Upon reading this title, you may be thinking, “What, eight hours! I can’t possibly do that, I just learned to meditate!” Or, “After I’ve been meditating some years, maybe I can work up to that,” or, “I don’t have the time.” If these or other objections are filling your thoughts, read on!
Paramhansa Yogananda felt Christmas to be a very sacred holiday. Not only does it celebrate the birth of the great avatar, Jesus Christ, it also highlights the opportunity we all have to embrace the Christ consciousness in our own self, through meditation.
Jesus Christ is an important part of Ananda’s spiritual lineage. As Paramhansa Yogananda states in his Autobiography of a Yogi, it was Christ who appeared to Mahavatar Babaji asking that the lost, sacred teachings of inner communion with the Divine, which He had given to the world in his incarnation as Jesus, be reawakened.
Yogananda observed that the inner message of Christmas is often lost entirely to shopping, greed, intoxication, etc. He therefore divided Christmas in two: “spiritual Christmas,” celebrated by an all-day meditation, and “social Christmas,” celebrated by gift-giving and a festive banquet. This tradition continues today in all Ananda colonies, as well as at Self-Realization Fellowship, the organization which Paramhansa Yogananda founded.
In 1976, as I was preparing to leave Ananda Village to finish my last year of college, Swami Kriyananda said to me, “Come at Christmas and join us for our eight-hour meditation.” Without waiting to respond or thinking about it, I said, “Yes, I will do that.” Afterward I wondered, “How can I do that? I’m new to meditation! And… sitting that long?” So my friends, I totally understand if you are hesitating!
The first half of the meditation focuses on our meditation techniques and is interspersed with periodic devotional chanting. Most of second half is dedicated to enjoying the fruits of our efforts and expanding upon them. Selections of inspirational music are periodically played during this half to further inspire one to go deeper in the eternal joy of the soul.
In my first Christmas meditation, I was seated in the center of the Meditation Retreat dome, now appropriately called “The Temple of Silence.” Swami Kriyananda was leading the meditation. After the first four hours or so, there is a prescribed “recess” for about 15 minutes. Somehow, I had made it through the first part! Swami Kriyananda got up to leave, briefly, before resuming the meditation. He walked right past me and as he did so he put the full face of his right palm on the top of my head. Instantly I felt God’s blessing through him, and appreciation that I had come.
A great part of spiritual growth, success, and attunement can be summed up by simply trying to be present with the Guru. Trying to do what he has lovingly suggested we do to grow spiritually. We don’t simply “wake up” one day being able to meditate longer. I’ve seen often enough that it’s best to “dive in!” God will keep us afloat in deep waters when we are willing to at least try. And, with such an effort, unforeseeable, unimaginable Grace does flood in.
Why wait? The power of these Christmas meditations to lift the novice meditator into experiences undreamed of is priceless. In my own life, I have seen countless times how these long Christmas meditations produce the power to sustain me for an entire year of service, challenges, unpredictable circumstances and the like. They also hold within them the magnetism to be an effective instrument of the will of God through one’s humble life. Answers and clarity hitherto withheld now present themselves. And, when the meditation ends, quite possibly you will feel, “How was that possible? It went so fast!” Your life will be different. You’ll see.
I would like to strongly encourage you to consider participating this Christmas for the Eight Hour Christmas Meditation, whatever your path. Or, perhaps you could try for the first half. If you do not live in or near one of our Ananda colonies or meditation groups, you can participate online through our Virtual Community.
Deep meditation serves us all and serves the world. It is time well spent. Toward this goal, you might want to read related excerpts from The New Path by Swami Kriyananda. He shares some very moving accounts of these meditations as he experienced them when Yogananda was alive and led them — see the last third of Chapter 20.