With the practise of meditation, there is no end to the progress we can make. However, when we first dip our toes in the world of meditation, progress can feel a little uncertain.
It is important not to be impatient or too hard on yourself. Just remember we have spent 20, 30, 40 years thinking, but now we are trying to break a habit of a lifetime and enter into the inner silence. Unfortunately, it is not like turning off a tap! However, if we are patient and persevere with our effort and practise, we will make progress.
These are a few more tips to help you make progress in meditation.
Value the benefits of meditation
The most important thing is to give value to our practise of meditation. We value food, so we always make time for eating. If we can remember how much we need and benefit from moments of inner peace, it will encourage us to be regular in our practice of meditation.
Regularity and punctuality
If we can meditate every day at the same time, it will create a very helpful energy. For example, suppose we commit to meditating every morning at 6.30am; then every day at this time, we make this meditation a priority in our day. If we meditate only when we ‘feel like it’ – before we know it a whole week can go by and we never had the opportunity to meditate.
In the beginning, it may feel like a discipline and we need to make a personal effort. However, if we can get over this initial challenge, it will become an effortless habit. We will automatically want to meditate because we can’t think of a better way to start the day. Just imagine a big heavy wheel. At first, it is really hard work to get it moving, but, once we get a little momentum, the heavy wheel starts to move with only a small amount of effort.
Sometimes we are impatient to have a particular meditation experience. Perhaps we have read in a book about experiences other meditators have had. But, when we don’t have the same experience, we feel we are not making progress in meditation. This is a mistake – everyone is different. Meditation is not about having particular experiences; it is more like a journey. If you feel inclined to keep meditating and keep trying, this indicates something within you is being fed by meditation. This is a good sign of progress. Also, if we feel happiness and a sense of peace from meditation, this is also a good sign of progress. When we meditate well, we will have a good feeling about ourself and also about the rest of the world.
“We can easily know whether we are meditating well or not just by the way we feel and see and think. Right after our meditation, if we have a good feeling for the world, then we know our meditation was good. If we see the world in a loving way in spite of its imperfections, if we can love the world even while seeing its teeming imperfections, then we know that our meditation was good.” – Sri Chinmoy ¹
The particular techniques of meditation are not as important as our inner enthusiasm and aspiration to develop our meditation. If we have this enthusiasm and approach meditation with all our combined energies, then we will make great progress. There is no secret meditation technique which guarantees the fastest progress. The fastest progress comes from a burning desire to enter into a new world of peace and happiness.
When you enter our period of meditation, try to make sure there are no temptations or distractions to reduce our focus. Meditate in a place and at a time when we will not be disturbed. Switch off the phone, don’t think of the future or the past, but try to be in the present moment. Give yourself enough time. Perhaps you can spend five minutes reading a spiritual book – this will help you get in the right frame of mind – then meditate for 10 minutes, and then perhaps give yourself another five minutes to assimilate the meditation by listening to some spiritual music or being still. This takes 20 minutes, but it gives a better chance to go deeper into meditation than if we only allow ourselves only 5-10 minutes.
There are some practical things that can help meditation. Have a shower, or at least put cold water on your face, ears and hands. Where light, clean, comfortable clothes. Don’t meditate straight after eating a heavy meal. Sit on the floor or chair with a straight back.
Meditate with others
Meditation is a personal practice, but if we meet up with others who meditate once or twice a week, then we will get an added inspiration to continue our meditation. When we meditate with others, we feel an added inner strength.
Keep the body fit and healthy
If we look after our body, then it will be easier to meditate. If we go for a run, it helps clear the mind and also it cultivates a sense of dynamism. Both of these are helpful for the inner meditation. Sri Chinmoy was a great believer in the benefits of the outer running helping the inner running.
“Running helps us considerably. Running is continuous motion. Because of our running, we feel that there is a goal — not only an outer goal but also an inner goal.” – Sri Chinmoy ²
Meditation and life
The most important aspect of meditation is the actual practice of sitting quietly and trying to calm the mind. But we can try to cultivate a meditative experience in other avenues of life. When we work, rather than grumbling about our boss or fellow co-workers, we can try to work with a silent mind, concentrate on the job and try to work with a feeling of service to others. If we work in the right spirit, it can do a lot to help our meditation.
Bring the heart to the fore
Don’t just fight your mind; try to bring your heart to the fore. We can do this by meditating on the heart and also listening to spiritual music that touches our inner being. When we focus on the heart, we will feel there is a place in us beyond thought and limited understanding.
“We meditate for various reasons. Peace of mind we all badly need. Therefore, when we meditate, either consciously or unconsciously we aim at peace of mind. Meditation give us peace of mind without a tranquilliser. And unlike a tranquilliser, the peace of mind that we get from meditation does not fade away. It lasts for good in some corner of the inmost recesses of our aspiring heart.” – Sri Chinmoy
Why is it worth taking time out of our busy schedule to learn how to meditate? People may come to meditation for different reasons, and these are all valid. If you are considering trying to meditate, these are some of the most common reasons for giving meditation a go:
Meditation can enable us to gain more balance in life. Amidst the hustle and bustle of worldly pressures, meditation enables us to switch off, detach and remember the inner peace that we have deep inside our heart. In modern life, there are many things that compete for our attention – constant notifications, things to read, demands on our time – but this can create a sense of pressure and stress. There is much more to life than constant busyness. When we are able to stop, be still and silent, it helps to put everything into perspective and we gain a greater inner strength to do our duties in the outer life.
Health – physical and mental wellbeing
When we meditate, we can let go of the stress and negative thoughts that have got stuck in our system. This is very beneficial for our mental health. It can also benefit our physical health. When we are stressed, we are more prone to back problems or other aches and pains, for example. If we can cultivate inner peace, it will help many aspects of our life. It is an investment of time, that will really pay dividends.
It is a real art to do one thing at a time – with our full attention. Often we try to juggle several things at once, but fail to do anything to our satisfaction. A key aspect of meditation is to be one-pointed – we learn to bring our energies and focus to just one object of concentration, and let go of everything else. When we can do that, we appreciate there is great fulfilment about concentrating entirely on just one thing. We can use this ability in our work or artistic endeavours. Once we have cultivated a real capacity to concentrate, we will also feel new capacities coming to the fore.
To learn more about ourself
Our mind is constantly passing judgement about other people and about ourself. One moment, we are excessively proud of ourself, the next moment we can be insecure and pessimistic. Meditation goes beyond these fleeting and misleading judgements of the mind. It opens up our awareness of another part of our being – the quiet inner voice that feels joy from the simplicity of being. We learn that real happiness does not come from outer attainments and the fulfilments of desires, but within we have a remarkable capacity to appreciate the beauty of life and existence. Once we gain a glimpse of this inner reality it will change our outlook on life and give us a new sense of purpose and meaning.
To become a better person
Many people who start to practise meditation notice that they get unexpected compliments from friends and family. You may not notice the change yourself, but meditation can help you to become a more tolerant, loving and empathetic person. Rather than our old self who got frustrated by small problems, we become more detached. Rather than rushing to judgement, we bring our own inner peace to the situations that we find ourself in. When we get less frustrated by minor personality conflicts and small imperfections, we can really enjoy life a lot more and people will be keener to spend time with us.
To try something new
Meditation is very different to ordinary human experience. We have spent 20, 30, 40 years thinking. Every activity generally involves our mind. Meditation is an attempt to silence the mind, to go beyond our thoughts, and to bring our heart to the fore. Even if we don’t gain a lifetime habit of meditation, we will have lost nothing by attempting to do something very different. At first, meditation may feel a little difficult – it is hard to break the habit of a lifetime – but we may be surprised at how much we can gain, even from our first efforts to meditate.
In one sense meditation doesn’t need any preparation. We don’t need to gain any preliminary knowledge or understanding – we can just turn up and meditate. However, if we wish to maximise the benefit from a period of meditation, there are a few things that will help us to become more receptive.
Reading. Reading a book on meditation will give us a background into the mechanics of meditation, but more importantly, will give us the inspiration to try and persevere with meditation. Although the experience of meditation cannot be adequately explained through a book or words, we can pick up on something of the spiritual inspiration behind meditation that may encourage us to dig deeper. It will also be able to answer some of the common questions which arise about the subject of meditation. A book we recommend for our course is Meditation by Sri Chinmoy.
Learn to be still. When we have a few minutes spare, we don’t need to feel obliged to fill it up with activity. There is always something to check on our phone, but equally, we can always choose to ignore it – we really will not miss out on anything by taking a break. If we can get out of the habit of compulsively checking what others are doing and filling our mind with newsfeeds, then we will find it easier to be at peace with ourself. We can make this effort to switch off from the pressures of life throughout the day. In meditation, we will make more of a conscious effort to devote a period of time in the day to this practise of being silent.
Declutter. In a way meditation can be seen as a form of decluttering the mind – we are clearing out the useless thoughts that we don’t need. If we go through our room and get rid of those objects we don’t value or don’t need, we create a physical space that is more harmonious and peaceful. There is a joy in empty space; it enables us to value that which really gives us joy. When we do this outer decluttering, it will be one step towards decluttering our mind. There is an old Zen proverb – that if we want to fill a cup full of honey, we first have to remove the dirty water. It is the same with meditation; if we want to fill our inner peace with peace and joy, we have to get rid of the clutter. This physical decluttering with help provide us with an inspiring place to meditate in our room.
Value nature. If we value nature, it will help our meditation. When we are with nature, we can appreciate the beauty and simplicity of life; it takes us away from the complications of life. Sometimes, in nature, we can lose our worries and anxieties, and this is similar to the experience we gain in meditation. If we make an effort to be in nature, then we will value more the peace that can be got from meditation.
Look after yourself. Meditation involves gaining a greater integral understanding and appreciation of our whole being – mind, body and spirit. If we take care of the body, we will help our capacity to meditate. Even a little regular exercise – walking, running or cycling – will give many benefits to those who want to meditate. When we meditate, we are trying to be inwardly still, but it is a dynamic experience – not passive. When we exercise, we overcome our lethargy and cultivate more positive energy. This sense of energy and dynamism is very beneficial to meditation – it will give us the inner strength to detach from our thoughts. In meditation, we also learn everything is connected – even what we eat and drink has a bearing on our inner state. If we eat healthy foods, then the milder vibrations of the food will make us more amenable to meditation.
In 1995, Leeds was dedicated as a Sri Chinmoy Peace Blossom city. In 2014, the Peace Run passed through Leeds and there was a short ceremony to rededicate the city as a city dedicated to peace. The event was held at Park Square in the centre of Leeds.
Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run in Leeds.
Speaking at the event, I mentioned that:
“Having lived in Leeds for the past 30 years, it has been great to see the economic development of the city, with the city transformed with new service industries replacing the old manufacturing industries. But as the city develops into a financial centre of northern England, it is important to remember non-commercial ideals of peace, community and harmony between the many different people who live in Leeds. We thank the people of Leeds and the mayor of Leeds for taking the time to also appreciate our Peace Run, and the aim to spread good will across the country and whole world.”
After the meeting, the peace runners ran on to York.
The plaque reads:
A world of peace and harmony has been humanity’s dream since time immemorial. Today Leeds joins hundreds of communities throughout the world dedicated to the cause of peace and international friendship. Other such Peace Blossoms include the cities of Ottawa, Canberra, Auckland, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Reykavik and natural wonders such as the Niagara Falls and the Matterhorn.
A Sri Chinmoy Peace Blossom is a beacon of inspiration, to promote a strong sense of world family among people. It takes its name from Sri Chinmoy, an ambassador for peace who committed his life to the pursuit of world harmony. Leeds has long been home to people of many different cultures and believes. Through its status as a Nuclear Free Local Authority, it has worked to free the world of the the of nuclear annihilation. The peace loving people of Leeds are proud to honour our city’s historic commitment to peace and join our vibrant and graceful city with the global family of Sri Chinmoy Peace Blossoms.
In dedicating Leeds as a Peace City on the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, we register our hopes for the day when nations may work together in peace and people may live together in harmony.
Leeds City Council, United Nations Day, 24th October 1995.