Monday is AUM-day; in search of meditation.
The text being referenced for the next few weeks is "The Art Of Contemplation". Obtaining the booklet for yourself would be a good move. Use it as your prompt, your guide - even as a note book; don't fear to scribble points for yourself within the pages! The exercises might be looked at separately; but there is a 'step-ways' progression, so best to begin at the beginning!
There is a simple law of physics; no two things can be in the same place at the same time. In the booklet (if you choose to obtain it), you will note that it is mooted that in the mind this law is negated as it seems, when in mantra or japa, other thoughts can come tumbling on top… but this is actually incorrect. When in mantra or japa, what happens is the habitual, familiar thoughts fight their way in and knock away the focus thoughts. The thinking process happenings at lightening speed, so it only seems as if the two different thoughts are co-existing. What does happen, however, is that one appears to be thinking the mantra and working out what to eat later at one and the same time. Truth is the mantra is only getting a say on every fourth or fifth thought! To keep this crazy appearance of sitting in mantra, the mundane thoughts take up the rhythm of the chant.
"Om shrii guru egg-for-tea - namaH… "!!!
The mind is powerful. It has many avenues and is the ultimate multitasker. It needs to become fully employed, not just having a few of its channels occupied on the mantra. If you are organising a group of children in a sports match, inevitably there will be one or two who do not pay attention, going off on their own little 'trips'; to ensure full participation in the event, you may need to blow a whistle, call their names or other such thing. Mostly it will need to be loud so the little charmers pay attention.
This is exactly what is required with the straying channels of the mind. The focused mantra channels must 'up the volume' - internally, remember, not by mouth. Actually tell the mind to chant 'louder'. Another way to think of this is turning the dimmer switch on the wall to maximum illumination. Indeed, raising the volume internally has no limit - it can be so loud even the far side of the universe will hear you. This cannot be achieved by verbal chanting! This sort of mental control sounds simple, but is actually quite difficult and requires constant and dedicated practice. Bringing all the channels together as a team on the mantra chanting requires a strong and respected 'coach' (intellect/will).
Don't go to max volume directly. In fact, you probably can't do that, and certainly not in a sustained manner. Begin by simply chanting as if talking to someone in the same room. That's pretty much what you have been doing anyway, but now you are doing it with awareness. You are listening to your mind as it chants and thus moving into observer status. Thus you can see when stray thoughts are coming along to try and distract. This is when you instruct the mind to chant as if talking to someone in the next room, or out on the porch. It requires a little more strength in the 'voice'. Again, those interfering thoughts try to butt in. This now requires that we become loud enough for the neighbour across the street to hear us… or perhaps across the other side of town… little by little we raise the volume.
Loud chanting sweeps away all other thoughts. Remember, where one thought is, another cannot be. The beauty of this exercise is that it provides entertainment value! Gurudev advocates that this method be practiced for one month and what is likely to be found is that in daily life you are likely to find that you grow more efficient due to the ability to be more focused on the tasks at hand - a side effect!
Those who have independently tried to practice even these first three exercises on a daily and diligent basis, will find side-benefits coming into daily life. Those who come along and read, take notes and store the information without taking any action to implement the exercises will not.
It is a simple fact that the method of study employed for the material sciences will not suffice in the philosophical science. Info-bytes may see us through exams and help us research any field of study, indeed many can get by on theory alone. This will not do for the spiritual student! Intellectually knowing All Is One and the One Is All can be satisfying, but it will make little difference to daily life unless we work to reconnecting fully with That One. This is the point of contemplation.
Working these first three exercises will have helped to crystalise the 'observer' aspect of your beingness also. The more aware you become of that detached inner self, the more functional you can become in daily life.
It is worth noting, too, that vaasanas arise due to repetition of an activity in such a manner that it becomes habit. One of the ways to sublate negative vaasanas, mantra-chanting. This follows the 'two things cannnot share a space' example. Humans are creatures of habit so use that to your advantage. Chanting mantra louder and louder will help it to become a positive vaasana. You are likely to find, as countless others have before you, that the mind starts to want that mantra - more than the meal planning. When the mind is not focused on a task, you may be surprised to find that the mantra is waiting at the back to race in and be chanted, so that the mind is not idle and liable to drift off sideways.
(Note that the term 'sublate' was used. Negative, worldly vaasanas are extremely strong and the roots go deep… negation can be extremely difficult to achieve. It is often a good ploy to acknowledge the habit then seek to 'put it to sleep' with an even stronger vaasana. After some time (perhaps a lifetime), it may be completely smothered and can be said to be negated. Till then, know it is like a landmine!)
Building a strong spiritual routine, even if it be but ten minutes of full focus per day, does being to knock out the worldly and bring a sense of peace you may once have thought unachievable.