If you are divinely happy,
Then anything you do
Becomes part and parcel
Of your meditation.
What is meditation?
To my mind meditation is not a particular process that starts when I sit down and ends when I stand up. I do not see it as just sitting cross legged with an idea of silencing my own mind. I do not think that it is something that can be labelled as something particular and something that can be defined for sure. I see the topic of meditation as a subject of a lifelong study and as a lifelong journey that, once started, begins to transform one into a better human being and a better world citizen.
This is how I see meditation, but the wonderful thing about meditation is that there is no one correct answer of what it is, or how it should be done, rather it is something that can be discovered and rediscovered in countless ways by each one of us. That being said, the best thing I can do is to share meditation tips that I consider helpful for my own practice and to encourage everyone to find their own way of meditating.
Meditation tips for beginners: Place and time
Mu Magazine: Can we meditate whenever we want to, or wherever we want to? What can someone do if he is too busy to find time to meditate? Could you give us some advice?
Sri Chinmoy: When a seeker has reached the level where he is on the verge of God-realisation, he will be able to meditate whenever he wants and wherever he wants. But until he reaches that level, he needs to meditate regularly and devotedly every day at a proper place for meditation. This place is an individual’s own shrine, where flowers, candles and spiritual pictures may be placed, and where incense may be burned in order to create a meditative atmosphere. No matter how busy one is, one should be able to spend a short period of time out of an entire day in meditation. One can definitely make the time if one wants to.
The book, from which the previous excerpt is taken, can be found here.
Spiritual Master Sri Chinmoy advises everyone, willing to meditate, to set up a special place, a shrine for this matter. Someone could ask of the practicality of a meditation place. The answer is an easy one (maybe not the shortest though) – if we want to eat, we go to a dining room or a restaurant, if we need to take a shower, we go to a bathroom and if we want to study, naturally we go to a classroom or a library.
Although many of the actions do not require special place to be performed (I guess almost everyone has seen ladies putting up their make-up or men shaving during the red light on the crossroads), but still the most joy and benefit we derive if we are in a place that is designed and meant for the action we are going to undertake. So is the case with meditation – if we create a special place for meditation, the most joy and benefit we will derive when meditating there. Why is that? Because when we come to our shrine, we try to come with our goodwill, with our good and pure thoughts, with our peace and smile. These things accumulate at our shrine area and the more often we meditate there the more of the good energy is accumulated. So naturally after some time the shrine itself will provide us with inspiration and good vibrations and when we will go there our inner being and our outer being will feel that the time for our daily meditation has come.
Meditation tips for beginners: How to set up a shrine?
The factor, that is very important in setting up a meditation place, is inspiration. I have happened to set up a shrine quite a few times because I am travelling a lot and if I want to remain happy and cheerful regarding my meditation practice, I have to set up a shrine every time when I stay in a different place and objects that make me smile and inspire me to meditate have to be placed there.
The meditation place doesn’t have to be big – it is ok even if you have just a square meter or two that you can dedicate for it. There is one thing that would be good to follow though (of course, if possible) – the shrine shouldn’t be in your bed because the gross vibration of sleep can ruin the sublime vibration that is created by meditation. But in the end of the day, if it is not possible to create the shrine farther away from the bed, it is ok – you will just try to make it as soulful and inspiring as you can.
What would you put on your shrine? If you have a spiritual Master, or if there is a spiritual figure that inspires you to live inner life, life of prayer and meditation, then the central item of your shrine should be the picture of your master, or this inspirational figure. If you do not have one, no harm, you can put there pictures that help you to become calm, that make you feel connected to something deeper within you and that make you happy (I would not suggest to put pictures of your family members or dear ones though, because when you are praying and meditating you want to concentrate on your own higher Self and this kind of pictures might distract you and defeat the purpose). These could be spiritual drawings, views of scenery (Himalayas, ocean, river etc.), pictures of temples, churches or anything else that inspires you and gives you serene and sublime vibration.
When I am at home, I have a picture of my spiritual Master, some spiritual drawings, spiritual book (or two) and a candle (that I light up for meditation) on my shrine. From time to time I buy a beautiful flower and place it on my shrine and burn incense. Another thing that I do at my meditation place – I listen to spiritual music and sometimes I even leave the CD player on while I am somewhere else, so when I come back I really can feel that there is a special vibration in my shrine area.
Meditation tips for beginners: Time for meditation
Indian scriptures suggest that the best time for meditation is between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. because all of the rush and turmoil of the world has stopped, everything in the Earth – atmosphere is peaceful and calm and because Brahma (considered as one of the aspects of God) creates world anew at that time.
Sometimes it can be very challenging and maybe even impossible to find time for meditation so early, because in the world that is so busy and where there is so much happening at every second we also need some rest, otherwise we will just burn out and lose our health. So, meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy suggests 6.00 a.m. as the best time for meditation for those who have busy lifestyles. At that time Earth – atmosphere is still sleeping and the turmoil and restlessness has not yet entered it.
My own experience is that sometimes it is hard to meditate even at 6.00 a.m. because very often I go to bed around midnight or even later, so, naturally it is very difficult for me to wake up at 6.00 a.m. and be fresh, not to speak of meditation, because if I wake up tired, I simply sleep during the time that I am supposed to be meditating and this kind of thing is of no benefit at all. The best thing that I have found for myself is to give myself enough rest, but not too much though, (7 hours is good, but each person is different of course) and meditate when I wake up.
When there is a question of how much time should we dedicate to our meditation practice, the answer is that meditation should take as much time as you feel comfortable with. When you are just setting up your practice the time can be between 5 and 10 minutes in the morning and between 5 and 10 minutes in the evening before going to sleep. This is more than enough. As we become more advanced we start adjusting time of our practice according to our capacity and necessity.
Such questions as “Why should we meditate early in the morning? Can’t we just meditate when we have time?” could arise. The best time is before entering our daily activities and it is so because if we first take care of our inner Self, if we pray and meditate in the morning before doing anything else, we are more focused during the day, we have more mental and emotional clarity during the day and we are simply happier. If we want to meditate when we have time instead of before entering our daily activities, (either that time may never come or) by that time we can be overwhelmed by the world and its outer forces so much that it can be simply impossible to calm ourselves down and then our meditation will turn into a struggle with our thoughts and emotions. While our meditation is just a struggle between us and our inner forces, while we are constantly tense during our practice it is very difficult (if at all possible) to feel peace that meditation has to offer. It is true that sometimes it is hard to meditate in the morning too, but if meditation becomes an irreplaceable part of our morning routine, and if we are able to set aside a particular time for our daily meditation, it will not take us long to realise that our meditation capacity is growing.
So far I have written meditation tips that I find the most essential for establishing a meditation practice. I believe that these are foundations of my meditation practice and cornerstones that help me to keep my meditation practice ongoing.
When I myself first heard of meditation as such I felt that it is something for me, but when I heard that I should set aside an exact time and find a particular place for it, I thought that it is something impossible simply because I have so much happening in my life that I cannot predict where I will be or what I will do at this or that particular time of the day. So, I didn’t start to practice meditation back then. It took a few years for me to come closer to meditation and set up a practice of my own. Even when I became more aware of necessity to meditate, there was a lot of struggle within me that distracted me and prevented me from embarking on the journey of meditation. Then there came a time when I found a place for my practice. And again, it took me a while to realize that the place is very inappropriate and uncomfortable (because of surroundings and set up in my room). I decided to switch to a different place and this place has not been changed for a few years already and I feel very good there. When I don’t feel like meditating I just sit down near my shrine and read a spiritual book, maybe I burn an incense or turn on a spiritual music on my CD player. It takes just a couple of minutes until I feel inspired to meditate.
Do you need happiness? Then do just three things: Meditate regularly. Smile soulfully. Love untiringly.
By Emanuels Putans