Saint Francis de Sales explains, “Even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour [of meditation] but bring your mind back and place it again in our Lord’s presence, though it went away every time you bought it back, your hours would be very well employed.”
……… Today you may have to bring it back fifteen times, perhaps thirty. But in three years, you may bring it back only a few times; in six years, perhaps twice; in ten years, not at all.
Buddha opened his Dhammapada with the magnificent line, “All that we are is a result of what we have thought..”
The best time for meditation is early in the morning. In a tropical country like India, “early” has to be very early – sometimes three o’clock in traditional ashrams. But in a milder climate, I would say between five and six is a reasonable hour to begin, depending on your schedule.
For those beginning to meditate, half an hour is the requisite period. Less than that will not be enough; more than that may be hazardous.
The scriptures say that the place of mediation should be calm, clean, and cool. I would add, well-ventilated – and, if possible, quiet. If there are spiritual figures who appeal to you deeply – Jesus, the Buddha ……. – have a picture of one or two. But otherwise the place should be very simple, even austere, not cluttered with furniture and other things.
The correct posture for meditation is to sit erect with the spinal column, the nape of the neck, and the head in a straight line: not like a ramrod, rigid and tense, but easily upright. Your hands may be placed anyway they feel comfortable. ………
The human mind is rather like the trunk of an elephant. It never rests …….. most of the time it wanders at large, simply because we do not know how to keep it quiet or profitably engaged.
But what should we give it to hold on to? For this purpose I recommend the systematic repetition of the mantram, which can steady the mind at any time and in any place …… man, “the mind,” and tri, “to cross”. The mantram, repeated regularly for a long time, enables us to cross the sea of the mind.
……. Mantrams have different sounds and come from diverse traditions. But essentially they all do the same thing; turn us away from our dependency on what lies outside …… to the serenity and goodness within our own being. ….. Please exercise some care in your choice of a mantram. After all, it will be with you for a long time. Deliberate for a while and take into account the practical significance of the words, your religious background, and your personal response. ……. I strongly urge you to choose a mantram that has been sanctified by long use – one of proven power, that has enabled many men and women before you to realize the unity of life. ……. The mantram works best when we repeat it silently in the mind with as much concentration as possible.
Between the last waking moment and the first sleeping moment, a tunnel stretches down deep into consciousness. Most people do not perceive this subtle state; indeed, you cannot be aware of it with everyday mind. At that instance, when you are neither awake nor asleep, this tunnel opens up, and if you know how, you can send the mantram down it as you might a bowling ball. The proof is that you may hear the mantram during sleep; when an unpleasant dream begins, you may discover the mantram echoing through consciousness, dissolving that dream completely.
…….. After a long while, the mind builds up sensational strength and has a permanent hold on the mantram.
In this glorious state, the mantram repeats itself ceaselessly without any effort whatsoever. ….. Sanskrit has a precise word for this state: ajapajapam. Japam alone means “the repetition of the mantram,” and a means “without”: ajapajapam is japam without having to do japam. You receive all the benefits without having to do the work.
Buddha ……… “When you are walking, walk. When you are standing, stand. When you are sitting, sit. Don’t wobble.”
The Sufis …… advise us to speak only after our words have managed to issue through three gates. At the first gate, we ask ourselves, “Are these words true?” If so, let them pass on; if not, back they go.
At the second gate, we ask, “Are they necessary?” They may be true, but it doesn’t follow that they have to be uttered; they must serve some meaningful purpose. Do they clarify the situation or help someone? Or do they strike a discordant or irrelevant note?
At the last gate we ask, “Are they kind?” If we still feel we must speak out, we need to choose words that will be supportive and loving, not words that embarrass or wound another person. ….. we do not realize that words can created a more painful injury, one that can last for many years.