Thinking and meditating are two totally different things. The aim of meditation is to free ourselves from all thought, Sri Chinmoy says. Unfortunately, the endless flow of thoughts through the mind is the major barrier that beginners encounter in meditation. It seems the more you try to reduce the volume of thoughts, the more they turn into a real onslaught. Don’t despair! With practice, you can empty your mind of all thoughts. Once you empty your mind, then you will experience the fulness of meditation-silence. So don’t give up before trying at least one of the exercises below.
Sri Chinmoy advises that you can deal with thoughts in three different ways. Over a period of several meditation sessions, you may wish to try all three ways before you decide which one is best for you.
Step 1: Sit in a quiet place, with your spine upright, and gradually slow your breathing pattern. Try to breathe very gently.
Step 2: With your eyes softly looking, not staring, focus your attention on an object that inspires you. Let us take a flower as an example.
Step 3: Look at the entire flower and become aware of its colour, the shape of its petals, even its fragrance.
Step 4: Now focus your attention on one particular petal. Feel that you are inwardly connected to that petal. As you breathe out, you are offering your breath to the petal. When you breathe in, you are receiving your breath from the petal. The petal represents your entire existence.
Step 5: Close your eyes and feel the presence of the same flower inside your chest where your spiritual heart is located. Feel its beauty, purity and fragrance. If you can, try to locate the same petal you concentrated on earlier, the one that somehow embodies your life.
Step 6: Now feel that the flower is expanding. It has merged with your entire existence. You have become the flower. The flower has become you. See if you can remain in that consciousness for five or ten minutes, absorbing and assimilating the experience you have just had.
Roadblock: Were you able to get through the entire exercise or did thoughts come to bother you? Was your mind in overdrive the entire time? If so, here is what you can do the next time you try the same exercise:
The Closed Door
Imagine that your mind is a room. When thoughts come, they knock on the door. At present, you simply open the door and allow them all in—good thoughts, mundane thoughts, stupid thoughts. It is so difficult to try to sort them out. One minute you will be thinking of something inspiring, next minute you will be wondering what to have for dinner. So in this method you just keep your mind-door firmly closed. Do not allow any thought to enter. Continually bring your awareness back to the flower or candle flame or whatever you are focusing on.
The Partially Open Door
If you cannot block all thoughts from entering, then try to allow only thoughts that are of a higher kind—thoughts that are inspiring and fulfilling; thoughts that help you progress in our inner life. These thoughts can help you make progress and often have a strong intuitive connection. Sri Chinmoy says, “Suppose you are meditating and after a few minutes there comes to your mind a thought which is divine, progressive, encouraging, inspiring. Please try to feel that these kinds of thoughts are like tender roots—roots of infinite light and bliss—and try to let your body, mind, heart and soul grow with these roots.”
The Open Door
The third method is to allow thoughts of all kinds to enter your mind, but not to pursue them or develop them at all. In that way, your meditation will not be affected by them. Sri Chinmoy describes it like this: “When we meditate, what we actually do is enter into a vacant, calm, still, silent mind. We go deep within and approach our true existence, which is our soul. When we live in the soul, we feel that we are actually meditating spontaneously. The surface of the sea is a multitude of waves, but the sea below is not affected. In the deepest depths, at the bottom of the sea, it is all tranquility. So when you start meditating, try to feel your own inner existence is like the bottom of the sea—calm and quiet. Feel that your whole being is surcharged with peace and tranquility. Then let the waves come from the outside world. Fear, doubt, worry—the earthly turmoil—will all be washed away, because inside is solid peace. You cannot be afraid of anything when you are in your highest meditation. Your mind is all peace, all silence, all oneness. If thoughts or ideas want to come in, you control them with your inner peace, for they will not be able to affect you. Like fish in the sea, they jump and swim but leave no mark on the water. Like birds flying in the sky, they leave no trace behind them. When you meditate, feel that you are the sea, and all the animals in the sea do not affect you. Feel that you are the sky, and all the birds flying past do not affect you. Feel that your mind is the vast sky and your heart is the infinite ocean. That is meditation.”