Key Guidelines To Successful Meditation
Sri Swami Sivananda
This article is from the book Meditation Know-How.
Retire to a quiet place or room from where you do not fear interruption so that your mind may feel quite secure and at rest. The ideal condition cannot always be obtained, in which case you should do the best you can. You should be alone by yourself in communion with God or Brahman.
If you find it difficult to concentrate your mind within a room, come outside and sit in an open place or terrace or by the side of a river or in a quiet corner of a garden. You will have good concentration.
That place where you can get concentration of mind is the right place for your meditation and Yogic practices. This is the general rule.
At 4 a.m. do Sirshasana for 5 minutes. Then take rest for five minutes. Then sit and meditate. You will have wonderful meditation.
Before doing meditation do 20 mild Kumbhakas. Then sit for meditation. Pranayama drives away drowsiness and laziness and makes the mind steady.
Read the 11th and 13th Slokas of Chapter VI of the Bhagavad Gita wherein a description of the seat is given. Spread a fourfold blanket and over this spread a piece of soft white cloth. This will do nicely. If you can get a good tiger-skin or a deer-skin, it is all the better. A tiger-skin has got its own advantages. It generates electricity in the body quickly and does not allow leakage of electric current from the body. It is full of magnetism.
Face the East or the North. A spiritual neophyte should observe this rule. In facing the North he is in communion with the Rishis of the Himalayas and he is mysteriously benefited by their currents.
Sit in your meditation posture. Keep the head, neck and trunk in one straight line. Do not bend either forwards or backwards. Lock the fingers.
You must have a mental image of God or Brahman before you begin to meditate. Have a background of thought–either a concrete background of your Ishta Murthy along with the Mantra or an abstract background of the idea of Infinity with OM if you are a student of Jnana Yoga. This will destroy all other worldly thoughts and take you to the goal. Through force of habit, the mind will at once take shelter in this background the moment you release it from worldly activities.
Close the eyes. Concentrate the gaze on the Trikuti. Now chant Dirgha Pranava or long OM forcibly for five minutes. This will remove Vikshepa or tossing of the mind. Concentration will ensue. Now repeat OM mentally with Brahma-bhavana. Whenever the mind begins to wander, again chant OM verbally. As soon as the mind gets calm, mentally repeat OM again. The same process can be adopted for Saguna meditation also.
When you sit for meditation in the morning, send out your love and peace to all living beings. Say: Sarvesham Santir Bhavatu. May peace be unto all. Sarvesham Poornam Bhavatu. May prosperity be unto all. Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu. May happiness be unto the whole world.
When you are a neophyte in meditation, start repeating some sublime Slokas or Stotras or hymns for ten minutes as soon as you sit for meditation. This will elevate the mind. Then the mind can be easily withdrawn from the worldly objects. Then stop this kind of thinking also and fix the mind on one idea only by repeated and strenuous efforts. Then Nishtha will ensue.
As you are not used to meditation, you feel tired and hungry when you sit for meditation. This will pass off soon. Continue your practice.
Again and again withdraw the mind from the worldly objects when it runs away from the Lakshya and fix it there. This sort of combat will go on for some months.
Make no violent efforts to control the mind, but rather allow it to run along for a while and exhaust its efforts. It will take advantage of the opportunity and will jump around like an unchained monkey at first, until it gradually slows down and looks to you for orders. It may take sometime to tame it down first, but each time you try, it will come around to you in a shorter time.
Relax all the muscles and nerves. Relax the brain. Calm the objective mind. Close the eyes. Do not voluntarily and violently drive away intruding thoughts. Gently allow the divine thoughts to flow. Steadily think of the Lakshya, the object of meditation. Have sublime Sattvic thoughts. Vicious thoughts will, by themselves, vanish.
In meditation, do not strain the eyes. Do not strain the brain. Do not struggle or wrestle with the mind. It is a serious mistake. Many neophytes commit this grave error. That is the reason why they get easily tired soon. They get headache and they have to get up very often to pass urine during the course of meditation owing to the irritation set up in the micturition centre in the spinal cord.
If you strain yourself in meditation and go beyond your capacity, laziness and inactive nature will supervene. Meditation should come naturally on account of serenity of the mind induced by the practice of Pratyahara.
Some students like to concentrate with open eyes, some with closed eyes, some others with half-opened eyes. If you meditate with closed eyes, dust or foreign particles will not fall in your eyes. Some students, whom lights and jerks trouble, prefer concentration with open eyes. In some who meditate with closed eyes, sleep overpowers them within a short time. If the eyes are open, the mind wanders to objects in the beginners. Use your common sense and adopt that which suits you best. Overcome other obstacles by suitable, intelligent methods.
In the beginning when you are a neophyte, you can close your eyes to remove the distraction of mind, as you are very weak. But later on, you must meditate with eyes open, even during walking. You must keep your balance of mind even when you are in the bustle of a city. Only then are you perfect. Think strongly that the world is unreal, that there is no world, and that there is Atman only. If you can meditate on the Atman even when the eyes are open, you will be a strong man. You will not be easily disturbed.
Do not shake the body unnecessarily. By shaking the body very often, the mind also is disturbed. Do not scratch the body also every now and then. The Asana or posture should become as firm as a rock. Breathe slowly. Do not change the seat very often. Sit in the same place, at the same time, every day. Have the right kind of mental attitude as taught by your Guru.
Sometimes the mind will be sluggish or slothful. You cannot concentrate. It will refuse to work. The same vigorous mind may become sluggish in the later part of concentration, just as the horse that was running with good speed in the beginning of the journey becomes sluggish in the end. Just as the driver goads the horse by giving a little grass and water, so also you will have to inspire the mind with some Kirtan and elevating thoughts and discipline it with undistracted attention.
If the mind is restless or wandering, sit in a quiet room. Or lie down in Savasana like a dead man for 15 minutes and relax the body and mind completely. Entertain some pleasant thoughts. Think of some beautiful flowers, the glaciers of the Himalayas, the blue expansive sky, the vast ocean or some beautiful scenery in the Himalayas or Kashmir or in any other place. Now you can sit again for meditation.
When you sit on Asana for meditation, you want to get up soon, not on account of pain in the legs, but on account of impatience. Conquer this undesirable negative quality by developing patience gradually. Then you will be able to sit for three or four hours at a stretch.
When you are tired by too much meditation, suspend for a time the abstract Nirguna meditation or the image-making Saguna meditation. Fix your thoughts gently and lovingly upon all that is holy and sublime, upon the lofty acts of saints such as Sri Sankaracharya, Guru Nanak, Kabir, Sri Dattatreya, Sri Ramanuja, Lord Jesus and Lord Buddha. You will gradually regain the normal tone of your mind.
A weak aspirant, though he may be strong in concentration, is overcome by idleness. But a strong aspirant, if he is weak in concentration, is overpowered by Vikshepa or tossing of mind. Concentration and energy should therefore be well balanced.
Energy is wasted in useless idle talks and gossiping, planning and unnecessary worry or Chinta. Conserve energy by getting rid of these three defects and utilise it in meditation on God. You can do wonderful meditation then.
Just as you conserve the physical energy by observing Mauna, so also you will have to conserve the mental energy by stopping useless thinking. Then you will save abundant reserve energy for meditation.
Do not store in your brain needless information. Learn to unmind the mind. Forget whatever you have learnt. It is useless for you now. Then only you can fill your mind with divine thoughts in meditation. You will gain fresh mental strength now.
During meditation, you will be frequently talking to somebody mentally. Stop this evil habit. Have a careful watch over the mind.
The mind has attraction for certain new words or names of towns or persons. Suppose you have come across certain new words or names of towns or persons such as ‘ecstasy’, ‘Fyzabad’, ‘John Herbert’. If you sit for meditation, the mind will repeat ‘ecstasy’, ‘Fyzabad’, ‘John Herbert’. Sometimes it will sing some songs, repeat some old poems or Sanskrit Slokas which you got by heart during your boyhood. Watch the mind carefully and try to bring it back to the point or centre.
Drive off all negative thoughts. Become positive always. Positive overpowers the negative. You can do nice meditation when you are positive.
You must daily increase your Vairagya and Sattvic virtues such as patience, perseverance, mercy, love, forgiveness and purity. Vairagya and good qualities help meditation. Meditation increases the Sattvic qualities.
During meditation when your mind is more Sattvic, you will be inspired. The mind will be composing fine poems and solving intricate problems of life. Stamp out these Sattvic Vrittis also. This is all dissipation of mental energy. Soar higher and higher to Atman only.
During meditation, note how long you can shut out all worldly thoughts. Watch the mind very carefully. If it is for 20 minutes, try to increase the period to 30 or 40 minutes and so on. Fill the mind with thoughts of God again and again.
There is one good mood in those who practise meditation. It is termed the “meditative mood”. Those who practise concentration and meditation feel this kind of mood. When this mood manifests, you must immediately give up reading, writing, talking, etc. You must immediately sit on the usual Asana and begin to meditate. Meditation will come by itself without effort. This mood is very favourable for contemplation. Watch for this kind of mood. If light disturbs you, close the windows or put on a curtain along the window. A dark room is favourable for beginners in meditation.
Practise regular systematic meditation during the same hours daily. You will get the meditative mood easily.
If you find great interest and pleasure in meditation, if you are progressing, stop even study for sometime. Study also is a Vishaya (object of perception)–God is not in books. He is beyond the Panchakoshas, He can be reached only by constant meditation. Erudition is to gain applause in society. Avoid pedantry.
During meditation, when the mind passes into a calm state of Samata (balance), when you feel a peculiar concentration-Ananda (Bliss), think you are entering into the Samadhi state. Do not disturb this state. Try your best to keep it for a long time. Mark this state very carefully.
If the Yogic student who practises regular meditation is gloomy, surely, there is some error in his meditation. If he is depressed and weak, surely, something is wrong somewhere. Meditation makes a man strong, cheerful and healthy.
If there is any error in meditation, at once consult the senior Sannyasins or realised souls and remove the mistake.