A user’s guide to living – part 2
The science of creating a daily meditation practice
DAAJI continues his series on daily living and human transformation. In this second article, he takes us through some of the essential aspects of a self-development practice, and introduces us to the first principle of the user’s guide – the science of creating a good meditation practice.
It may surprise you to know that at the time Babuji wrote his book on the ten maxims in the 1940s, there were just a handful of books published in the area of self-help, including the hugely popular Self-Help by Samuel Smiles, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, As a Man Thinketh by James Allen, and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Babuji was the first author in this era to give us a comprehensive guide to living by incorporating the five key elements of self-development: an effective practice, essential values, regulative behavior, leadership, and continuous improvement (see diagram 1). Within those five elements there are also ten principles. Even today, only a handful of books offer such a rich and all-encompassing road map to a fulfilling life.
THE FIVE ELEMENTS AND TEN PRINCIPLES OF SELF DEVELOPMENT
The ten principles for living follow a daily cycle and inherent sequence, which unfolds like a flowering. At the center of this unfolding is the practice. It is the practice that triggers the flowering of consciousness. And it is the first thing that we do in the morning, preparing us for the day, setting the tone, and centering us for what is to happen. As consciousness expands, and purity and simplicity emerge, we are able to peek into our essential nature and start relaxing into our inner being. Our thoughts and actions are then guided by the essential values of the heart.
The next segment of the unfoldment is behavior. When we are established in the state of being, our behavior resonates with that state. As being and doing reinforce each other, our consciousness evolves naturally to a level where we want to help others. Hence the capacities and qualities of leadership unfold naturally. The last segment of the unfoldment is continuous improvement which consists of daily review and corrective action before sleeping at night. This framework is dynamic and fluid. All the segments are co-emergent and seamless. It is holistic, a complete system, a living guidance. As we grow, our work itself becomes our teacher.
Within the five elements are ten universal principles:
The first three principles are about the practice, the “how.” Anyone who excels in any field knows that practice makes perfect. Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimming champion, amassed more gold medals than any athlete in Olympic history. When asked what differentiates him from his competitors, he said that it was practice that made the difference. He practiced 365 days while his competitors took occasional breaks.
When the Heartfulness practices of meditation, cleaning and prayer are done regularly, the knots of solidified tendencies of the mind start to loosen, leading to a purer, simpler field of consciousness that can more easily expand.
This expansion allows the inner condition to percolate into awareness, leading to experiences of higher states of consciousness. The veil of ignorance is lifted step by step during each meditation, finally leading to a state of being which is in resonance with the original pure mind. In short, each meditation is a step towards the Higher Self. As everything in creation is energy and vibration, we experience a higher vibration as a result of meditation.
PRINCIPLE 1: THE SCIENCE OF CREATING A DAILY MEDITATION PRACTICE
There are four elements that help lay the foundation of a daily meditation practice: time, place, posture and purity. In this article we will explore the wisdom behind these four elements.
Time: Align with the cycles and rhythms of Nature
Both ancient traditions and modern science have a deep understanding of the rhythms and cycles of Nature, including circadian rhythms, lunar cycles, the movement of the sun through the Zodiac, and changes in the seasons. All organisms are connected to the rhythms of nature. Plants, animals and birds naturally align to the cycles, and their daily activities of waking, sleeping and feeding are based on them. Seasonal activities like mating, migration and hibernation are also influenced by them. Natural cycles determine when trees shed their leaves and flowers bloom. In modern science, this field of study is called Chronobiology.
These laws apply to human beings too. When we are aligned with natural rhythms, we are in tune with Nature, resulting in health, harmony and balance. We are in the flow. Today, however, we often disregard these cycles, whether in the time we go to sleep at night and wake in the morning, our eating patterns, or how we balance activity and rest during the day. This has led to various lifestyle diseases, disharmony and imbalance. So, the first principle is about setting our lifestyle to be in tune with Nature first thing in the morning.
Based on his deep understanding of the ancient wisdom traditions combined with his own direct perception and experience, Babuji discovered that the ideal time for meditation is just before dawn, culminating in the moment when the night meets the day. He wrote, “Rise before dawn and offer your prayer and meditation at a fixed hour, preferably completing them before sunrise.” At this time, the flow of energy in Nature is almost still, helping us to also become still when we meditate. The sun’s rays have their least influence at the time of dawn, so when we meditate at this time it is easier to resonate with that original state prior to the universe being created, before heat manifested.
When we meditate before sunrise, the external heat and other influences that have been driven out of the body during the night cannot creep in again due to the effect of the sun. This helps us to derive the best from the time spent meditating.
In Heartfulness, because we are receiving Transmission during meditation, it also helps to be in a receptive period of the daily cycle. Once the sun rises, our energies shift to an outward flow and it is harder to be receptive. Again, it helps to be in tune with the natural cycle of energy flow.
Sunset in the evening is also suited for the practice of Heartfulness Cleaning. Before the sun sets, our energy cycle is still outward-flowing, so it is easier to remove complexities and impurities from the system. After the sun sets, the flow once more turns inward. When we meditate in the morning, clean in the evening and pray before going to sleep, we become aligned with the natural 24-hour cycle.
This is the ideal. My suggestion for beginners is to fix the same time every day to meditate – one that works for you – it could be 4 a.m., 6 a.m. or 7:30 a.m. Create a date with your inner Self for meditation at that time, and let it become a habit. Once you adopt the habit, you can shift the timing to align with natural cycles by meditating before dawn.
Space: Create a designated meditation place
All of us have experienced that when we create a regular place to do any activity, whether it is work, sleeping, eating, reading, or watching TV, our whole system automatically identifies that space with the activity. We create automatism or regularity very easily by habit. In fact, in all cultures, it is generally advised to create a separate space of each type of activity where possible.
The same is true for meditation. It helps a lot to create a dedicated space for meditation that is personal, clean, comfortable, cozy, and free from distraction. When we a have a separate place for meditation, we automatically tune in.
Further, as we continue to meditate, our meditation space becomes charged with our thoughts and feelings – in particular around the source of light in the heart – and the vibrations of sanctity and purity begin to prevail there. This atmosphere helps us to meditate even better, and the charge is not diminished over time.
Having a separate space for meditation is critical for creating the conditions of very effective meditation. Have you ever sat for meditation in a place where a great sage has meditated for some time? The charge is palpable!
Posture: A position that you can hold comfortably
Traditionally, meditators have sat upright in the cross-legged position on the floor. Why this cross-legged position? Crossing the legs create a contraction in the lower body, so that the energy in the limbs is drawn inward rather than being dissipated outward. The contraction starts from below and proceeds gradually upward because of its upward tendency. In order to go upwards, we start contracting from below. We bring the legs to one steady pose and this is known in Yoga as Asana. The word Asana comes from the Sanskrit root as, which means ‘to sit’: the original Asana was the sitting pose for meditation. Patanjali explained in his Yoga Sutras: find a steady and comfortable sitting posture so that you can relax your efforts and allow your consciousness to merge with the Infinite, and you will become free from the impact of the dualities of existence. Babuji wrote, “As far as possible, develop the habit of sitting in one and the same pose.”
This is the purpose of Asana. It paves our way to the Ultimate. The posture can then remain the same and our physical body will become like an antenna, attuned with the great Source, the very thing we take up in meditation in order to attain our objective.
When we sit in an upright position rather than in a crooked position, the energy can flow up the spinal cord without any obstruction. It also indicates alertness, a healthy disposition, and freshness of the body. In his book, Raja Yoga, Swami Vivekananda explains that a lot of activity goes on in the body when we meditate: “Nerve currents will have to be displaced and given a new channel. New sorts of vibrations will begin, and the whole constitution will be remodeled, as it were. But the main part of the activity will lie along the spinal column, so that the one thing necessary for the posture is to hold the spinal column free, sitting erect, holding the three parts — the chest, neck and head — in a straight line. Let the whole weight of the body be supported by the ribs, and then you have an easy natural posture with the spine straight.”
Swami Vivekananda also suggested how we can maintain this alignment of the spinal column and the brain: “Say to yourself that you are firmly seated, and that nothing can move you. Then mention the perfection of the body, bit by bit, from head to foot. Think of it as being clear as crystal, and as a perfect vessel to sail over the sea of life.”
Babuji explains further: “Performing meditation in an upright sitting pose has been thought to be most advantageous from very ancient times, because in that position the flow of divine grace descends straight upon the seeker. If a seeker sits crookedly or in an unsteady pose, the flow of effulgence will necessarily be impeded or disturbed. The seeker will thus be deprived of the full benefit of the descent. Therefore, in order to get the greatest spiritual benefit, one must sit in a proper steady pose.”
Performing meditation in an upright sitting pose
has been thought to be most advantageous
from very ancient times,
because in that position the flow of divine grace
descends straight upon the seeker.
We also sit with our hands lightly clasped in our lap, so that the energy in the arms is also contained within the system rather than being dissipated outward through the fingers.
In summary, meditation is best done sitting with your legs crossed, your hands lightly folded, your eyes gently closed, and your body in a natural, relaxed upright position. The emphasis is to have the same pose consistently, so that the Asana also becomes associated with the habit of meditation. If you cannot sit cross-legged, you can sit in a chair with your feet crossed.
Purity: The essential nature of Reality
There is a saying that “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” Babuji wrote, “Give special attention to purity of body and mind.” When we fix our attention on the highest, its purity impels us to imitate its nature. In his commentary on the first maxim, Babuji tells us, “The principle of purity was based on the thought that the eternal and pure Existence which we have to enter into is entirely free from all contaminations. It is perfectly pure.” He also says, “Our attention being directed towards the attainment of purity of that highest level, we begin to imitate it in all outward ways, looking particularly to the cleaning of the body.”
So we prepare ourselves for meditation by giving special attention to external cleanliness, creating a feeling of purity. But what about purity of the mind? It is not enough to only focus on the body. If necessary, we can do a few minutes of Heartfulness Cleaning before meditating, as it will remove the impurities in the mind. Babuji explains that this feeling of purity itself becomes a power making our path all the more smooth so that we can soar higher and higher. Thus, purity itself helps us to attain our goal of Yoga. In the Heartfulness tradition, when the system is purified with the subtle power of Transmission, the downward tendencies of the mind are diverted upwards, and this automatically creates a craving in the heart for the Source.
From the perspective of creating the habit of practice, purifying the body and mind prepare us for meditation, smoothening the process.
REFLECTIONS ON PRINCIPLE ONE
The four elements of time, space, posture and purity come together to support the habit of daily morning meditation. We are creatures of habit. When we develop a habit, it goes into the subconscious mind and becomes automatic – we no longer have to consciously try to do it. The body remembers through biophysical processes, for example muscle memory, and effortlessly performs the action automatically. Examples of this are driving, smoking and swimming. We create the habit by repetition. Neural networks fire and wire in the same pattern through repetition, creating the habit. Time, space and posture are woven into this pattern. Per contra, if we keep changing the time, place and pose every day, it becomes impossible to form the habit. Instead of a daily habit it becomes a daily struggle.
Purity is another important aspect of forming the habit. In addition to the physical act of cleanliness, purity is also an attitude, a feeling and a quality. So, when we prepare for meditation by cleaning ourselves physically and mentally, it triggers a habitual response, just as a smoker reaches out for a cigarette when he smells cigarette smoke in the air.
Making the practice a daily habit is vital.
The four elements that are essential
to creating the habit are a fixed time,
preferably before dawn, a dedicated place,
a steady posture and purity of mind and body
In my experience, the preparation for morning meditation starts the previous evening with cleaning. Remember, that we discussed two auspicious windows of time in the day for spiritual practices – one is in the evening and the other is in the morning. I would consider 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the evening and 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. in the morning ideal windows of time for spiritual practice. If we sleep before 10 p.m., it is possible to catch eight hours of restful sleep and wake before 6 a.m. for meditation. This way your wagon is hitched to Nature’s 24-hour auspicious cycle.
Coming back to the preparation for morning meditation, the complementary practices of evening Cleaning and bedtime Prayer set the attitude and inner state. Cleaning removes all impurities and complexities from the system and prayer re-establishes our lively link with the Source so that it continues during the sleep.
Before going to sleep, if you subtly suggest that you are being prepared through the night for morning meditation, you will be happy to find that you wake up fresh in the morning and slip into meditation with ease.
This first principle is fundamental to a good life. Practice is the first step in the process, as there is no possibility of real progress without practice. Therefore, making the practice a daily habit is vital. The four elements that are essential to creating the habit are a fixed time, preferably before dawn, a dedicated place, a steady posture and purity of mind and body.
In view of this, evaluate yourself: can you improve the way you prepare for meditation? What will motivate you or inspire you to take action? The most popular answer is self-discipline. What drives self-discipline? Of course it is willpower. But when does this process become effortless, requiring no willpower? If you ponder over it, you will soon see that it is when we have so much interest and enthusiasm. Does a small child need willpower to eat ice cream? No. The word “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek enthousiasmos, meaning “to be inspired or possessed by God.” By connecting with the Divine, the Source, through prayer, our enthusiasm grows and grows naturally and automatically, so that our interest in meditation also grows side by side.
And where does prayer take us? We don’t have to look far, as it is within us, within our hearts. The path of the heart is the path of love. Everything is fueled by love.
And what is the source of that love we feel in our hearts? I want to leave you with this question. It is something that you will have to find for yourself, and when you find it, you will have everything.
Article by KAMLESH PATEL (DAAJI)
Illustrations by ANANYA PATEL, JASMEE RATHOD & UMA MAHESWARI
September 30, 2020
September 29, 2020
September 29, 2020