Imagine you’re driving a car on a busy highway going 70 to 75 miles per hour. Cars going more than 80 miles per hour speed by in adjacent lanes. Some cars are cutting from one lane to another; there is lots of traffic. Seated next to you is your beloved, the person whom you love most in the world. Now, at that moment, how could you possibly embrace your loved one and lose yourself in the depth of your love? You absolutely could not. Due to your need to focus on the traffic, keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel, you could not possibly enjoy an embrace. The only way that you could hug your beloved would be to find a quiet place and pull over.
In a similar manner, if, at the time of meditation, our minds are going 75 miles an hour, we cannot possibly enjoy the bliss of meditation. If we are focused on all the worldly activities that require our attention during the day, then we cannot enjoy the spiritual embrace of our Master within. Meditation is our opportunity to slow down, pull over, halt the busy machinations of the mind, and lose ourselves in the love of our Master.
Our full attention needs to be given to meditation. Without our full attention, we really can’t call it meditation at all; we’re merely engaged in mechanical repetition. We mechanically repeat the five holy names, while at the same time we allow our mind to wander about. If we think about other things while performing simran, we are not giving simran the attention it deserves. Simran must be done wholeheartedly.
At the time of meditation, our mind must become completely one-pointed. When our concentration is complete, we will hear the sound of God, the Shabd, and our souls will rise up to the inner skies. In the Hebrew scriptures it is said that the Lord is a jealous God. He is called jealous because even one thought, one inclination towards the world instead of towards him, will result in the inner door remaining closed.
When the mind wanders off, we must bring it back. It helps to remember why we are sitting in the first place. The Master has given us the practice of simran – repetition of five holy names with the attention fixed at the eye centre. One thought which goes astray can pull the mind out and prevent us from enjoying our spiritual practice.
But of course, concentrating at the eye centre is difficult, often the struggle of a lifetime. Maharaj Sawan Singh, in Spiritual Gems, describes the difficulty of concentration:
[It] is not so easy without long practice. However, by and by, the mind becomes accustomed to staying in the centre. It rebels less and less, and finally yields to the demand to hold to the centre…. Before that, the mind will not remain still for a long time. It jumps around like a monkey.
In this same letter, Great Master goes on to explain the need for exerting our will:
It is a matter of will to hold to the centre, also not to forget nor allow the attention to go off after some other thought or experiences…. A keenly awakened intelligence must hold to the centre, steadily, every moment. If any thought enters the consciousness, jerk the mind back to the centre and hold it there. Make the spirit, instead of the mind, the commander of the situation.
We easily forget, and then the mind drops down. Therefore, our mind must remain keenly attentive, purposefully engaged, repeating each word of simran slowly and deliberately. This is the most important thing in our life, and it deserves our full and absolute attention.
Sometimes the obstacles to concentration are external. Besides the inherent difficulties of concentrating within, worldly circumstances might also interfere with our spiritual life. Great Master encourages us never to give up:
Let nothing stop or hinder you. Let no earthly obstacles stand in your way of going inside. Set your mind steadfastly upon that and make all else subordinate to that, and other things will melt away and leave you free.
To a certain extent, this is a matter of priorities. When we make meditation our priority, we will somehow always be able to make time for it, come what may.
The following story deals with facing obstacles on the path. In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid and watched to see if anyone would remove it. People mostly walked around it. Many people loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear. A few gave the large rock a push, but when it failed to budge, they gave it up and continued along their way.
Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.
After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king that said the gold was for whomever removed the boulder from the road.
There is an important lesson here. Every obstacle we face presents an opportunity for us to improve our condition and discover the hidden treasure that lies within.
Let us remember these sweet words of the Great Master:
No matter what may be your difficulties and deficiencies, they shall all be overcome, and the divine Shabd whose music never ceases within you shall sooner or later bear you upon its loving waves back to your original home. Have no fear or doubt.