Meditation tips for beginners, part III

 

Meditation tips: Maintaining our aspiration

 

If you haven’t established your meditation practice yet, here are some tips that could be useful for setting it up. Even if you have a regular meditation practice, at some point you may find that you lack the inspiration to meditate. That is nothing uncommon or unusual—from time to time it happens to each and every one of us, and then we ask ourselves, “What should I do? How do I keep going?” There is no one single answer, but a few of tips may prove useful.

First we have to understand whether it is just a single experience of lack of inspiration to meditate one day, or we are going through a longer period of feeling that meditation is something difficult, uninspiring or maybe even not meant for us.

 

In life we must never give up!
 Acceptance
And self-transcendence
Should always remain our motto.

 

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 4, Agni Press, 1998

 

 

 

If it is a one-time experience, that is fairly easy to deal with. We want to meditate, but it is somehow impossible because of laziness, drowsiness, inner resistance, an overactive mind or a restless body. We just have to look for something that can quickly change our present condition. Here are a few techniques that could be helpful.

If we feel lazy or drowsy, we can do a bit of physical exercise—jumping jacks, push-ups or sit-ups. We can even go for a run or a bike ride if it is later in the day (not advisable before morning meditation). This will help to energize us, overcome physical lethargy and switch our attention to the present moment. Also we can use alternate nostril breathing to increase our energy.

 

Sri Chinmoy: In normal breathing both of our nostrils are usually functioning. But when we breathe properly through alternate nostrils, we get immediate relief from mental anxiety, worries, depression and many other things that cause disturbances in our nature. Alternate nostril breathing is a most important breathing exercise. We start by using our right thumb to close our right nostril. Next we breathe in with the left nostril, silently repeating the name of God, Supreme or puraka, just once. Then we close the left nostril with the fourth finger of the right hand, and with both nostrils closed, silently repeat the name of God, Supreme or kumbhaka four times while holding the breath. Finally we lift the thumb from the right nostril, still keeping the left nostril closed, and exhale, repeating God, Supreme or rechaka twice….

 

         The best thing is to start with the one-four-two technique. Three times a day you may do it—early in the morning, at noon and at evening—and you will feel how much you will be able to increase it with time.

         While we are breathing this way, our thoughts should be very, very pure. If an impure thought enters into us while we are breathing in, it is like bringing in poison. If limitation, ego, or any thought which will eventually bind us enters into the breath, then it is poison which is entering. If we can practise this exercise soulfully three or four times daily, the benefits will be unimaginable.

 

Sri Chinmoy, The Body: Humanity’s Fortress, Agni Press, 1974

 

 

If we have an inner resistance to meditation, a restless body, or an overactive mind, we can lie down on our back and relax for five to ten minutes.

 

“There is a yogic method of getting rest. In one second you can take the rest of fifteen minutes, half an hour or even more. How can you get that kind of rest? When you go to sleep at night, feel that your whole body from head to foot has become a sea of peace. You have become peace itself. Consciously try to feel that you are not the body, but an infinite expanse of peace. When you can consciously feel this peace, you will see that your physical body has merged with it and totally disappeared in the sea of peace.”

 

Sri Chinmoy, Sleep: Death’s Little Sister, Agni Press, 1974

 

 

Sri Chinmoy suggests using this technique before going to sleep in order to get better rest out of less sleeping time. I have found that it is helpful also during the day. When I feel that I cannot focus, or if I need to rest but I don’t have time for a 20-30 minute nap, I just lie down, if possible, and relax as much as I can using this technique. It helps to take away tension that I am not even aware of. When I use this technique I breathe slowly and consciously.

If there is unwillingness to meditate, you can read some spiritual books, listen to spiritual, inspiring music, or perhaps sit down and look out through the window to shift your attention to nature and calm your mind.

What if we find that for an extended period it is difficult to meditate? That does happen to almost everyone at some point, given the ups and downs of life. But there are some things we can do when we are having this kind of experience.

Suppose we are trying to be regular in our practice and we are putting in serious effort to make our meditation sincere and soulful. In every way we are trying to do our best, but slowly we find that the charm of meditation diminishes, along with our enthusiasm. Finally we find it hard to motivate ourselves for each and every meditation. Or, if it is not hard to sit down for meditation, we may not experience soulfulness. We may feel that our meditation is becoming dry and even mechanical.

The first and foremost thing to remember is that this state is nothing unnatural and that it will pass. Things will not be like this forever. The second thing is as important as the first: never give up! Go on, no matter how arduous the experience. We may feel that we have less capacity during this time, but if we keep going we are going to make it through.

 

“Never give up”
Is the only secret
To achieve fulfilment
 In life.

 

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 38, Agni Press, 2004

 

 

Meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy shared a story of Swami Vivekananda, a spiritual seeker of the highest calibre. Once he had a dry experience for quite a few months. During this period he was not able to meditate. At that time he used his imagination to consciously reawaken the high and sublime meditation experiences that he had had earlier.

This is one powerful way of dealing with the experience of lack of inspiration in meditation. Sri Chinmoy used to say that imagination is not self-deception—it is reality. When we use imagination as an aid for our meditation, we are entering into another realm where what we are imagining and aspiring for abides naturally. On the strength of our imagination we are able to bring these sublime realities to our conscious awareness.

When meditation seems difficult, we can go for a minimal amount of time at a stretch—say, 5-7 minutes in the morning and 5-7 minutes in the evening. We can also find other activities involving creativity and discipline that will help to keep us in an aspiring mood.

Sports can be of tremendous help to our spiritual life. We can set an athletic goal and a training schedule that will help us reach that goal. Working towards our goal will help keep us aspiring, determined and disciplined. Running is an ideal example. Our goal can be as simple as running a bit 4-5 times a week. Or perhaps we are ready to work towards a personal best in running 5K. Walking is also excellent! When setting an athletic goal, we have to be realistic about our current abilities, but at the same time the goal should be a bit challenging—something that we have to strive for.

Another thing we can do is to read spiritual books. The best thing is to read books written by spiritual aspirants or by great spiritual Masters, or about their lives. Unlike intellectual works, these books embody true spiritual wisdom and have the capacity to inspire and uplift our consciousness. Spiritual books contain tales about the ups and downs in the lives of spiritual people; poems that highlight various aspects of spirituality; entertaining stories that lighten and enlighten the reader’s mind; questions and answers about spiritual topics; and much more. If we can set aside some time each day for reading spiritual books, it can be of unimaginable help to our life of aspiration.

We can also switch our attention to artistic activities—art, music or writing. Our artistic output is a very powerful way of transporting our capacities from the inner realm to the physical world. At the same time, while we are creating, we ourselves are transported to the spiritual realm where our creations originate. This approach may require a bit of discipline, but over time our creative undertakings may become spontaneous.

Another significant way of maintaining our aspiration is doing volunteer work, offering what Sri Chinmoy calls “selfless service.” If we can find a place to give our time and service happily without reward, this is one of the best ways to cultivate spiritual qualities like acceptance, discipline, patience and selflessness. Selfless service puts our good qualities in motion and gives them room to express themselves. It is bound to make us happy.

These are some tips for maintaining our aspiration. They may also help us to intensify our aspiration if it is already flourishing. Some of the tips I use almost every day, others rarely. On the whole, I find that by being active in a positive way most of the time, I can maintain a certain level of aspiration. If I am not doing well in one area—say, sports—I still have meditation, selfless service, spiritual reading and relaxation exercises. If I am not keeping up with my reading, there are still many other things that can complement my meditation practice and help me to make spiritual progress.

These are tips that you can try. Each of us is different and needs different approaches at different times. In order to understand what works for us, we have to be creative and persistent as we cheerfully live our life of meditation

 

Cheerfulness
Is immediate progress
 In our spiritual life.

 

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 46, Agni Press, 2006

 


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