Monday, July 13, 2009

Connecting with the inner Divine

So how do we begin to recognize and affirm the God-force that is each of us? Meditation is a key step in that recognition process. Many people believe that meditation is only for those practicing Yoga or that you need a certain level of spiritual awareness to be getting anything from meditating. Meditation is a wonderful tool for cultivating inner awareness, peace, a quieter mind and a more relaxed body. It can be practiced by anyone as a stand-alone activity or as a part of a deeper spiritual practice.

I’d like to give you a few tips and techniques that anyone can use to help encourage you to give meditation a try. Meditation is simply a technique for quieting the busy chatter of the mind and allowing the inner guidance beneath that noise to emerge. Swami Satchidananda (the founder of Integral Yoga which is the Yoga lineage I trained as an instructor through) said that the mind is like a drunken monkey that has been stung by a scorpion. It jumps from here to there making noise, causing a disturbance, seeking attention and making a general nuisance of itself. If you just notice your thoughts for a moment, does that sound like a description of your mind?

Meditation is a tool for learning to quiet the monkey-mind. The thing that many people who try meditating quickly run into however is this monkey-mind and so they give up because they believe that they can’t quiet their mind enough to meditate. It’s important to remember that meditation is the tool for quieting the mind and that a quiet mind is not a prerequisite for meditating. However, if you aren’t used to observing your thoughts when you first try meditating you may think it an impossible task to quiet all of that noisy mind-chatter. Observing that noise is part of the process so be patient with yourself.

The first thing to do is to find the time to meditate. Begin with something small and manageable, even if that’s just five minutes. Think of those five minutes as planting the seeds from which a fuller meditative practice can sprout. The following are suggestions for creating your own meditative practice:
· Find a location in your home where you can spend your meditative time undisturbed by anyone or anything. Ideally this space is private and quiet and not really used for anything else. This could be in a large closet, the corner of a quiet room or any space where distractions can be kept to a minimum.
· Set aside a time for doing this and commit to it. Ideally this would be when you first wake up or immediately before going to sleep. Perhaps setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier will give you time for meditating before beginning your day so that you can carry the peaceful feeling gained through meditation into your day. Whatever time you choose try to be consistent with it rather than at whatever times become open through your day.
· Select an outfit that will be used only for meditating. This might be a comfy pair of pajamas, sweat pants, shorts and a t-shirt or anything which keeps you comfortable and warm. Wash and dedicate whatever garments you choose to only meditating. At a subconscious level when you put these clothes on you are sending that message to your system that you want peace and quiet and that you’re ready to meditate.
· Try to create a meditation space at the location in your home that you choose to use for this. Make it simple and tranquil. Remember you want to feel peaceful just from being in that space. Perhaps have a candle, a picture that brings you peace to look at, and a folded blanket (preferably wool) to sit on. The wool blanket is used as an energetic insulator.
· If you’re comfortable sitting on the floor either purchase a mediation cushion or fold a blanket to sit on. This blanket should go under your sits bones (those two bony protrusions you sit on when you sit flat) but not under your legs so that your hips are tilted forward. If sitting on the floor is uncomfortable for you then get a straight-back chair and sit that on top of the blanket.
· If you’re sitting on the floor, use whatever cross-legged position is comfortable with the folded blanket under your sits bones and hold your spine erect so that your energy moves freely up and down your spine. If you’re sitting in a chair, sit slightly forward so that your back isn’t leaning on the back of the chair and hold your spine erect. If you find yourself slumping or slouching during the meditation, slowly return to holding the spine erect and continue. Don’t make a lot of fuss around it, just notice it and slowly move back into position.
· When you’re ready to begin take a few full deep inhales and exhales breathing into the abdomen and lungs fully. As you do that, slowly scan the body from head to toe and mentally relax any tense body part and release any tension you discover. Use the exhales to release the tension as you release the breath.
· To begin with use an alarm clock and set the timer for 5, 10 or 15 minutes. Start simple and build up as you get comfortable with the process.
· Close your eyes and focus on the breath. Rest your hands, palms up on the tops of the knees. Inhale fully and exhale slowly to begin.
· While holding your awareness on the breath, begin a slow inhalation while mentally chanting “Hong”. This should not to be out loud.
· As you begin the exhale, mentally chant “Sau” (pronounced like “saw”).
· Let the mental chants be timed with the natural inhale and exhale pattern. Don’t change or control the breath, simply observe it and add the chants to it rather than letting the chanting dictate the pattern of the breath. Observe the breath from a detached place as if you were observing someone else’s breath.
· During any intervals when the breath may cease of its own accord (at the top of the inhale or bottom of the exhale), concentrate on and enjoy the peace that you feel during that breathless state.
· Repeat this until the timer alarm goes off.
This is a very simple meditative technique which was taught to me by Paramahansa Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship which I joined in 2001. “Hong” and “Sau” are two sacred Sanskrit chant words possessing an astral vibratory connection with the incoming and outgoing breath; a literal translation is “I am that”. As the purpose of any meditative practice is to reconnect with your inner being which is Divine in nature, feel that this chant is simply reaffirming that awareness within yourself.

When you first begin a meditative practice you may feel a variety of things, including frustration, because you may find that your mind begins to wander after the first breath and suddenly you’ll realize that you’re thinking about past, present or future activities. When you notice that, just gently bring your awareness back to the breath and return to the process. Each time your mind wanders (and it will, especially in the beginning), don’t judge yourself and become frustrated. Just release the thoughts and return your awareness to the breath and the chanting.

Many people who first try meditating, give up after a few days because they believe their mind is just too busy to do this type of practice. Please don’t give up at that point however. The purpose of meditation is to quiet the mind and focus the concentration. None of us start with a totally peaceful and quiet mind. It must be developed and trained in that direction. The only difference now is that you are noticing the noise which has been there all along. Awareness is the first step in changing anything in life. We don’t change what we aren’t aware of.

As beings living in the physical world, it’s often hard for us to get out of “doing” and into simply “being”. There is nothing that you have to do here other than focus on the breath and the mental chanting. The first part of a meditative practice is building your concentration skills. When the mind wanders, bring it back over and over and over again. The chanting is to help you stay focused on the breath which can only occur in the present moment. This is not something which will happen in just a day or two. This part of the meditative process can take weeks, months or years…but you have to start somewhere. Sharpening your mental concentration skills is the first step in the overall meditative process.

The technique I’ve given you here is a very simple beginning technique that anyone can use. Meditation, even with a simple technique like this, will have many positive effects on your system and your life. If this is your first experience with meditating, keep it simple and just start with 5 minutes a day. As you begin to notice the positive changes in yourself, after a couple weeks increase the time to 10 minutes and gradually build to whatever amount of time you can commit to the process. The more time you spend in meditation the more benefits you’ll see. Starting with a larger time however is not recommended because you’re using new mental muscles here and like other muscles in the body they need to be trained. Be patient with the process and loving with yourself.

See your mediation time as something that you do just for you. Allow it to become your time of reconnecting with your own inner Divinity. Beneath all of the mental chatter is the voice of inner guidance. Mediation is the process for going within and quieting the mind so that you can hear that inner wisdom and follow its guidance. It is a process of more deeply connecting yourself with the Divine. That connection holds all the answers to all your questions and will always guide you to your highest good. Be patient and loving with yourself.

If you have questions on the technique or experiences which arise from the practice, I’m happy to help you if I can. Simply drop me a line at and I’ll do my best to assist you. If you want to deepen the process, I recommend reading "The Heart of Meditation - Pathways to a deeper experience" by Swami Durgananda. May the awareness of your Oneness with all that is blossom forth from your practice and may you always live in Peace, Love and Light.


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