Meditation: Artistry for Living
by Eknath Easwaran
by Eknath Easwaran
Meditation comes first among spiritual disciplines. It is not a religion; it is a technique which enables us to realize for ourselves the unity of life within any of the world’s great religious traditions, or even if we profess no religion at all. There is a popular misconception that meditation is making your mind a blank, or woolgathering, or letting your mind wander around some theme. Meditation is anything but these; it is a dynamic discipline in concentration which enables us to unify our consciousness completely.
Most of us live on the surface level of consciousness, our grasshopper minds jumping from one subject to another, one desire to another, one distraction to another. But as the mind is concentrated in meditation, we learn to extend our conscious control over successively deeper realms of consciousness, just as a diver learns to take deeper and deeper dives until he is able to walk about on the seabed. In the climax of meditation, on the seabed of consciousness, we realize that we are not limited by the confines of the body or mind or even of the ego; we discover for ourselves the source of abiding joy and infinite love that is our real nature.
For your meditation, memorize an inspirational passage from the scriptures and mystical literature of the world’s great religions – for example, the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, or the Twenty-third Psalm, or the last nineteen verses in the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. Choose passages which are simple and positive, and which bear the imprint of a great mystic’s own personal experience. In my books Timeless Wisdom and God Makes the Rivers to Flow you will find a wide selection of pieces suitable for meditation. If you have memorized a number of such passages, that will help to avoid the possibility of the words becoming stale or mechanical. Then, with your eyes gently closed, go through the words of the passage in your mind as slowly as you can. Do not follow any association of ideas, but keep to the words of the memorized piece. When distractions come, do not resist them, but give more and more of your attention to the passage. The secret here is that we become what we meditate on; sustained concentration on the inspirational passage drives it deep into our consciousness.
This method has become known as passage meditation, and it is a perfect way to begin the day. It is good to have your meditation as early as is convenient for you, while the morning is still and cool and before the noise and bustle of the day begins. Devote half an hour each morning to the practice of meditation; do not increase this half-hour period, but if you want to meditate more, have half an hour in the evening also.
In addition to a fixed time, it is also good to have a fixed place for meditation – if not a room, at least a special corner. It should be quiet, cool, clean, and well ventilated. Keep that room for meditation, the repetition of the mantram, and spiritual reading only; do not use it for any other purpose. Gradually it will become so closely associated with meditation for you that you will have only to go into that room to become a little more calm, a little more patient, a little more loving.
You may sit on the floor for your meditation or in a straightback chair, preferably one with arms. It is not important whether you sit in the full lotus position or the half lotus or in no lotus at all; the important thing about posture is that you sit with your head, neck, and spinal column in a straight line and your eyes gently closed. As your concentration deepens, your nervous system will begin to relax and you may experience drowsiness. When this happens, draw yourself up and move away from your back support.
Under no circumstances should you skip your meditation. If necessary, get up a little earlier to be sure that you have enough time. There is a saying in India that if you skip one day’s meditation, it takes seven days to catch up. A fixed time and a fixed place are a great aid to regularity in meditation, which when practiced with regularity and sustained enthusiasm can bring about a marvelous transformation of consciousness.
Very often when people think of someone seated motionless in meditation with eyes closed, they say, “Meditation is passive; meditation is turning in on yourself.” Let me assure you that meditation is anything but passive. It is hard, hard work, even though the work is all being done on the inside. But the will and concentration we develop in meditation are meant to be turned outward, to be applied in our work, in our studies, in our relations with other people. It is very much like an athlete doing the broad jump. When he goes back to get a running start, the spectators don’t say, “Look, he’s going in the wrong direction; he’s not going to jump!” They know that he is going back to get the distance he needs for a good running start, which will carry him much further than if he had just jumped from where he stood. When we turn inward in meditation, we are getting the momentum we need to leap far in our daily life. As our meditation improves, we learn to jump right over our petty likes and dislikes to do our work with concentration and detachment, passing through personal relations with graceful artistry and a minimum of friction.
This excerpt is from Eknath Easwaran's book The Mantram Handbook.