Going to the mountain is going homeJohn Muir
This quotation of Muir captures the essence of his love for the California Sierra Nevada mountain range and passionately attests to the inspiration that enabled him to strive tirelessly to preserve their beauty.
As I read these words colorfully painted on a bench alongside the forest path at our Meditation Retreat, I was immediately struck by their powerful relevance to the practice of meditation. I expect Muir as a devotee of nature, would nod with assent but I will leave you to wonder at that.
The mountains, for yogis, are idealized in the lofty Himalayas. They are sought after for their beauty, isolation, and rarefied air. They impart the perfect environment for solitude, reflection, and meditation. Their very name carries mystique, holiness, and a compelling attraction.
On the deepest level, the mountain peak symbolizes the goal of spiritual enlightenment which is found at the point between the eyebrows, the seat of concentration in meditation practice. The yogi raising his energy to this point leaves behind the floodplains, valleys, and canyons of his worldly meanderings. For a little bit of time, at least, he breathes the fresh air of expanding consciousness. The words ‘In the mountain Thou art high,’ captured in the chant “O God Beautiful” that Yogananda translated from Hindi, are powerful reminders of this state held aloft in the forehead.
The mountain peak symbolizes the goal of spiritual enlightenment.
The mountain as well represents the spiritual teacher – the guru in whose company boundaries dissolve and vistas broaden. Going to the mountains for the yogi is surely then returning to our true home in God in meditation.
Swami Kriyananda wrote “The Channels Song,” a beautiful celebration in honor of nature. The song’s verses address the different channels of nature: the stars, flowers, birds, rivers, and so forth. One verse is to the mountains. It follows.
Mountains, remote and still, hint at higher worlds unseen.
So may our lives be: soaring and serene.
A mountain is solid, firm, and unmovable. In this way, the meditator needs to learn to hold the body still, steadfast, and the concentration one-pointed so that restlessness can be held at bay or transcended. These are achievements we can each realize, no matter our starting point. Try at first little by little to build your ability to sit still and be focused. If you force yourself to get to the top of the mountain, you may in fact get there but you will not have enjoyed the journey. Moreover, why shouldn’t you enjoy it? Meditation should also be enjoyable and it is enjoyable. The spiritual eye is referred to as the seat of ecstasy. Always remember that this is where you are going and this is what you will in time experience.
Serenity is also a very important aspect of meditation practice. Many people begin a meditation practice to gain peace in their lives. However, to realize peace we must also enter into our practice with serenity – which is to say a peaceful, loving heart, a peaceful mind, and expectation of peace. Remember that the Guru is with you and so is his state of consciousness. If you do not have a guru, envision one of the saints. Dwell on their presence before you start your practice and try to open yourself to their flow of consciousness. Yogananda shared in his Autobiography of a Yogi that if he entered his guru’s ashram in a worried or indifferent frame of mind, his attitude immediately changed and a healing calm descended upon him by the mere sight of his guru Sri Yukteswarji. This treasured serenity should be the foundation upon which we begin our regular practice.
Fill your space with the vibrations of the mountain heights…
Lastly, take an objective look at your meditation space. Does it reflect serenity, remoteness, or the still, rarefied ambiance of the mountain heights? In time your meditation place will reflect this. The vibrations of your meditations and consciousness will be registered in the ether and there for you to draw upon each time you come to sit to meditate. This is what makes holy places holy. Individuals of high consciousness have lived there and perhaps meditated there. They perhaps even prayed that those who come as sincere pilgrims feel the undercurrents of blessing and hope for humankind. Fill your space (even if you do not have the luxury of a separate room) with the vibrations of the mountain heights, with an aura of stillness, and serenity. Feel that your meditation space is your mountain home, your true home in God, and soar upward.