There are many different types of meditation around. Many spiritual paths and many styles of meditation. All sincere meditation groups will have a common factor, silencing the mind and accessing something deeper within. One style is Buddhist meditation.
Lord Buddha was born around 2500 years ago in India. Known as Siddhartha before his illumination, the young prince renounced his wealth and family in pursuit of enlightenment. He was extremely austere initially. Barely eating, meditating for hours, even days on end. One day a musician floated by on a boat. “Don’t tune the string to tightly,” he explained. “It will break. Don’t have it to loose, or it won’t play a note.” The message struck Prince Siddhartha deeply and he realised it was relevant to his own pursuit of happiness and truth. If he was to achieve realisation he would have to take the middle path. A path, not as austere as he first thought but intense in aspiration nevertheless. He achieved nirvana under a Boddhi Tree after resolving not to leave the spot until he did.
Says Sri Chinmoy in prose. “Siddhartha did. He flew from his household life into the state of homelessness. The Supreme did. He placed Lord Buddha in the adoring heart of humanity, in the lap of universal Love. Temptation Siddhartha saw and shunned; austerity He felt and lived; the Middle Path He realised and offered. The Omnipotent did two things through Siddhartha. He revealed the ideal of perfection in a human being. He revealed His Enlightenment and Compassion in a divine being. Lord Buddha cast aside caste. The fallen learned from Him the value of self-respect. The unbending learned from Him the necessity of humility.”
Styles of Buddhist Meditation
There are many styles of Buddhist meditation. Some groups will focus on death and reincarnation. Some on the breath and the existence of truth within ourselves. Others on the many sutras that Buddhists follow. Buddhism is now found mostly outside India, in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Japan, Cambodia, Myanmar and other places. Pictured below, the statue of Buddha at Kamakura in Japan is one of the most sacred Buddhist statues. Sri Chinmoy visited there many times.
“The disciples of the Lord Buddha progress steadily towards the perfect bliss of nirvana without going too far on one side or the other. The Buddha had a heart larger than the universe. He cried for the end of human suffering. His path was also very strict, but he did not want to impose undue sufferings on his followers through austerities.” Says Sri Chinmoy in his writings in Jainism: Give Life Take Not.
Ultimately Buddhists in meditation, try and reach Nirvana, an extremely high state of consciousness in their quest for enlightenment. Sri Chinmoy comments. “Hundreds of thousands of books have been written on Nirvana. We first come to hear about Nirvana from the Lord Buddha. It was he who offered to the world at large the conception of Nirvana. What is Nirvana? It is the extinction of desires, suffering, bondage, limitation and death. It is a very high state where transcendental Bliss reigns supreme. When one is in Nirvana, one’s cosmic play is done, and one no longer barters with time and deeds. On the strength of his aspiration the Golden Day dawns when the aspirant enters into the Nirvanic consciousness. He goes beyond the limits of time and space. You have to say that in Nirvana the Divine is enjoying its own self-amorous state. So Nirvana means the extinction of teeming earthly desires, sufferings and sorrows, and at the same time the Bliss and divine enjoyment of the highest trance.”
So Nirvana is a lofty goal of meditation perhaps a long way off for a lot of us! Firstly you have to learn the basics. Attaining inner peace, quietening the mind, the role of service in life, how to be happy, living more in the heart. The joy and happiness it gives you keeps you inspired for life and over time you make spiritual progress.
The Sri Chinmoy Centre offers free non-denominational meditation classes in Perth (NOR) north of the river and also offers free meditation classes (SOR) south of the river in a variety of locations. Visit our calendar to read about the latest free meditation classes and seminars or phone 61614156.
London’s Devashishu Torpy is visiting Perth for a series of free meditation workshops. The 50 year old has been meditating since of the age of nine and has found that it benefits him in all aspects of life. An accomplished actor, playwright and speaker he is currently the European director of one of the largest volunteer organisations in the world, the Peace Run, a torch relay that happens in over 100 countries each year. He is visiting Perth after supervising the Peace Run teams relay run from Brisbane to Melbourne. Exclusively, his Perth metropolitan lectures will be the only places he will be speaking in Australia.
Devashishu learnt meditation under at age of nine from Indian teacher Sri Chinmoy and has been practicing daily since. “I find it gives me a lot of inner peace as well as happiness and energy,” he commented. Devashishu has acted in front of royalty, performed in front of rock stars and has also visited and lectured in over fifty countries around the world, sharing his insights into the meditation lifestyle. Known for his disarming humour and wisdom, participants can expect to learn practical techniques such as breathing and concentration, visualisation, mantra and music and how to live more in the heart. “I am really looking forward to coming to Perth. It has been so cold in Europe this winter and I can’t wait to visit the West Australian coastline while getting to talk about meditation which is something very close to my heart. From meditation we learn to stop thoughts, gain inner peace and access a deeper part of ourselves. ”
His Subiaco weekend workshop commences on Saturday March 9 at 1pm at the Palms Community Centre and continues on Sunday. His one off University of WA presentation is on Thursday March 7 at 5.30pm in Hackett Hall. All classes are free but registration is required on 61614156 or www.meditationperth.org The classes are presented by the Sri Chinmoy Centre.
Meditation is being in silence. Free from the constant unending stream of uninspiring and irrelevant thoughts that usually enter into our minds. To meditate we need to stop thoughts. It is simple to do, but difficult at the same time because we incorrectly learned from a young age that the mind is what needs to be developed. Meditation takes us away from our intellectual and analytical mind. To something deeper within. In a meditation class I attended once, I heard the instructor mention to the students: “When you are beginning, consider it a success if you can reduce the number or volume of thoughts.” True, to a great extent but as you improve, in deep meditation, you have no thoughts. Says Sri Chinmoy “The surface of the sea is a multitude of waves, but the sea below is not affected. In the deepest depths, at the bottom of the sea, it is all tranquility. So when you start meditating, try to feel your own inner existence is like the bottom of the sea—calm and quiet. Feel that your whole being is surcharged with peace and tranquility. Then let the waves come from the outside world. Fear, doubt, worry—the earthly turmoil—will all be washed away, because inside is solid peace.”
Thinking Too Much
So how do we stop thoughts? There are various practices you can employ. Below are three which we teach in our free meditation classes (as well as many others).
Concentration: this involves focusing awareness and not letting your mind to wander or drift off. “In concentration we focus our attention on a particular subject or object and do not allow our mind to roam,” says Sri Chinmoy. “Thought-waves must stop in concentration. We are like a bullet entering into something divine, or we are like a magnet: we are pulling the object of our concentration towards us. This is concentration.”
Visualisation: one of my friends liked to visualise himself ducking when a thought came in meditation, or he felt a thought to be a bird he just let it fly past overhead. Another took a more aggressive approach and imagined he had a samurai sword and was cutting them to pieces!
Access your silent loving heart: Sometimes beginners are under the impression if you have no thoughts you will be a simpleton. It is not like that. You can access more fulfilling parts of your being. The heart for instance Sri Chinmoy describes as like a Himalayan cave or a beautiful garden, peaceful and tranquil. Conversely the mind is like Times Square on New Years eve or a dense jungle. Where would you rather be?
It takes daily meditation practice and attendance at a regular meditation group to get really good at meditation. You will gradually learn the art of meditation and unlearn thinking too much! Attend some of our free classes or free meditation workshop retreats to learn more about it.
Going to a regular meditation group is really important to your practice of beginning meditation. Individual meditation is also extremely important, but having somewhere regular to attend, with like minded and inspired people keeps you uplifted. It is like anything else. If you exercise with friends it is easier, if you do yoga in a group it is easier, if you meditate in a group it is easier. You get strength from a group meditation and everything is of course better shared! Apps on meditation are good but it is not the same as meeting in a group or learning to do it with the guidance of real person!
In Perth, the Sri Chinmoy Centre has a regular meditation group. Our meditations consist of silence, music for meditation, mantra and many other activities. We use a variety of venues around Perth, where we offer free meditation classes. If seekers who come, like the free meditation classes offered (which can be in meditation groups ranging from 10 to 100), then they keep coming and start attending the Sri Chinmoy Centre on a regular basis. There is no charge for our meditation classes or coming to our regular Sri Chinmoy Perth meditation group. In the classes you learn the ABC’s of meditation how to stop thoughts, how to sit, the best time to meditate and many different meditation techniques.
So what are the benefits of attending regular free meditation group or meditation session?
it is easier to stop thoughts and quieten the mind
you meet like minded people
there is more power in group meditation
many meditation groups are free (or they should be!)
you can ask questions and learn a lot more about spirituality and meditation
So start by coming along to some of our free meditation classes done collectively, in a group. They are usually one night a week for three or four weeks. Alternatively you can begin or continue your meditation journey at one of free weekend meditation workshops. It is like going on a meditation retreat without leaving the metropolitan area! Meditation can help you reduce stress, learn about spirituality and improve your health and well being. You just have to begin!
Australian born New York resident Dipali Cunningham has been running competitively since 1983. During that time she has completed over 100 marathons, 34 multi-day races and two 1,000 mile races. She is the current world record holder of the women’s open six-day road race and also holds 33 Australian National Records.
Sport and Meditation
Never Giving Up
The Inner Athlete, Spirituality in a fast-paced world
Dipali will be speaking and answering questions at 7:00 pm at the Subiaco Community Centre, 203 Bagot Rd, Subiaco. Her talk is sponsored by the Sri Chinmoy Centre. There is no charge and light refreshments will be served but please register your interest on 6161 4156 or click below….
Many people want to know how they can meditate when they are very stressed or exhausted. Try this 5-minute exercise to get yourself back on track.
Step 1: Don’t think of meditation right now. To go directly from a state of stress or exhaustion to a state of meditation and inner peace is too big a jump. If you try to force meditation at this point, you may only end up even more stressed! Certain preliminaries are necessary before you are ready to begin meditating.
Step 2: Meditation is best done in a sitting position. For this exercise, however, Sri Chinmoy recommends that you lie down on your back.
Step 3: Breathe in as slowly as possible. Sri Chinmoy continues, “While breathing, you have to feel that peace has descended and entered into your mind. From head to foot it is going. Feel that all the nerves are getting nourishment. Breathe as slowly and as quietly as possible, so that even if you put a thread right in front of your nose, the thread will not move to and fro. If the thread moves this side and that side, it means you are not breathing slowly and quietly. You can use the thread to examine your breathing. If it does not move, that means your breathing is correct.”
Step 4: Feel that peace is percolating inside your entire body.
Step 5: After five minutes, you will be ready to sit up and begin your meditation. You will feel renewed energy, mental clarity and inner peace.
Thinking and meditating are two totally different things. The aim of meditation is to free ourselves from all thought, Sri Chinmoy says. Unfortunately, the endless flow of thoughts through the mind is the major barrier that beginners encounter in meditation. It seems the more you try to reduce the volume of thoughts, the more they turn into a real onslaught. Don’t despair! With practice, you can empty your mind of all thoughts. Once you empty your mind, then you will experience the fulness of meditation-silence. So don’t give up before trying at least one of the exercises below.
Sri Chinmoy advises that you can deal with thoughts in three different ways. Over a period of several meditation sessions, you may wish to try all three ways before you decide which one is best for you.
Step 1: Sit in a quiet place, with your spine upright, and gradually slow your breathing pattern. Try to breathe very gently.
Step 2: With your eyes softly looking, not staring, focus your attention on an object that inspires you. Let us take a flower as an example.
Step 3: Look at the entire flower and become aware of its colour, the shape of its petals, even its fragrance.
Step 4: Now focus your attention on one particular petal. Feel that you are inwardly connected to that petal. As you breathe out, you are offering your breath to the petal. When you breathe in, you are receiving your breath from the petal. The petal represents your entire existence.
Step 5: Close your eyes and feel the presence of the same flower inside your chest where your spiritual heart is located. Feel its beauty, purity and fragrance. If you can, try to locate the same petal you concentrated on earlier, the one that somehow embodies your life.
Step 6: Now feel that the flower is expanding. It has merged with your entire existence. You have become the flower. The flower has become you. See if you can remain in that consciousness for five or ten minutes, absorbing and assimilating the experience you have just had.
Roadblock: Were you able to get through the entire exercise or did thoughts come to bother you? Was your mind in overdrive the entire time? If so, here is what you can do the next time you try the same exercise:
The Closed Door
Imagine that your mind is a room. When thoughts come, they knock on the door. At present, you simply open the door and allow them all in—good thoughts, mundane thoughts, stupid thoughts. It is so difficult to try to sort them out. One minute you will be thinking of something inspiring, next minute you will be wondering what to have for dinner. So in this method you just keep your mind-door firmly closed. Do not allow any thought to enter. Continually bring your awareness back to the flower or candle flame or whatever you are focusing on.
The Partially Open Door
If you cannot block all thoughts from entering, then try to allow only thoughts that are of a higher kind—thoughts that are inspiring and fulfilling; thoughts that help you progress in our inner life. These thoughts can help you make progress and often have a strong intuitive connection. Sri Chinmoy says, “Suppose you are meditating and after a few minutes there comes to your mind a thought which is divine, progressive, encouraging, inspiring. Please try to feel that these kinds of thoughts are like tender roots—roots of infinite light and bliss—and try to let your body, mind, heart and soul grow with these roots.”
The Open Door
The third method is to allow thoughts of all kinds to enter your mind, but not to pursue them or develop them at all. In that way, your meditation will not be affected by them. Sri Chinmoy describes it like this: “When we meditate, what we actually do is enter into a vacant, calm, still, silent mind. We go deep within and approach our true existence, which is our soul. When we live in the soul, we feel that we are actually meditating spontaneously. The surface of the sea is a multitude of waves, but the sea below is not affected. In the deepest depths, at the bottom of the sea, it is all tranquility. So when you start meditating, try to feel your own inner existence is like the bottom of the sea—calm and quiet. Feel that your whole being is surcharged with peace and tranquility. Then let the waves come from the outside world. Fear, doubt, worry—the earthly turmoil—will all be washed away, because inside is solid peace. You cannot be afraid of anything when you are in your highest meditation. Your mind is all peace, all silence, all oneness. If thoughts or ideas want to come in, you control them with your inner peace, for they will not be able to affect you. Like fish in the sea, they jump and swim but leave no mark on the water. Like birds flying in the sky, they leave no trace behind them. When you meditate, feel that you are the sea, and all the animals in the sea do not affect you. Feel that you are the sky, and all the birds flying past do not affect you. Feel that your mind is the vast sky and your heart is the infinite ocean. That is meditation.”
Much of the hard work of learning to meditate is done in the preliminary stages. After you have learnt how to breathe correctly, it is time to perfect the art of concentration. Sri Chinmoy explains it like this:
“It is the work of concentration to clear the roads when meditation wants to go either deep within or high above.”
There are many exercises to help you concentrate. One of our favourite guided meditations is this:
Step 1: Place a lighted candle on a table in front of you.
Step 2: Settle into a comfortable position with your spine upright. You can be seated on the floor or in a chair. Rest your hands on your knees or in your lap.
Step 3: Breathe slowly and very softly.
Step 4: To begin with, just gaze at the candle as a whole until your breathing establishes a gentle rhythm.
Step 5: Now focus your attention only on the tiny candle flame. Make sure you are not staring or straining your eyes. If you can keep the edges of your eyes soft and your eyelids lowered a fraction, that will help you to keep the candle flame in your field of vision and not be aware of your surroundings. Remember, concentration is one-pointed awareness. It does not look sideways or backwards.
Step 6: Feel that there is an arc of golden light connecting your spiritual heart and the flame. Each time you breathe in, you are receiving light from the flame, and each time you breathe out, you are offering your existence to the flame.
Step 7: You will feel that the flame has a living presence. Perhaps you will even feel that it represents your own existence—always reaching higher and higher, soaring upwards.
Step 8: Try to dwell in that state of union with the light of the candle for 5 or 10 minutes. Then gradually become aware of your surroundings again and relax.
The Three Rungs
Sri Chinmoy says that concentration, meditation and contemplation are like the three rungs of a ladder.
“First comes concentration, then comes meditation and then comes contemplation. They are like three rungs of a ladder. First you concentrate, then you meditate and then you contemplate. If any of the rungs are missing, you may lose your footing. When you concentrate, you try to focus your one-pointed attention on a small object. Then, like a bullet or an arrow, your concentration-power tries to penetrate into the object. Meditation is totally different. Meditation is vastness. In meditation you are dealing with the vast sky or the vast sea—anything that is larger than the largest. In meditation, you try to make your mind calm, quiet, tranquil and vacant so that you can become one with the Vast. When you are concentrating, you are concentrating on the smallest possible thing. Like an arrow, you are trying to pierce the veil of ignorance. When you are meditating, you are dealing with what is vaster than the vastest. All around you are seeing Infinity.”
Since ancient times, meditation and walking have gone hand in hand. The sages and pilgrims of old used to cover many miles on foot, immersed in silence. Sometimes they used the rhythm of their footsteps to repeat a mantra over and over. Sometimes they also coordinated their breathing with their walking. In this way, they were able to gain tremendous control over their physical bodies. Walking meditation also allows us to absorb more deeply the peace and beauty of nature. We feel that we are part of the cosmic life-energy.
Try this simple exercise:
Choose a park or scenic area and start walking at a comfortable pace. Allow your arms to swing naturally and make sure your shoulders and neck are relaxed.
Now try inhaling for three strides, hold your breath for one stride, exhale for three strides, and then wait for one stride before you repeat this pattern. See if you can maintain this rhythm for a few hundred metres. If you need to adjust the number of strides, that is fine. Each person is different.
It is easier to do this exercise if you are alone. Conversation will only break your concentration. It is also important to fill your lungs when you breathe in.
After practising this exercise for a week or so, you can try saying a sacred word instead of counting your strides. Inwardly chant ‘peace’ with each stride and see if you can keep to the same breathing pattern. You can chant any sacred word that inspires you. Here are a few that we use: joy, love, gratitude, energy and Supreme.
According to Sri Chinmoy, meditation and music cannot be separated. He says, “When we cry from the inmost recesses of our heart for peace, light and bliss, that is the best type of meditation. Next to meditation is music. But it has to be soulful music, the music that stirs and elevates our aspiring consciousness. When we play soulful music, psychic music, then immediately we are transported to the highest realm of consciousness. Each time soulful music is played, we get inspiration and delight. In the twinkling of an eye, music can elevate our consciousness.”
Step 1: Choose a quiet time and place for your meditation.
Step 2: Begin playing your music at a soft volume. You can also light a stick of incense if you wish.
Step 3: Sit comfortably, with your spine upright, and breathe slowly and gently.
Step 4: Focus your entire awareness on the music. If you can focus on a single instrument, such as a flute, that is even better.
Step 5: Try to feel that your entire being has merged into the music. Allow the music to carry you to a realm of purest joy and peace. You will feel that you are no longer bound by your physical body. You have established your oneness with the universe. Sri Chinmoy says, “The universe itself is music. Unfortunately, most of the time we do not hear the music of the universe. We can hear it only when we dive deep within.”
Roadblock: Inevitably, random thoughts will come into your mind and try to disrupt your meditation. With practice, you can empty your mind of all thoughts. Sri Chinmoy advises that you can deal with thoughts in three different ways: You can reject all thoughts, you can allow only inspiring thoughts, or you can allow all thoughts. If you would like to learn more, please read Stopping the thought process.
Music for Meditation Sampler
It may inspire you to put together your own library of music for meditation. Here are some samples: