Monday is AUM-day; in search of meditation
For the next stage of our investigation on meditation, we are going to study - and practice! - japa as a means to tame the mind and we shall investigate the Gayatri Mantra.
How is your saadhana coming along? Sitting here at "AV-central", one can only view the reader numbers and guess that some form of practice is taking place - or at least the intention of it. Were this a 'live study' group, each would be talking about the experience, the frustrations, the issues which arise and each would be helping and encouraging the other when resolve weakens or vaasanas come to trip us up. Remember that you can use the contacts box over here if you wish to gain personal insight on a doubt or question you have - or write a comment and share it with all the other readers here… because experience shows that if one person is having a problem with, say, holding the mala, almost certainly there will be two or three others with the same issue. Sharing spreads the burden and the responses are optimised. Whilst saadhana must be done alone, do not feel alone in your saadhana!
Let us continue looking at some of the stuff which can cause hurdles.
A key difficulty for japists - and it would be fair to say that virtually every meditator has experienced this at least once in their practice! - is sleep. It arrives by stealth, mainly to those who are successfully pacifying the mind. Particularly in early stages of this discipline this will happen, because the pacified brain, till now, has understood that if not being employed then it is supposed to switch off altogether! The learner driver initially has no problem because there is so much involved in remembering all the things required to be a fully licensed car operator. Once the driving becomes more instinctive, more 'automated' and the limbs appear to do the driving unbidden, it has been known for attention to switch away from the road, or switch off into a kind of numbness. Such complacency, particularly in the inexperienced, can result in accidents or certainly incidents of concern. Later, if we are skilled, we can do the driving safely and efficiently, but still enjoy the ride, taking in the view and observing things previously unnoticed. Similarly, japa requires mechanical attention at first, then we can lapse into a false sense of security that we have the rhythm and flow and the mind may wander onto the ironing awaiting us after… or switch off. Spiritual 'accident'! Be disciplined. Just as you would never drive a car (would you?) under the influence of any substance or at a time when most fatigued, so it is that one ought to take up japa only when ready and fresh.
Another thing which can occur, more after than during japa, is poor temper. It can arise from within the japa if the mind is not coming to attention and is, instead, wandering off to the daily worries and chores awaiting. The japist can become very self-critical and frustrated and unless good at self-monitoring, the frustration will come out as sour words or throwing of things later in the day. Similarly, as mentioned above, fatigue means we let go of self-control. Discipline requires energy and when we are at low energy, we can slip. Old angers and jealousies will rise to the surface, either during practice, or later in the day and perhaps causing hurt to others. Come to recognise these are vaasanas bubbling up, watch them, let them flow past and then pull on the reins of self-discipline once more.
Every 'work' has its own level of energy and stamina and spiritual practices are no different. Spiritual engagement is such a subtle thing that, despite all these guidances, cannot truly be 'taught'… just as an appreciation of a work of art cannot be fully provided. Pointers can be given, general observations made which would be common to all viewers - but then the fullest meaning to each individual can only rest with those individuals. The experience can only ever be their own. Thus it is with any yoga-marg. There are common things and then there are the subtleties only the practitioner can find for themselves, through diligent adherence to what can be taught.
A japist's attemp is always to fix the mind on one thing - the Divine, the Higher Beingness. Ability to do this will vary according to various factors, but dedication is key. Such dedication will be rewarded with an easy ability to meditate, just as the driver can become experienced and drive in any vehicle and all conditions. Meditation becomes natural, second nature, and the mind is tamed. Japa, then, is a healthy and effective tool for meditation when taken up with serious intent.