Great soul,

A fruit tree produces a lot of fruit one year, but only a little the next. Meditation is similar: sometimes it is enjoyable and produces delicious fruit; sometimes there is no fruit, no enjoyment, no inner contact.

Yet – fortunately so – even when our meditations are only moderately fruitful, they still produce an abundance of benefits, both to us and to the world.

When inner enjoyment is lacking, we may decide to meditate less. Swami Kriyananda, the founder of Ananda, actually recommends to “Never meditate to the point of mental fatigue, strain, or boredom.”

But “less” doesn’t mean not at all. His advice is to remain regular (even if it means meditating only for five minutes!):

The Secret of meditation…
is steadfastness:
For the more you meditate,
the more you will want to meditate,
but the less you meditate,
the less will you find meditation attractive.

Therefore, we continue to meditate, doing our best, day after day, united as a big family of Daily Meditators.

During a Dry Spell?

But what if your meditations have been very poor for quite some time? What if you are encountering a dry spell and your meditations are quite simply not working? If that is the case, then this article is just for you. It offers a workshop designed to make your dry meditative land fertile again by irrigating it with fresh, revitalizing water.

If, to your good fortune, you aren’t experiencing any such dry spell, you may still happily participate in the workshop as it provides some fertile teachings that can have a positive effect on everyone.

Become an Inner Gardener!

Sit up straight for a moment. Visualize within yourself an actual Inner Meditation Garden. This garden has the potential to produce many colorful flowers of amazing beauty, but if the flowers are to bloom, it requires your constant caring and tending.

Now you will be asked to become an inner gardener, whose job it is to figure out why his flowers do not flourish as they should. Is it a lack of water? Is the earth too poor? Is there insufficient sunlight? Is it too dark? Is some other plant inhibiting growth? Is the wind too strong for your delicate flowers? Are you following correctly the anciently prescribed rules of plant cultivation?

The Gardener’s Three “Never-Rules”

First of all, there are the three Never-Rules, which need to be followed whenever our Inner Meditation Garden remains flowerless:

  1. Never quit. Do less meditation for now, but remain regular. If you have already quit, begin again today.
  2. Never give up hope. Don’t resign yourself to the present situation. Your meditations can and will improve.
  3. Never feel bad about it. These things happen and there is a solution to everything.

A Master Gardener Will Accompany You

A further rule for making our Inner Meditation Garden flower again is to invoke the help of a Master-gardener. For our workshop, let’s choose Swami Sri Yukteswar, a saint of profound meditative wisdom. For example, he teaches us that: “Outward longings drive us from the Eden within. The lost paradise is quickly regained through divine meditation.”

He will be able to assist us in our efforts to make the flowers blossom and, as it happens, his birthday will be celebrated in just a few days, on May 10. (If you know little about Sri Yukteswar, it would be helpful to first read the relevant chapter from Autobiography of a Yogi, “Years in My Master’s Hermitage.”)

Should We Look for Results in Meditation?

But wait a minute! Is it actually wise to be result-oriented in our meditations? Is our goal to produce inner flowers reasonable? This is a good question and it requires a somewhat detailed answer.

As meditators, we need to find our personal point of equilibrium on a scale balancing two different approaches. The one approach is: “Accept whatever is. Don’t worry about results.” The other approach is: “Don’t accept what is forever. If there is a lack of results, do something about it.”

Let’s look at when the first approach is valid:

  • Only a foolish gardener plants a seed and digs it up every day to check if his flower is growing (“Am I getting results?”). It’s better to water the seed (to meditate), and then to relax and have trust.
  • Nor does a wise meditative gardener expect any specific inner flower (experience) in his Inner Meditation Garden. Expectations are bound to disappoint. Instead we are taught to meditate in the spirit of karma yoga, without desiring any specific result: “Whatever comes of itself, let it come.” Even if nothing comes, this is no problem. Meditation invariably brings good things, which are outside our conscious awareness. So just happily accept whatever comes.
  • The telling sign of our meditative progress is not to be found in the inner flowers (experiences) but in our daily life. Are you becoming a more peaceful, inspired, loving and luminous person? Then you are truly advancing, even though your meditations may reveal little to you. Once again: just happily accept those little meditative flowers.

Now let’s look at when the other approach is valid:

  • Settling for a few tiny flowers, while a paradisiacal inner garden (“the Eden within”) is waiting for us, is not wise if will-power and discipline are lacking. Yogananda stimulates our will-power in this way: “Make today’s meditation deeper than yesterday’s and tomorrow’s deeper than today’s.” To be sure, a continuous straight line of progress is unrealistic as nothing in this world develops linearly, day by day, without any bumps or setbacks. But what Yogananda is telling us is never to stagnate: we do want to see progress in our meditations. So: do not accept where you are now as your permanent standard.
  • We easily become set in our habits. Meditation is the highest form of tapasya, which literally means heat, resulting from the inner friction that is created when we work against our habits and egoic patterns. The ego resists meditation, which therefore necessitates a battle (tapasya). So again: do not accept a situation if some habit is impeding you. It’s time to act.

Where is your personal point of equilibrium? Think about it. If you feel that you should add more weight to the approach on the other side of the scales, which says”: “don’t accept, but act,” then the workshop below is for you — especially so if, as we said, you find yourself in the midst of a dry spell. Our goal is to make our Inner Meditation Garden flower again.

Sri Yukteswar and His Workbook

As good gardeners, our main question is: “What is it that is preventing my inner flowers from growing? What is making my soil so dry?”

To find out, let’s now tune in to the wise advice of Sri Yukteswar. Imagine the majestic Master by your side, ready to help you in your efforts to find clarity. See him looking at you with his “beautiful deep eyes, smoldering with introspection, yet radiant with joy.” He asks you: “Do you really want to get to the bottom of it? Are you ready to face the truth about your meditations?”

If your answer is “yes”, he hands you a Meditation-Workbook For the Inner Gardener. On its cover, you see a beautiful lotus flower, symbolizing your soul.

The workbook contains eight self-analysis tasks, one for each of the next eight days. You will first find a Meditation Sutra, which creates the context for your daily introspection. It is often taken from Sri Yukteswar’s book, The Holy Science (original edition of 1920, published in India by his disciple Atul Chandra Chowdhary).

Following this, you will be guided into the Meditation Garden Self-Analysis. Once you have completed it, Sri Yukteswar will remind you that “what man has done, he can undo.” To know how to “undo” your situation, you will practice a technique called intuitive guidance, which works like this: visualize Sri Yukteswar clearly at the spiritual eye between the eyebrows and ask him the question you are given. After some time, enter into your heart chakra and intuitively feel his answer and guidance.

Sri Yukteswar asks you (let’s imagine) not to rush through this process, but to go through the Meditation-Workbook for the Inner Gardener one day at a time.

A Special Asana

If you practice the yoga asanas, each day include Vasishtasana (the Vasishta Pose), which strengthens your mental focus. Affirm: “The calm fire of my concentration burns all restlessness, all distraction.”

Now open the Workbook to find the first task for the first day:

Day 1

Giving good earth to the inner flowers: self-analysis concerning the body.

Meditation Sutra

“Asana means a steady (sthira) and pleasant (sukham) posture of the body.” OM.
(The Holy Science, 3.15)

Meditation Garden Self-Analysis

Silence is the altar of Spirit. It begins with a steady body. Today as you meditate, observe yourself: for how long do you sit motionless?

  • 30 minutes
  • 15 minutes
  • 5 minute
  • s 2 minutes

Intuitive Guidance

If it was 2 or 5 minutes, apply the technique explained above and ask Sri Yukteswar: “What can I do to improve my physical stillness?”
Write down the solution you receive.

Day 2

Meditation Sutra

“Asana means steady (sthira) and pleasant (sukham) posture of the body.” OM.
(The Holy Science, 3.15)

Meditation Garden Self-Analysis

“To comprehend a thing, i.e. to feel a thing by the heart clearly, the practice of the aforesaid asana, the steady and pleasant posture, is extremely necessary.” (The Holy Science). Relaxation, resulting in a “pleasant posture,” is an important key for meditation. Today as you meditate, observe yourself. How does your body feel as you meditate?

  • Like a jellyfish
  • Pretty relaxed
  • Somewhat relaxed
  • There is quite some tension

Intuitive Guidance

If you picked one of the last two options, apply the technique explained above and ask Sri Yukteswar: “What can I do to improve my relaxation?”
Write down the solution you receive.

Day 3

Meditation Sutra

A bent spine is the enemy of Self-realization. OM.

Meditation Garden Self-Analysis

Today as you meditate, observe your asana (posture) attentively. Is your spine straight all the time in meditation?

  • Yes, I am certain it is.
  • I believe so.
  • I am not sure
  • No

Intuitive Guidance

If you chose one of the last three options, apply the technique explained above and ask Sri Yukteswar: “How can I ascertain the situation and (if needed), improve the straightness of my spine?”

Write down the solution you receive.

Day 4

Giving water to the inner flowers: self-analysis concerning the mind.

Meditation Sutra

If you could break the thought of not being in samadhi, you’d be in samadhi. OM.

Meditation Garden Self-Analysis

Our mind creates our reality, both inwardly and outwardly. It often becomes our saboteur if it holds harmful convictions or negative mental “grooves.” Today as you meditate, observe yourself deeply. Honestly examine whether you have any of the following subconscious patterns in your meditative life:

  • “I don’t think I could ever reach a high state.”
  • “Instinctively I am afraid of deeper states. I don’t know where they would take me.”
  • “I don’t deserve a saintly state.”
  • “I fear that by really going deep I will change, will become different, and might become estranged from my family and friends.”
  • “I simply can’t sit still.”
  • “Meditation is difficult and doesn’t work for me.”
  • “I never have enough time to meditate.”
  • “Deep meditation is actually not all that important for me.”
  • “I am not a disciplined person because I don’t have strong will-power.”
  • “I dislike discipline, regularity, being tied to a daily routine.”

Choose an option:

  • I don’t have any of these thought patterns
  • I might
  • I do

Intuitive Guidance

If you chose one of the last two options, apply the technique explained above and ask Sri Yukteswar: “What can I do to identify my particular pattern better? What can I do to change it? What thought or affirmation can I use to counteract it?”

Write down the solution you receive.

Day 5

Meditation Sutra

“Yama is abstinence from cruelty, dishonesty, covetousness, unnatural living and unnecessary acceptance. Niyama is purity of body and mind, contentment in all circumstances and obedience to the precepts of the divine personages.” OM.
(The Holy Science, 3.10-11)

Meditation Garden Self-Analysis

These yamas and niyamas form the bases for a deeper meditation. Sri Yukteswar expounds on “natural living”, on food, dwelling and company. Today, before you meditate, ask yourself whether you practice the above qualities in your daily life.

  • I do
  • Most of them
  • I am lacking in several qualities

Intuitive Guidance

If you chose one of the last two options, apply the technique explained above and ask Sri Yukteswar: “How can I develop this particular quality?”

Day 6

Meditation Sutra

“The eight bondages are: hatred, shame, fear, grief, condemnation, race distinction, pedigree and the sense of respectability.” OM.
(The Holy Science, 3.13)

Meditation Garden Self-Analysis

Our outer and inner life can’t be separated. The quality of our daily life strongly influences the quality of our meditation. By removal of the above obstacles, magnanimity of the heart results, making man fit for asana or correct posture, pranayama or prana control and pratyahara or interiorization (see The Holy Science). So today as you meditate, observe yourself and ask: “Do I experience any of the above obstacles in my life?”

  • I don’t have any of them.
  • Somewhat
  • I do

Intuitive Guidance

If you chose one of the last two options, apply the technique explained above and ask Sri Yukteswar: “How can I overcome this obstacle?”

Giving sunlight to the inner flowers: self-analysis concerning the SOUL.

Day 7

Meditation Sutra

“In Him (Parambrahma, God, Spirit) is the origin of all knowledge, love, the root of all power and joy.” OM.
(The Holy Science, 1,2)

Meditation Garden Self-Analysis

Devotion to God invites His indispensable help. “Hence the culture of this love, the heavenly gift, is the principle thing for the attainment of holy salvation and it is beyond doubt impossible for man to advance a step towards the same without this.” (The Holy Science). So today as you meditate, ask yourself if your heart infuses your techniques.

  • I am very devotional
  • There is some devotion
  • Not very much

Intuitive Guidance

If you chose one of the last two options, apply the technique explained above and ask Sri Yukteswar: “How can I bring more devotion into my meditation? What will work for me?”

Day 7

Meditation Sutra

“Pranayama means control over prana (life-force).” OM.
(The Holy Science, 3.16)

Meditation Garden Self-Analysis

Pranayama stills the mind and leads it toward interiorization (pratyahara). “If [man] can direct his organ of sense inward toward his Self at that time [of outer desire], he can satisfy his heart immediately.” (The Holy Science). Today at the beginning of meditation, practice pranayama for a long time and observe the effect of pleasant interiorization. If you don’t practice Kriya Yoga pranayama, Kriyananda recommends Chandra Bedha Pranayama.

Here is a demonstration:

  • It is effective for me
  • I feel some effect
  • It doesn’t work for me.

Intuitive Guidance

If you chose one of the last two options, apply the technique explained above and ask Sri Yukteswar: “How can I practice to get deeper results?”

Day 8

Meditation Sutra

“What is needed is a Guru, who will awaken in us devotion and perception of Truth.” OM.
(The Holy Science, 1.17)

Meditation Garden Self-Analysis

Samadhi is Guru-given. In general, our meditation is deepened through attunement with a Guru. Today as you meditate, feel him/her sitting at your side. Ask yourself: “Does my meditation go better in this way?”

To answer the question, tick a box.

  • Definitively
  • I feel some effect
  • I don’t feel a difference.

Intuitive Guidance

If you chose one of the last two options, apply the technique explained above and ask Sri Yukteswar: “How can I explore this method of attunement better?”

If you have followed this eight-day practice, you are done. Congratulations! Now ask yourself: “How does my Inner Meditation Garden appear? Am I observing the first colorful flowers? Am I emerging from the dry spell?”

To inspire you to keep gardening, here is one of Yogananda’s Whispers From Eternity, recited by Swami Kriyananda. By the way, his birthday too will be celebrated soon, on May 19, just nine days after Sri Yukteswar’s.

And for the future: should a dry spell ever beset you again, return to your Meditation Workbook for the Inner Gardener and start over again.

May your soul-flowers be ever in bloom,
Jayadev

2 Comments

  1. Meditation had become dead. Just because of suffering as personalityh there was persistence. For it is a withdrawl from the world if nothing else. Well the world in waking life intensity.

    I consider this as a blessing and grace from Sri Sidderameshwar Maharaj for leading me here.

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