It seems nearly impossible to stop the restless monkey mind during meditation. Why? In part, because we are looking at the effect rather than the cause. Mental restlessness is generally initiated by restless emotions! If you want to calm an agitated mind, first see what emotions are triggering your thoughts. Start with the heart.
I practiced this principle in my meditation this morning. Instead of trying to quell my restless mind mentally, I simply observed the feelings in my heart. I quickly saw what was provoking my train of thought. I proceeded to physically relax the heart area, and then used a very simple pranayama (regular breathing) to further calm my heart center. It worked like magic—my mind immediately quieted down and became focused. Swami Kriyananda often told us that reason follows feeling.
The great masters open the heart first, knowing that the mind will follow. There is a beautiful example of this in the book Sometimes Brilliant. The author, Larry Brilliant, became a disciple of the great saint Neem Karoli Baba. At first repulsed by Maharaji, as he was called, Larry had a miraculous conversion and, following his guru’s instructions, went on to help eradicate smallpox in India.
His great awakening came during his first physical contact with the Master: “I began to shiver. The tingling intensity, rising up my spine like mercury in a thermometer. I could barely feel my fingers. . . . He opened his eyes wide and our gaze locked. Light seemed to pour out of him into me and I felt like I was being filled with love upon love. . . . When he saw that I was full, he broke the contact like nothing had happened, giggled, and tugged harder on my beard. . . . I felt loved like never before, completely understood, naked and unashamed. Tears streamed down my face.”
Likewise, Yogananda’s first experience of cosmic consciousness began in his heart center: “Master spoke caressively, comfortingly. His calm gaze was unfathomable. ‘Your heart’s desire shall be fulfilled.’ . . . He struck gently on my chest above the heart. My body became immovably rooted; breath was drawn out of my lungs as if by some huge magnet. Soul and mind instantly lost their physical bondage, and streamed out like a fluid piercing light from my every pore.”
How can we expand our hearts, deepen our meditations, and become open to God’s love? Here are some simple suggestions:
- Learn to observe the feelings in your heart. Know that this is where restlessness starts, whether in meditation or in daily life.
- Catch your emotional reactions quickly! As with other skills, the more you practice this, the more adept you will become.
- First, shift your feelings into neutral, neither positive nor negative. The heart is the pivotal point from which the energy can flow in either an upward and expansive direction or a downward and contractive one. As in a car, you need to shift into neutral before you can move into forward or reverse. During my meditation, the relaxation and regular breathing shifted me into neutral, and from there I could redirect my energy upward.
- If you want deeper meditations, change from thinking to observing: Watch the breath, listen to AUM, feel the Kriya currents, or look into the light of the spiritual eye. The spiritual states we yearn for lie behind the fringe of the mind.
- Being able to control the reactive process imparts two huge benefits: the power to remain even-minded and cheerful, and the ability to choose to be happy in all situations.
Let us follow Swami Kriyananda’s advice in his song “In the Temple of Isis”: “Still your heart if you want to pray. Send all cares far away.”
From the heart,
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