I must admit that meditation has not been easy for me lately. I have so many things calling for my attention including the daily priorities of family life, longer-term goals, creative projects, and of course, spontaneous desires. It has been almost impossible to keep still long enough to go deeper in meditation.
I was humorously sharing with a friend recently that if I had seen my spiritual life ten years ago the way it looks now, I would have been terrified! Nevertheless, I am learning gradually that whatever God gives us somehow always serves us in the highest way.
It has been almost eight years since my life took a drastic turn into the dharma of parenthood. During that time, my wife and I have been running around trying our best to raise our son while keeping our meditation practices at least somewhat intact. I would have to say that we have experienced much more growth and expansion than we did previously when we had more time that we could call our own.
Each individual is unique and seems to require different life experiences to find their balance on the spiritual path, aptly described as a razor’s edge!
I think it is probably everyone’s experience that when there are many projects and obligations outwardly, it becomes difficult to prioritize the inner life. In fact, many assume that you cannot have a successful, abundant material life and a deep inner life of spiritual practice at the same time. There is a seemingly insurmountable struggle and essential compromise on both ends trying to find a balance.
I used to share a room in a large house with one of my closest friends. We devoted ourselves to the study and practice of the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda. We supported each other on the path as beginners and it was really wonderful both for our friendship and for our spiritual growth. We often went for hikes or rode bikes to different places on our days off from work. One such day my friend was conversing with me about our plans for the day. He said that in the afternoon we would prep our picnic food, get our meditation out of the way, and then head out on the bikes for our journey. Suddenly, I found myself irritated.
“Is that all we’re doing is getting God out of the way?” I thought. “So we can do what, get lost in delusion again?!”
I wondered, was our daily time with the Divine merely something we got out of the way in order to move on to more interesting things? I did not know this at the time but this was a reflection of an attitude that had been growing stronger in me. I found it irritating because it was mirroring to me something that I needed to work through in myself.
In the evening, I was always guilty of meditating early so I would have plenty of time afterward for other things. I too was relating to meditation as a daily roadblock that I needed to move out of the way in order to move along to my other desires. Unless I had my meditation out of the way, I would not feel free to explore my other interests. This created anxiety—the opposite result from what meditation is supposed to do!
I do not know if this resonates with your experiences or not but if so, I thought I would dedicate this article to a few ways we can treat our meditations as more of a privilege so that we do not fall into the mindset of thinking of it as a difficult discipline that we have committed to and therefore we have to do.
Perhaps a few subtle shifts in our attitudes towards meditation can help us transform our practice from an obligation into a divine delight.
God is not something you will be bored with. He is the most interesting thing in the universe! When you begin to know Him you will find no other thing more interesting! –-Paramhansa Yogananda
The ‘getting our sadhana out of the way’ complex is likely a common experience because the glamorous and transcendental results meditation promises usually take time, patience, inner humility, and self-surrender to discover.
Nevertheless, the Masters encourage us to make every effort that we can to offer ourselves to the Light because they know that when we do inevitably contact the Great Source of our Being we will indeed, find it the most interesting thing in the universe!
Maya is the illusory force that makes us feel separate, alone, restlessly dissatisfied, and dependent on conditions of the outer world for contentment. It keeps us from tasting that bliss of God within us. Therefore, we may not come to our meditation each day with the deepest and most authentic desire for inner communion.
In other words, we forget how wonderful God is because we cannot always feel His blissful presence while we are engaged in the Maya—the distracting and hypnotizing world.
If you are like me and often fall into the habit of thinking of meditation as a duty to fulfill rather than a divine privilege, perhaps you may benefit from these four points on how to make meditation more appealing:
1) TRY NOT TO SEPARATE the inner and the outer experiences. The Masters tell us that God is everywhere and in everything. We can commune with Him anytime and in any place, within and without.
Meditation is the time we set aside each day to focus entirely on Him but our activities can also be just as deep of a communion especially if we try to keep God in our consciousness and relate to Him as present in all the life and activities around us. This way we unify our experience of God both inwardly and outwardly. Sadhana becomes everything we do.
Fill your empty moments with love for God. Then you will know that you are not alone. Nor can you be lonely.–Paramhansa Yogananda
2) ASK YOURSELF – Is this my meditation time or is this time that I am giving to God? If the latter is true, then that would mean it is no longer your time.
We likely often think that our meditation space belongs to us but it may change our perspective to think that this is GOD’s time to be with us. He is grateful that we have offered our love and attention to Him because it is then that He can bless us most tangibly and deeply.
God is like a parent who is grateful that the child has come to Him or Her for nurturing, rejuvenation, and guidance. Some of the most blissful experiences I have received in my life as a father have come from this divine instinct that nurtures and guides my son each day.
Similarly, it is God’s absolute Joy to bless and illuminate our minds and hearts with His consciousness – with Sat-Chit-Ananda (Ever-Existing, Ever-Conscious, Ever-New Bliss.)
God loves you, His child, as much as He loves Jesus. -Paramhansa Yogananda
3) TRY TO PRIORITIZE inner depth rather than a general routine of techniques. Of course it is great to practice the techniques that the guru gives, though it may help us to practice with the awareness that we are using them to feel God’s presence.
It is easy to do the techniques simply because we have pledged to do them and we can easily forget that they are most effective when we see them as a way for us to fully offer ourselves with love and devotion into the experience of His ever-present reality within.
If the Divine Light or Joy becomes apparent, leave the technique and be with God in Love and communion. Give yourself entirely to that experience for as long as possible.
Sometimes the spiritual inspiration wanes in our lives and we begin to feel again that it is a stern obligation for us to log a certain amount of hours of meditation, or a specific amount of breathing exercises. It helps to remember that meditation is rather a great privilege because our practices work scientifically to reveal the divine reality within and around us.
Do not mistake the technique for the goal. – Bhaduri Mahasaya, Autobiography of a Yogi
It is perhaps this very thing—mistaking the technique for the goal, that makes meditation appear to be more like a duty to be discharged rather than an opportunity to imbibe the endlessly flowing blessings from the fountain of God’s eternal love.
4) ARATI – The offering of self. We may define self-offering as the offering of our love and trust to God. This is certainly the main point and purpose of sitting to meditate in the first place, so remember this part!
Perhaps, though, it is equally valuable to offer our difficulties, confusion, failures, frustrations, limitations, and pains. If we use our challenges as fuel for the fire and lift them up through our techniques into the spiritual eye, we can burn through them quickly. We will also be able to gain insight into how we can respond harmoniously and avoid many harmful reactions that would result in further lessons in the school of karma.
Parents can help their children even more once they have confided in them about their difficulties. The liberated Masters say that in order to experience God’s kingdom, we must become more like children, or chelas.
It is perfectly alright with God, our divine parent, that we have no idea about how to handle or manage our karma. We simply need to be willing to offer everything up to Him and invite Him to make us an instrument of His Love, while trying our best. His intelligent guidance will surely follow. This, in itself is a very liberating form of divine communion.
Whatever obstacles are coming up for us in our daily lives, they are there to reveal our karma and the vrittis (whirlpools of various patterns and desires) that ensnare us. We may either be stuck affirming our attachments mentally and emotionally that will likely create more karma — or by God’s grace and guidance, we will transcend these patterns by responding from a higher mental plane and become channels for His blessings and love to everyone involved.
Meditation is the battlefield where we appeal for Divine intervention in an otherwise endless war with our karma. God sends us other devotees, loving parents, generous friends, and anything else He knows that we need, to grow fully into our divine potential. Every soul is eventually blessed with a guru who will guide them beyond the limitations of the ego and into the omnipresence of God.
Answer the question for yourself—Is meditation a chore or a privilege? Reflecting on these ideas and creating this article helped my struggling meditations to improve. May these ideas also help you!