Meditation is a subtle art. Although it’s essential to learn and practice its techniques properly, in the end we must make meditation a creative experience for ourself. Swami Kriyananda wrote an extremely helpful book in this regard called Secrets of Meditation. In it he gives seemingly simple, but profoundly insightful, suggestions for deepening and personalizing our practice.
There are thirty-one “secrets,” one for each day of the month. Here are a few seed thoughts from the book to help you make meditation more personally meaningful and enjoyable. (The words in bold are from Swamiji’s book; the comments are mine.)
“The secret of meditation is sitting upright with a straight spine; feeling that your strength emanates from your spine rather than from the muscles of your body.” Yogis teach that the spine is the gateway to God: not the physical vertebrae, nor even the spinal nerves, but the subtle energy channel, the “astral spine,” that flows within us. Awareness of this energy and channeling it upward to the spiritual eye fills our whole being with strength, vitality, and joy.
Practicing Master’s energization exercises and a few yoga postures before meditating helps us to get rid of “kinks” in the physical spine, so that we can sit up straight, and feel the flow of subtle energy rising within us. Awareness of this energy is the key to awareness of our own innate spiritual nature.
“The secret of meditation is holding your body perfectly still; gradually freeing yourself from the compulsion to move.” Before you sit to meditate, be sure that you have a comfortable seat, whether in a chair or cross-legged on the floor, so that you don’t need to move around to get settled. Once you’re seated, make a commitment to be still and ignore the restlessness of the body. Try to be aware of how you feel when your body is still, and carry this peace with you throughout the day.
“The secret of meditation is to enter instantly into the silence within, and not waste precious time in mental wandering.” Once the body is still, the greater challenge arises of quieting the mind. If you immediately catch the mind before it begins to wander, you’ll find it easier to concentrate during your period of meditation. At first this is difficult, but the more you become familiar with this uplifted state of mind, the more eagerly you will want to return to it. During the day, try to do all your activities in this state of mental stillness. You’ll be surprised at how much more you can accomplish.
“The secret of meditation is to pray with deep faith—not as an outsider to heaven, but as one whose true, eternal home is heaven.” This is perhaps my favorite “secret” from the whole book, and it’s where the real artistry of meditation begins. Choose to see yourself not as an unwanted beggar knocking on the closed gates of heaven, but rather as a cherished son or daughter who is lovingly welcomed back by God to his true home. This simple attitude can make a huge difference in your ability to relax in meditation and feel God’s loving presence calling you within.
“The secret of meditation is singing to God, out loud or silently, to awaken devotion in the heart.” Yoganandaji said, “Chanting is half the battle.” Unless we awaken the heart’s natural love, meditation can become a dry, mechanical process. Don’t worry if you can’t play the harmonium, or if you can’t sing very well. God listens to our heart, and if you chant with energy, devotion, and joy, you will feel His loving response.
“The secret of meditation is radiating blessings from your heart outward to all the world.” Inner stillness and devotion help us feel our divine connection with everyone. The desire to send blessings from your heart arises naturally as you deepen your meditation. When you pray for others in this way, your consciousness naturally expands until you feel God’s love for all creation within you. One person in deep, inner communion radiating love and blessings does more good for the world than we can imagine.
“The secret of meditation is offering yourself up wholly to the Lord, holding nothing back.” Once you begin to feel and trust God’s love for you, any sense of self-protection or holding back dissolves. We begin to think, “Whatever I am or have is Yours. Use it for Your divine purpose.” Feel that God is receiving your self-offering and uniting you with Him. As you do this, you will increasingly feel that God has taken charge of your life, and is directing your every step.
“The secret of meditation is steadfastness: For the more you meditate, the more you will want to meditate, but the less you meditate, the less will you find meditation attractive.” Finally, make a strong commitment to meditate regularly, and don’t falter. With the new year, many people make resolutions for self-improvement: we want to give up bad habits and strengthen good ones. The most important goal you can set for yourself in the coming year is to be regular in your meditation.
Let’s use well the spiritual tools given to us so that we become like divine artists, showing the beauty of God’s love and joy radiating in all creation.
In divine friendship,