You’ve seen images of tranquil women, sitting cross-legged with their eyes closed and hands in a meditative posture in a quiet sanctuary. You’ve craved the feeling of peace that those images evoke.
But every time you sit to meditate, roaring waves of loud and rambunctious thoughts about your daily concerns take away any chance of finding inner peace.
You’ve tried many ways to still your mind – You’ve taken long baths, played soothing music, burnt incense, chanted mantras, used essential oils and played Tibetan singing bowls.
These things do calm you, but, very quickly, thoughts creep back into your mind. Or, you become so relaxed that you soon fall asleep.
You wonder – “Why can’t I meditate?”
Trying or Pretending
Let me tell you something to take away your sense of guilt and self-recrimination— most people are not meditating.
When you see others ‘meditating’, it is very likely that they may be either trying to meditate or simply pretending to meditate.
Please, don’t get me wrong; I am not putting anyone down. Please do read on to understand why I say this.
What is meditation?
We are spiritual beings living in total identification with our bodies and minds. We have forgotten our essential nature as Pure Spirit.
According to the spiritual science of Vedanta, which is the focus of this website, meditation is remaining in identification with our true spiritual essence and not the mind or body.
It is important to understand that it is not an experience of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling or thinking anything within.
Meditation is a state of being.
Accessing our Spiritual Essence
Understanding the relationship between the thoughts, mind and Spirit is the key to knowing how to access and identify with our spiritual essence.
What is the connection between the thoughts and the mind? The mind is nothing but a constant flow of thoughts.
Thoughts continually rise up and die away. There is a very tiny silent space between the end of one thought and the rise of another.
Our thoughts generally flow so swiftly that we are not aware of this space. It’s like a movie where film frames are laid out serially and played at a certain speed to give the appearance of a unbroken moving scene.
If we are able to consciously slow down and reduce the thoughts, we can increase the space between them.
Our spiritual essence, the Self, enlivens, or enables the movement of all thoughts. In fact, it pervades all thoughts and is present in the space between them as well.
We cannot recognize our essence while we are active physically and mentally.
Once the thoughts are quietened and a focus held on the silent space between them, the Self that was already there shines forth.
Before meditation can happen, the mind has to be trained to hold a concentrated focus. When it is able to do so for some time, we are said to be meditating. And finally, when we meditate regularly over a long period of time, the mind gets absorbed in the Self.
- Concentration (*Dharana)
- Meditation (*Dhyana)
- Absorption of mind (*Samadhi)
In his book, Personality Development Through Human Excellence, Swami Srikantananda explains the time it takes move from one stage to the other.
- Concentration: If one can maintain focus on the silence between the thoughts for 12 seconds, one is said to be concentrating.
- Meditation: One is said to be in meditation when that silent focus is held for 144 seconds (12 seconds multiplied by 12 = 144 seconds or approximately 2 1/2 minutes)
- Absorption of the mind: This state is reached when one meditates for 1,728 seconds (144 seconds multiplied by 12 = 1,728 seconds or approximately 29 minutes)
Spiritual discipline spanning lifetimes
2 1/2 minutes to be meditating is a surprisingly short period of time, but it takes many years and perhaps even lifetimes of spiritual discipline to get to this state.
So, please don’t beat yourself up if you can’t seem to quiet the mind or feel like you’re missing something in your practice.
This is why I said earlier that most people are either trying or pretending.
By the way, I am no different. I am still trying to meditate.
Meditation is an advanced spiritual practice
Now, don’t let the difficulty in meditating discourage you from starting or make you give up.
Even if you are only trying to meditate, there are many rewards along the way such as greater inner peace and equanimity of mind. This brings you much more clarity, understanding and knowledge in life about your goals, duties and purpose.
In addition, your regular attempts at calming and controlling the thoughts results in your spiritual growth through the cultivation of positive virtues such as love, forgiveness, compassion, understanding, sense of fairness, sensitivity to the needs of others and so on. These are within us all and meditation brings them out.
Having a sincere desire to calm your mind is to be commended. The mind is a subtle inner instrument and much, much harder to control than the physical body.
When you take on a sincere, regular practice of calming the mind, you are surely on the right path. In fact, there are no real falls. Every attempt brings you closer to unfolding the beauty of your innate divinity.
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