A few thoughts on a meditation practice

 Meditation text:

 As the bud opens to the dew so does my inner being to receive the light of truth. OM

 This text evokes a strong visual image which attracts the mind.

A bud is not meant to remain a bud. In fact the bud is a contraction of its potential. It is meant to awake – to flower in glory as an expression of beauty and to attract and benefit pollinating insects, bees and butterflies, fulfilling an ecological and horticultural purpose. The bud needs the right conditions to burst into flower, otherwise it wilts. It requires light and water and the plant of which it is a part demands sustenance from suitable soil nutrients and bacterial conditions.

The bud opening to the touch of the dew contains a metaphor for us. Similar to the bud, we remain in a state of contraction without the gentle, timely grace of an inner fresh and life- enhancing spiritual spring. Dryness and wilt may characterise the bud of our being if our minds are swallowed up by the circumstances that life presents, or in fears and anxieties. We will stay in a state of contraction and self-limitation as long as we look no further than our self-imposed narrow mind-body identity, swung between joy and tears, imprisoned in a constant state of change and movement and distraction as the years roll by.

By turning meditatively inwards we allow access to a new dimension of being which can revolutionise and transform our lives, pollinating – so to speak – those of friends, families and others. Increasing discernment of the universal Consciousness that is the spiritual nature of each of us, and of which the sages and teachers tell us this world is a shadow, results in blossoming insight, compassion, inner joy and peace and these natural qualities must surely influence others, although not as a conscious act of the personality.

So what are the conducive conditions for meditation practice? Much is written on this. The book “Training the Mind Through Yoga” by Marjorie Waterhouse  is well worth reading – and reading again and again. It is a deep well of advice, insight and understanding, testament to Marjorie Waterhouse’s own profound experience, on spiritual training and meditation. Suffice it to briefly say here, then, that the essential preliminary to meditation is to sincerely pay reverence, to bring the heart and mind then, in contact with either a personal form, such as Jesus or Krishna or Buddha, or a saint or guru, or impersonally as God, the Universal Source. This is part and parcel of the dethroning of the limited mind-ego identification and the opening up of our horizons to something far greater.

How can we quieten the mind in preparation for the meditation text? Marjorie Waterhouse mentions a stopping and starting practice to be carried out during the day; choose a subject and keep your mind on it for a predetermined time, say, five minutes, then drop or switch the thoughts and redirect them. It is a deceptively simple little exercise but a surprisingly effective mind-control aid. Two other practices will quell the mental noise.  After the opening reverent salutations, a breathing practice – drawing the breath slowly from the navel to the point between the eyebrows for a number of times – eighteen or twenty one – will quieten the thoughts in preparation for the meditation on the given text.

Secondly, Trevor Leggett emphasised the importance of sitting quietly and the process of stripping off all of the assumed identities – age, gender, intelligence, status and the mental noise so that we can sit in meditation quietly, calmly, in attentive patience and, importantly, detachment. Trevor frequently used the analogy of the polishing of the face of a dirty mirror for the necessary mind-control and self-observation, not only at the period of withdrawal into meditation but during the day, maintaining the current of practice and spiritual thought. The mirror will reflect the light once it is free of encumbering grime that covers its purpose. So the ongoing practice of polishing away, bit by bit, localised identity with body/mind and the habitual reactions, attitudes, prejudices, thoughts and ideas makes an undoubted shift in our conscious awareness; it allows the light to pour through. To reiterate, the metaphor of the bud of our mind opening to the dew to reveal the inner light will occur when the mind is unfettered from obscuring disturbances.

In the book “The Heart of the Mystical Teachings” by Hari Prasad Shastri,  the author presents the words of a great Adhyatma yogi, Swami Mangalnathji, as he addressed a gathering of devotees. Mangalnathji was contemporaneous with Dr Shastri’s teacher, Shri Dada of Aligarh, and Hari Prasad had fortunate contact with him:

The hollow in the centre of your body where the ribs join just below the breast bone is the best region on which to fix your mind in meditation. You may have heard the expression ‘the lotus of the heart’; it refers to this point.

 We do not know what the plant of the metaphorical bud of our meditation practice is. In India the unopened lotus bud would be a natural choice and particularly with its spiritual associations in the East, eg. the Buddhist Lotus Sutra. The lotus bud opens in beautiful splendour and sits unaffectedly above the mud, weeds and detritus of the water. Perhaps it is not so metaphorical after all! Swami Mangalnath’s following words on the practice of visualising a lotus are of interest:

When you can fix your mind there at will, then visualise a lotus of bluish colour and when this meditation is matured, imagine Pranava or OM placed on the lotus, and meditate on it.

 Two other points – study and love – will ground meditation practice. Before we go to a new place, we’ll look up on a map how to get there and we’ll google or research what will be worth finding there. The study of authoritative texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads,  Zen texts and the writings of genuine spiritual teachers provides the signposts and the confirmation, so that we do not go off at a tangent or get lost on the way, but those texts will be meaningful, guiding presences and friends.

If we approach meditation simply as a duty to be done, it will remain arid. Love of the spiritual truth in the form of the Lord, or the guru, or as the symbol OM, or in impersonal form will attract the heart. We are eager to contact those we love and to do what we love to do. So we can creatively cultivate the love that spurs us on and make the time of meditation the best time of the day. And when we love something is there not a response from the loved one? Much greater the response will be from our very own divine Source, the Light by which we perceive the waking and dreaming and dreamless sleep states, the Light which dissolves the seeming solidity of the world into the dew of transparency.

Susan Marshall

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