Most people who meditate reach a point where their practice of meditation becomes somewhat dry. After a few bad meditations they find themselves going reluctantly to the meditation room and mechanically performing their meditation techniques. They’ve lost the inspiration they once felt.
Most of us have had these experiences, yet there are things we can do to rekindle our enthusiasm for meditation. A very important one is to pay attention to the attitude we take into meditation.
Change your attitude toward meditation
I had an experience with dryness in meditation which I overcame by adopting a different attitude toward meditation. At Ananda Village there is a weekly three-hour Kriya Yoga meditation which I usually lead. On the day of the meditation, I had a very busy workday and was rushing just to get out the door and make it to the meditation on time. It was a combination of my rushing to get there and also dragging my feet, if it’s possible to do both. My underlying attitude was one of unwillingness. I found myself thinking, “My mind is running all over the place. I can’t sit and meditate for 3 hours.”
As I got out of the car, I heard a voice. This voice had a lot of energy and enthusiasm so I knew it wasn’t coming from my current state of consciousness. I think it was the voice of my superconscious mind or soul. And this voice said with so much eagerness and enthusiasm, “This could be the night!” – that I listened to it. I knew it meant that this could be the night that I would go into the final state of complete samadhi, complete union with God.
In Autobiography of a Yogi, in the chapter in which Paramhansa Yogananda relates his first experience of samadhi or cosmic consciousness, he tells us that just before that event, he was having a very restless meditation. It was then that Sri Yukteswar called him and said, “Your heart’s desire shall be fulfilled.” Sri Yukteswar touched him on the chest and Yogananda had the experience of samadhi.
So I knew from this voice that, “yes, this really could be the night.” As it turned out it wasn’t, but by going into that meditation with such a positive attitude, I had a very good meditation. It wasn’t the ultimate, but it was so much better than if I’d been thinking, “Do I really want to be here?”
In meditation, as in all aspects of the spiritual life, attitude is everything. If you’re having difficulty in meditation, work on developing enthusiasm and a positive attitude. “This could be the time!” is a good attitude to take into every meditation.
Taking an attitude of positive expectation into every meditation is very important because the truth is: God could come to us at any time. We don’t know how much or how little karma we have left. Our job as devotees is to keep working at it day by day, with energy and eager anticipation, and, as Yogananda said, with divine inevitability the ultimate experience of oneness with the Infinite will come to the sincere seeker.
Offer your entire self
Paramhansa Yogananda said that if you want to succeed in meditation, you must develop devotion. But people who aren’t particularly devotional by nature often wonder, “What is devotion and how do I practice it?” Swami Kriyananda gave us an important key when he described devotion as “living our life and practicing the teachings with a sense of self-offering.” You should try to see devotion as the practice of offering yourself, with freedom and deep love, at the feet of God or the guru.
Many years ago, I had one of my frequent near-tragic encounters in nature that taught me the importance of learning to see devotion as a heart-felt sense of self-offering. What I learned from that experience, and what has proved true ever since, is the following important truth: if you can offer your entire self into the light of God with complete freedom, with absolutely no sense of compulsion, with no feeling of “What am I getting out of it?” but with love and gratitude — you’ll experience divine bliss.
What if you can’t see the light in meditation? Then you can simply offer yourself at the spiritual eye, the point between the eyebrows, as if you were giving the gift of yourself to God. Swami Kriyananda said that when you concentrate on the spiritual eye, the Christ center, you’re actually looking at it from the medulla, the seat of ego. By the practice of offering yourself into the Christ center, you are taking the energy of the ego and offering it to God for purification. By repeatedly making that self-offering, you will gradually transcend the ego and become freer and freer within yourself.
Self-offering consists of offering all your positive attitudes, all the negative issues you’re struggling with, everything you own, anything you’re proud of, all of your tests, your entire being — and offering it either into the light of God or the Christ center. When doing any of Paramhansa’s Yogananda’s meditation techniques, always try to do them with a sense of devotional self-offering. During your daily work, and in relating to others, try also to feel that you are offering your life in service to God.
Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita said that “even a leaf offered with devotion is pleasing to Me.” Instead of offering just a leaf, offer your entire self. That’s what pleases God the most.
Attunement to the Guru
One time when I was visiting Swami Kriyananda in India, I felt very uplifted in his presence. As I was about to return to America, I said to him, “It’s easy to feel attunement with Yogananda in your presence. How can I continue to feel that way when I return home?” Since my work puts me in contact with many other devotees, I was asking this question for others too.
He responded, “What I do is ask myself, ‘Master, what would you do? What do you want me to do?’ I ask both those questions. For instance, while writing The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, I felt a real joy inside as if Master were saying, ‘This is what I want you to do.’ So it is not enough just to pray and meditate. We need to ask Master, ‘How would you handle this?’”
Kriyananda continued: “I also have found that mentally chanting ‘Aum Guru’ is a wonderful practice. If you maintain that practice day and night, even while you’re working and doing other things, it’s amazing how much you can change. You feel more and more desire for God, more and more purity of heart, more and more dedication. That’s what really matters.” Kriyananda has also said that mentally chanting “Aum Guru” will help you not only to attune to the consciousness of the guru but also to AUM, the creative power of the universe.
Our true nature is Satchidananda, “ever-conscious, ever-existing, ever-new bliss.” We don’t have to make some great achievement to gain that bliss. We don’t have to climb a high mountain. We simply have to meditate regularly, with the right attitude, and with a sense of devotional self-offering. Deepening our attunement to the Guru by asking for his guidance and chanting “Aum Guru” throughout the day is also very important. As these practices become more and more a regular part of our daily life, we will begin to experience the bliss of our true nature.