The following meditation instructions are taken from the chapter, Third Step in Awakening Your Diamond Essence in my book Meditation Where East and West Meet.
In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali speaks of disciplining the body to maintain the correct posture, a "stable and relaxed posture." By right posture he means any comfortable position where the spine is erect so the energy and consciousness can flow freely up the spine. Patanjali insists that the meditator must be able to maintain a fixed posture without fidgeting or physical restlessness so that the motions in the body are stilled.
This is very important. The body needs to be still and the spine straight so the energy can flow inward and travel up to the higher centers in the spine and brain so you can actually feel your Diamond Essence.
Patanjali tells us that the devotee must be beyond the dualities of heat and cold and so on. In the Yoga Sutras he encourages the devotee to be unaffected by extremes. Patanjali does not however advocate the necessity of practicing the more strenuous yoga postures of Hatha Yoga, but only that which is necessary to make the body fit and prepared to receive the extra current that accompanies ecstasy or union with The Divine in meditation.
At this level Saint Teresa talks about self-control. In her book Interior Castle Saint Teresa of Avila tells us in the "third mansion," that the power of discipline does manifest and causes a spontaneous tendency towards acts of charity for others, while prudence, discretion and order appear in one’s life. This inner sense of control manifests in all levels of our being, in the control of speech, dress and in relationships with others. The awakened power of self-control aids in disciplining and controlling the body and its appetites and also each attempt by the will to control the body leads to a greater expression of self-control. It certainly takes self-control and discipline to sit still for a period of time without restlessness.
If you are a beginner in meditation, I highly recommend you keep your session short so you can sit still without moving. As you learn to sit still for short periods of time, you can gradually increase the length of your meditation practice. If you make your meditations "short and sweet" in the beginning, you will want to meditate again and again. If you attempts a duration longer than you're comfortable with, you will not look forward to your next meditation engagement.
Depth of meditation is more important than length, but as you progress, both are necessary. So, in the beginning, learn how to sit still and develop depth, then gradually increase your meditation time.
Five minutes of concentrated meditation is more effective than fifteen or thirty minutes with the mind all over the place. Naturally, long concentrated meditation is even more effective.
Strive to establish the habit of meditating at least once a day. If you can fit two meditation periods -- morning and evening -- into your daily schedule, you will find yourself becoming more centered and advancing more quickly toward your desired goal.
Where and How to Meditate
Where is the best place to meditate? An ideal place is in a quiet spot free from distractions and activities. Just as the kitchen is the place for preparing food, it is necessary to create a special area dedicated to meditation. A special room or the corner of a bedroom may be ideal because there will be less traffic or interruptions.
You will also want to choose a spot where you will feel comfortable and that is usually available. By meditating regularly in the same spot, you build up meditation vibrations that will help you to go deeper in your practice. Take the time now to determine where you can best find the conditions you need in order to meditate.
The next thing to decide is how you will be sitting. If you can sit in the traditional yoga meditation position, with your legs crossed and interlocked, then practice this method. (See Diagram 1.) This position is known as the lotus posture and is ideal, as it keeps the body in a stable position to prevent falling either forward or backward. This allows freedom to concentrate and go within without worrying about balance. Sitting in the lotus posture can be done on the floor or on a bed with a firm mattress.
For most people, especially in the West, this posture is uncommon and therefore uncomfortable. If this is true for you it is recommended you sit on a chair or the edge of a firm bed. (See seated in chair in Diagram 1.) Your meditations can be just as effective by sitting on the edge of a bed or on a chair. I recommend the position of sitting up, because if you are trying to meditate lying down, you will find much of your meditation efforts may be hindered by the tendency to fall asleep. You have programmed yourself for many years that lying down signifies it is time to go to sleep.
Also the Christian posture of kneeling at prayer keeps the spine straight allowing the mind to be awake and alert on the object of meditation.
I would like to offer a few more suggestions before you set up your place of meditation. If you are going to sit on a chair, choose one with no arms and one that will allow your thighs to be parallel to the ground. In this way you will not be tilting forward or backward and your spine will be straight. I would like to emphasize once again that a straight spine is very important in allowing the energy to flow freely up and down it. In meditation you are striving to take the energy up the spine so you can take your consciousness inward to the higher centers of the spine and brain where you can experience your Diamond Essence.
The Bhagavad-Gita gives specific instructions in the practice of meditation to be employed in achieving the mystical consciousness: "The yogi's seat should be neither too high nor too low, situated in a clean spot and can be covered with Kisa-grass, deer skin and then cloth. Meditating on that seat for purification of the self the yogi should concentrate the mind until it is one-pointed. Controlling the senses and restless thoughts he should keep his body, neck and head erect and still and focus his eyes at the origin of the nose (spiritual eye) and refrain from letting his gaze wander. Completely serene and fearless, with a disciplined mind focused solely on Me (God), the yogi should regard Me as his Supreme Goal. The yogi who thus becomes Lord of his mind attains the peace of Nirvana, the supreme peace that is in Me."
In the above passage the Bhagavad-Gita mentions placing Kisa-grass, deer skin and cloth on the meditation seat since many yogi"s practiced meditation out of doors. Whether you practice in- or outdoors a woolen blanket would be sufficient. The woolen blanket helps you lift your energy. Silk is also a great insulator. This will isolate you from magnetic earth currents that tend to draw your energy downward. In meditation you want to bring your energy up the spine. Earth currents tend to pull your energy downward to the ground. If you are sitting in the lotus posture on the floor, the woolen and/or silken blanket can be under you.
If possible, face east when you are meditating. Subtle magnetic currents are always coming from the east and this will help you.
Think about your meditation area and the objects you feel may be helpful to your concentration. You might choose to have a little altar, perhaps with pictures or sacred objects on it. Burning incense or playing soft music is conducive, for some people, to the meditative state. You may wish to burn a candle or have flowers on your altar. Set up a meditation area that pleases and inspires you. Make it a special place of spiritual renewal, inviting you to come to practice on a daily basis.
Do not postpone your meditation practice until you feel you have created your ideal environment for it. It may take time to set up the area. You can enhance your special place over time. The main thing is to find a comfortable chair or the place where you want to sit cross-legged in order to start meditating.
As one meditation instructor said: "The tush must touch the cush."
Meditation is too important a practice to put off until tomorrow. If you put it off you may never begin.
Time for Meditation
When is the best time to meditate? The answer is anytime you feel the inspiration to do so and it is not in conflict with some other important duty. It is advantageous to begin and end your day with a meditation. In the morning it prepares your mind for the day. In the evening, just before bedtime, it prepares your body and mind for a restful sleep. Upon rising and just before going to sleep are the easiest times for your consciousness to interiorize and explore the world within. Remember though, at these times you are more susceptible to sleepiness. If this is a problem for you it is best to choose a different time in the day. You know your tendencies better than anyone else, so find the time that works best for you.
Recommended times for meditation are anytime in the morning between 5 and 8 a.m., from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., or from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. There are vibratory changes at these four times and these are helpful in deepening your meditation and making it more effective and beneficial.
When you are practicing meditation correctly, you will feel awake and more alive than you have ever felt before. The mind becomes calm, concentrated and focused, filled with energy and power. If you find you are becoming drowsy while trying to meditate, this tendency needs to be corrected immediately.
You have now determined how you will be sitting. If you are sitting on a chair or the edge of a bed, make sure your thighs are parallel with the ground and your feet are flat on the floor.
In whatever position you are sitting, if it is possible, keep your back away from any surface. This helps concentration and prevents you from becoming too relaxed and falling asleep.
If you are just beginning meditation practice, or you have back problems, this position may be uncomfortable for you. Make whatever commonsense adjustments necessary. If you can train yourself to not depend on a surface to lean against this will eventually be to your advantage. As you go deeper in meditation you will feel a greater sense of freedom and expansion. Having your back against a surface leads to an increased sense of body identification and may minimize the sense of expansion felt in meditation.
Your chin needs to be parallel to the ground. Gently pull your shoulders back, with your chest up so the body is erect and yet comfortable. The lumbar region of the spine (opposite the navel) should be gently crooked forward. Remember, the correct posture is where the spine is straight so energy can flow freely up it, and you can sit comfortably for a period of time without fidgeting or restlessness.
If it is comfortable for you, place your hands at the junction of the thighs and the abdomen. (See Diagram 1.) If you turn your hands downward you will find this position is more passive. If you turn them upward, it induces a more receptive state of mind, and I recommend this for meditation.
You can also bring the tip of your thumb and forefinger together. In India they talk about different nadis or energy flows in the body. The position of the thumb and forefinger together utilizes one of these energy flows and is a very peaceful position for meditation. I personally like to meditate with my thumb touching both my forefinger and second finger.
Eye Position -- States of Consciousness
In your daily activities and during meditation there are three basic ways you can focus your eyes, and each one will activate a different state of consciousness:
If your eyes are open and you are looking around you are operating through the conscious mind.
Eyes closed and lowered draw the subconscious state of mind and tend to lead to fanciful daydreaming and eventually to the sleep state. If you are looking down with eyes open, as some meditation instructors recommend, this still may lead to the subconscious state.
If your eyes are upraised and focused at a point between your eyebrows, in the middle just above the bridge of the nose, this activates and eventually awakens your superconscious mind. This spot is known as the Spiritual Eye.
There are different names given to this sacred spot are: the Spiritual Eye, third eye, eye of intuition, the Christ Consciousness center or Single Eye. (See Diagram 2.)
Focusing on the point between the eyebrows, or the Spiritual Eye, stimulates the superconscious mind, which contains all the positive qualities of the soul. It helps to develop the sixth sense of intuition. Working with the Spiritual Eye is a great way to tune in with your meditation goal and awaken your Diamond Consciousness.
Jesus is referring to the Spiritual Eye when he said, â€œThe light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of Light.â€The Bhagavad-Gita also advocates meditating focused at the Spiritual Eye: â€œFirmly holding the spine, neck and head erect and motionless, let the yogi focus his eyes at the starting place of the nose [the spot between the eyebrows]; let him not gaze around in various directions.â€
To do this, upturn the gaze, with eyes closed or half open. The raising of the eyes needs to be done gently, without strain, not looking cross-eyed or with tension. Donâ€™t lift your gaze so high that you are looking toward the ceiling. You just want to gently uplift the gaze slightly above the normal horizontal position. To give you an idea of how high to lift the gaze, stand in front of a mirror. Look straight into your eyes. Now look at your Spiritual Eye in the mirror and notice how the lifting of the gaze feels. Close your eyes, maintaining this same upliftment of the gaze, and be aware of how this upliftment of the gaze feels as you concentrate inwardly on the Spiritual Eye. Keep this same sensation when you concentrate on the Spiritual Eye in your meditation practice.
Another method is to lift your gaze imagining you are looking out of a tiny hole in the area of the Spiritual Eye. You can also mentally focus on the Spiritual Eye and you will find your eyes will automatically lift to be centered at this sacred spot.
If you continue to meditate on the Spiritual Eye you will, in time, intuitively know when you have located the correct spot.
Some people tell me that in the beginning they have difficulty looking at the Spiritual Eye. Some have said they sometimes feel dizzy, lightheaded, off balance, and even experience a slight headache or nausea. I also experienced these symptoms at first. I learned to keep checking mentally to see if I was gently uplifting my gaze and not creating strain or tension. I later learned from a teacher that I had a clogged Spiritual Eye. What this simply means is that the energy was blocked and was not flowing freely through this center. Gradually I was able to change this and over time I found these troubling symptoms disappearing.
Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the classic book AutobiographyofaYogi and founder of Self-Realization Fellowship, a worldwide spiritual organization, encourages us in this practice by stating that â€œThe ordinary man, concentrating his vision with half-closed eyes at the point between the eyebrows, feels eyestrain in the beginning, owing to the unfamiliar practice. The yogi, on the other hand, used to concentrating upward on his spiritual eye, finds it distasteful to identify his consciousness with the downward material vision of his two physical eyes.â€As Yogananda indicated, when I look at this spot now I immediately feel a concentration of energy which transforms into deep peace and joy. If you are patient with yourself and continue your practice of looking at the Spiritual Eye, the same process will happen for you as well.
It is good to remember that in meditation you will be reversing the energy flow in the body to move inward. By concentrating on the Spiritual Eye, you are directing energy to this center. You will be creating new nerve channels or re-establishing those that have been dormant. This takes time and practice.
One method I used when I first started meditating on the Spiritual Eye was to bring my forefinger to this spot and hold it there for a few seconds. This helped me to orientate myself to where the Spiritual Eye is and the sensation of the slight pressure of my finger would remain after I dropped my hand, thus helping me to keep my gaze fixed at this sacred center. You can also wet a finger with your tongue and when you touch the area of your Spiritual Eye it will leave a cool sensation which will aid in your concentration and focus.
The Spiritual Eye is the center of will. It is also the door to the Infinite, the seat of intuition. This spot is where you will see inner visions. As already stated, Jesus said when the eye is single the whole body will be full of light. The Single Eye he is referring to is the Spiritual Eye and when the energy of the body is raised and concentrated at this spot, you will eventually see the Light of God. As you concentrate more deeply, you will come to feel that your whole body, each and every cell, is full of vibrant light. Experiencing the White Light is another goal we will explore later in the book.
The Old Testament refers to seeing the Light of God in meditation: â€œI will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear meâ€¦When I sit in darkness, The Lord shall be a light unto me.â€
The upturned eyes of a person who has just left the body is focused at the Spiritual Eye. Just before death, people see a vision of the major events of their life passing quickly before them at the Spiritual Eye. This gives them an overview of their life and preparation for the next stage in their evolution. A person who is deeply concentrated on a particular endeavor often has their awareness centered there, hence the knotted eyebrows in deep thinkers.
While focusing on the Spiritual Eye, you may see colors as well. This is a reflection of the color vibrations working through the chakra centers. (These centers and their locations will be explored later.) When seeing and feeling these colors, you will become sensitive to their qualities. For example, if you are receptive to the red energy you will feel strength, power and vitality. Orange denotes optimism and courage. Yellow is imbued with mental power and joy. Green carries love, peace, balance, harmony and healing. Creativity, faith and devotion are inherent in blue. Indigo embodies intuition. Violet is the vibration of creative imagination and humility; it also is associated with spiritual perception. White contains the sum total of all the colors. When you can see the White Light in the Spiritual Eye, you will be experiencing all the qualities of the various colors.
Many of my meditation students comment on the colors they see at the Spiritual Eye and enjoy this aspect of their practice. This can also be a valuable meditation goal.
In Buddhist practice, the solar plexus is considered to be the power center and one tries to keep oneâ€™s awareness there. It is also recommended to keep the eyes open and down in meditation, focused on an object or a spot on the floor a short distance away. The object or spot is not to be focused on directly but is to be looked at with a soft gaze. Buddhist meditation instructors say keeping the eyes open and on an object are helpful to those who tend to be distracted by inner subconscious images when they close their eyes. Some Christian meditation systems have adopted this practice because of the popularity of Buddhist Meditation. However, I have talked to many students who practice this method and they complain of struggling with sleep in meditation. If you lower the gaze in this way, try to be extremely careful that you do not enter into the subconscious state of sleep while meditating. Buddha talked about being â€œawakened.â€ He did not recommend falling asleep in meditation.
Sleeping in meditation can be a real trap and one should guard against it. I had this difficulty in the beginning and I do not know of anyone who has practiced meditation and has escaped from experiencing this problem at one time or another. Of course, if a person is learning meditation to help with a sleep disorder and wants to relax and fall asleep through meditation then this is a different story. If, however, we desire to achieve the ultimate state of yoga meditation (union of the soul) with Spirit, then we need to work on overcoming the tendency to fall asleep in meditation.
I was fortunate to be in the presence of a God Realized master and she was adamant in her position regarding sleeping in meditation and in a very direct way she said: â€œIf a person nods off when they meditate, and this develops into an established habit which will become very difficult to overcome, then the individual might as well kiss God goodbye in this lifetime.â€
We can have a pleasant experience in the realm of the subconscious but this is very different from the effects of deep meditation. Once a student asked me if an experience he had was a deep meditation experience. He felt peaceful and relaxed but the state he was describing was the state of consciousness we have when reading a book in bed and we end up reading the same sentence over and over again, before finally drifting off to sleep. This is relaxing but not a deep meditative state.
When you go deep into meditation your mind will become so calm, so peaceful, so still and centered, like a crystal-clear mirror reflecting the infinite beauty within you. As you begin to experience your divine essence no words will be able to adequately describe this sublime state. I therefore highly recommend concentration on the Spiritual Eye because it will lead you to more rewarding benefits when practiced consistently. Focusing there will keep your consciousness on the superconscious plane of peace and away from inner subconscious images, memory or the sleep state. It will also lift your consciousness beyond the constant movement of a restless conscious mind. When practiced consistently, it will give you a joyous feeling of being centered and secure.
Just meditating on the Spiritual Eye alone is a very powerful meditation technique and will lead to nourishing your soul.
It is very beneficial to focus on the Spiritual Eye when you are praying, doing affirmations or repeating a mantra. (A mantra is a form of meditation you will practice later.) When you are trying to receive a response through intuition and feel your goal of meditation such as peace, love and joy, then it is best to focus on the Spiritual Heart. You will learn how to focus on the Spiritual Heart later in this chapter.
You have now been introduced to two simple but powerful and essential meditation skills: correct body posture and where to focus your gaze. Now it is beneficial, and time, to practice these two skills so you will become comfortable with them. As you progress in this book you will learn additional meditation techniques.