Editor’s note: In this article, “meditation” in inverted commas refers to the various types of “meditation” practiced today. Meditation without inverted commas refers to the ancient, traditional method of meditation, as taught in Vedanta, thousands of years before the advent of Buddhism.
Worry, anxiety, stress and depression have sky-rocketed in Western society over the last 30 years. Along with this overwhelming increase, we have seen the popularity of “meditation” grow and flourish.
Mindfulness practitioners claim that “meditation” is the answer to reducing stress and anxiety. However, researchers from Johns Hopkins University say that the evidence is scant. After carefully reviewing published clinical trials they found that, although meditation seems to provide modest relief for anxiety, depression and pain, more high-quality research is required before the effects of meditation can be properly assessed.
There’s “Meditation” and there’s Meditation
It is essential for our health and well-being to relax the mind — to sit quietly, close our eyes and centre ourselves. However, we need to understand that the effects of this meditative practice are only temporary. No doubt we gain peace and clarity, but it doesn’t last.
It’s something like this. Imagine plunging your hands into a moss-covered pond and pushing the moss aside. You gain a glimpse of your reflection (peace of mind), but as soon as something happens, as soon as someone says or does something you don’t like, the tranquillity you feel begins to fade and the moss of agitation rushes back.
So again you have to sit and “meditate” to quieten your mind. Nothing wrong, but why go for temporary peace when you can go for lasting presence and peace of mind?
Traditional meditation, which is single-pointed concentration on one thought to the exclusion of all other thoughts, is the final spiritual discipline, not the first. We cannot start with this form of meditation, just as a 3-year-old child cannot start with university. We have to prepare our mind to be able to sit and meditate effectively.
Preparation is like taking a handful of moss and putting it on the shore. Little by little we remove the moss of ego and agitation and gain the fruits of meditation — lasting peace, boundless energy, contentment and composure.
How to Make Meditation Work for You
Swami Parthasarathy, world-renowned philosopher, gives a beautiful example to explain the difference between “meditation” without preparation and traditional meditation. He says that meditation without preparation is like pushing a piston, covered in scales of rust, inside a rusty cylinder. If you use force, either the piston will break or the cylinder will crack.
You must first knock off the scales of rust (negativities, such as worry, anxiety, anger, fear, stress and depression). Then use a rough sandpaper inside the cylinder and outside the piston. Then a fine sandpaper to remove the last traces of rust. Wipe it clean. Lubricate it inside and out. Then take the piston and place it at the top of the cylinder. Let it go and it just slides straight in. That’s meditation.
Meditation is 99% preparation and 1% inspiration. — Swami Parthasarathy
The problem today is that we want a quick fix. We want peace and we want it now. We don’t want to pay the price—and the price of peace is preparation.
The more we prepare our mind for meditation, the easier it will be. We have to slide into meditation. Not force it. It’s not because of dissatisfaction that we meditate, but satisfaction. Satisfaction that comes from within. Satisfaction that is not dependent on anything that the world offers.
Prepare Your Mind: The 3 Yogas
The 3 yogas are not physical postures or breathing techniques. They are ancient spiritual practices, designed to offload our mental baggage — and prepare our mind for meditation.
When our mind is prepared, when it is calm, composed and content, our experience of meditation becomes effortless and profound.
The 3 yogas are:
- Karma Yoga: the path of action—selfless service.
- Bhakti Yoga: the path of devotion—selfless love.
- Gnana Yoga: the path of knowledge—wisdom.
By putting the 3 yogas into practice, you become reflective, contemplative, meditative. Life becomes like a 24 hour meditation. You become wise in your decisions and actions. You become energised. Nothing tires you. You achieve so much more. You’re peaceful and you’re productive, because your mind is clear and focused. You become a complete individual, full of love, wisdom, kindness and generosity.
The 3 yogas are the keys that unlock the door to inner peace, bliss and contentment. Don’t try to shortcut the process. Don’t try to walk before you can crawl. There is a scientific procedure to meditation. And if you want to enjoy the fruits of meditation—lasting peace and bliss—you must follow the procedure and prepare your mind through the practice of the 3 yogas.
You will gain so much more than you ever thought possible. So much more pleasure and satisfaction. So much more joy and fulfilment. Much, much more than you would ever gain from “meditation” itself. “Meditation” gives you a glimpse of peace. That’s all. It’s temporary. So you have to keep going back again and again.
Don’t waste your time with temporary, when you can go for lasting peace and happiness. Prepare your mind and gain peace by practicing the 3 yogas. You will then slide effortlessly into meditation and gain the ultimate, infinite bliss of Self Realisation.