Anyone who is ready to start their spiritual journey, by learning to meditate, can begin here. Meditation is an ancient practice used in different forms in many cultures, from Asia, the Middle East, India, to the American Indians. In the Upanishads (the sacred scriptures of India) there is an outline of our spiritual journey:
Inside your body is a shrine.
Inside the shrine is a lotus flower.
Inside the lotus is a tiny space.
Inside that tiny space lives the creator.
Inside the creator is the Universe.
Find it, and you will be one with the creator and all things.
Be there, and all things and the creator will be one with you.
Meditation begins with silence and stillness. This is not absolute silence or perfect stillness, because they don't naturally exist on this planet. I have always said I can find silence in an airport. Granted, it takes a great deal of concentration, but it is possible. In fact I became so good at it, my daughter at a very young age started saying to me, “Earth to Daddy, earth to Daddy.” when she needed to get my attention.
The same is true of stillness. We need to learn to settle down the body and be aware of everything that is going on within it. All energy needs to flow up through us without being blocked. It is even possible to find inner stillness while walking, running, skiing, or doing any repetitive action. I usually do a series of yoga stretches before I begin to meditate. This helps me to center my body while preparing to center my being.
There are many forms of meditation, and they all work. The only common denominator that must be present is that they help your mind achieve one pointedness, where the mind is directed to let go of all other thoughts but one. To accomplish this, some meditators use a light point, a candle flame, a star, etc. Others use an object, the surface of water, a plant, etc. Many use a breathing technique. Still others use some form of mantra. You should use the one that works best for you, but experimentation is greatly encouraged.
Books on meditation contain helpful tips, like the two books by James Roose-Evans Inner Journey: Outer Journey and Finding Silence, but meditation is an experience, which only improves with faithful regular practice. Most experienced meditators set aside one or two periods of 20 minutes or more each day. Then of course there is the Dalai Lama, who seems to maintain a closeness to his inner being almost constantly.
It you choose to use a mantra in meditation, it is important to choose the best one for you personally. James Roose-Evans wisely conjectures, in Finding Silence, ch9, that “Jesus' own mantra may well have been the Aramaic word 'Abba.' All Aramaic words carry several meanings rather as Chinese ideograms do. And so the word Abba can mean an earthly father, but also father and mother, and beyond that, the source and origin of all things.” The key to a powerful mantra, which is evidenced here in 'Abba,' is that it will focus the mind toward the “Great I am” center inside you.
The practice of focusing on your breathing, I describe here in detail. This is not the forced breathing used by athletes, but the natural breathing of the body practiced by trained actors. To experience this lay down on your back, place your hands on your upper abdomen just below the ribcage, and relax. Soon you will notice that your hands are moving up on the inhale and down on the exhale. To take a deep breath, push down with your hands and force all the air out of your body. Now just relax. Your body will take the deep breath all by itself. You cannot stop this from happening. If you try to hold your breath, you will ultimately gasp for air or pass out, and the body will breathe. Experience what the body is doing, how it feels, and note that the mind is not doing any of it. Take a few minutes to look through your body, examining your breathing from the inside out. When you see these images clearly, you are ready for the next step.
Get up and sit on a stool or in a chair with your back straight (don't lean back), put your hands on your upper abdomen, and relax. Let your body take over and the breathing will come as before. However, your mind and ego do not like being left out of the process, so they may start telling you, “This is awkward. This is not the way to breath.” Don't listen to them. You know it is not true. Believe me, the mind and ego will not give up without a struggle. When the natural breathing prevails, you are ready for the next step.
Stand up with your back straight, knees slightly bent, and feet a shoulder width apart. Put your hands on your abdomen and relax. Feel your energy moving up through your spine and shooting out through the top of your head. Let the natural breathing take over again. Don't be surprised when your mind and ego start to work on you again. Just laugh a little and tell them to get lost. Whatever you do, don't get angry or frustrated. If you do, you will be back to square one lying on the floor. When your breathing becomes natural again, and your body is in full control, you are ready to start meditating, in a yoga lotus position, sitting in a chair, or standing up. Use whatever position is most comfortable for your body to move the energy upward. Any discomfort will be another obstacle to your meditation.
For those who are new to meditation, I will describe here the practice I use now. I began meditating when I was sixteen years old and have tested out practically every form of meditation. This one seems to work for me most of the time. If I am blocked for some reason, I switch to something else to get unblocked. I use a combination of a mantra with the breathing practice, which I gleaned from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.
My mantra is OM, the unutterable syllable in Sanskrit. (This is not to be confused with the Western chanting of this mantra.) The history of the syllable is important for the meditator. OM represents our eternal present. All that we have been in the past, and all that we will be in the future is present in OM. There is nothing that we have been or will be in the future that does not exist in the here and now. If we fully connect with our OM, we will be one in our inner being, our “Great I am” center. Patanjali considers this to be the most powerful of all mantras. Can you imagine my surprise when I discovered why this mantra is never uttered aloud?
I was practicing my breathing before a class. I pressed all the air out of my body and relaxed. The air came rushing back in. My ears were listening. I let my body exhale naturally. My ears were listening. I long since had trained my mind and ego to be still. My inhale came again all on its own, OOOOOOO. My exhale followed naturally, MMMMMMM. My body was saying this mantra OM without utterance.
That night in my meditation, I started the breathing by pressing out all my air. My body took a deep breath, OOOOOOO. Then it exhaled, MMMMMMM. The OM was just there. As I started across the prairie of my daily life, my mind and ego started coming at me from all directions like a herd of steers. The mantra OM repelled them. I wasn't saying it, my body was. If I became distracted for a second, or any dark thoughts tried to sidetrack me, all I had to do was slide back into my breathing and my body mantra and let OM do the work. As I approached the river of light, a vast darkness then a silence and stillness encompassed me. When the silence and stillness were total the river of light rushed in, and my breathing became slow, even, and effortless. The OM was now truly one syllable. I felt the “I am” laughing and was filled with the joy, love, and contentment of that moment.
Every day, I return to the river of light, some days with less difficulty than others, and the “Great I am” or other's Spirits fill me with the stories I share with you in my books.