Overcoming Meditation Hurdles
There is a deep-seated yearning within all of us that overrides the myriad ways our individual lives differ. Our daily tasks such as going to work, looking after the family, cleaning the house, or cooking, can leave us wondering, “Is this it?” Is the sole purpose of human life nothing more than completing one’s daily chores? If so, why do we still feel that we need something more meaningful?
The mystics tell us that the purpose of life is to merge with the Creator. However, as long as we are entangled in the world of mind and maya, such a union cannot occur. Even though we might be attuned to the soul’s yearning, we find it difficult to make an adequate response. This is because the soul is knotted with the mind and, while the mind is desperate to fulfil the soul’s yearning, it mistakenly chases one sensual desire after another. The eighteenth-century Indian mystic Sant Charandas describes our situation this way:
The mind remains under the control of the senses,
and discrimination remains under the control of the mind.
How then can concentration be achieved,
when the chain of command is reversed?
To give real meaning to our existence, we need to liberate the soul by withdrawing our attention to the eye centre, as this is the most effective method for weaning the mind away from worldly attractions. As initiates, we are challenged by little things. When the alarm goes off in the morning, we have a choice to make: get up or go back to sleep. That choice shows what our priorities are and whether we have understood the nature and the magnitude of the gift we have been given. Some of us may be very committed and – do or die – put in our effort every day. But many of us may struggle to do so. Why is this? What are the various hurdles that come in our way?
The hurdles preventing us from giving time to meditation are specific to each of us but, in one way or another, they will all be rooted in the five vices of anger, greed, lust, attachment, and ego. The mystics tell us that we can bring each of the passions under our control only by turning our attention inwards. Giving time to simran during the day will help curb the mental and emotional reactions we experience when pulled by these passions – reactions that block our way to sitting quietly in meditation.
The mind’s incessant need to avoid boredom by seeking novel ways to be entertained represents another barrier to our spiritual progress. While this hurdle has plagued disciples since the dawn of humanity, the challenge facing us is exacerbated by both the expansion in the variety of leisure activities on offer and the ease with which we can access them. Never before have we had so many different options vying for our attention at the mere click of a button. The three forms of entertainment probably impeding our meditation the most are television, socializing and social media.
Most of us have probably binge-watched multiple episodes of a television programme one, after the other. By succumbing to the programme producers’ cliffhanger strategy, we fail to go to bed on time. As a result, we do not give our bodies and brains sufficient time to rest; consequently, we weaken our ability to fight the desire to stay asleep when the alarm sounds.
Socializing is another way in which we hinder our mediation if we fail to monitor it. Of course, we all need the support and comfort of family and friends with whom we can share our joys and sorrows. Aristotle, for instance, declared, “Man is by nature a social animal.” Mystics also advise against living a reclusive life for the purposes of spirituality. However, they also encourage us not to become so dependent on others that we feel uncomfortable in our own company.
In the twenty-first century, technology has become a powerful force competing for attention. Our phones and laptops are installed with games and social feeds. Refreshing Facebook, browsing YouTube, checking WhatsApp messages – these are just some of the ways we have become addicted to our apps, making it all the more difficult to still our minds.
Overcoming meditation hurdles
The following changes to our lifestyle might help us overcome the hurdles we encounter when trying to still the mind.
First, as advised by our Master – who says the simplest things with the deepest meaning – we are to keep a balance. With these three little words, the Master gives us the essence of how we can follow a spiritual path while also meeting worldly duties and responsibilities. For example, he encourages us to live a householder’s life because going to extremes eventually makes our minds rebel. Second, adopting a vegetarian diet, abstaining from alcohol and mind- altering drugs, and leading a good moral life form a strong foundation for spiritual work. Abiding by these principles will foster inner calmness and tranquillity and help our meditation practice flow more easily. As Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
Concentration is stilling your mind at the eye centre. The real concentration is to be here at the eye centre because this is the seat of the soul and mind knotted together. From here our consciousness spreads into the whole world through the nine apertures. To withdraw the attention to the eye centre, to still the mind, that is concentration…. Be still, still your mind and be with God. Only then can we be with the Father.
Our meditation is a gradual realization of something that is already within us. Stilling both mind and body is the first step to raising our consciousness to the level where we can see the Radiant Form of the Master within.
The creation of good habits is a third way to help control the mind. Habits are a powerful force. We all know how to create a new habit: just do the same thing day after day, and it soon becomes habitual. This is how we must establish a daily programme of meditation. Finally, feeling contented with what we have is another way to stop the mind from chasing after material desires.
Fostering such a spirit of contentment is aptly illustrated in one of Hazur Maharaj Ji’s visits to a local satsang centre. As recounted in Treasure Beyond Measure, one evening, Hazur asked an overseas visitor to accompany him as he toured a local satsang complex to see the arrangements in place. It was about ten o’clock on a cold February night. Because the number of satsangis exceeded the available bed-spaces, many were sleeping under the trees, covering themselves with only a thick cotton sheet. In the morning, the overseas visitor said to Maharaj Ji: “‘I felt very sad, for people were lying on the bare ground under the tents and even in the open under the trees. It was very cold, and they had only ordinary cotton sheets or mats with which to cover themselves. I was shocked; their standard of living is very poor.’ Maharaj Ji smiled softly and said, ‘Yes, Sam, their standard of living is very poor, but their standard of contentment is very high.’”
The message we get from this story is to focus more on our basic needs rather than our desires. We need to slowly wean our minds away from materialistic desires and lead a simpler life.
The Master often tells us to deprogram our minds. In the same way that we sometimes get rid of unwanted stuff in our homes to free up space, we must learn to declutter our mind from past impressions, social trends, and the other pressures hindering our meditation. Now that we have made a choice to follow the path, let us do our best to please our Master.
The Master often reminds us to put our words into action. This is it – we have been given a golden opportunity. Grabbing it with both hands, we should daily dedicate two and a half hours to meditation as expected by our Master.
So, let us focus on the ways that mystics have advised us to tackle this mind. With dedication and consistent practice, let us go within to pierce the veil of ignorance and see the light within.