Monday is AUM-day; in search of meditation.
Meditation & Life, with Sw. Chinmayananda (Gurudev).
We are now exploring the writings of Gurudev on our focus subject of Meditation. The book is a thorough treatment of the subject and extends to over 170 pages of closely printed text. No attempt is intended, here, to present the text in its entirety. However, important paragraphs and quotes will be given, within a summary of each section. You are encouraged to use the links on sidebar to obtain a copy for yourselves from CM publications. Please remember that each of the posts under this title is part of a thought flow and it is important to go back and read the previous post in order to refresh and review the context.
Ch.25; Hints for Taming the Mind (cont'd)
A list of possible methods for keeping the mind focused in meditation was begun last week. Let us complete it.
5; Persuade the mind lovingly. Consider you with an attitude of a mother checking on her teenager. She does it from love and concern, even when the kid is kicking! Loving persuasion is one of the best tools in her collection. Keep telling the mind that it will be worth all the effort; that the glories of meditation are the highest vocation and all efforts will be rewarded. The more the mind is convinced, the more readily it will focus on the work.
6; Lure it with promises, kindle the curiosity. Again we can liken this to the mother, but this time there is the promise of something tangible and more immediate as a reward for putting in the effort on the less tangible. Whilst a small child might be looking for sweets, here we must keep it still on the higher - think of a favourite scripture or biography of a saint whose example you wish to follow. Promise the mind it can read these things once it has done its focus work - and that the very example it wants to read about is a possibility of becoming real if it puts in the practice.
7; Promise the mind some freedom later. Once more the reward system. Okay, you want to play? Fine, but first at least be quiet and focused for x long then you can go do… whatever. A common problem for the mind is the worry of everyday affairs, be it work or family. Therefore the promise might be that if the mind will stay focused for now, it is more likely to be able to address these very things later and can be allowed to work on them then.
8; Reprimand and be sure to carry out the threat. Even the most lenient of parents will once in a while need to be very strict with their offspring. Short, sharp shock treatment if you will. It ought not to be commonplace, but there are times it is required. It is also the case that threats alone are useless because the become empty after a while. The child/mind must learn that in these moments there is a genuine risk of punishment. In meditation practice, the punishment Gurudev here recommends is that of a fast (out of usual cycle). Tell the mind that if it does not come under your control, then the body will not eat for the next 24 hours - or cold showers for the next two days… very quickly it will be realised how the mind is part of the physical world!!! Caution though, this is not to be overused, for a weakened body also means a weakened mind. Something else to guard against is the tendency to soften completely after punishment. The mother immediately hugging the punished child can build up the wrong impression that punishment = love and the child will seek more! Be very observant of such tendencies. It might display as, after fast, taking excess food and that too of 'wrong' foods…
The mind is made up of the subtle aspects of the food we consume; thus denial of the food is denial of nourishment for the mind, which is why it complies. It is also why it is so important to be careful with the types of food eaten. Sattvika diet is essential for successful meditation. Also, having made the decision to use this method upon the mind, you must be very strict with yourself/it; there must be no hint of any kind of reward or compensation following the punishment, if it had to be carried out. As said, but it bears repeating, this is a method to be used only when the mind is being particularly difficult and not as the default control method. There might be rebellion!
9; Observe critically. The most effective punishment is for you to stay in the intellect, observing the silly mind play around; be critical of it. As a mother finds that a child is not paying attention to her, one of the tactics is to draw back and go silent. The child starts to look at mother and can see that she is not best pleased, even sorrowful at the behaviour. It would be a rare child then who continued embarrassing its parent. Similarly, with the crazy mind, pull back into your intellect and cast that critical and sorrowful 'eye'. The mind will play on for some time but then come to understand that it is being observed and the time for play is over. This is one of the Rsis' great tools and is referred to as /sakshi-bhaava… the witnessing.
Any one of these methods, either alone or in combination, is likely to aid the novice - or even the experienced - practitioner. The most important thing is sincerity; there must be firm conviction born of faith and understanding, and good sense of seeking which is adventurous and, even, revolutionary. Without these, spiritual practice will drift. These are not qualities which can be plucked from the ether. They require cultivation.
"Strive hard. Act diligently. Meditate regularly. Discriminate continuously. Be good. Be kind, tolerant and all-loving. Eradicate weaknesses, steadily growing your inner strength. Keep brahmachaarya, good company and good health. Even at the point of death, renounce dishonest, deception, lust and passions… and meditate. Meditate, meditate and meditate! This is the only true path to perfection."