Meditation: Inner Silence, Peace of Mind, Enlightenment
By Remez Sasson
Imagine yourself standing on the beach, watching the waves rushing to the shore, and then returning back to the ocean. Feel the cool, pleasant breeze, and breath in the intoxicating smell of the ocean's water. Tune in to the feeling of calmness that you experience now. Stay with this image and feeling for a while. It is pleasant, isn't it?
It does not matter that this scene is taking place in your imagination and is not real. You have been successful in invoking feelings associated with being on the beach. You were in engaged in some sort of meditation. Was it difficult?
In the last fifty years meditation has become popular, and people are becoming aware of its benefits. Many erroneously believe that it is only a means to relax the body and mind, when actually it is a lot more than this. Life in the West is full of tension and rush, so meditation has become erroneously recognized as a technique for relaxation. Relaxation is very important, but it is only one of the by-products of meditation, and not the end aim.
There are many techniques of meditation. One technique may appeal to some and another method may appeal to someone else. It is not a matter of which methods is better. At each level of development, a specific technique may be more appropriate.
Meditation's Benefits and Goals
Meditation relaxes the body, calms the mind, and minimizes tension. After a period of practice, the racing and rushing of thoughts in the mind slow down, not only during meditation, but also in daily life. Happiness increases along the way. Tolerance, love, understanding, inner power and fearlessness increase too. The concentration ability gets sharpened, and the mind become stronger and under control. The ability to enjoy the present moment increases, criticizing and blaming disappears, and strength, happiness and satisfaction increase.
All meditation techniques are means to the same final target, to empty the mind from thoughts, discover the real "I" and live in Pure Awareness. Along the way there are many benefits that have already been mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Nowadays there are many books about meditation. There are lectures and workshops too, so it is quite easy to find information about meditation, and someone to guide you along the first steps.
To meditate, we need at least some concentration ability. It does not mean that without proper training in concentration we will not be able to meditate. Even if concentration is foreign to us, we can start practicing meditation. The practice itself will strengthen the powers of concentration. But a prior ability of concentration is a great asset that speeds up our progress.
According to the teaching of the Indian philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, there is no separate self, all is One. It is only illusion, Maya, that clouds our vision. If we accept this premise, then we can say that the Absolute Self, the One, or whatever name you give to the Absolute principle, "creates" bodies and looks at its "creations" through the body's eyes. This causes the illusion of many selves. The Absolute is One, homogenous whole, but through illusion, delusion, ignorance and wrong thinking there is a belief in separation, of multitudes of units.
Everyone is very much engrossed in this illusion. There is " I", "You", "She", "They", etc. We believe in separate selves, and identify with a body, a family, a nation, or a race.
The purpose of meditation is to "unlearn" all the wrong concepts and come to realize who we really are. This realization may be mental at first, until we really KNOW. We are not the physical body, the ego, our thoughts or our feelings, but something else. By delving inside ourselves, into the feeling or sensation, which can be termed as "I am", we come to know ourselves. It is nothing external or new that we find. This feeling of "I am" is always with us. We simply let the mind flow outside, to sense objects, and so "lose" this feeling. It is something that has always been, always is, and will always be.
This Real "something" is like a bulb of light that is always lit, but is covered by many sheets. We have to strip away the sheets. These sheets are our thoughts, feelings, ideas, and mental habits. By stripping them away, we see the internal Light.
Look inside yourself and try to examine and be conscious of the feeling or sensation you have of yourself. I mean just the feeling that you are alive and existing. Concentrate on what you sense to be your essence. This feeling of "I-ness", is actually always with you, no matter what you are doing or where you are. It is an invariable and continuous factor, but it is clouded by the five senses and by thoughts. It is not something theoretical, metaphorical, or mystical. It is a fact. It is the common experience of everybody. Yet, it is ignored, because the five senses and the mind flow outside, not inside. Do not expect to hear trumpets and walk on a red carpet when you become conscious of this feeling, because it has always been within you, only at the back of your mind.
There is one trap that has to be avoided. Never be attached to any particular kind of meditation. After practicing one technique successfully for a period of time, it is time to move on to some more advanced one. If you stay attached to a technique or method that you have overgrown, you might halt your progress. A competent teacher knows when you need to advance to a more advanced technique, and will show you the way, otherwise you may just stay in the same place. If you do not have a teacher, look at your experiences, listen to your intuition, stay open minded, and you will know when to move on.
It is advisable to practice one technique at a time, and not to jump from one to another. There is no sense in practicing many techniques at the same time.
Sit down, relax your body, feelings and thoughts by whatever methods you know. A few minutes of calm deep rhythmical breaths will make you more relaxed. When advanced on the path you will not need all these preliminaries. Now try to look at your thoughts, as if from the outside, as if they are not yours. Watch your thoughts calmly, without using force, and without being carried away by them or being emotionally involved with them. Whenever you find yourself deviating from the meditation and thinking about something else, gently bring your mind back to the task. Do this at least 10 minutes each day and then gradually lengthen the time up to 20-25 minutes.
The next step is to think about the body, the feelings and thoughts and then reject them as not your 'I'. When looking at some object and thinking about it, you cannot be that object, you are separate from it. If you think about your body, it means that something separate from it is thinking about it. This also applies to your thoughts, feelings, beliefs and ego. Keep thinking in this way and you will come to the conclusion that you are not all these components.
Thoughts, feelings and beliefs change, sometimes radically, but yet you still exist as yourself, you retain the same awareness or consciousness of your being. The body's cells change too, but you, the essential you, remain the same. The I is eternal, and all else is not. Everything comes and go, but your 'I', your feeling of being alive and existing, when not identified or mixed with anything such as body, thought, or feeling, is always the same, never changing. This I is your real Self. One minute you may be thinking or feeling something, the next minute another thought or feeling pops up. But who is aware of the thoughts and the feelings? Think about it, and then just try to be aware of the answer with no words or thoughts.
Then ask yourself "who am I?" and wait for the answer. The answer is not verbal. It is just a realization with no words or thoughts. No inner discussion is necessary. It is an intuitive knowledge, with absolute certainty, in a direct and experimental way, of who you really are. Then you feel the Bliss of the Eternal. This state is called by many names by different tradition, Cosmic Consciousness, Samadhi, Nirvana Self-realization, to quote a few. The question "Who am I", as a trigger to come to Self-knowledge, was the path advocated by Sri Ramana Maharshi the great Sage of India.
The human mind has learnt to think in complicated ways and expect complicated solutions and theories about life and its meaning. All these ideas have to be rejected if we want to succeed in our endeavor. It is the mind that is creating many theories, worlds, powers and entities. It creates problems and then looks for solutions. We have to get beyond the mind in order to control it and its creations. Freedom from thoughts and a realization of our true eternal One identity, free us from the mind's games.
Meditation has to be practiced with a spirit of detachment and without tension. In time, you will become more aware of your Consciousness, your Real I and act and do everything from its viewpoint, not the ego's point of view. It is really inaccurate to say, " to be aware of your Consciousness" as you are it, you do not experience it as something separate from you, you are It. If you say, I am observing my consciousness, ask yourself who is this observer. You can observe your mind, but not yourself. The mind observes what is happening around, but when you observe your mind, it is actually you, the consciousness that is observing the mind. Please do not regard what I have said as a game of words, because it isn't.
What is to be done is to stop thinking and just Be. 'Be' means, feel your real being, with no identification with your thoughts or personality. This has to be practiced; otherwise whatever you read here will remain as useless and meaningless words. If you are able to stop all your thinking and still remain conscious, forgoing any false identification with what you call your personality and its attachments, and just experience what is left, which is certainly not a vacuum, then that's it. You have what people call 'found yourself'. All what you have to do next is to stabilize in this state, always and under all circumstances.
It is hoped that this short, and rather general article, may be of some help. It is not claimed that this is the only way, not at all. This way may appeal to some. Other paths appeal to others.
At first, meditation is to be performed at special times during the day. At a certain point in your progress you will be able to meditate it at all available moments, when you are not busy with something that needs special attention. Then the moments of blissful silence will start coming, increasing in length, and the breaks between them will get shorter and shorter. One day you may find that you are always in a state of meditation, even while doing other things. This becomes the natural state of your Awareness. No thoughts, only silent mind carried into each task and deed throughout the day, every day.