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.26; Keeping a Spiritual Diary
It has been mentioned before that the keeping of a journal specific to saadhana and study can only benefit the practitioner early in their journey and explorations in Vedanta and Meditation. In this chapter, Gurudev says exactly this. He points out that there are often complaints from students that progress is not being made, that obstructions are being found in meditational practice. Often, the student will point to externals things as being the cause of the delay…"it must be my destiny… there is less time… it is not quiet…" All these things can be present and the most profound meditation may still occur. The block is within! Somewhere, the subtle body has latched onto the grosser and decided to become distracted. It takes a feat of strength to bring all the bodies into alignment and back on track - nothing the external can help you with!!!
"In order to protect the growing spiritual wealth in you and not suffer the sorrow of setbacks...these twenty 'sentry' questions, posed at the end of each day, may help. Keep track of the questions and your responses in the form of a diary, and keep it strictly and continuously for at minimum, three months… but not for more than six months, for even the diary-keeping can become habituated and mundane. Later, if you hit blocks and delays, again take up the diary, for a week or two, to reset. It is the experience of many masters and thousands of seekers that this diary-keeping is the sovereign remedy for [assessing one's progress]."
The list of questions is designed to suit all temperaments; it is suggested that you select fifteen out of these twenty to assist you. Make up columns in your book, with the questions at the head and the dates to the left. Report to yourself diligently each evening and at the end of each month, look back over your 'chart'. Reading back over it, you can spot where you are lifting well, or where the struggle is pulling you down. This is useful not just for progress, but also to uncover vaasanas and develop targeted improvement programs for yourself. Gurudev based these on the chart he would have been asked to do when he began his own studies with Swami Sivananada. The question list follows now - with a few small comments as to Gurudev's recommendations or expectations (in parenthesis), where appropriate. [Note - this is an activity of saadhana and one which is heartily recommended; it gives a sense of 'doing' something in an otherwise static modality and for the new seeker, struggling with letting go of sense attractions, or the established practitioner hitting a 'plateau', it is invaluable.]
1: how many hours did I sleep in the last 24? (for the quiet-living spiritual seeker, six hours is generally considered healthy and sufficient.)
2: when did I get up from bed? (serious meditation practitioners and sadhaks ought to consider any time between 4:30 and 6am in order to keep good spiritual attendance… you will find after a 'training' period with alarm clock, that the body naturally falls into this pattern.)
3: how long did I practice concentration? (little and often to begin is advised.)
4: what spiritual books am I currently reading?
5: for how long was I in company of the good and learned? (satsang… it does not necessarily mean attending prayer meetings or study groups; it applies to all our interactions and after some time in spiritual study, we will find that we naturally gather a circle of friends with whom we can share philosophical discussion and less idle chatter.)
6: for how long did I engage myself in disinterested service? (karma yoga… giving help without expectation of return.)
7: how many malas of japa did I perform?
8: how many Upanishad mantras did I read? (read only a little each day but be sure to digest them thoroughly!)
9: how many mantras did I write? (likhita japa - a great way to fix the mind - if the hand is doing it can be focused upon - then the point of the pen - then the flow of the ink…)
10: how many hours did I observe silence? (mouna is an essential part of stilling the mind and the core of our being.)
11: did I fast today? (this will only apply to those who have set up vrat as part of their saadhana; that is to say, once a fortnight, or every Monday, or some such.)
12: did I give away to charity today?
13: how many lies did I tell and with what self-punishment? (a lie is something uttered against your conscience and with a view of self-preservation. A lot of the time we think we are not lying - but if we look carefully, we may have created a moment of hypocrisy, self-delusion and contradiction in order to save face or some such - it is a lie! Do not allow yourself to console your conscience by saying that it caused no harm. In all events, lying disturbs your mental poise - if you catch yourself guilty of this, give punishment, such as an extra day of fasting or a full day of silence, for example.)
14: how many times was I angry and for how long was it felt? (we often don't recognise our own anger - now is the time to hold the mirror up!)
15: how many hours did I spend in useless company? (this doesn't just have to mean people… it can be the distraction of television, shopping, other such frivolity.)
16: how many times did I fail in brahmachaarya? (self-control in all areas; eating, talking, sex and all such sensual pleasures.)
17: what virtues am I developing consciously? (each month, take a virtue or noble quality that you would like to cultivate and work on it! Tick when it went well, cross when it didn't.)
18: what evil quality am I working on eradicating? (kaama, krodha, lobha etc… there is a question here about anger, but you could equally make a question for each of these to assess your progress in rooting them out of your system; for this reason Q18 here is given; choose which to focus on for the month.)
19: how many times did I fail today in controlling the habit in focus?
20: when did I go to bed? (if rising early is the desirable action of the true seeker, the same might be said for repose - note your pattern.)
You will note that most questions only require single word or numerical responses; this is to make the process relatively quick - though it will take a few moments of introspection and review of the days events to 'count' them; it also limits the possibility of erring, even here, and cuts down the tendency to justify our actions. Additionally, at the review point, it will be very easy to see where the 'waves' are.