We sometimes find ourselves in a situation in which we simply don’t have as long for our meditation as we would like. When this happens, the solution is not to skip our practice, but to do a shorter sadhana with greater intensity. In a short meditation it is especially important to make an effort to concentrate deeply.
This principle of intensity works on the physical level too. A friend of ours recently recommended a book about exercise, called P.A.C.E., by Dr. Al Sears. Dr. Sears begins the book with many scientific studies showing that short, intense periods of exercise are remarkably beneficial. We actually build greater lung volume (an important indicator of health), stronger muscles and bones, and improved cardiovascular capacity by exercising intensely for 12 to 20 minutes than with longer, more moderate efforts. The essence of his system is simple. Do brief periods of increasingly intense activity spaced apart by recovery periods. Any type of exercise that causes you to get out of breath will do. Be sure to build up gradually, especially if you aren’t starting out in good physical shape.
When time is short, we can apply the same principle of intensity to meditation. On those days it is helpful to include other spiritual practices during the rest of your day. Swami Kriyananda used to tell a charming story about this.
There was a devotee who never missed his three-hour morning meditation. This, of course, vexed the Devil, who decided he had to take action. He told his assistant devil, “Tomorrow make sure the man oversleeps so that he doesn’t have time to meditate.”
After having carried out this scheme, the assistant asked the Devil if he wanted him to do the same the following morning. “No,” the Devil said with a sigh. “Tomorrow, make sure to wake him up on time so that he can do his usual meditation.”
“But, why?” asked the perplexed imp.
The Devil replied, “Normally, after meditation that man just goes about his business. But, today, he spent the whole day thinking about God and apologizing to Him. I would rather have him meditate for three hours and then forget God than have him think about Him all day long.” Swami always had a great laugh over this story.
One way to think about God throughout the day is to take a simple chant and let it repeat in the back of your mind. Periodically, when you can, give it your full concentration. I have been doing this lately by inwardly chanting “Jai Guru” and “AUM Guru,” which is what Swami Kriyananda told me to repeat after I had asked him if I should take a mantra.
Of course, we shouldn’t make a practice of short meditations. It is important that we give our spiritual search priority and make time for it. Unlike physical exercise, we won’t exhaust ourselves by longer spiritual efforts. As Paramhansa Yogananda said in his great mystical poem, “Samadhi,” “By deeper, longer, thirsty, guru-given meditation comes this celestial samadhi.”
Every sound that I make, let it have the vibration of Thy voice. Every thought that I think, let it be saturated with the consciousness of Thy presence.
Let every feeling that I have glow with Thy love. Let every act of my will be impregnated with Thy divine vitality. Let every thought, every expression, every ambition, be ornamented by Thee.
O Divine Sculptor, chisel Thou my life according to Thy design!
In joyful devotion,
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