When you concentrate and try to unify the vagrant tendencies of your mind, sometimes you feel strain. Because of that strain, you get a headache or some other complaint. Therefore, while practising concentration, you have to evolve a method by which there may be no strain. Just as a tired person goes to bed and falls asleep without struggling with restlessness or insomnia, even so there are various methods for achieving spontaneous concentration and meditation.
The best method of concentration starts with prayer. When we start concentration directly and abruptly, the influx of blood abruptly increases in the brain. Various ideas keep on haunting the mind and hamper meditation. All the impressions of the actions done during the day come rushing up to the surface of the mind. If you want to meditate on Om, you naturally desire that nothing else should come to your mind. But for various reasons your daily experiences and impressions come to you during meditation. Therefore, the best time for meditation is brahmamuhurta, between four and six in the morning.
It is also necessary that the mind should slumber partially when you start the practice of meditation. If there is controllable drowsiness, concentration will be keener and better. At night, when drowsiness overpowers you, if you meditate on your ishta devata, you will definitely succeed. You should not start concentration before you have entered into a state of partial drowsiness. It is better to meditate in the early morning hours. You are not fully conscious although you feel that you are.
Some people meditate at odd hours of the day. This is good, but you must have experienced that while practising concentration during these hours, some tension is felt by the brain. Meditation should be effortless and spontaneous. If you practise the right technique of concentration from the very beginning, you will have no difficulty. The first practice to bring about this state is inner silence, or antar mouna.
Inner silence has many graduated stages. In the beginning you should relax yourself mentally. If you do not understand what mental relaxation is, imagine how you feel when you return home from a hectic business round in the scorching sun and relax on a soft sofa in an air-conditioned room. You have to be aware of this type of relaxation.
Sit in any comfortable asana with your spinal cord straight. Close your eyes and try to relax yourself mentally. The technique is to feel that you are going to take a rest. Do not entertain any strenuous thought in your mind as you generally do. Experience peace and a feeling of rest, joy and comfort. The more you are able to relax, the more you will be able to practise concentration. Be aware of yourself and of your position. This is called self-awareness. Your limbs should also relax. This may take some time. Relaxation is a process which requires an effort in the beginning, but afterwards it is effortless.
Try to visualize the chidakasha, the space in front of the closed eyes. Is the chidakasha changing its colour or not? Do you see a star or anything else there? What do you see in chidakasha? Some see stars, some see colours, some see light, some see only darkness. Never mind whether you see anything or not, but keep concentrating on chidakasha. Many thoughts will arise. Let them come. There may be thoughts, sounds or different feelings. You may experience an itching sensation or a tremor in your system, but try to remain a witness of all that. Do not identify yourself with any sound, sensation or thought that arises in the mind. When visualization of chidakasha is over, you should begin introspection of the thoughts.
In this process, you do not fight with your thoughts but maintain an impartial attitude towards them. Whatever thoughts come to your mind, let them do so. With closed eyes remain a witness of the various thoughts coming into your mind and do not try to consciously control the thought process. Do not get disturbed when various thoughts overwhelm you. Nor should you try to trim or eliminate the thoughts. Just become a witness and feel the thoughts passing before you slowly like a freight train. After some time this practice becomes very interesting.
In this process, you should be aware that I am thinking. This consciousness has to be kept alive in the mind constantly. The only caution to be taken is not to identify with the thoughts. Awareness of the thinking process should be maintained throughout. I am thinking should be the constant awareness.
This method works subjectively to bring about a state of cessation in the process of thinking. In case of impure thoughts, awaken an awareness that you are only witnessing them while they are passing through your mental plane. If you do not identify yourself with such thoughts, they will be suspended without any effort. You should not be disturbed by bad thoughts or elated by good thoughts. Do not think that your meditation is very nice when good thoughts only come to your mind. Thoughts of any type, shade and dimension, whether good or bad, should be merely observed without any involvement.
Many thoughts arise in the mind. Sometimes they arise with compelling force and it seems as if some unseen force within us is causing their upsurge. We may be averse to certain thoughts of passion, we may not like to enter into worries and brooding, but in spite of all our sincere efforts we fail to check the waves. This is proof that we lack control over the mind and we must evolve some effective method for settling these vagrant forces in their proper place.
If this is not done, mental exhaustion will result and sedatives will have to be introduced to ease the mental tension. When thought waves are not regulated, they become part of our habits and under their hypnotic sway many years of our life are wasted. The series of thoughts assail us unawares. We wake up at the instance of nervous breakdown, mental fever, neurosis and the like, when it is too late for us to overcome them. It is beyond the power of any physician. If care is taken well before the crisis takes place and thought regulation is rendered a part of our mental habit, then we can keep away various mental ailments successfully.
What is the remedy? Yoga prescribes a method by which one can become the master of the thoughts. You need not control your thoughts. You need not kill your mind. You must only attain complete mastery over your thoughts. One who has attained mastery over the mind keeps it as a trained servant. When the mind is properly kept under control, it can help you in many ways. One of the methods to train the mind is thought regulation. This consists of creating a particular thought voluntarily and dwelling upon it for some time, then rejecting it altogether.
Here you voluntarily create any thought of your liking and after thinking over it for some minutes you set it aside by your willpower. It is much better if you begin with lower thoughts. Voluntarily create and dwell upon themes of jealousy, anger, greed and the like for some time and finally set them aside with a mental stroke. It is easier to begin in this way because the mind is used to lower thoughts and such thoughts in fact act as centres of gravity for our consciousness.
Pious thoughts are soon forgotten and the mind finds it easy to slip away from such thoughts, while it is almost a task to detach its interest from thoughts of jealousy, anger, greed, fear, passion, pride and so on. The mind seems to have a greater affinity for lower thoughts while peace, compassion, love, forgiveness and the like are usually missed by the mind during meditation. Good resolves are always forgotten while evil intentions remain in the mind for long periods of time.
Practise in this way. Pose a particular thought. Retain the same thought in the mind for some time with vivid imagination, then dispose of it. If you practise this method for some time, you will learn a technique of removing any permanent thought that haunts your mind. This method is extremely useful. You can choose any thought you like, but be careful not to identify with the thought. Be conscious throughout of what you are doing. Do not allow any thought to come without being willed. Reject such thoughts which come to you of their own accord. Do not get attached to the thought. Practise with detachment. Have a vivid imagination of what you are thinking.
Sometimes while thinking there will be confusion. You will not be able to observe what you think. When this happens, you must meditate upon your ishta devata at once. Keep a few important points for meditation on your ishta devata in view. Try to think of the particular deity through general observances. Think of the whole picture of your ishta devata, the place where it is kept and the surroundings. Have a vivid imagination of this from the general to the particular. Thereafter, the same practice of thought regulation may be repeated according to your convenience.
Now let us discuss the third process of antar mouna, inner silence. Concentrate on chidakasha. You will experience various shades of light, stars, illumination and astral figures. You should remain a witness of these experiences. The chidakasha or the astral plane is before you. You can project your subconscious mind over it if you have a deep sense of meditation.
Throughout this practice you should remain conscious of the incoming thoughts and set aside every thought which comes to you. You are engaged in setting the thoughts aside. At the same time you are aware of what is taking place within the astral realms. If you can do this, you can step into meditation without any effort. Then visions of astral events will follow. You are standing at the gate. You are seeing your thoughts coming to you. Your inner chamber is open from all sides. Thoughts can enter from any side. You have to take a central position and from there have a look everywhere. From which side is the thought coming? When you see a particular thought lurking, stop it.
Have a constant awareness of chidakasha. See the astral patterns forming in it. If you observe them for some time, you will understand what is meant by astral patterns. You will experience various invisible vibrations floating across chidakasha. Gradually try to become more and more aware of chidakasha. Let your consciousness become so deep and intense that you do not feel like taking your mind away from chidakasha even for a moment.
There should be no analysis of the experience of the astral plane whatsoever. Thus, when you continue to observe the state of nothingness, you will realize various astral realities which so far have remained out of sight. There comes a state of mind when the vast fields of astral realization are left open to you and the whole stock of latent knowledge is apprehended. When astral figures start floating on chidakasha, start meditation on your ishta devata in calmness and silence.
However, if you have even a little success in this sadhana, you will have no necessity to meditate on the ishta, The form of the ishta will automatically arise from within. If you practise this faithfully, you will attain the stage of nirvichara, thoughtlessness. You can repeat the whole process again, but a beginner should never overdo this practice because it is quite different to relaxation. With this practice you complete the preliminaries and enter into the first phase of meditation. It is only after perfection of this practice that you should take up further meditations which are higher and deeper.
I wish to give a warning, however, to all those who are keen to pursue meditation to the extent of realization and samadhi. Meditation should only start after the scientific process of relaxation has been completed. If not, they will always talk of sleep, lethargy and failures that follow entering meditation abruptly.
During the practice of meditation, the main problem is sleep, which you experience as you relax. First drowsiness dawns and then deep slumber. For those who want to remove tensions, sleep is necessary, but those who seek spiritual evolution will have to find a solution for this problem. If you want to attain samadhi or to contact the astral body, the mysterious kundalini and other higher forms of meditation, it becomes all the more essential to know the technique to overcome this difficulty.
The complaint of all aspirants is that when they succeed in attaining inner silence, they fall asleep and realize it only afterwards when the awareness revives. No doubt they feel fresh, but spiritual evolution is arrested there itself. Even in the case of earnest aspirants, their spiritual progress is arrested because they enter into slumber. Householders who have to discharge various duties remain ever busy and are under continuous strain. Naturally they fall asleep even with a little concentration.
The other difficulty is that if the consciousness does not slumber partially, inner silence is difficult to achieve. So, there is difficulty in both ways. The mind has to be drowsy to a certain degree and, at the same time, one has to be careful not to sleep. Therefore, it is necessary for those who want to avoid sleep during meditation to keep a few points in mind. First, you will have to practise detachment. You will have to reject the continuity of thought by constant and persistent practice. This is the first solution.
The second solution is asana and pranayama. When you get up in the morning, have a wash and practise some asanas like sarvangasana or sirshasana. This will check the tendency to sleep. Deep breathing as in ujjayi pranayama decarbonizes the system, removing drowsiness while increasing introversion. When you feel that you are about to sleep, start nadi shodhana pranayama with kumbhaka, using the ratio 1:4:2. Practise five rounds and then concentrate. This is beneficial for those who face waves of depression due to tension and continuous thinking. If you can minimize the degree of depression, you will be able to visualize the object of your meditation very clearly.
Some people sit in padmasana and meditate for hours at a stretch, feeling themselves to be in samadhi. This is not samadhi, however, it is the after effect of the days strain. Of course, you can remove your mental depression by this suspension, but you cannot go forward on the spiritual path. If you practise asana and pranayama before meditation, then there will be no suspension.
Some aspirants sit for meditation, but they do not know what they are doing. Having heard about kundalini, they desire to awaken it and apply extra pressure to that point. There is bound to be depression. Therefore, it is essential to practise meditation under the guidance of a master. Meditation is a scientific process and it must be learned properly. Just as you require a map and guidance before starting any external journey, especially if you do not know the way, the same principle applies for the internal journey which is undertaken through meditation.
Along with sleep, visions are another disturbing factor in the primary phases of meditation. When you meditate with closed eyes, visions begin to appear, then there is temporary suspension of awareness. Again visions, then suspension, and once again visions. All this happens because samskaras float upon the mental surface. You want to forget many unwanted things, you reject them, and therefore they go into the background. In due course this brings about bad after effects.
If you dislike a person, it does not mean that he has gone out of your mind. Rather he is very much in your mind. His memory will disturb you in meditation. So whatever difficulties you may have, you should annihilate these impressions either by rationalizing them or sublimating them through detachment. If you want to attain higher meditation, you will have to go beyond sleep and also the expression of astral contents in the form of visions. This can be achieved by the practice of inner silence, which is a method of purging the accumulated samskaras from the mind and a first step towards actual meditation.