Meditation is a way of life - Living Meditation

3  Meditation is a way of life

Meditation is a way of life. You do not merely close yourself in a room for a few hours, then forget about meditation for the rest of the day. It must take on a practical form, reflecting in every daily action and in your whole routine. That itself is an effect of meditation. To live in the teachings, to live in that atmosphere is itself a meditation. You are building that atmosphere every moment for your daily meditation. Everything you do must consciously prepare you for the next meditation. So meditation becomes a way of life, as we live in the atmosphere we build with meditation.
Maharaj Charan Singh

Meditation finds expression in the way we live. With meditation, our positive qualities begin to show. Tranquillity replaces anger, contentment replaces greed, devotion replaces lust, humility replaces ego, and detached loving kindness to all replaces attachment and self-centredness. With meditation we are more focused, more skilful and more productive in anything we do. We naturally adjust our priorities and behave in a manner that is in harmony with the inner Self and with our external surroundings.

If in everything we do, we live consciously in the atmosphere created by meditation, then meditation becomes our way of life. In the beginning, our meditation may seem divorced from our daily life. It is like two people who live in the same house and do not talk to each other. In time, daily life and meditation become integrated and support each other. From meditation we learn to be present, more concentrated, more generous, in whatever we do throughout the day. The attitudes of surrender, patience, contentment and awareness that are strengthened through the process of meditation are naturally applied to every aspect of daily life. Our lives then reflect the peace, joy and calmness that develop automatically through the practice of meditation.

Meditation helps us to see how there is oneness between everything and everybody in the creation – that, externally and internally, all is Shabd. We see how everything is interconnected. As we bring this realization to all aspects of our daily life, we demolish the walls we have built that separate our spiritual life from our daily life. The fracture that is experienced by so many people in the wholeness of their being is gradually healed.

If we analyze our tendency to see our meditation as separate from our daily life, we will understand that it is simply a symptom of this fracture, or fragmentation, that we typically experience in many aspects of our lives. What we say is different from what we do. Our spiritual desires are not reflected in our actions. We are in one place but wish we were in another. We are doing one thing but thinking of doing something else. Since we are never in the present and never being where we are, it’s no wonder that meditation seems so boring: we are never there. And yet meditation is the only remedy for this fragmentation, this cosmic fracture that has not only separated us from God and the Master, but has also torn apart our inner being.

Live in the moment

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
John Lennon

One of the most famous discourses Buddha gave was when he sat to give his speech to the sangat, and without uttering a single word, he just raised a flower in his hand. He held it there for a moment, and then he left. That was all he had to say. Only one among the thousands that had gathered to hear him understood the profound hidden meaning of his gesture. On realizing it, he became enlightened.

Buddha was teaching that all we have is this moment. In this moment, everything is perfect. There are no creations of the mind, no problems – just awareness of this flower in the stillness of the mind. Outside the moment, life is suffering. Our suffering is the result of the desires and cravings that spring from dwelling in the past and projecting problems and scenarios into the future. Baba Ji says that our problems are such because we choose to perceive them that way. The problems lie in our mind, in the way we think, not in the things themselves. Jesus used to tell his disciples to stop asking: What will we wear? What will we eat? He advised them to observe how the flowers and the birds live in the moment and how all their needs are taken care of. He would say: Ask yourselves how anxious thought can add even the slightest measure to your life! All experts on spirituality have said the same: All we have is this moment.

View’d from eternity, existence is simultaneous.
View’d from time, existence is successive;
The past and the future are in the NOW of eternity.

The consciousness of life in eternity’s At Once
Is infinitely fuller
Than in the finite succession of time.
Clemens Humilis

If we keep our attention in the present moment, our problems shrink for lack of sustenance and we naturally, automatically, lead a happier life. Meditation is an exercise in being here, now. When we live in the present, we become fully alive as our consciousness reaches out far beyond the limitations of our ego. Ego exists through this very avoidance of being in the present – in its own realm of mental make-believe. By remembering the past and projecting into the future, by dwelling on our problems and desires through our habit of compulsive thinking, we feed and strengthen our ego. On the other hand, the more we stay in the present, the more the ego and all its accompanying problems wither away. Practising meditation and simran throughout the day is the easy way to keep our attention in the now, as well as a sure way to spare ourselves from unnecessary mental projections that bring us miseries and worries.

The present moment is the most valuable thing there is. Nothing happens tomorrow, nothing happens yesterday, everything always happens now. In fact, the ‘now’ is the only time there is. It is impossible for us to do or to think something outside the present moment. When we remember, it is always in the now. When we think about the future, it is always in the now. When the future catches up, it is always in the present moment.

By helping us to become still, present, and concentrated in the now, meditation is a great training. By keeping our attention in simran throughout the day, we eliminate our ego’s need to inflate its importance by living constantly off memories of the past or of fears for the future. When our attention is in the now, it is difficult for us to be trapped by our own mind. With the practice of meditation and simran throughout the day, we become able to hold the focus of our consciousness in the now. We transcend the limitations of our ego and we enjoy our life from moment to moment. Living in the moment, being fully present in our own life, we are empowered to become serene witnesses of our own lives while we engage with and fulfil our responsibilities.

There is something wrong with us. We never want to be happy at the present moment. Either we are worried about what we have done or about what is going to happen to us. We don’t want to make the best use of the present moment. If we make this moment happy, our past automatically becomes happy, and we have no time to worry about the future. So we must take life as it comes and spend it happily. Every moment should be spent happily. And simran helps.
Maharaj Charan Singh

True seva

All work is his work; remain happy wherever he keeps you, and take on whatever work you do as the Satguru’s work.
Baba Jaimal Singh

As we practise meditation, the depth of our desire to realize or to experience the fullness of this human opportunity that we are going through will naturally be reflected in our actions. The reality of spiritual progress is first measured not by inner experiences, but by increasing levels of serenity and contentment, by acceptance of one’s karmas or destiny, and by how we behave when in contact with our fellow human beings. Are we now kinder, more helpful, more tolerant than before we were initiated? Are we only interested in inner experiences or do we have a growing sense of the extraordinary experience to be had simply in the effort of being truly compassionate to others, in the work of becoming true human beings? The practice of meditation will naturally find expression in the details of daily life and in the way we relate to others.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.
John Donne

Baba Ji says that we don’t serve or help others in order to deepen our spiritual life; it is the other way around. The deepening of our meditation practice naturally develops in us the desire to be helpful to others. This desire finds its natural expression in the disposition to serve. Seva is service to the Master through service to our fellow human beings. Nobody is being more helped than the one who does the service. The purpose of seva is to help us expand in our love. Seva is an act of love meant simply to help us grow in love. That is seva. The practice of meditation will gradually help us to look upon everything we do as the Master’s work.

The worldly obligations you are fulfilling are all essentially spiritual. Do not allow the self to intrude; everything is the Satguru’s work.
Baba Jaimal Singh

Outward seva helps us to be more humble and receptive by taking the focus away from the ‘me’ – from our self-centredness. Seva is a way of expressing our devotion, and it is done in a spirit of gratefulness and humility, with total disregard for gain or recognition and irrespective of whether it is the sangat or our community in general that we serve. If it reinforces the ego, it is not seva and we should leave it.

Our most important seva is to attend to our meditation. No amount of outward seva can be a substitute for meditation. If we do outward seva at the cost of meditation, then we should abandon that seva. The reason we do seva is to create a spiritualized atmosphere in which to live our lives, to condition the mind to an atmosphere of spirituality so that it becomes easier for us to do our meditation.

Withdrawing our consciousness to the eye centre and connecting it with the Sound is the real seva … Some people give emphasis only to the means without worrying about the end, which is wrong. We clean a cup or a utensil not to see it clean, but because we want to use it.
Maharaj Charan Singh

The joy and benefits of meditation

Having once contacted it, we find that Sound Current so fascinating, so charming and tempting, so captivating, that immediately we become attached to it, and automatically we become detached from the senses.
Introduction to Die to Live

As our practice of meditation matures, and as we experience through it a quiet mind, we taste real rest and joy. We become less interested in running after external satisfactions and voluntarily go back to the restful and joyful place the mind has found within. With the successful practice of meditation, we experience for ourselves the fact that meditation is more valuable than money, greater than power, more sublime than sex, more satisfying than any favourite food or drink and more rewarding than anything else the mind has experienced. Baba Ji tells us that nothing in this world can come close to experiencing the Sound Current, that meditation is the ultimate pleasure, and that once we have had a taste of it we want more and more.

The happiness Baba Ji is referring to is not on the level of feeling, emotion or sensation. Rather the Master is referring to a higher level of joy that, at its highest, is defined by absolute freedom from relationships, objects, worldly joys, delusions and other external conditions. He is referring to the ecstatic bliss that is to be discovered when we go deep within our consciousness, where the Sound Current is constantly reverberating.

Once the mind becomes fond of listening to this ‘voice of God’, it turns away forever from the world and all worldly objects. The sweetness of this inner spiritual melody makes everything else seem tasteless or bitter. Compared with its enchantment, everything else seems dull and uninteresting. The possession of diamonds naturally causes one to lose interest in coloured shells. In the same way, the sweetness of the inner melody makes this world cease to be an attraction and turns the mind Godwards. One’s love for the world comes to an end and love for God takes its place.
Maharaj Charan Singh

At the same time that meditation brings us closer to our goal of realizing our true nature, it also provides notable emotional, physical and health benefits. Because meditation is our primary way of loving the divine, when we meditate and increase our love, this leads to perceiving the divine in all things and loving the creation. Meditation helps us become more human, more loving, compassionate and peaceful. Focusing our attention in meditation improves our ability to concentrate and relax. This improved concentration and relaxation can be applied not only in meditation, but also in anything we choose to do, so that our ability to participate effectively in life improves.

Even Western scientists have become interested in the positive psychological and physiological effects of the many different practices of meditation. Since the 1960s there has been an increasing volume of research on the health benefits of this inner work. Physicians frequently recommend some form of meditation to help with a variety of stress-related conditions and many companies encourage their staff to practise meditation. People who meditate generally manage stress better, which reduces time lost for sick leave and leads to improved productivity and staff morale. This is because reduced stress improves the way the body functions and the way we feel about what we do.

Meditation has also become a common prescription for patients with high blood pressure and heart disease. The reason for this is simple. Medical science has proven that since meditation reduces stress and increases relaxation, it helps heart patients lower their blood pressure and improve the function of their cardiovascular system. In addition, it has been shown that when patients undergo surgery and different forms of medical treatment such as chemotherapy, a meditation practice can reduce a patient’s recovery time and increase the positive outcomes of the traditional medical treatment.

However extraordinary the physiological and psychological benefits of meditation are, it is the spiritual benefits of meditation that are beyond all measure. Through the Masters, we learn that meditation is the way to empower our soul and purify ourselves of countless karmas. Meditation is the supreme way to surrender the ego, to accept the way of Shabd, and to transcend mental realms so that we can experience our deeper spiritual nature. Through our efforts in meditation, we give expression to our deepest yearning for self-knowledge and union. Meditation is the one prayer that is pleasing to the Lord; it is the one means to experience and merge with our source. Through realization of the Self, ultimately we attain realization of the divine.

We should not be seeking consolation from this practice, but let us do it motivated by love and because God wishes it.
Brother Lawrence

Meditation is the best way to prepare for death

Meditation is nothing but a preparation to leave the body. That is the real purpose of meditation. Before you play your part on stage, you rehearse the part so many times, just to be perfect. Similarly, this meditation is a daily rehearsal to die, so that we become perfect at how to die and when to die.
Maharaj Charan Singh

At the time of death, the concentration gained in meditation will give strength and direction to our mind and soul. The mystics reveal to us that through meditation it is possible to conquer death. Hence, Saint Paul says: “I die daily,” and Rumi encourages us to practise in the following words:

What a blessing it would be
If you were one night to bring your soul out of the body,
And, leaving this tomb behind,
Ascend to the skies within.
If your soul were to vacate your body,
You would be saved from the sword of Death:
You would enter a Garden that knows no autumn.

Keeping our attention at the eye centre is the first step to enable us to master the practice of dying while living. Besides our appointed time of meditation, we can practise keeping our attention at the eye centre at all times. It is especially helpful to us if we practise this at moments that resemble the time of death, when everything seems chaotic or out of our control. This may be when we are angry or possessive, when we are experiencing pain or suffering, or when we want to control events that are not in our hands. All these moments present to us excellent opportunities to learn to be detached, to let go and to concentrate our attention at the eye centre by means of simran.

Such training and self-discipline will prove invaluable at the time of death. It will also help us practically, so that we become more carefree and at peace with ourselves while we live our daily life. If we are able to make a habit of keeping our attention in the remembrance of our Master in all situations, then, when death comes, our attention will only be on our Master. This is extremely important because whatever we think about at the time of our death will determine the direction in which the soul goes after death.

Whatever the state of mind
That a man may focus upon
At the end, when he leaves his body,
To that state of mind he will go.
Bhagavad Gita

If during our life we haven’t trained our mind to be at the eye centre and we have only craved for the things of the world, death will not change those cravings. The impressions of the mind will still be with us at the time of death. The desire to be back with loved ones or to continue to experience worldly pleasures may be so strong that we will be pulled back into another birth to fulfil that very desire.

Imagine the situation of a person who one day goes for lunch in a restaurant, and when he comes out finds that someone has stolen his car. He then walks back to work, only to find that his place of employment has closed down and his bank account is empty. Full of anguish, he returns home, only to learn that his house has burned to the ground and all his loved ones have perished in this tragic incident. We may shake our heads in disbelief at the possibility of something so far-fetched actually happening to anyone. Yet, this is what each of us will experience at the time of our death. In one stroke, in one moment, we lose all our possessions, all we have and everyone we love.

If we haven’t prepared beforehand, we may be devastated. If we die with a feeling of anguish and loss, of longing for what we are leaving behind, death will be a terrible experience. In the midst of holding on to dear life, how could we possibly welcome death?

We are mistaken if we think that by attending satsang, reading Sant Mat literature, having the Master’s physical darshan and occasionally doing our meditation, we will be prepared to accept such an event with dignity and peace. Rather, we have to take advantage now of the opportunity to meditate, and train our mind to remain steady at the eye centre. Let’s not be under any illusions. During this very life, we must attend to daily meditation. Then, and only then, will we be able to take refuge at the eye centre at the time of death and peacefully and willingly accept what is happening to us.

Meditation is the single most practical thing we can do to prepare ourselves for what we will experience when we leave the physical world at the time of death. If we are successful in keeping our attention at the eye centre for prolonged periods of time in meditation, we will go within and experience what it is to die, while living. Death will then hold no mystery for us. Instead of being a frightening experience, it will become something we anticipate, something full of wonder, beauty and promise – something to look forward to, something we know.

Die to live. You must withdraw to the eye centre, and then you will live forever. Otherwise, you are just living to die. Every time you live, you have to die, so die to live. Learn to die so that you may begin to live, and live forever.
Maharaj Charan Singh

For those who learn to die through the practice of meditation, death is not terrifying because they have traced each step in the process of death. Such disciples are receptive to the Master and remain conscious and confident during the experience, accepting it peacefully and without anxiety, regrets or fear. Keeping our attention in the eye focus cannot be overemphasized. It will prove invaluable at the time of death, but also while we are alive. Such is the power of meditation – for living, for dying, and for taking us on a journey beyond body and mind.

Your breath is like a drumbeat,
Constantly proclaiming the departure
Of the caravan of life.
Radha Soami has docked his ship –
Come on board and cross the ocean free of charge.
Soami Ji Maharaj