In the West we say, “Don’t just sit there, do something!” whereas, in the East, it’s “Don’t do anything, just sit there!” Of course this is an over-generalisation, but I do know that, over the last 30 or so, meditation is the one single ‘activity’ that has made the biggest difference to my life. Meditation is not just about changing your thinking or repeating a sacred phrase, it is actually a way of life – a new approach to being in, and interacting with, the world around you.
Raja Yoga meditation as taught by the Brahma Kumaris is unique in several ways. There is no set mantra or posture and it is also practised with open eyes. When I started my meditation lessons, I was not taught a technique but rather introduced to a philosophy that enabled me change my awareness of myself. I learned about a concept called ‘soul consciousness’ – an understanding that I am not a physical being but a spiritual being; a soul.
Previously I had read a lot about the topic ‘Who am I?’ and here I was given an explanation in four words: ‘I am a soul.’ I was asked to contemplate deeply on this. I, the soul, am a being of light, tiny in size, a point of light, seated in the centre of my forehead. I, the soul use my senses – my eyes are the windows that I look through, my ears the vessels I listen through, and so on. My original nature is peace. It was quite a lot to take in for my first lesson, yet somehow it all made perfect sense. I think I was able to meditate with some success very quickly. That is, I could begin to experience soul consciousness quite easily. This was because I practised it believing it to be true. I did not begin my meditation with a barrage of questions – ‘how do I know this is true?’, ‘where is the proof?’ etc. I think this is important for beginners at meditation; the attitude with which you begin a spiritual practice very much determines the outcome.
Up until that point I had always been concerned with seeking the approval of others to the extent that it had sapped away my self confidence. I found it difficult to make a move, unless I felt I was fulfilling what others expected of me. I spent a lot of time considering others to be more talented than I. The list goes on. A new awareness of myself as a soul and, in particular, a deep contemplation on the real nature of the soul – peace, love, wisdom, joy – brought me a new confidence and a new awareness that somehow no longer depended on what others thought of me. It was as if I had claimed myself back again. I became more cheerful and easy-going. I began to enjoy being myself! All this made my relationships easier, as I now felt I had something to give to others. I could see with a clearer perspective and be more sensitive to their needs. The open-eyed bit is to help us bring soul consciousness naturally into our everyday living. These experiences became a great foundation for my meditation and my life.
The next lesson I learned in meditation was that I really could connect with God. Before I studied with the Brahma Kumaris, I had certainly brought God into my meditation, I would sit and just enjoy being in the company of a loving being and somehow know that I was protected. Raja Yoga meditation helped to make the connection more real and deepen the experience. I was lucky that God was already a part of my life, but I have known many who began to experience God even against they own atheistic will!
An interesting idea was introduced to me: God is a being of light, an infinitesimal point of light, yet an unlimited source of love, peace, truth, happiness – all the things that nourish the soul from the inside. I loved this idea and began to contemplate deeply on it. I remember one of the first times I really experienced God in this way. I felt like a magnet was pulling me from somewhere far away, as if I, the soul, was going somewhere. I felt a great depth of silence. I felt comforted, loved, energised and very happy. I was also a bit stunned – so much so that I cut short the experience and brought myself ‘back to earth’. Where did I go? I did not go anywhere, of course, but I was in a different state of consciousness to the everyday. I was really in connection with that highest being. It is a wonder that I am able to move into that experience whenever I wish to. I have a real, living relationship with God – there are no two ways about it!
When I first had these experiences, I thought that I would now just sail through life and that would be it. I think anyone reading this, who has embarked on a spiritual journey, would know that things aren’t quite like that.
Daily we meet our own selves. My relationships, circumstances and situations show me the extent to which I am living by my true nature. I can meditate in the morning and come out of it feeling great. Then I go into work and find something on my desk that makes me react negatively. What happened to my perfect soul consciousness? Simply put: what was happening around me became more powerful than what was happening inside me.
So, what should I do?
Let me pause, step back, ask myself, ‘Is this how I want to be, will this do me or anyone any good?’ Or, ask myself ‘Who am I – am I this piece of paper on my desk – or a soul?’ ‘Is this what God would want of me?’ This is usually enough to bring me back to my self again. Emotional reactions rarely bring me any clarity or inner strength. It’s in these situations that I know the depth of my spiritual practice. I can meditate in a corner away from the world and feel great but it is when I am actively involved in my life and relationships that I know whether meditation is working for me or not.
Over the years I have come to know myself a lot better, in terms of my strengths and weaknesses, and I continue to discover more in my relationship with God each day.
In tomorrow’s blog I will look at some bigger questions about the role of spirituality in today’s world.