Watch this video of Swami Shankarananda sharing his initiation into mantra from his Guru Baba Muktananda.
See below and listen to two guided meditations.
Self-reflection, meditation is a natural human quality. We are born with this ability. It is not something someone else gives to us. It is not something that comes from the outside. It is not something we have to achieve. We simply have to remember how to do it.
There are many ways to meditate but you could say that there are two main streams of thought regarding how to best learn and achieve a meditative state. Both strive to help the meditator unite their individual consciousness with the Divine.
One is Vedantic and emphasises that the ‘world is unreal’ because it is subject to change, impermanent and therefore unreliable. It cannot be real. Only that which is eternal is ‘real’. The meditator struggles with their mind until it becomes one-pointed. All thoughts that focus on the world are discarded until the mind is fixed on one thought only: ‘I am Brahman, only the Self is real,’ until the experience of the Absolute is permanent.
The other is Tantric, which says that the world is a ‘play of Consciousness’. Here meditators align their individual consciousness with Divine Consciousness. The mind is trained to think from the highest until it identifies with the thought, ‘I am the Self, I am Shiva.’ The world is neither real nor unreal. It is the vibration of energy.
Eventually the whole world and all activity appears as the play of Consciousness and the meditator knows himself or herself to be the Self, or Shiva. You begin to understand that everything that happens is seen and known through your Awareness, your Consciousness.
- Everything appears and disappears in Consciousness which never dies nor is it born.
- Meditation is the most empowering activity we can do for our well-being.
- In meditation we bring our attention from the outer world of objects to the inner world of the subject.
- We learn who we truly are beyond everything we think we are.
- No matter how many troubles we face in life, when we touch the Self the nightmare of frustration, despair and inadequacy disappears.
- Meditation makes us whole.
Life is a series of Conversations
You could say that life is a series of conversations. From the time we wake up in the morning until we go to sleep there is chattering going on inwardly and outwardly. There are pleasant and unpleasant conversations. The mind dwells and broods over some and ignores others; some uplift us and some hurt us. These conversations are full of questions.
We ask ourselves questions all the time. Should I marry this one, or that one? What career should I pursue? What should I wear? What should I eat? What is my true purpose? Is there a God? How can I get rid of suffering? What is love?
In meditation we reflect on the language that stills the mind, frees it from the restless activity of useless conversations and connects it to the Self. We learn to use language properly. We learn not to ask stupid questions like:
- Why does this always happen to me?
- Why did I say that?
- How come I am not smarter?
- How come I always fail?
- Why can’t I get what I want?
When we ask these questions we may confront pain, agitation, fear, anger or grief. And so we are likely to avoid asking questions when we know that we do not have the skills to find or hear reassuring answers.
Some smart questions are:
- What do I need to do to restore peace?
- What is my next step?
- How can I open my heart?
- How can I move forward?
- What is the highest understanding I can hold?
- How can I achieve what I want?
When disappointment, frustration and anxiety overwhelm us we look for ways to drown out the negative feeling. We turn to food, drugs, sex and other diversions to avoid the angst of life.
Even in the waking state we can be mechanical, asleep or dreaming–unpresent. In meditation we wake up to ourselves. We can see how we sabotage our lives, our happiness, and our well-being.
Everyone Can Meditate, Everyone can inquire
Everyone meditates whether they call it that or not. Our skills and talents are perfected by concentration and focus. We cannot learn anything well without bringing all of our attention, creativity and purpose toward our goals. Most of the time we pursue worldly pleasure–money, food, sex and recognition. We work to secure a life free of trouble and strife. We pursue the good with great ingenuity and vigor, while pushing away the bad with the same energy. And, it is exhausting.
The need to acquire possessions and hold onto them binds us to the world in unhealthy ways. We can never have peace or be happy when desire and doubt, attachment to worldly things and fear of loss threatens our sense of security. When we meditate on loss we invoke the feeling of loss. When we meditate on fullness we invoke the feeling of fullness. True security happens when we connect with the Self and live from that space.
- There is abundance in the universe that flows toward us when the mind is calm and free of desire.
- Within you is a perfect state of Consciousness.
- There is fullness, there is freedom, there is certainty, there is a blissful reality waiting to be claimed.
Three Approaches to Meditation
Most of us replenish our energy during sleep. If your sleep is disturbed or short then the mind becomes agitated. Meditation is similar to sleep in that we can access the peace of sleep while being awake. It has been described as ‘sleep sitting up’.
We can enter meditation via three familiar states of Consciousness: the sleep, dream and waking states. Some minds are lazy, sleep like and easily fall into Tandra, a sleep like trance. Other minds are full of fantasy, imagination and romantic notions. They enter a meditative state similar to dreaming. Other minds are vigilant to the outer world, anxious to keep things under control. They can learn to enter a mind state that is awake but peaceful. Some minds are full of to do lists, how to get ahead, and push for it. They learn to become absorbed in meditation.
The meditation you have at any given time will depend on the state of your mind when you sit to meditate. If your mind is agitated, or if you are angry, or depressed or afraid, it will take more time to calm the mind. However, it is exactly at these times that meditation is crucial. If we can sit until the mind is calm we have achieved a spiritual triumph.
Meditation has the peace of the sleep state, the inspiration of the dream state, and the vibrancy of the waking state. It restores us on all levels.
There are hundreds of techniques that can quiet the mind. However there are three important ones. Our goal is to work with the mind to calm its restlessness and find the techniques that work for us. They are:
- Mantra–repeating a word or phrase designed to connect with the higher Self
- Inquiry–identifying the inner contractions that cause suffering and then releasing them
- Being present–just sitting
Try these guided meditations:
You can always have the meditation you are having
Befriend Your Mind