazed out the window: “Concentrate!” All very well – but how? How are we supposed to concentrate, when nobody is there to teach us, either in school or at home?
If any nation would effectively teach concentration early in its school curriculum, that nation’s economic and creative output would skyrocket, while health and happiness would run riot.
The difference between success and failure in any project, any field, any endeavour, is almost always determined by our capacity to concentrate.
Concentration is the shortcut that directly connects us with our task, with the subject we are studying, with the goal of our longing.
Of all the advantages of concentration, none is so beneficial and significant as its role in meditation. By enabling us to clear the mind, concentration builds the foundation and paves the way for meditation and all its limitless peace, light, power and bliss. Unless and until we enhance our capacity to concentrate, our attempts at meditation will be excursions in exasperation and flirtations with frustration.
Like any skill, concentration requires disciplined practise. Concentration and discipline grow hand in hand: as our concentration-power develops, discipline comes more easily; as we become more disciplined, our concentration naturally improves.
“One drop of pleasure-poison
Is enough to destroy
The beauty and purity
Of my aspiration-heart.”
– Sri Chinmoy
One choir member out of tune can ruin an entire performance; one droplet of blood summonses frenzied sharks from afar; one momentary lapse yields a car crash; one stray thought shatters a lofty meditation; one bad choice can terminate one’s spiritual progress.
An oak tree at once carries dead branches of its past, along with acorns of its promising future. Just as humans have evolved from animals, and still embody many limiting and destructive animal propensities – fear, anger, aggression – as ‘memories’ of our animal past, so also we house all the expansive, liberating spiritual qualities – peace, love, light and bliss – as ‘previews’ of our future divine being.
The spiritual life is a very long journey, an evolution from one type of consciousness, from one state of being to another, from the human to the divine. Our spiritual transformation does not occur overnight, as through meditation we gradually transcend the binding, inhibiting limitations of our finite human nature – our body, vital and mind – by nurturing, absorbing, claiming and growing into our infinite within – our divine heart and soul.
As our liberating heart expands in love, peace and oneness, so our mind’s fixed boundaries of certainty, superiority and pride wither and fade, our consciousness awakens from finite to infinite, our identity graduates from confined ego to universal heart.
In this process, what appears desirable or pleasurable to the limiting mind and demanding vital – thoughts and feelings of possession, division, suspicion or dominion – halt and reverse the unfolding of the divine.
Beware: just one miscreant thought or unchecked desire can turn the tide of spiritual progress. The deluding, ravenous ego blocks the doorway of the heart: the promise of spiritual fulfilment vanishes.