by Robert Wilkinson
Most of us are so busy living life sometimes it's convenient to forget to meditate. Yet from one point of view, living life is a meditation in itself!
This is the next segment in our multi-part series on meditation. I last offered this specific material 2+ years ago, and I’ve rewritten several parts and added new material to flesh out some concepts and make it more readable.
This article was inspired by a client who felt that life was showing her the importance of renewing her meditation practice which had fallen by the wayside due to work considerations. I reminded her that for our lives to be enjoyable, it should combine work and play, and if we keep working at playing and playing at working, eventually we'll find our way to a happy productivity 24/7!
Life can be a meditation if we learn how to view it as such and fully enter into the mystery of the process of our self-unfoldment. That means connecting some dots, renouncing some assumptions, and remembering that often it won’t make sense from a linear standpoint. We don’t have to learn to play in the key of A, then B, then C. Sometimes we are playing in keys we’ve never known before.
A good meditation on our existence can be had by taking a look from time to time at our inner and outer self-image, and seeing if the relationship between these two essential elements of “self” accurately reflects our Higher Self, or if we're off track or out of balance somehow. If the former, then we can contemplate the nature of the self to the Self, always a great meditation when we stop judging and enjoy the experience. And if we’re off track or out of balance, through seeing the relationship of the self to the Self, we understand how to bring the inner and outer back into alignment.
Given the immense number of distractions constantly streaming in from the outer world, it is important to learn how to step back from the chatter and white noise from time to time so we can be still and hear "the voice of the silence." While it's safe to say that meditation is one of the tools we can use to access the Higher Self and "All-That-Is," there are many ways to meditate, with different practices more efficacious for some and not for others.
My client had been given some clear signals that reminded her she needing a regular meditation. These signals involved chanting meditations she once had done. As I told her, there are many kinds of meditation, and different forms will create different results at different times in life. Silence may work better for some, while chanting may work better for others, and even these will shift in effectiveness over time.
Most valid meditational forms work for everyone to some degree, but again, much depends on our own path of Self-realization. Chanting is only one of many meditational forms, and while it does work for everyone to some degree, it's also not necessarily THE path, or even the best path to take, for those walking the Way of individualization.
That's because there are many forms of Yoga (Sanskrit for "Yoke," or that which binds us to Spirit). Mantra Yoga (chanting) is only one path of many. Chanting is no more or less valid than Jnana Yoga (Yoga of Knowledge) or Karma Yoga (Yoga of deeds/right action). We can come to Higher Awareness through many paths, and chanting is only one form of meditation among many. Much depends on our ability to focus, stay focused, and how easy or difficult it is to get out of our own way.
I've practiced meditations involving both "right action" and "right knowledge and right view" for decades. I've sat and walked and focused and not focused and done many other meditative forms, including reading astrological charts. At times I've contemplated mandalas and yantras, natural and manufactured symbols, as well as done structured meditations on the 7 Planes of Consciousness and the 7 Rays.
All of these provided me ways to access the Higher Planes and the subtle realms. All helped me "get out of my own way," including the "building a stone wall" meditation and the "lapping cat" meditation. Again, "Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance" is not just the title of a book!
And yes, I've also chanted at various times across the years on my Path to Truth. I chanted with the Hari Krishnas in Austin for a while back in the early 70s, did Vedic chants and group healing affirmations in NYC at Hilda Charlton's gatherings in the early 80s, and chanted with the "Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo" sect of Japanese Buddhism in Southern California in the late 80s. I've done my own practice since then utilizing any number of mantras for various purposes.
I also asked for a mantra from Ammachi about 16 years ago for a specific purpose. (Yes, it worked perfectly!) So I do know the power of Mantra Yoga through a variety of angles of approach, which is a necessary practicum in discovering key elements of the science of vibration.
That’s also why a great meditation is learning to monitor our speech so that what we say accurately expresses our heart and our optimism rather than our pessimism. Learning to listen to what we say and how we say it, and then changing our words and how we express ourselves is one of the most important meditations we’ll ever do. It’s actually somewhat of an ongoing meditation, and as such it produces concrete results relatively quickly.
While chanting can in fact lead to forms of higher consciousness, I found that, being a devotional path, it doesn't allow for much individual self-expression beyond the mantra. Chanting the Sound allows us to lose our sense of the separated self but it does not address other factors required for individuated Self-realization. That said, if you do find one or more mantras that work for you and you surrender the fears and questions that arise in the discontented mind, there will be times when you do feel more centered and even joyous.
Tai Chi, Chi Gong, ceramics, painting, music, dancing, doing specific forms of walking meditations, and sitting still in one pointed focus are all forms of meditation. So are mental practices in understanding the interrelatedness of things, merging inner and outer views, stopping mental chatter and distractive influences, reading certain books that will open the doors of higher perception, and learning how to tame the five senses and the mind.
Even going into deep nature searching for a vision of whatever you believe will bring you higher awareness, along with practices in spaciousness and luminosity, are valid forms of meditation. You can definitely find yourself one with Nature once the mind and feelings are out of the way. We can lose ourselves and our fears in deep Nature, while finding our Self at peace with All-That-Is.
For those who want a basic meditation practice that will lead to interesting insights into the nature of the relationship of the self to the Self, start by creating a small altar somewhere in your home where you can sit and focus on how those "sacred objects" symbolize your Higher Self. The objects we value show us something of our appreciation for beautiful and/or meaningful forms, and as such mirror our values back to us. Many times what we value shows us part of the "floor plan" of our personality.
The point of meditation is to learn how to "get out of our own way," and commune with the subtle worlds of higher existence. (That's why Reiki is also a great meditational form!) I believe the best meditation is one where we can examine how we can still ourselves from responding to outer distractions, bringing our physical, emotional, and mental worlds to a smooth integration, resulting in realizations where we can see our lives as an uninterrupted integrating flow toward greater awareness.
I suppose the ideal is self-forgetfulness. I’ve actually achieved states of not remembering my body, feelings, or thoughts, but never for that long. I’ve also learned that one should NOT meditate while on a long drive, since forgetting that you’re on a road going at a fast rate of speed can have disastrous results! And one can meditate while driving in ways that allow for a much broader understanding of the experience of our lives, whether on micro or macro levels.
While I’ve known many who desired to forget this world and attain a “permanent,” or at least enduring sense of self-forgetfulness, it’s useful to keep in mind that as long as we are in a body with feelings and thoughts, there will be service to do in the world. Remember, there are many different kinds of Yoga to learn and practice so that we are well-rounded in our realizations about the relationship of the self to the Self.
The effectiveness of meditation often depends on our higher aspirations, and whether we're on a Path to Higher Realization through the school of Art, Science, or Philosophy. All Beings are not the same, and thus each responds in their own way to promptings on the Path that is most natural to them. While any valid meditational practice will help serve the goal of personality integration so that the Higher Self is made manifest as a vehicle for Soul expression, some meditational forms are more effective, and some less effective, at different times in life.
One caveat: no dogma will ever bring enlightenment, so beware of situations where someone is insisting their way is better than all other ways. While another may have found something that works (or seems to work) for them at the time, it may or may not be efficacious for us at that time. I have found my “still, small, inner voice” usually guides me right if I’m willing to listen to it rather than my own mental chatter and others’ opinions.
On a final note for today, a great meditation is to see the events and people throughout our life who helped us to a greater awareness and/or compassion and/or Self-realization. Then we see elements of our “Hero’s journey” leading us from ignorance to knowledge and wisdom. Through piercing the form and understanding the essence of the process, we can follow the breadcrumbs through the forest of our ideas and perceptions to come to understand our personality as a vehicle through which our Sacred Self manifests.
Since the Teacher, the Teaching, and the Taught are all one together, we can see our lives as a Sacred Quest that has brought us in contact with many who have shown us the Way, whether through positive, negative, or neutral events. Our entire life is showing us patterns, and through these we can come to know our Heart. In knowing our Heart, we come to know the integrity of our Truth of Being, the Light we Eternally radiate across lifetimes.
ALL forms of meditation should ideally serve this realization. Re-read as needed.
Aum Mani Padme Hum!
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Copyright © 2011, 2013 Robert Wilkinson