Note: the points made in this article come from reflecting back on the deepest meditation experience I’ve had and the circumstances leading up to that epic moment! Hehe all for fun!
You’re ready to deepen your meditation?
Step 1: Purify the heart! Purify the Life.
First off, as I heard Jack Kornfield say, “It is very hard to meditate after a day of killing and stealing.” So, the first key to success in meditation is to live a virtuous life. It is very difficult to meditate if some part of us is full of regret, shame, guilt, fear, pride, or anger. You might say that before beginning meditation, it is valuable to issue a blanket statement of forgiveness of everyone and everything, for everyone and everything. That is to say, before you sit to meditate – forgive everyone for everything that has ever happened. You don’t want to be dwelling on the past when you’re trying to realize the Supreme Truth and Peace when meditating – the two don’t go together! Reality is Present, not past or future. Heal everything in the past with unconditional forgiveness. Let it all go, and meanwhile bless all that is before you now. Send Love and Gratitude and Kindness and the Very Best to all around you – so your feeling and intention is totally pure, and your practice is dedicated to serving the Highest Good of All, whatever is God’s Will. With a totally pure heart, totally present and loving, you are ready to go deep into meditation.
Be sure your lifestyle is congruent. If you’re working for a company you despise, that will probably impact your meditation. Love everything you do, and know that it really doesn’t matter what you do – but the attitude with which you do it – that matters most. You don’t actually have to change your job – just changing your attitude can be more than enough and serves all humanity. To love serves everyone, regardless of however it looks externally.
Step 2: Make sure the energy is available to flow upward (i.e., don’t try to sit and meditate and go deep right after eating a big meal)
The deepest meditation I’ve ever experienced occurred from 9pm to 10:30pm, and the last food I ate was before 4:00 pm. This allowed for ample time to digest the food so that the energy flow was free to travel upward. It is valuable to wait at least 2 hours, if not 3 hours or longer, before meditating.
At the time of that memorable meditation (from this point forward referred to as MM), I had been regularly in the habit of not eating any food after 4pm for months, and it certainly helped develop a consistent quality experience in meditation. It also simplified life and was a good practice in self-discipline.
Step 3: Consistency! Ideally, practice at the same time, in the same space, even the same clothing, every day.
At the time of the MM, I was in a regular practice of sitting in the same room at 9pm, probably 5 or 6 nights out of the week. And if I wasn’t in that room meditating, I was probably meditating somewhere else at that same time. I also had a particular jacket, socks, and pants I would wear just for meditation. Additionally, I would have a regular set of prayers I would say before the meditation began, and then I would focus the eyes on a single point for about 15 minutes (called tratak, gazing meditation) and then close the eyes and focus on a mantra (the same mantra every time). With a regular, disciplined practice, the mind grows very quiet and the Truth becomes more clear.
Step 4: Familiarize yourself with the process of meditation, what it is you are looking for, and what you might find in deep meditation. Expose yourself abundantly to spiritual teachings, teachers, ideas about meditation, the nature of the ego, etc.
The MM occurred around Weeks 2/3 of a month long Raja Yoga Teaching Training. The training mostly occurred on weekends, but we had assignments and videos to watch during the week. And, for those who don’t know, Raja Yoga is essentially the study of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and the Sutras are basically an in-depth analysis of the science of Yoga and Meditation. So the training largely focuses on learning about the nature of the mind, reality, and the practice of meditation.
In addition to study as part of the Raja Yoga Teacher Training, I also was in the habit of reading a chapter from the book I am That, every day, which is a Jnana Yoga text about discovering the nature of reality by means of self-inquiry, e.g. asking questions like “Who am I? What is Real?” etc. Moreover, I was in the habit of studying a bit of the work of Dr. David R. Hawkins everyday, which is all about enlightenment and realizing the spiritual goal. In particular, the two weeks before the MM I fully re-immersed myself in his book I: Reality and Subjectivity, which some might say is his most powerful and profound work.
To compliment the formal study via books and training videos in Raja Yoga, I also spent the days listening to talks given by Swami Satchidananda, Dr. David R. Hawkins, and even listened to chanting by Krishna Das and Sri Vasudeva.
The official role I played during the daytime was serving as nanny for my little 6 month old nephew. We basically just listened to spiritual teaching all day, I would chant prayers while feeding him food, and read very peaceful children’s books to him.
Perhaps you can begin to get a feel for how fully integrated the entire day was around the spiritual goal. If I wasn’t watching a video on Raja Yoga, I was reading a spiritual book, and if I wasn’t reading a spiritual book, then I was chanting or prayer. The consciousness of this human was intensely one-pointed on the spiritual goal, knowing that realizing the spiritual goal and progressing toward it is the greatest service one can render.
Step 5: Have quiet time before the meditation and remember with gratitude all the loved ones and great teachers who have been part of your journey. Feel so loved by them, and feel the presence of the great ones with you, supporting you on the path. Give so much thanks.
I remember around 7:30 or 8:00 pm, after the day’s work was over, I sat in my room thinking about all the great spiritual teachers and wonderful company I’ve been blessed with in this lifetime. I remembered so many peak experiences, meeting people like Steve Pavlina and JP Vaswani, spending great time with cousin Tara, memorable moments with dogs, in nature, etc., basking in the glory of previous moments of great love and peace and higher consciousness.
That night, I even made a list of all the spiritual teachers I’d like to spend more time with, either in person or in dreams or via their work, audio and video. The consciousness was clear in its desire for spiritual growth, and a primary way to do that is by being in the presence of great beings who have realized the Supreme Truth directly, then merely by being in their presence you pick up that energy from their aura. In a way, just thinking about the great spiritual teachers throughout the ages is like being in their company, and I’m sure you could notice it now – just spending a few minutes thinking or feeling as though you are in the presence of Jesus…an increased experience of Love and Peace and Compassion will almost assuredly arise.
Step 6: Calm the mind. Look Within. Look for the Source of experience itself. Go beneath and below and beyond. Go Within!
All the preparation for the MM was complete. It came time to meditate. I went to the meditation room and sat in front of the altar. Note: at the same time, I was living in the Integral Yoga Institute in New York, so there were regular scheduled meditations throughout the day, one of which being at 9 pm. After I sat for the meditation, 2 other residents joined. We all sat in the room for 30 minutes, the standard time for the 9 pm meditation.
During the first 30 minutes, I remember beginning with feeling gratitude for all the teachers who have been on my path, and then praying for the wellbeing of the entire world: Love to All, Happiness to All, Peace to All, Abundance to All, Freedom to All. Then aligned with a pure intention, dedicated to the benefit of all life, I began to repeat a mantra. I began by imagining myself as supposedly separate, like a beam of the sun, the with each repetition of the mantra, it would remind me that I am actually united with the All, the Sun. Once the mantra directed my awareness back to the essential Oneness and Unity of All, I would do my best to just allow a basking in that presence without any further mental activity.
When any thoughts did arise, I would take note as to what kind of thought they were. According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, there are essentially 5 kinds of thoughts: those of Right Knowledge, Misperception, Verbal Delusion, Memory, and Sleep (Perhaps I may expand upon these in another post). The thoughts keep us from realizing our True Nature. So whenever I noticed a thought arise, I would identify it as one of the 5 types of thoughts, and then I would replace it with the mantra, and allow the mantra to direct the awareness back inward to the silence and stillness.
Eventually, the mind became totally quiet. I was essentially aware that I was not aware of anything. Just a vast space that felt incredibly peaceful and profound.
In the midst of the silence and stillness, the body began to feel incredibly warm. Some part of ‘me’ registered that tremendous progress was being made. I could feel warm energy traveling upward – and I even remember a sort of nervousness arising about the feeling of warmth. That is when the ego piped up out of fear.
In a brief second, the ego mind communicated the following: “Hey, what are you doing?? You better stop meditating. If you could keep this up, you’re going to sweat, and then your clothes are going to smell, and you’re going to have to do laundry!”
Indeed, the ego will make up any story to try and stay alive. Hehe, laundry! Yes, the petty concern over laundry seemed to be holding ‘me’ back.
Thankfully, though, I was able to witness the ego’s whole story arise totally apart from what I really am, and I witnessed the whole stream of communication and saw the incredible comedy of it all. I also could see the tenacity of the ego, clinging on to anything it could just to survive.
Note, at this point in the meditation, it was probably around 10 pm, and the other two meditators had left.
When the ego mind thoughts arose about stopping the meditation because of an aversion to doing laundry – with a crystal clear distinction that I was not any of that, but more like the witness to it – the little human animal started to both laugh and cry. It was a beautiful moment of awareness. To be able to clear watch the ego mind function independently without ‘me’ being involved in it at all – just doing whatever it can to perpetuate its own survival. To be able to see that whatever the mind is doing, it is really just doing on its own. It doesn’t require me to do anything! Quite the liberating and joyful moment.
From that point forward in the meditation, I continued to sit for another 30 minutes or so, with a clear awareness of simply witnessing any mental activity and witnessing the human animal.
Around 1030 pm or so, after much more laughing and joyful crying, it felt time to leave the meditation and go to bed. But now, wherever the awareness was, it was clear the human animal and mind were just doing their own thing. They were immersed in playing some game you might call living in NYC and being nanny. Whatever they did, it was not me. I was the witness.
The next morning, I woke up, and I remember the awareness, something like, “The animal woke up. Now the animal is getting dressed.”
The strong sense of witnessing left shortly after I headed over to play the role of nanny that morning, but it still comes back every now and then.
The be more in the state of witnessing reality rather than identifying with it, and to deepen meditation, one of the most conducive ways of being is to be in a rhythm. Every day, for about 3 months at that point, I was basically waking up at the same time, meditating at the same time, commuting and eating breakfast at the same time, performing the same routine service every day (caring for a baby – so literally almost the same every day), eating almost the same foods at the same time every day, commuting back and meditating again and going to sleep at the same time every day. The focus was on spiritual growth and realizing the Spiritual Goal, so there was not much distraction.
As a consistent day-to-day rhythm develops, one can really slip into the witness mode with greater ease. The human can be seen as a karmic wind up toy, just fulfilling whatever duties it has. The human can be watched from a distance and appreciated as a lovable pet. But you are not that! Especially with the mental activity, you can see that the thoughts just arise naturally in harmony with whatever is happening. For example, thinking about a mug when a mug is right in front of you is not a profound revelation that you need to go and take credit for. The mind just thinks. The mind thinks as part of the ego, which feels it is separate, fears death, and focuses on its own survival via subjective pleasure and gain. Pleasure and gain is the one and only goal of the ego. And in whatever roundabout fashion, pleasure and gain are essentially the main focal points for all thinking. You might even notice, when you’re in a purely serviceful role, there isn’t much thinking. Service is flow. Like writing this article, there isn’t much thinking. It is just flow! Focused on giving and sharing what might be valuable to spiritual aspirants on the path.
Which reminds me, one of my favorite teachings from Dr. Hawkins: we can very quickly discover we are not our minds. All we do is tell our mind to stop thinking – tell your mind to stop – what happens? It just keeps right on thinking! It appears to be quite unruly. If we were our minds, and we told them to stop, they would stop. But the mind just keeps going, willy nilly. It will think about anything! So, that’s what 🙂 You can witness the show of the mind without identifying with it.
Seems like that just about encapsulates the context for the most profound meditative experience I’ve had.
Not to mention several profound waking moment experiences I’ve had, which may have been states of bliss…childlike laughter after overhearing someone say “Love is the only thing that is real,” that lasted for about 30 minutes…another time after reading “God is present everywhere as every form,” seemed paralyzed for a few minutes. Everything is God!
Alas, those stories are probably to be shared in greater detail at a later date.
Infinite Love, Divine Love, Supreme Peace 🙂
Gloria in Excelsis Deo!