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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Where am I in meditation?

Dear Asha, Ajay, Ravi, Ariana, Roma and Sai,

A number of friends have asked me about my meditation practice - what it consists of and how I do it. Even my elder brother who is adept at meditation asked me to summarize my approach. You may get interested in practicing meditation when you get older. Therefore, I am writing down how I practice meditation.

I realize that I am a novice. I also know that the word meditation means different things to different people. And, what people actually do when they meditate also differs widely! What works for me may not work for you. I certainly have not reached the state of ecstatic experience documented by saints like Ramana or Ramakrishna. If I did, I would have retired to a cave in the Himalayas!

My approach is a practical one. It is a journey, without expectations, since I do not know what to expect. It has helped me immensely in my life to reflect calmly about major issues and has helped me during life’s crisis. It also helps me connect my individuality with the collective and the universal oneness. Hope it helps you too. But, remember. You have to start it now and practice diligently and practice every day for it to be helpful when you need. In the midst of a crisis you cannot go looking for a master to learn meditation.

In meditation and prayer, I believe that

                        Symbols do not matter; substance does.
                        Duration does not matter; intensity does.
                        Rituals do not matter; inner feeling (bhavana) does.

I practice two kinds of meditation. It has different stages. They are calming down (samattha), deep looking (vipashyana) and reaching a state of silence.

My morning meditation is to practice silence. I do this very early in the morning before anyone else gets up. I do meditation for about 15 to 20 minutes at the least. I try to be aware, to be a witness to the thoughts that arise. The goal is to silence the thoughts, to be in a state close to deep sleep, but still be aware. It is to be in a state we experience when we just stir at the end of a deep sleep. We are aware of ourselves but not much more. This is the state of “transient  I” of Bhagwan Ramana. Ramana also says that if you can maintain the state of the “transient I”, it will take you to the original “I”. I believe Ramana and so I keep trying.

There is nothing more to say. The main goal is to quiet the mind and stay in silence.

The other meditation is of the Buddhist kind. I do this during the day at any time, when I am walking or just sitting, doing nothing. This time is for reflection or deep looking (vipashyana). They are based on what I learnt from Rev. Thich Naht Hanh.

I start with calming myself.  I start with breathing in deep and slow, several times. I breath in and out even as I focus on my arms, legs, the chest, the abdomen, the back, the neck and the face  - and let go, RELAX and then I reflect on this body – as an impermanent, inter-being, which by nature is bound to decay, suffer diseases and die. I hold that thought. Acknowledge that reality. Accept. Let go.

At the same time, reflect on this body as sacred because without the body I cannot hope to touch the Original. Without the body I cannot experience all of these beautiful moments of BLISS. Be kind to your body. Do not indulge. Do not torture it either.

Now I reflect on my kith and kin; friends and neighbors. Reflect on their impermanence too. Let go.

Just as we cannot escape the fact that this body is bound to decay and die, we cannot escape the fact that every one of our actions will have consequences, now or later, on us and on others. Therefore, I vow to practice Dharma, to be prudent in action, to act with a pure heart and compassion, to do what needs to be done, to do the right things, to do things which will benefit and help others and to make sure it will not hurt anyone. I promise to act on what has to be done without expecting specific benefits. I will not act for profit, name or fame.
Even with good intentions and effort, results are not in our hands. The results may even be unfavorable. Therefore, I will learn to accept whatever comes. I will remember Gita, not be attached to the outcome.

Then, I reflect on myself as a normal person with strengths and weakness; plus and minus. I know that I am neither an angel nor a devil. I am lovable and capable (IALAC). I forgive myself for my weaknesses and mistakes. I promise to “water” my good plants. I send a message of love to myself. I do so, because if I cannot forgive myself and send a message of love to myself, how can I forgive others? How can I send a message of love to others?

I reflect on members of my family and friends in the same way and send them messages of forgiveness and love. I reflect on people around the world who are suffering for no fault of their own and send them message of hope and love. I reflect on people who have hurt me and send them message of love, understanding and forgiveness. If they have died, I can still send them message of forgiveness and understanding because they are still part of me. I ask for forgiveness from people whom I have hurt, knowingly or unknowingly. I am then supposed to reflect on people whom I hate. Fortunately, I have no one on this list.

At the next level I try to merge with the Universe, connecting the “pinda” the individual with the “brahmanda”, the cosmos. 

Breathing in – I visualize myself as a “wave”, independent, alone, arrogant, forgetting my source, forgetting that I am water and am already part of the ocean of cosmos. Breathing out – I visualize the “me”, the wave merging with the “water” the “ocean”, connecting back to the source. I only wish that my “wave” merges with the ocean; I only wish I can touch the water, now.

Actually, I try hard to stop these thoughts. If thoughts do not stop, I direct them this way. Sometimes, I do not have any thoughts. I enter silence sometimes.

I hope this helps.

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