This article was one of our most popular posts from years past. It was originally published on April 8, 2013; we hope you enjoy it!
The Buddhist monk, Godo Nakanishi, once spent several days sitting quietly on a snow-covered mountain. The birds living there noticed him, but fear of humans kept them a safe distance away. As the monk continued to meditate, he became more and more absorbed in the inner silence. Gradually, the wild birds lost their fear and accepted Godo’s presence because of the wonderful peace he emanated. A few birds, apparently attracted to the serene monk, landed and perched on his motionless body.
The greater the yogi’s calmness, the more he lives in unitive consciousness. Notice how calmness intensifies perception, as you read the following visualization. Read each paragraph, then close your eyes and see its imagery in your mind.
Imagine your mind as a pristine lake… encircled by mountains. See how the lake’s surface reflects its surrounding environment — the mountains, trees, and sky.
Now… picture your thoughts as restless winds that ripple the lake’s surface. These winds prevent you from seeing a clear reflection of the mountains.
As your thoughts slow down and the breezes cease… you once again see the image of the mountains reflected perfectly in the lake of your mind.
When the lake was disturbed by restless winds, it couldn’t reflect the mountains clearly. However, when the lake was calm — mountains, rocks, trees, and sky — were perfectly imprinted on the lake’s surface. This is true also for the calm human mind.
Communing with Life
The birds landed on the Buddhist monk not because his body was a convenient place to perch, but because the birds were attracted to his aura of peace. Interestingly, this monk later founded Japan’s Wild Bird Society for the protection of native birds.
“Deeply felt silences [are] the core of our Kofon religion. During these times, the nature within ourselves found unity with the nature of earth. This is not ‘closeness with nature’ but rather an immersion in the common nature which pervades all life.” (Prince Modupe, West Africa)
The “common nature” that pervades all existence is: AUM; God’s loving presence vibrating throughout creation. There are many accounts of Himalayan animals being attracted to the sound of yogi’s chanting AUM. Hearing these stories, I decided to see if any animals at Ananda Village would respond to Cosmic AUM.
Downslope from where I live is a rock outcropping that local coyotes trot past every morning and evening. After my morning meditation, I walked to a large boulder, sat down and began chanting AUM. After five minutes, four ravens, in tight formation (like Blue Angel jets) flew low over my head. I had never seen ravens fly so close and choreographed before.
Hoping to attract a mammal, I kept chanting and after a short time, I happened to glance to my right and saw — standing thirty yards away — a coyote listening to the AUMs.
Seeing my head turn, the coyote trotted under a nearby tree, calmly laid down facing me, and listened intently to the AUMs for three or four minutes. The coyote then rose, circled in front of me, and again listened attentively to Sacred AUM, before going on its way.
“All worthwhile things in life are evolved in the stillness,” said Paramhansa Yogananda. “The calmer you grow, the more you will see the reflection of the universe within you.” I wrote the following A Lake Is Like the Mind meditation to help make stillness more real to our consciousness.
A Lake is Like the Mind
A saint once asked his disciple to meditate whenever he saw an expanse of water because it would remind him of the vastness of his soul. To practice A Lake Is Like the Mind, find a tranquil pool of water in a stream or pond. Ideally, the pool should be small enough to give you a feeling of intimacy and serenity.
The pool of water should be at least eight inches deep. Collect six stones about the volume of a duck’s egg. If the pool is tiny, gather smaller stones.
A lake’s surface — like the human mind — is always changing. Sometimes the lake is calm and serene, and other times a breeze, falling leaf, or splashing fish might ruffle its surface. In every case, the lake’s placidity is disturbed by something external to itself. Meditation strengthens the mind so that passing phenomena won’t disturb it, just as the lake’s deeper water remains unruffled no matter what happens on its surface.
To begin the exercise, find a comfortable place to sit that overlooks the water. Place your six stones beside you and gaze at the water, letting its placidity calm you. Stay in the present moment as best you can.
Every time you notice you’ve become distracted and are no longer grounded in the here and now, cast a stone in the water. Carefully observe each stone’s splash and the ensuing ripples spreading outward, and how the water (representing your mind) is disturbed and no longer mirror-like. Note the impact inattentive thoughts have on one’s awareness.
It’s normal to have thoughts during meditation. The trick is to let the thoughts pass by without seizing and embellishing them. When the stone’s ripples start to dissipate, feel yourself letting go of all thoughts, and delight in the joyful serenity that comes from living in the present.
Keep gazing at the water until all the stones have been thrown.
God communion requires stillness of mind, just as the surface of a lake must be completely calm to reflect the sky. Only in stillness can you discover the hidden depths of your spiritual nature.
Blessings of light,