To succeed in meditation and advance your spiritual growth, you must make some necessary inner adjustments.
Just as an aeroplane’s mechanical, electrical and structural systems have to be properly inspected, and adjusted before it is considered airworthy, my guru, Swami Chinmayananda explains that the mind has to be made “meditation-worthy”.
Without making those adjustments, you won’t be able to sit for more than a couple of minutes without becoming restless.
Or, you may be able to quiet your mind during your practice, but find that as soon as you’re done, your thoughts, worries and agitations all come gushing back with a vengeance. The peace is short-lived and isn’t experienced outside your practice.
The masters of Vedanta have an analogy to illustrate this fact: They compare thoughts to wild birds and meditation to capturing them in a net. The hunter lays down food on the ground for the birds. As soon as they all land and start to eat, the hunter throws his net over them. The frantic birds struggle to get out but soon become suppressed with fatigue. As soon as he lifts the net, the birds take off, flying about in every direction.
In addition to these two scenarios, you may find that meditation hasn’t brought significant changes to your inner life. For example, you notice that you often feel anxious and worry about things. You tend to react in anger and speak harshly. You get uptight and have a tendency to hold on to past hurts. You frequently feel irritable and moody. These are all signs that you haven’t made the right adjustments.
The surest path to success in meditation and the transformation of your personality is the practice of three supplementary spiritual disciplines. They are:
Karma Yoga—the Path of Action for your body,
Bhakti Yoga—the Path of Devotion for your emotional personality, and
Jnana Yoga—the Path of Knowledge for your intellectual personality.
Karma Yoga—the Path of Action
The word karma simply means “action.” Karma yoga is the art of doing the right actions with the right attitude.
The right actions that we must do are our obligatory duties. These are duties we are required to perform at home, at work, in our community, or for our country. They come to us as part and parcel of our roles and relationships with others such as being a parent, an employer or employee, resident in a community, or citizen of a nation.
Duties are done to benefit others or for the common good of all. Since duties are done for others, they help lessen our selfish tendencies and cleanse our mind of impurities such as egocentric desires, attachments, anger, greed, conceit, and jealousy.
The right attitude is the attitude of gratitude. Why gratitude? Our bodies and capacities have come from a divine Source. We are only “borrowing” them because we don’t take them with us when we die. So, we dedicate all our actions to that Source with a feeling of gratitude.
As the impurities lessen while performing Karma yoga, the quantity of thoughts in the mind lessen, thus making it easier to meditate.
For a detailed explanation of Karma Yoga, please read How to use your work to grow spiritually or Detach from outcome and be happy now.
Bhakti Yoga—the Path of Devotion
Bhakti yoga, or the Path of Devotion, is the discipline of maintaining a steady stream of love-filled thoughts toward the supreme cause of creation. You can call it God, the Universe, Nature, All-That-Is or by any other name.
The mind is easily distracted and jumps from one thing to the next, seldom staying in one place for long. In bhakti yoga, the mind’s attention is repeatedly pulled away from the various changing worldly things, beings, and matters and placed on one constant, unchanging divine presence. Because of this, bhakti yoga reduces the restlessness of the mind.
In addition, the loving remembrance of God uplifts the mind and removes negative thoughts and emotions. It’s for these reasons that bhakti yoga helps to focus the mind for meditation.
To learn more about Bhakti yoga, read: 9 ways to develop divine love.
Jnana Yoga—the Path of Knowledge
Although meditation reduces stress and quietens the mind, these benefits are not the real goal. Meditation is essentially a spiritual practice that is meant to enable you to go within and rediscover your true spiritual nature.
When you take to the Path of Knowledge, Jnana yoga, (pronounced “nyaana yoga”), you start seeking the answers to your questions about life and your spiritual goal: How can I find more meaning in my life? What am I really searching for? If happiness is within me, how can I find it? Who am I?
When you embark on this path, you take on a daily discipline of focused spiritual study and deep reflection. This will help you gain an understanding of your true spiritual nature, the purpose of life and the means to rediscover it.
The Path of Knowledge helps you to mature in your understanding about life. This builds your faith and wisdom—important qualities to calm and centre your mind in meditation.
Your flight into meditation
When you support your meditation practice with the three yogas, you will not only progress in meditation but also grow in consciousness.*
You’ll begin to hold a positive outlook on life and be able to see the good in people and situations. You’ll become more responsive and less reactive in your dealings with others.
Things won’t bother you the same way as before. You’ll be more patient, understanding, cheerful, kind, and have an easier time recovering from hurts, disappointments and difficulties.
These gains are well worth the adjustments you make for your successful flight into meditation.
* For more information on the three yogas, read: What’s your yoga?
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