Still the Body
A friend remarked that he can’t sit still for too long because he has a lot of nervous energy, and he has to stay active. He said that once he went to a yoga-meditation retreat and really struggled. At the end of the first day, the man who was leading the meditation exercises came up to him and said, “You can do whatever you want. Just don’t disturb the other people.” Apparently he had been constantly drumming his fingers on the floor and moving about, unable to sit still.
Are we similar to this person? If we can keep our body still when we meditate, it will help us to still our mind. Stilling the body is no small feat. There is restlessness. We feel like we just have to move our legs; we can’t sit still. Or we get an itch. All we can think about is scratching that itch. That itch becomes the centre of our universe. If only we could scratch it, we would be at peace – or at least that is what the mind would have us believe.
We might get a creeping sensation on our skin. Our mind conjures up the idea that some kind of insect is crawling on us. But, if we open our eyes and look, or we try to swipe it away with our hand, we find there is no insect there at all. It is just an illusion.
Then there is pain. Our limbs hurt. Our back hurts. Perhaps we worry that if we don’t move, some kind of permanent physical damage will result. Or if we sit there and tough it out, our entire meditation becomes a battle with that pain and there is no peace or bliss.
Fortunately, for all these sensations of the body there is a simple solution – attention. The more attention we give to a physical sensation, the more it grows. When we give it no attention at all, eventually it disappears. Our attention is very powerful. Constantly, throughout our day, we receive a multitude of sensory inputs, but we selectively pay attention to very few. The sensory inputs that we ignore are still present, but we don’t feel them; we don’t even recognize that they are there. Similarly, at the time of meditation when we put all our attention in simran and bhajan concentrated at the eye centre, then we are not aware of physical sensations; therefore, these bodily sensations don’t trouble us. In Spiritual Gems, Maharaj Sawan Singh explains that this “strain or pain” is
… the equilibrium of outward and inward tendencies of the mind. It is not the type of strain or pain that will leave any ill effects on the body. The best way to succeed in this state of equilibrium is to look into the focus and not to let the attention slip down. It is the attention that feels the strain or pain; and if, instead of giving attention to this part of the body, one ignores it and engages the attention in the focus, the strain or pain will disappear and the residual attention will have been pulled up a step. If you do not stick to the focus but let the attention slip down, the strain or pain will disappear also, but the attention is now outward and the game is lost.
So until our attention improves, we will have to work hard at holding our focus in the eye centre and force our bodies to remain still. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, Maharaj Charan Singh tells us that even forced meditation brings about good meditation:
When you are not in the habit of sitting at all, the first step is to force yourself at least to sit. To sit still is a great credit. When you learn to sit still, then you also have to learn to still your mind. The first problem is to still the body, as the body is always running out and doesn’t want to sit in one place for even twenty minutes. So first you get in the habit of stilling the body, and then you get into the habit of stilling the mind.
Our body gets tired. We want to stop meditating and get up, leave the room, and get on with our day. Sheikh Farid, on the other hand, says that to meet the Beloved, “Yea, I’ll walk on my head if the feet tire, only if I were to meet with my love!”
The human body is the temple of God. Every temple must be built on a solid foundation. A solid foundation does not move. Initially, it might seem like an enormous effort to train the body to sit still. However, all of the effort will be rewarded by a profound state of consciousness. It might help before we start meditation to send a clear message to the body, “You will not move for the next two and one-half hours.” Or perhaps tell the body, “OK. You can move if you want. No problem. But each time you move you will sit for an extra ten to thirty minutes.” We are in charge, and we exercise our will over the body – not the other way around. Training the body is like training a child. Gently repeated instructions and encouragement every day, over and over, will gradually have their effect.
The posture that we adopt will potentially have an impact on our ability to meditate without moving. To take an extreme example, if we tried to meditate while standing on one leg, it would be difficult indeed to be still while maintaining such a posture. Our posture should facilitate the stillness of the body. After all, the stillness of the body is a means to an end. Eventually, of course, our attention will leave the body when our concentration is complete.
In answer to a question about posture, Hazur says in Die to Live, “Ultimately you forget in what posture you are sitting and whether you are even in the body. You have to forget your body.” And when asked about changing our posture if we get uncomfortable he replies:
We should first find the posture which suits us. Then we should try to sit in that posture as long as we can. When it becomes very uncomfortable, very uneasy and you just can’t sit still, then it is better to change than to fight with yourself…. But we should try to sit as much as we can in that particular posture without disturbing ourselves.
The Great Master has an entire chapter on posture in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. I. He writes:
If one does not remain steadfast in a particular posture but frequently changes his position, the mind currents do not become concentrated. It is therefore essential that the desired posture should be maintained.… Whatever posture a person may adopt for his spiritual practice, he must satisfy himself that it causes no restlessness and that he can easily forget the body.
Keeping our body still when we meditate will help us to still our mind. When we put all our attention in simran and bhajan concentrated at the eye centre, then we are not aware of physical sensations and we can sit still. This practice takes time, but if we persevere we will achieve our goal of stilling the body and ultimately stilling the mind.