We will be having our annual all-day Christmas meditation on December 23. This tradition was started by Paramhansa Yogananda, who suggested we should celebrate a “spiritual Christmas” with a long meditation as well as a “social Christmas.”
My first eight-hour meditation was in 1967. The previous evening Swami Kriyananda had given me and a few others our first Kriya initiation so that we could practice the technique the next day. I didn’t feel very prepared for either of these events, but Swamiji must have seen my readiness with greater clarity than I did. Here I am fifty-two years later having never, as far as I can remember, missed a single Christmas meditation nor a day of practicing Kriya. I can only attribute this to the grace of God and Gurus, good karma, and a little grit on my part.
Many people feel anxious about meditating for eight hours, especially if it is their first time. Here are a few tips to make the day easier and deeper — these are as valid for experienced meditators as for newcomers.
Relax your body. Meditation always starts by relaxing of the body and mind, and this is especially true for a lengthy one. Periodically check your posture to be sure your muscles are not tense.
Relax your mind. Leave your daily concerns behind for a few hours, letting go of everything that might create tension. If you have any nagging concerns, you will find it surprisingly easy to ignore them if you do so resolutely for the first three or four times they try to intrude. During meditation, especially, don’t let them get a foot in the door.
Focus with willingness. Once you are relaxed, forget both the body and your thoughts. Give this one day to God alone. Our techniques — Hong-Sau, Kriya, AUM — are given to us as tools to control both the life-force and the mind. Practice these periodically throughout the day.
Be open and receptive. As well as striving earnestly, we need to open ourselves to feel God’s response. This happens much more in the heart than in the mind.
Get into a longer rhythm. Your ability to concentrate will probably wax and wane. In longer meditations it is helpful to accept this rhythm. When the mind wanders, give it something to do. Try inward chanting or visualization for a little while and then concentrate deeply again.
Get into your heart. The mind with its endless thoughts is an obstacle, as also, ultimately, is even the exertion of will. Open your heart, relaxing and feeling a warmth and expansion in your chest. Then let your love flow spontaneously.
Finally, remember it is all God. God is already inside you and you are inside of Him. This is always true, but it is easier to realize when the mind is still and the heart is open. God is not some distant being, but your own joy and peace. Swami Kriyananda wrote, “The secret of meditation is to pray with deep faith — not as an outsider to heaven, but as one whose true, eternal home is heaven.”
Meditate earnestly, then relax, feel, and enjoy. You will be surprised at how quickly a long meditation passes and how much you will look forward to the next one.
In joy and peace,
P.S. You may be interested in learning more about the Online with Ananda Virtual Community eight-hour meditation broadcast live from Swami Kriyananda’s apartment at Ananda Village.