This July marks my 12th year as a Kriya Yogi – a practitioner of Kriya Yoga. As the daughter of two Kriya Yogis who have been practicing far longer than I (nearly 40 years each), I realize that I’m still a novice. But, I have found some tips to live by that I thought worth sharing.
1. Meditate everyday
This includes days when you don’t want to, days when you’d rather be sleeping or reading or watching a movie. Daily habit of meditation is your best weapon against the siren call of everything else. When meditation is so routine that it’s like brushing your teeth, you’ll be unable to imagine skipping it…even if you want to and even if it means that some meditations suck. By the way, this one took a frighteningly long time for me to understand and even longer to implement.
2. Meditate in weird situations
If you’re a nursing mom, meditate when you’re nursing. If you’re a traveling salesman, meditate in a taxi. Do whatever it takes to be sure you meditate daily…plus, it’ll makes for good laughs later.
3. Meditate with friends
Group meditations of all kinds can help breathe new life into your personal practice. Just like going to a yoga class can help you in your home practice. Meditating with others draws magnetism to the whole group. For some, it’s harder to “go deep” in a group. I suggest a good set of earphones. But, see for yourself. It’s been my experience that group meditations can often help me to feel energized in my practice and add new dimensions to my inner life.
4. Follow the rules, but know when to break them
By “the rules”, I mean the teachings of your guru. Knowing when to break them has to do with finding that balance where you can practice the teachings of your Master, without losing a sense of free will. In truth, you have very little free will whether you like it or not. The laws of nature and the Divine govern everything. But, when I’m feeling a little ‘cramped’ by the truth that the road to enlightenment is rather narrow – since you have to let it all go to find perfect freedom – I like to cut loose a little in my own way. I try to remember that the guru is there to guide me, but the path is mine to follow. This road of life “ain’t over ’till the fat lady sings”, so there’s no need to get all worked up if you need to kick up your heels a bit.
5. Make love, not war
Don’t go into meditation like it’s a battle to be won. Sometimes it will feel that way and that’s okay. But try to meditate from a place of love, visualizing the Masters and loved ones in your life who make your heart open. Chanting is a great way to do this too, but I rarely get to do that because it’ll wake my baby. By entering meditation with an open heart, even an imperfect practice of Kriya will bear fruit easily.
6. Ditch the clock, most of the time
I have a bad habit of looking at my watch or a clock when I meditate. I mentally determine the length of each of my techniques so that I fill the meditation quota just so – 5 minutes of Hong Sau, 5 minutes of Aum, 15 minutes of Kriya and 15 minutes of stillness…it’s anything but inspiring and often far too short to go very deep. If I can just ditch the clock and go with the experience more, I get more out of it. Once in a while, it’s nice to have a clock and to push myself to meditate longer than normal. This was a suggestion of Yogananda and I’ve found it to be helpful. His suggestion wasn’t to use a clock, but to meditate longer on a regular basis to help ‘train’ your restless body and mind to sit comfortably for longer.
7. Kindle the flame
My relationship to meditation is a lot like my relationship to my husband. Both need to be kindled sometimes with the fuel of devotion. Meditations can become very mechanical, just like relationships. If you don’t take time to make them fresh, find new sources of inspiration and change things up, you risk losing interest. I love meditating on a particular Master in our line of gurus for a little while. Each one has such a different expression of the Divine that it brings fresh perspective to my practice. Plus, it’s hard to have a deep inner experience if you’re bored…trust me.
8. Don’t judge
It is easy to judge myself and others in all manner of situations. Meditation practice is no different. I am my harshest critic, so when I find myself getting upset that I am not meditating deeper, longer and with more energy, I try to remember that I’m being dumb. Seriously. What a crazy thing to judge myself for? I’m trying my best, so being hard on myself is about as useful as chopsticks for eating broth. As Yogananda says, “it takes very, very, very good karma to even WANT to know God.” So, I’ll add, “chill out!” Also, don’t judge other people’s meditation practice. That’s also dumb. It’s easy to do if I meditate with other people often, but talk about a bummer attitude to carry around with me. But, I don’t want to judge myself for that either – so, I just try to stop.
9. Choose your friends wisely
This means find support in the company of others who are on a spiritual path. It’s extra great if they share the same path as you, so you can encourage each other and understand each other even more deeply. But any path will do just fine. It’s beyond helpful for my meditation practice to be surrounded by others who are committed to their own practices. I find these people inspiring daily. I see the changes in them, the way they face life’s daily grind, and I’m inspired to meditate more.
10. Get to bed early
Sounds silly, but I find that being rested is a big help in a lot of areas of my life and meditation is just one of them. Sleepy meditations happen all too often in my household thanks to being new parents. How juicy and Divine are those meditations now when I am not falling into subconsciousness or desiring sleep more than Kriya? So, so Divine! If you’re lucky enough to be the master of your own sleep rhythms, get enough sleep (not too much or you turn into a blob) and see the fruits of a fresh, focused mind in your meditation.
11. Live healthy
Well, but there is a reason that Hatha Yoga comes, at least in its original form, from the ancient wisdom of the Yoga tradition. Keeping your body healthy with exercise and diet make a difference in how easy it is to settle the mind and body. Speaking of which, I need to go do some more asana now, my hamstrings are sore.
12. Remember the good times
Relish the moments of joy, peace, bliss, love and devotion that come from your practice. I love to enter my meditation by recalling the feelings from a deep experience or a time of pilgrimage. It doesn’t take much for me to recreate the thrill of meditating in the Himalayas with my dad, for instance. Suddenly, my meditation is transformed and I’m able to go deep.
May we all go deep and find the joy within!