Concentration on a candle flame

An important steps towards being able to meditate is the ability to focus. In concentration we aim all of our thoughts at a single object. The object can be external, such as a candle flame, black dot or a flower. It can also be internal, such as our breath or our heart-beat. Or it can be one thought in our mind, such as an imagery of a blazing sun or a vast ocean. Concentration enables to be present, to be there with the object of our concentration. It also enables us to identify with the qualities of the object we focus on. For example, when we concentrate on a imagery of peaceful and vast ocean, after a few minutes of this exercise we may feel more peaceful. Most importantly, concentration pacifies the constant chatter of our thoughts and creates an internal space to open to our inner heart and to our soul which we seek in our meditation.

Here is a simple concentration exercise that many people found to be effective.

burning_candle1. Find a quiet space where you can practice this exercise and place a candle there.

2. Take a few deep breaths. Relax.

3. Bring your vision to the candle flame. Start by focusing on the entire candle flame. As the exercise progresses you may wish to focus on even a smaller point, such as the tip of the candle flame.

4. Imagine as if there was a magnifying glass in front of you and that glass took all of your scattered thoughts and brought them to the candle flame.

5. If you feel too tense, almost to the point of getting a headache, relax a bit. Breathe. You can imagine that instead from your head the power of your concentration comes from your heart. Imagine that when you breath out your breath goes from your heart into the candle flame and when you breathe in your breath goes back from the candle flame into your heart. Establish a gentle, yet focused heart-identification with the candle flame.

6. If you notice that you lost your focus and your mind wondered off elsewhere simply bring your attention back to the candle flame. Do not be annoyed at yourself when this happens. Be patient. In the beginning, this can happen several times during a single exercise. As you practice regularly and you get better at the exercise, the number times this happens decreases and your moments of uninterrupted focus extend.

7. To finish the exercise, take a few deep breaths. Take a few moments to internalize the exercise before you go on with your other activities.

Initially, practice the exercise just for a few minutes. As you improve, you can extent the duration of the exercise. Remember, it is the quality of your exercise that matters, not how long you sit there. Practice with inspiration and diligence.

Breathing Exercise

Meditation on the Heart

In many of the meditation exercises that we teach in our classes we bring out attention to the spiritual heart, that is the core of our being where we feel peace, joy and loving identification. Here is a simple technique one can begin with:

When you meditate, please meditate on the heart, and then try to have the peace, light and bliss of the heart percolate through the entire being. In the heart you have peace, and like a flower it has to blossom petal by petal, here, there and everywhere. Then you have a flower of peace whose petals have blossomed in all parts of the being.

from 101 Meditation Techniques by Sri Chinmoy

Meditation Adventure

Some years ago I got fed up with life and felt that there really must be something deeper. I had a faculty position in Thailand and the material aspect and outer adventure were interesting and substantial, but inside, well, there was not much.

nayakmonkI made friend with the monks in Thailand and decided to give that a go. I became a monk for four months, studied meditation intensively, and, well, it made a big difference. I mean, it made a really big difference. It made a difference in how I felt, how I perceived others, how I viewed my opportunities, and so on. I could not then or now describe what meditation was doing for me. Who can put feelings into words?

I returned to the United States, and my wife and I, both having meditated, wanted to continue. We tried various groups, and I do recommend that people do that. How many of you buy your clothes at the first shop? It takes a little shopping to find what fits.

I did my shopping and I was privileged to see a great spiritual master, Sri Chinmoy, in one of his public meditations in New York. You could feel something, I did, and I let the magnet of soulfulness, sincerity, simplicity purity, and so on, tug at me.

nayaktriI studied with Sri Chinmoy for a very long time and I continue with his inner guidance as a member of the worldwide Sri Chinmoy Centres. The emphasis is on meditation and service. Find what you have and share it. Discover your capacity and use it.

The marvelous thing about meditation is that it is an extremely simple practice, and just practicing meditation gets the elephants off your shoulders, and you rise and rise. I call it the soul, your real guide, and you can get to know it. There are a million more aspects to meditation and you can discover them, one by one, and you never get tired of it.

I hope that you have the blessing of giving yourself the privilege of learning to meditate.

 -Nayak

Beginnings

It’s the New Year’s Day today and I got to ponder on the beginnings of new endeavors in our lives. Although, every minute there is an opportunity to start anything new in our lives, whenever the New Year comes it supplies an extra nudge to something new. Maybe it is the day off for many people. Or the fact that you put the new calendar on and think about what you really care about in your life and what infinite possibilities that life offers. This is the time many people take on meditation. And, meditation in turn helps us to be open and receptive to new beginnings, new aspirations. And feeling to be a beginner is a great virtue in the seeker’s life.

From the spiritual point of view, every seeker is a beginner. A beginner is he who has the inner urge to grow into something ever more divine, ever more illumining and ever more fulfilling. The moment you want to make constant and continuous progress, the moment you want to surpass yourself and enter into the ever-transcending Beyond, at that moment you become an eternal beginner.

 – Meditation: Man-Perfection in God Satisfaction by Sri Chinmoy

 In today’s another article Nayak writes about his meditation beginnings.

 – Moni

My meditation class experiences (by Abanna)

Hi, I’m Abanna, from the Seattle Sri Chinmoy Meditation Centre. I would like to warmly welcome you to our website. We are so glad you are interested in learning how to meditate. It is very precious to aspire to grow spiritually and begin a meditation practice. We hope you will find inspiration and encouragement here!

My own meditation journey officially began more than 17 years ago with a free introductory class offered by the Sri Chinmoy Centre. My children were young and my husband watched them so I could attend. I remember the class like it was yesterday!  I was charmed by the woman who taught it, a long-time meditator and student of Sri Chinmoy. She had a lovely demeanor and shared some of her personal history. She showed us how to set up a shrine (sacred area) in our home for meditation. She led us through several different concentration techniques, including meditating on a candle flame, meditating on a flower, and meditating on a recording of flute music composed and performed by Sri Chinmoy. The music was beautiful and haunting and I felt it travel up and down my spine. I was entranced. The instructor said Sri Chinmoy teaches that world peace begins with each individual’s peace, and that the way for each individual to achieve peace is through meditation. It made total sense. I bought a recording of the music we had heard in our class, “Flute Music for Meditation,” and I bought a book by Sri Chinmoy called, Meditation: Man-Perfection in God-Satisfaction.*

A very short time later, I was invited to take part in a free, month-long follow-up meditation workshop. I was excited by the opportunity and I couldn’t get over that it was free. It was explained that according to Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy, it is every person’s birthright to learn how to meditate, and in keeping with Indian tradition, there is never a fee for any classes offered by Sri Chinmoy Centres worldwide. This continues today.

During the workshop, I experienced how helpful it is to meditate as part of a group. Each person brings something unique and special to the gathering and we all inspire each other consciously or unconsciously. I realized the group meditations supported my individual meditations at home and vice versa. I also learned the importance of regularity: regularity in my daily meditations and regularity in attending group meditations. Meditation is like a muscle that must be used regularly to build its strength and if not used it will lose its strength. We learned quite a few meditation techniques, read poems, stories and writings by Sri Chinmoy, sang soulful songs composed by Sri Chinmoy and watched a video of Sri Chinmoy. The instructor, also a long-time meditator and student of Sri Chinmoy, was friendly, experienced, and encouraging. The classes were so enjoyable. There was a nice sense of camaraderie and support as we discussed meditation questions and experiences as well as our favorite flavors of ice cream.  We learned ways to help increase the power of our meditations and how to lead more spiritual lives, including adopting a vegetarian diet, being physically active, abstaining from alcohol and drugs, and more. I purchased a number of books written by Sri Chinmoy and devoured them. The more I understood of Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy, the more it resonated with me.

At the end of the month-long workshop, there were decisions to be made. We were all encouraged to continue meditating. Some of us might to continue meditating as individuals on our own, without the support of a group; however, it was noted that many people find it challenging to maintain regularity without the support of a group. Another option was to explore various meditation groups in our area and continue meditating with one of them. Or, the third option: Those of us who felt a connection with Sri Chinmoy and his philosophy could continue meditations with the Sri Chinmoy Centre as a student of Sri Chinmoy.

I did not hesitate: I wanted to continue! The classes made me happy. I became a student of Sri Chinmoy and have been meditating with the Sri Chinmoy Centre ever since. Meditation continues to increase my sense of well-being. It helps me start my day with a smile and a glow in my heart. I like myself better as a person.

Meditation can transform your life! It all starts with a meditation class.

 

*Books and CDs are available for purchase at: http://www.heart-light.com/

Breathing exercise

Simple Meditation Exercise – Breathing

  1. Be conscious of your breathing. It should not be forced, but, gentle and relaxed. If someone placed a feather in front of your nose it should barely move.
  2. When you breathe in, feel that you are breathing in solid peace. Imagine that this peace is peculating your whole body.
  3. When you breathe out feel that you are exhaling any tension, worries or anxieties.
  4. Just for a moment, you can hold your breathe after the inhalation. When you hold your breathe concentrate on the absolute stillness and silence. No thought should enter your mind.
  5. The aim is to become fully aware of our breathing. We are trying to identify totally with this simple action. But, it is more than just breathing in mechanically. We are exercising our imagination to feel new life and real sense of peace entering our being.
  6. By focusing exclusively on the relaxing movement of our breathing, we switch off from the usual mental thought processes. By doing this we are able to enter into meditation.

In the beginning, we can practice this exercise for 5 minutes. But, we should try to lengthen the time we meditate from 5 minutes to 10 and then 15 minutes. However, there are no prizes for sitting in a chair for a long time. What matters is not the length of time we meditate, but, how sincere and soulful our meditation is. Don’t analyze your meditation with the mind, but try to enter into the flow of a new experience. If you can maintain real inner silence for just 5 minutes, you will feel a new consciousness dawning in you.

Nine tips for meditation practice

1. Location. Find a suitable quiet place for meditation. If it is very hard to find somewhere quiet, use some meditative music to drown out background sounds. If possible keep a corner of your room reserved just for meditation; this will help build up a meditative vibration in that particular part.

2. Preparation.

  • It is important to meditate with a straight back. If you try meditating whilst lying down, you are more likely to fall asleep.
  • Don’t meditate after eating a heavy meal – you will feel lethargic and sleepy.
  • If possible shower and wear clean clothes before meditating.
  • Try to switch off. If you try to meditate straight after work, you may be still thinking about the day. Try reading some books on meditation to help make the transition from work to meditation. When you start meditating yourself that for the next 10-15 minutes, you don’t have to think about the past or future – just concentrate on the present moment and your meditation. Let go of any tension in your body and try to be fully aware of the present moment.
  • Soulful music. Meditation is a sacred activity. It is an awareness of a divine consciousness. Anything that turns the mind to loftier thoughts and experiences will help us in our meditation. We need to feel an aspiration to grow into something more fulfilling and illumining. Soulful music or writings by Spiritual Masters and great seekers can give us that inspiration to delve deep within.

3. Breathing. Our breathing has a big impact on our mind; if we can quiet our breathing it will help slow down our mind. The beauty of meditation is its simplicity. Just be fully conscious of your breathing, feel you are breathing in peace; if you can do this without getting distracted you will be able to meditate most effectively.

4. Regularity. If we meditate on a regular basis then we will gain an increased meditative capacity. We should not be in a hurry to judge our own meditation. If we feel we have meditated badly and start feeling we are hopeless then we will definitely lose inspiration. Instead we should feel that each time we meditate there is a golden opportunity to feed our inner being. Even if we don’t feel as if we are making much progress, we should remember that each time we meditate, we are taking an important and necessary step to improving our own meditation.

5. But meditation is difficult. Many newcomers to meditation find it difficult to quiet the mind. This is because the mind is so used to thinking that when we try to stop it is quite a shock to the system. But, if we really want to do something we persevere and practice; meditation is no different, the more we put into meditation the more we will get from it.

6. Try a different place – Heart. We are used to living and identifying with the mind. The nature of the mind is to think, judge and separate. These qualities of the mind are the opposite to true meditation, so if you have difficulty quieting the mind, try focusing on the heart. You have to put your whole attention and concentration on this place in the centre of your chest. Try to feel that your whole existence has become your heart.

7. Great power in group meditation. Meditation is about consciousness. If other people are aspiring to the same meditative consciousness it becomes easier for you to be receptive to it.

8. The calm mind. This is the essence of meditation, whatever form of meditation you pursue, they will share this common goal of quieting the mind. It is only when we can have a mind free of thoughts that we will be able to experience real meditation. What happens is that we can quiet the mind we can expand our consciousness. We feel an expansion of our consciousness; when we have a good feeling towards the world.

9. What is a “good” meditation? We can know we are meditating well when we have a good view towards the world. If we feel tension and disturbance then our meditation is not working well. We should have a feeling of simplicity and humility; if we feel proud with ourselves this is not a good sign. Meditation aims to reduce the ego, not expand it.

Meditation – wisdom in simplicity

Many people come to our meditation classes searching for clarity and depth in their lives. People also try to lessen the stress that comes from the complexity of the modern life. On one hand the complexity has enabled our modern society to scientifically and materially evolve to levels that decades or centuries ago people could only dream of. On the other, hand this complexity frequently often makes our personal lives more confusing and more shallow. The quantity of news that floods our minds from the various modern media (TV, radio, social media and the Internet) has to be accompanied with the quality of our inner life – our wisdom to assign each piece of information and each life experience the right meaning and place in our lives. In this respect we find meditation to be a most valuable practice. This practice allows us to simplify our lives; to  reconnect to what each of us feels to be the most important to us, to absorb and patiently learn from life’s often perplexing lessons, opportunities that otherwise would be missed in our fast paced world.

Simplicity is an advanced course.

– Sri Chinmoy

In our next post we will give you a few practical tips on how to make your daily meditation practice work.

Silent Teaching – upcoming workshops and lectures in September and October

In September and October we will be holding a series of meditation workshops and lectures entitled “Silent Teaching”. The title is an apt description of meditation practice, our inner journey and spiritual teachers.

Meditation is silence, energising and fulfilling. Silence is the eloquent expression of the inexpressible.

Meditation is the inner language, and the teacher teaches meditation through silence. It would not be easy for your professor to teach through silence, and for the student also it would not be easy to learn through silence. But a spiritual teacher will meditate for five minutes in silence and during his meditation he will offer peace, light and bliss. He can instruct you to meditate either by giving you specific instructions or through his silent gaze. But most of the time the spiritual teacher teaches through silence, because that way is most effective.

– Sri Chinmoy

To practice silence you can try the following exercise:

If you already have thoughts and ideas within you, within your body, within your mind, then you have to meditate like this: be as relaxed as possible. Feel as if you were inside the ocean. Then absorb those thoughts and ideas so they do not have a separate existence. They are lost in the sea. If they are already within you, throw them into the sea. If they are coming from outside, then do not allow them to enter into you. After doing this your meditation is bound to be successful.
– Sri Chinmoy, Meditation: God Speaks And I Listen, Part 1, Agni Press, 1974.