Easwaran’s Talks & Writings

Put Your Meditation First

This excerpt from our special Fall 2022 Journal features writings from both Christine and Easwaran

A Daily Rhythm

By Christine Easwaran

We can “improve our contribution to the world simply by giving complete attention to the job at hand,” Eknath Easwaran tells us. To achieve this complete attention (especially in our practice of his eight-point program of passage meditation) it is important that a congenial daily schedule become a habit. He tells us in Passage Meditation that “with practice, a schedule will become a reflex.”

In his memorable essay “Habit,” William James pointed out in the nineteenth century the benefits of establishing a routine. He wrote that “the more details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automation” – habit – “the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work.”

Easwaran adds to this by saying, “To live in harmony with the laws of life” – higher powers – “we need to observe the rhythm of night and day by going to sleep as early as possible at night and getting up as early as possible in the morning.” This daily pattern connects us with the rhythm of Nature – the rising and setting sun, the tides, recurring seasons of growth and decay, which repeat themselves endlessly. We begin to sense our place in the universe, and our higher consciousness expands when these routine activities are under control. Easwaran tells us, “We are surrounded by creative powers, as surrounded as we are by air and light and gravitation.” Allying ourselves with these profound creative forces is our aim in meditation.

In these frantic times, all of us – as individuals, families, and communities – stand to benefit from the stability and bonding that a practical daily routine can generate. A schedule will test our self-will, but it will help us stick to the practice of Easwaran’s method of meditation, uniting us in subtle ways with all those around the world who are following this path with us.

A Regular Practice

By Eknath Easwaran

To make progress in meditation, you must be regular in your practice of it. Some people catch fire at the beginning, but when the novelty wears off in a few days and the hard work sets in, their fires dampen and go out. They cut back, postpone, make excuses, perhaps feel guilty and apologetic. This is precisely where our determination is tested, where we can ask ourselves, “Do I really want to get over my problems? Do I want to claim my birthright of joy, love, and peace of mind? Do I want to discover the meaning of life and of my own life?”

There is only one failure in meditation: the failure to meditate faithfully. A Hindu proverb says, “Miss one morning, and you need seven to make it up.” Or as Saint John of the Cross expressed it, “He who interrupts the course of his spiritual exercises and prayer is like a man who allows a bird to escape from his hand; he can hardly catch it again.”

Put your meditation first and everything else second; you will find, for one thing, that it enriches everything else. Even if you are on a jet or in a sickbed, don’t let that come in the way of your practice. If you are harassed by personal anxieties, it is all the more important to have your meditation; it will release the resources you need to solve the problems at hand.

To make progress in meditation, we have to be not only systematic but sincere too. It won’t do to sit and go through the mental motions halfheartedly. We need to renew our enthusiasm and commitment every day and give our best all the time. Success comes to those who keep at it — walking when they cannot run, crawling when they cannot walk, never saying “No, I can’t do this,” but always “I’ll keep trying.”      

Have you heard the expression “heroes at the beginning”? All enthusiasm for the first few days, but then . . . Not long ago I watched the news coverage of the annual Bay to Breakers run, from one side of San Francisco to the other. Some fifteen thousand people showed up to participate . . . brand new color-coordinated outfits, top-rated running shoes, digital stopwatches, everything you could want for a serious race. And what enthusiasm at the start! Everyone bouncing along with jaunty, springing steps, grinning at the spectators, scanning the competition for an attractive face . . . this is the life!       

The next morning, though, I read about the aftermath. Fifteen thousand may have started, but thousands never finished. Sure, at the beginning, everything feels fine. But out around Hayes Street — after the downtown traffic, the noise, the fumes — a lot of people begin to think twice. The pavement is hot . . . and so are those top-rated running shoes. Hills are coming up, and the attractive face that refreshed your eyes has disappeared over the next rise. Up ahead a billboard asks, “Wouldn’t a nice cold beer taste good right now?” Next thing you know, you’re sitting on a stool at Roy’s Recovery Room, watching the end of the pack trudge along and thinking, “Next year . . .”

It helps to know at the outset that you will be running a marathon in this program, not simply jogging once or twice around a track. It is good to be enthusiastic when you sit down for meditation the first morning; but it is essential to be equally enthusiastic, equally sincere, at the end of the first week, and the end of the first month, and for all the months to come.