It is nearing Christmas, and next week Ananda centers will host the annual eight-hour Christmas meditation. This long meditation is a spiritual anchor for many of us, and so I thought it would be helpful to give some tips on how to deepen our meditations, especially longer ones.
In order to sit for a long period of time, or even a short one, relaxation is essential. One time Swami Kriyananda asked his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, “Am I not trying hard enough?” Yogananda replied, “You are trying too hard. It is creating tension.”
Effort is needed, yes, but relaxed effort. Spiritually, one of the reasons to practice yoga postures is that it teaches you to relax into a pose. Tensing just blocks you from going deeper. The same is true of meditation: You need to relax in order to reach the depths.
The spiritual eye in the forehead is the seat of higher consciousness, and where we will experience Christ (or Krishna) consciousness. Yogananda explained that Christ and Krishna were called “Sons of God” because they had realized their unity with God in creation. The goal of meditation is to experience this realization for ourselves. And yet, straining for it is counterproductive.
We strain because we have a latent sense that God is “out there” far away, up in the clouds, in the heavens. But the truth is that He is the air we breathe, the water we drink, the blood flowing in our veins, and the very atoms of the universe. We don’t need to reach out to Him so much as to still our minds and emotions, which brings the realization that He is present already within us.
To help you relax, here is an image that came to me. When you are sun-bathing, there is no thought of trying to lift yourself up to the rays: You simply let them come to you. Try Son-bathing, then. Instead of striving mightily to lift yourself up to God, let Him come to you. Relax and bathe in the radiance of the spiritual eye. You will find that you can go deeper than if you strain.
Here are some more simple tips for deepening any meditation:
- Start off with concentration. The first few minutes will set the tone for the rest of your meditation.
- Practice your techniques with the deepest attention you can muster, but let that attention be relaxed.
- Concentrate deeply, but more with the feelings than with the mind.
- In longer meditations, your focus may wax and wane. Just be patient and keep trying. You will find that you go deeper over time.
- Chanting is half the battle. Focus on one chant for a long period and try to take it deep. Paramhansa Yogananda spiritualized the chants by taking them into the superconscious state. Try to do the same.
- Toward the end of each meditation try to float in a sea of joy.
May this Christmas season find you one with the Christ Consciousness.
In the One,