Read an Excerpt
Meditate with Ease
By Ajayan Borys
New World Library Copyright © 2013 Henry J. Borys
All rights reserved.
WHAT IS MEDITATION?
Jesus did it. The Buddha did it. Mystics, saints, and sages of spiritual traditions from around the world, and throughout the ages, have spent countless hours doing it. Why has meditation been at the core of the human search for truth and meaning throughout the millennia? Why meditate? What is it?
Albert Einstein once wrote, "The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science." It seems that the attraction of meditation has, traditionally at least, been just this: it offers a window into the mystery of our very existence. Meditation is the Hubble Space Telescope for exploring the vast inner space of the soul. Yet here, no external instrument is required; you can meditate on the shores of a holy river, in the comfort of your bedroom, or even in the bus on your way home from work. Only the mind and awareness are needed, nothing else. Meditation is simply the mind turning within to look upon itself.
So what happens when the mind turns within? There are hundreds of forms of meditation, and each may give rise to a variety of experiences. (As we shall see, the inner space of the mind is vast.) Yet all successful forms of meditation have at least one thing in common: sooner or later, they make the mind's activity subtler. Put another way, through meditation you transcend your ordinary mental activity to experience quieter and deeper levels of mental activity that are closer to the core of your being.
There are subtle and gross levels to everything. This book in your hands, for instance, appears to be solid and more or less inert matter, but this is only at the gross level of the book's existence. Were you to enter into it more deeply, you would discover that this book is not inert at all. It consists of innumerable molecules shimmering with motion. Were your investigation to go further, you would discover that these pages hold inconceivable power at the subatomic level. Transcending even this level, the subatomic particles that compose this book dissolve into a state of pure potentiality. This pure, abstract potentiality is described by quantum field theory as the vacuum state. This book that you hold in your hands is truly a mystery beyond comprehension. The energy it contains is unimaginable, and on the deepest level of the book's existence it is interrelated with the entire universe.
This is no less true of you and me. We, too, have many levels to our existence. Just as we normally see only the most superficial level of the book, so we ordinarily see only the most superficial level of the body and mind — the gross material body and the conscious thinking mind. Yet just as with the book, the subtler levels hold immense energy and potential, and it is the allure of these deeper levels that has fascinated adepts of meditation throughout the centuries. These deeper levels are much more intimate with our essence and source. Indeed, they hold the very secrets of our existence.
This is why at the heart of all the great spiritual traditions of the world, there are various forms of meditation — spiritual practices that quiet the mind to allow seekers to explore the deeper regions of their being. The mystics of the world's spiritual traditions discovered that as their vision opened to these hidden layers of life, the presence of the Divine became an immediate, vital experience — and they have universally declared that this experience requires no special talent. It is open to any and all who are willing to dedicate themselves to exploring their own inner depths.
Of course, meditation also offers many practical benefits for mental, emotional, and physical health — and because it's a direct experience, it requires no particular religious or spiritual belief. Whether you are interested for spiritual or other reasons — such as to sleep better; to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression; to improve physical health; or to tap your latent creative potential — just regularly meditate as instructed in this book. All that you want lies within you, in the depths of your own being. You need only access it.
THE TWO ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLES OF MEDITATION
Before you set out to explore your inner depths through meditation, it's important to understand a couple of essential principles. These two principles will open the door to actually experiencing the full range of meditation, from the conscious thinking mind to your inmost core. In fact, after these, all else amounts to just the details of particular techniques. They are:
1. Real meditation takes place with sublime ease.
2. Thoughts are a natural feature of meditation.
Essential Principle 1. Sublime Ease
Perhaps you have the impression that meditation is hard to do. It must be for a gifted few with orderly, peaceful minds, right? Nothing could be further from the truth. Meditation can be easy for anyone. In fact, as you'll soon see for yourself, it has to be easy or it won't work. That's why the principle of ease is essential to every practice in this book.
Yet this principle appears to contradict common sense: to achieve anything of value in this world requires effort. Just look around. Humankind's greatest achievements — in science and technology, in building corporations, in the creative arts — have been the product of effort. And those who made the effort to discover, build, or create those achievements also made the effort to acquire the knowledge necessary to excel in their fields. When it comes to meditation, however, the only effort required is to make the time to do it. Granted, this can be a challenge in our busy, achievement-oriented society, but once you're actually sitting down and you close your eyes and begin, no effort is required. In fact, effort at that point will land you further from success.
Why does effort yield positive results in nearly everything except the process of meditation? Simply put, achievement in the world is in the field of action, in the field of doing; meditation is in the field of being. Meditation is about doing less and less until you are doing nothing, simply being, abiding in the core of your innermost Self. At that point, the ego-mind, which is accustomed to always doing and trying, has temporarily dissolved. This is why meditation is effortless, why it must be effortless: the ego-mind can't dissolve itself by doing. Doing only keeps it intact.
In this respect, meditation is much like falling asleep (another common case of shifting from the waking state to another state of consciousness). Consider what happens every night when you go to bed. You turn off the lights, lie down, and after some time passes, you fall asleep. When it comes, sleep comes effortlessly. Other than setting up the proper conditions for sleep — turning off the lights, lying down comfortably, and so on — you can't do falling asleep. In fact, as every insomniac knows, the more you try to fall asleep, the more surely you will lie awake tossing and turning. Only when you completely forget about trying to fall asleep does sleep come.
The same holds true for meditation: making an effort to meditate only interferes with the process. You will have the best meditation when you approach it with the innocence of a child falling asleep. The child is simply tired, and so nature takes over and sleep comes, with ease. As Christ said, the kingdom of heaven is within you, and you must be as innocent as a child to enter it.
Throughout our lives we have all learned to make an effort to one degree or another in order to achieve our goals. This may bring us success in the world, but not peace or fulfillment. For fulfillment, both the inner and outer aspects of life need to be full. We must become as expert in the field of being as we are in the field of doing. This will not only bring inner peace and well-being, but it will also allow us to tap our full creative potential to be even more successful in our active lives.
Essential Principle 2. Thoughts Are Okay
What is the greatest obstacle to meditation? When I ask this question of students in my classes, I usually hear one of two things: "I don't have the time to meditate" or "My mind is just too active to meditate." Notice that both of these relate to being too busy: either my life is too busy or my mind is too busy. In any case, let's consider each of these separately, starting with the time issue.
I empathize with anyone with a busy life. But is a busy schedule really a good reason not to meditate? As Mahatma Gandhi is reported to have said, "I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one." He makes a good point. Just consider how important your mind is to the quality of your life. Your mind is the filter through which you experience everything. The quality of every experience, of every moment of your life, is colored by the quality of your thinking, of your awareness. If you are well rested, relaxed, clear, creative, happy, peaceful, you're going to enjoy your life a whole lot more and achieve a whole lot more. If your productivity and the quality of your entire experience of life can be improved by spending a few minutes a day meditating, isn't that a good investment of time? Meditation pays back that time with megadividends and improves your health and vitality as well. So the fact is, the busier you are, the more important it is to meditate. You just need to put the quality of life, creativity, and productivity at the top of your daily to-do list.
Now, what of the "my mind is too busy to meditate" issue? Everyone's mind is incredibly busy. We all have lots of thoughts; estimates range from thirty thousand to eighty thousand thoughts each day. Whatever the actual number, it's a lot. Yet a busy mind is not an obstacle to meditation. As a wonderful teacher of mine, Mata Amritananda Mayi (Amma, "the hugging saint"), once said, "To say that only those with quiet minds can meditate is like saying that only those with perfect health can go to the doctor." Those with busy minds are the ones who need meditation the most. That's all of us!
Having lots of thoughts does not pose an obstacle to meditation, but the idea that you shouldn't have thoughts in meditation does. In fact, this can be a huge obstacle to meditation. This idea will pit you against your own mind, because it will make you try to suppress your thoughts. That is, you'll break the first essential principle of sublime ease. Besides, the battle against thoughts is a battle you just can't win. The very nature of your mind is to think; that's what a mind does. If you pit yourself against the nature of your mind to think, there will be a loser, and it will be you!
Here is an experiment you can try in order to see this for yourself. See if you can control your mind. Pick something — anything at all — to focus on, and try to focus exclusively on that without any thoughts interrupting your focus for a minute, or even for just fifteen seconds. Seriously, give it a try....
How did you do? Interesting how, the moment you try to focus, other thoughts crowd in. It's almost like magic. The mind's very nature is opposed to control; just like you, your mind wants to be free. So let it. Don't oppose your mind; work with it. That's the Tao of meditation. We don't control the mind, and yet the mind does quiet down. The mind becomes controlled, but not by you or me; rather — and this is a great secret of meditation — the mind can be effortlessly controlled by its own nature.
How can the unruly mind control itself? Well, actually the mind is not so unruly. There is a method to its madness, and that method is this: the mind is spontaneously drawn to greater pleasure, greater happiness. The freedom your mind wants is precisely the freedom you want: to seek your own happiness.
Aren't we all naturally drawn to what we feel will make us happy? This is true whether we seek a satisfying career, a wonderful soul mate, a beautiful home, car, boat, the latest smartphone, our favorite dessert, sex, fame, wealth — whatever we feel might bring us happiness. The mind automatically feels attracted to it. We can't help it. This draw toward greater happiness permeates the mind. In the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, "Happiness is a ball after which we run wherever it rolls, and we push it with our feet when it stops."
I would go so far as to say that this pull toward perceived happiness is to the mind what the law of gravity is to physical objects — it is that powerful a force within us, invisibly driving humanity in all its endeavors. The good news is that when it comes to meditation, this powerful force is not an obstacle. Yes, those who try to control the mind will find its restless search for happiness to be an obstacle. For them the mind will be like a monkey jumping wildly from limb to limb. Yet as my first teacher, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, used to say, the mind is not a wild monkey at all, but a bumblebee going from flower to flower in search of nectar. Once we understand this, we can simply point the mind in the direction of that nectar of greater happiness instead of trying to forcibly control it. The mind's own nature will begin to work for us instead of against us. This is the great secret of effortless meditation.
So, where is greater happiness for the mind? Simply put, it is in transcending to subtler levels of the mind. Once you approach meditation with ease, you will discover the great charm that lies within, in the inner peace, stillness, expansiveness, intelligence, and creativity at the quieter levels of awareness. Once you stop trying to control it, your mind will discover that the experience of its own depths is true nectar. Meditation is said to bring you to what in Sanskrit is called ananda, a state of bliss. You don't need to force your mind to go to bliss; you need only point your mind in the right direction and let go, and the law of gravity of the mind — the draw toward greater happiness — will do the rest. This is why the Tao of meditation works best. This is the practical way to control the mind, not by any exertion. You will see just how to do this as we progress through the book. Every technique in this book is based on this principle.
Does this mean you won't have thoughts while meditating? Not at all. As long as you have a mind, you will have thoughts. But once you allow your mind to transcend toward the charm that lies within, the thoughts become less and less significant. Let them come and go; they are not your concern. In this way, you become released from the grip of thoughts; your mind is freed to follow its natural attraction to peace, stillness, expansion, and inner delight. And at times the thoughts will cease, and at that point you will be in the state of "no mind." (More on this later.)
To better understand how thoughts can coincide with deep meditation, allow me to offer a final metaphor. Think of your mind as an ocean. Until now you've been hanging out on the surface of that ocean — the conscious thinking level — bouncing from one thought wave to the next, buffeted by desires, musings, worries, irritations, ambitions, insights, and so on. Once you start to meditate, you slip beneath the surface and begin to descend into the depths of your mind. As soon as you slip beneath the surface, you experience inner silence; and as you descend, the silence becomes deeper, richer, and filled with the light of being. Yet the waves on the surface will likely continue. The whole ocean does not have to become perfectly still for you to experience the inner silence of meditation. You can abide deep within, drawn by that increasing peace and well-being, while thoughts go by on the surface of your mind. And now and then you will rest on the ocean's floor, where all is still....
PURE BEING AND YOUR INMOST SELF
Up to this point I've made several references to the term being. I'll continue to refer to it throughout the book as well, because it's something you will experience in meditation. To understand what I mean by being, let's consider in more detail what happens in meditation.
I have said that meditation makes the mind's activity subtler. But what does this mean? Essentially, you begin with awareness of the object of meditation at the conscious thinking level. This object could be a mantra, an inner image, your breath, or sensations within your body, to name a few possibilities. Through the process of meditation, you then become aware of that object at a subtler or quieter level of mind, where the boundaries of thought are fainter and more abstract. Then you transcend to still quieter levels, until your awareness of the object is just a faint impulse of consciousness. Then even that faintest impulse may dissolve. At that point you are not asleep — you are still aware — but there is no longer any object of awareness. There is only awareness itself — simple, pure awareness, unrestricted by any boundaries of thought or experience.
In that state of pure awareness, you are no longer doing anything, you are no longer thinking; you are simply being. You are beyond all activity. So I use the word being as both a noun and a verb: you are in the state of pure being (noun), and you are simply being (verb). Yet this state of being transcends all things and all actions. It also transcends the mind, which otherwise is constantly engaged in thought. For that reason, pure awareness is sometimes called the state of "no mind."
Excerpted from Effortless Mind by Ajayan Borys. Copyright © 2013 Henry J. Borys. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
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