Monday is AUM-day; in search of meditation.
The text being referenced for the next few weeks is "The Art Of Contemplation". Last week we saw the first part of an introduction to the concept and purpose of contemplation. The exercises might be looked at separately; but there is a 'step-ways' progression, so best to begin at the beginning!
Begin by ensuring your 'seat' - the aasana - is firm and stable. Long-term readers will recall this has been the subject of several posts. Do check back on them to refresh - or to learn, if you are joining only recently. (A reminder that on coming to this blog, you are best to go back to post one and work your way through!) The bottom ought not to be rolling about, the spine slumping. The posture, whether in chair or on floor, ought to be erect, yet relaxed. No tensions. Go through a checklist of the body and note where things are tight, then breath into those areas and drop without flop.
This having been settled, the next step is to hold the body with no movement. No swaying, no drooping. What is more, at this time the focus of contemplation is, in fact, the body. Become conscious of the breathing - of the air in the lungs; of the places where body is fighting the process; observe the flow of fluids in the circulatory vessels; note the legs eager to run suddenly!
Experiencing the steadiness of the body and building on that foundation is a key component of exercise one. Without the foundation, all other contemplative attempts become futile.
Having become conscious of the body, move on to watching the mind. If the mind has been suitably focused on the body, as per the first part of this process, then it is likely to find now that it has already calmed down somewhat from it's normal daily nonsense. Instantly, however, we are likely to find also that mind now wants to run like the legs did on the body focus! Even the thoughts "oh how quiet it is…. Here look at how peaceful I am now!... Listen to that silence…" start to clutter the previously focused space that was body consciousness. Therefore, the teachers say, return to the body focus. Let not the mind do anything but focus on the body and its operations. Every now and then permit a peek at the mind to see whether it is properly slowing down. If at all a thought comes let it be "even my mind can be quietened".
It is with such a suitably pacified (albeit not yet absent) mind that we ought to take up our abhyaasa - spiritual study and practice. Just as a school student who has slept properly can more clearly concentrate and absorb the lessons of school and apply the knowledge gained at times of test, so the saadhaka, rested and focused from contemplation, can gain most from scriptural study.
This body consciousness and mind awareness level of contemplation is exercise one. It ought to be practiced at the very least, once daily and preferably in the morning. Better still is to perform the exercise three if not four times daily. Morning, noon and evening and possible before bed also. The more one practices, the better one becomes. Simple fact. In such regulated practice, observing the mind as a third party starts to take up its own fascination. It becomes a great entertainment! Be careful. When this happens, remain only with the body consciousness level of the practice. Let not the mind have any leeway to wander without your permission. You are not your mind - the mind is your tool to be used as you deem fit. The mind may cackle and point at you, yelling "you can't catch me!" Ignore it. Just keep observing.
You may find that each session of contemplative saadhana is but ten minutes of duration. This is fine. It is not a contest of how long one can sit. Sit as long as it is comfortable and you can remain in the observer mode. As with any athlete's exercise, the more the practice that is made, the longer the sessions will become by natural process, for the stamina builds and the strength grows. After a month, assess where you are with the mind - if applied well it must automatically have become quieter and really it has cost minimum effort. Thoughts ought to be jumping around less, not just in the formal sessions of contemplation, but in daily activity also. This lengthening of the space between thoughts is the effect and purpose of contemplation.
Do not be angry or frustrated if it takes longer than you had hoped. The mind has had its own way for a long, long time! The nature of mind is to frisk about like a cat on a hot tin roof. All that is required of the saadhaka is to be convinced that, at some point, mind will be quietened. From this determination to continue will be there. This is a subjective science - every student must go through the process by his or herself and there can be no defined time as to when the mind will be tamed. All that is known and has been proved for millennia is that the application of the process of contemplation will ensure success to the dedicated saadhaka. Therefore, take up the exercise and run it for as long as necessary. Try it NOW. Stop reading and settle in aasana. Begin contemplation exercise one.
Why are you still here???