Meditation is that level of absorption when one has an actual experience of God, or one of His attributes. -Swami Kriyananda
A friend came to see me recently very discouraged with her lack of progress in meditation. Knowing that she’d been meditating for several years, I wondered what the problem was. “I never see God or the Masters in meditation,” she sighed with great disappointment.
Realizing that she must have felt at least something to have persevered with meditation for all these years, I asked her what she had been experiencing. “I feel some joy, and sometimes peace, and often deep devotion,” she replied. In that one sentence, she had admitted — although unknowingly — to actually having experienced God. How? By having experienced three of His eight attributes as defined by the Indian scripture!
Many of us spend countless hours meditating, wondering when we will find God. We don’t know that He is already with us. Even Paramhansa Yogananda, in Autobiography of a Yogi, tells of having once shared this common confusion of the devotee. After receiving the experience of cosmic consciousness from his guru Sri Yukteswar and entering the state of samadhi [mystical union with God] at various times over several months, he approached his guru with a problem.
“I want to know, sir, when shall I find God?”
“You have found Him.”
“Oh no, sir, I don’t think so!”
“My guru was smiling. ‘I am sure you aren’t expecting a venerable Personage, adorning a throne in some antiseptic corner of the cosmos!…Ever New Joy is God.'”
Ever new joy is God
Swami Kriyananda defines meditation as “that level of absorption when one has an actual experience of God, or one of His attributes.” Those attributes, as given by the scriptures, are peace, calmness, light, sound, power, love, joy, and wisdom.
When we become completely absorbed in even one of those qualities, then in that instant we can say that we have found God. The more consciously we tune into those qualities, live them, and draw them to us, the quicker we will reach our goal of union with Him.
During one of our eight-hour Christmas meditations, Swami Kriyananda said, “God first comes to the devotee as deep peace.” The first time I ever knew I was experiencing God’s presence was during a walk in the woods as a teenager. The peace I felt was so deep, so refreshing, so blissful, that it actually changed my life. Through grace, I knew that this was God, and so vowed from that moment on to spend my life seeking Him.
The next time you are in nature, consciously try to tune into its peace. Be aware of the stillness surrounding you. Meditate there and feel that all your thoughts, your worries, and your burdens are being stilled and cleansed in that peace. Expand your awareness until it includes the trees, the mountains, the birds, and the wind. Become one with the stillness that surrounds you. Feel that you are that peace.
Swami Kriyananda offers a guided meditation to help us feel peace. Visualize a lake with many ripples restlessly crossing the water and lapping onto the shore. As your thoughts become still, see the ripples slowly subsiding — much like what happens after a pebble is thrown into the water. As time passes, see the water becoming calmer and calmer, until the lake becomes perfectly still. Remember that this peace you feel is God.
Although similar to peace, calmness is a much more powerful and expansive aspect of God. Sri Kriyananda describes it as a dynamic awareness to be entered into after being uplifted into superconsciousness. Paramhansa Yogananda has several guided meditations in his book Metaphysical Meditations that can help us tune into the quality of calmness. Swami Kriyananda reads from this book in a CD by the same name available at CrystalClarity.com and I find that listening to this recording has a great calming effect on me whenever my consciousness feels small and restless.
Many saints have experienced God as a great light. When we meditate and see the light at the point between the eyebrows, we are in fact, seeing Him as light. As Christ reveals to us in Matthew 6:22, “The light of the body is the eye: therefore if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”
Many devotional chants we sing at Ananda call to God to come to us as light. My favorite is:
When I awake I’ll see Thy face,
When I awake I’ll see Thy light.
Mother awake me from my dreams,
Mother awake me in Thy light.
Hand in hand we’re dancing together,
Dancing together in Thy light.
When I Awake by Swami Kriyananda. Sung by Kriyananda and singers.
When we are specific in calling God as one of His attributes, we will receive a specific response. When we pray vaguely, we will receive a vague response. Call to God as light. Spend time in meditation gazing intently and with devotion at the point between the eyebrows, and you will see and feel His response there.
Yogananda said that the easiest of God’s attributes to become absorbed in is sound. He gave us the Om technique of meditation to tune into that cosmic sound. This one technique, practiced with concentration and devotion, can take one all the way to God. Master said, “When you actually hear this sound and feel the Cosmic Music spread through every particle of space, then you will know God, and you will know that you know God.”
All sounds are aspects of Aum
Many people have difficulty practicing the AUM technique. I’ve found that the secret to an inspired practice is to always remember that EVERY sound you hear is the sound of Divine Mother speaking. Listen with deep reverence and devotion, and you will eventually hear the deeper, and more beautiful, AUM sounds.
I’ve also discovered that natural sounds have the ability to draw me into a meditative state. The next time you’re out in nature, listen to the sound of the wind in the trees, water bubbling in a creek, or the singing of the birds. Listen to these sounds as if they are the AUM vibration In fact, all sounds are aspects of AUM! You’ll find that this practice will help you to begin hearing God in meditation, speaking through the AUM vibration.
Another attribute is power or energy. This attribute is easiest to experience by living and expressing the quality of energy. We often study the finer points of the spiritual life and forget that we must experience and live what we are learning. Practice Yogananda’s Energization Exercises and experience divine energy coursing through your body. Express that energy in selfless service. As Yogananda said, “Lest in sloth I lose Thee, I will find Thee in activity.”
Physical exercise is a very direct way to feel God’s energy flowing through your body and mind, especially when you are conscious of that energy as you act. I’ve learned that no matter how tired I am, if I go for a run I ALWAYS have more energy after I’ve finished running. You can practice feeling God’s energy while you walk, garden, do yoga postures — any time you move.
Love is the one quality of God that will draw Him to us as all His attributes. Whenever we meditate at Ananda, we begin with a devotional chant. We can concentrate and meditate all we want, but without devotion, we won’t draw God in any of His forms. So pray and chant before practicing any of the meditation techniques.
My favorite practice is to end meditation by visualizing Yogananda’s eyes and gazing into them with love and devotion. I feel unconditional love coming from his eyes and feel bathed in that love.
Another trick that has helped me over the years is using affirmations. When I moved to Ananda, I was a hermit by nature. It was easy for me to feel God in nature but difficult to see God in other people. To overcome this obvious shortcoming, I mentally repeated an affirmation from Yogananda’s Metaphysical Meditations:
“I will radiate love and goodwill to others, that I might open a channel for God’s love to come to all.”
With this powerful thought churning through my mind for a couple years, I discovered my heart opening more and more. I’m still amazed at the power this simple affirmation has had on me.
“Ever new joy is God.” We often think of joy as something to strive for. We think of God as something to strive for. Swami Kriyananda tells us that rather than being the goal, joy is the solution to our problems. When we live our life with joy, rather than waiting for it to come to us, then we’ve reached the goal. I’ve learned that if I give joy to someone else, then in that instant I feel more of God’s joy. Try it! Next time you’re feeling joyless, share what little joy you feel with someone, even if you can only manage a smile. As we give joy, so shall we receive it.
Wisdom is the last of the eight attributes of God. There is a beautiful chant by Swami Shankara that awakens this quality within us:
No birth, no death, no caste have I,
Father, Mother have I none,
I am He, I am He,
Blessed spirit I am He.
Mind, nor intellect, nor ego feeling,
Sky, nor earth, nor metal am I,
I am He, I am He,
Blessed spirit I am He.
“No Birth, No Death” sung by Swami Kriyananda
Obviously, feeling a little wisdom or joy doesn’t mean that we’ve reached our goal of union with God. In fact, we have just begun but to the extent that we are aware of these aspects and experience them in deep meditation, to that degree we know God.
Try choosing just one of these attributes. Meditate on it. Chant to that aspect of God. Pray to God to come to you in that specific way. Live with that quality. Share it with others. Experiment with other ways of feeling that attribute. I think that after several weeks, you’ll find you are feeling God in your life and in your meditations more than ever before.