Indic scriptures describe paths we can safely follow to experience increasing happiness and escape suffering. For example, by serving others, we can purify our hearts and expand our awareness and feel God’s love flowing through us to others. By chanting, we can open our hearts and commune with God.
Paramhansa Yogananda would say that the “airplane route to God” is meditation. Meditation is a wonderful short cut to inner spiritual progress. Yogananda defined meditation very simply, as “concentration on God or one of His qualities”. The qualities of God include different aspects of the happiness that we long for – love, joy, peace, calmness, wisdom and power.
The challenge, in meditation, is to concentrate the mind so that we can offer ourselves to God without distraction and perceive His blissful qualities and absorb them with our whole being.
How can we bring more mental focus into our meditation? The key is to train the mind gradually in the habit of concentrating. Each of the meditation techniques devised by India’s sages has a special point of concentration. For example, many meditation techniques include the practice of “watching the breath” until the mind becomes calm and one-pointed.
Other practices focus on holding attention calmly at the point between the eyebrows, the brain centre of concentration and spiritual perception; or keeping attention on the inner sounds heard in meditation.
If we can feel devotion to God, it will help us tremendously in our efforts to concentrate, because the mind tends to follow the heart. We can also visualise a saint such as Yogananda or other great enlightened masters who will guide our efforts to commune with God. Prayer and chanting can also give a focus for our feelings and attention.
The first few minutes of each meditation are especially important, as they set the tone for the rest of our practice. We need to develop the habit of starting with deep concentration. It’s helpful to go into your meditation room with the expectation that you’ll dive deeply within. It’s also important to establish a kind of psychic barrier that says, “When I come here, I don’t bring cares or worries, or projects. Those things I leave outside the door!”
We can improve our ability to concentrate by practising focused awareness in daily life. Train yourself to do one thing at a time, with deep attention. It’s good to vary your practice of formal meditation techniques. For example, you could give some time to prayer, chanting and visualising the image of your guru, or a saint. These practices inspire devotion and will give you a “target” for your concentration.
Finally, there comes a time in meditation when we need to let go of all techniques, relax deeply, and feel God’s presence. Many people leave their meditation without doing this. But real depth of meditation demands that we go beyond outer practices, and simply be in the presence of God. Try to become absorbed in inner silence, in the vibration of His love. Then try to increase the intensity of that feeling and expand it. Feel that you are expanding that feeling farther and farther, beyond all limitations of your body and personality.
by Jyotish and Devi Novak
Source: The Speaking Tree, Times of India