Have you thought much about how a radio works? In a very basic sense (I am admittedly no engineer), you turn it on, set it to a certain number (frequency), and you are tuned in to a certain radio station. You can set it to another number, and a different radio station will come through. The radio itself is a receiver for what you want to hear, rather than the productions being created by the radio. You hear what you set the radio's frequency to. Flip through the numbers of the radio, and you'll hear that there are many possible stations for the radio to be tuned to. These radio station possibilities are invisible to us unless we use the medium of the radio to tune into them. As I sit here typing these words in silence, I am only privy to the possibilities riding along these radio waves by way of my imagination, since I am not currently using a radio to pull those waves into an audible experience to my human ears. Those radio waves are there in the air surrounding me, nonetheless. I need only get myself the medium of a radio to prove it.
This analogy of tuning a radio serves us in meditation, because in meditation we are able to attune ourselves to higher frequencies. There are many things we can attune ourselves to in meditation, be it our own higher consciousness/Higher Self, a divine figure or symbol of God, a saint, or a higher intelligent energy. Whatever resonates within us (and this can vary within an individual throughout time) which helps us reach higher, beyond our limited consciousness, is a good focus for attunement.
When we attune ourselves to something higher, we are aligning our consciousness with that higher consciousness for the purpose of drawing our consciousness toward it. Like a radio wave, we know this higher consciousness is available to us at all times, but we need to create the medium with which to receive it. The receiver (the radio) is our own mind, but we need to be still and focused enough to be able to tune ourselves to the frequency.
We focus on that object of attunement, and through our concentration we are creating an energetic magnet between our consciousness and this higher consciousness. Over time, we can energetically feel this connection in meditation. In the beginning, we may need to just stay open and play around with it to get a feel for it, but we may not be able to perceive very easily if much is happening. One approach could be if you have a figure which represents the Divine - what God looks like to you, or a saint - you picture that as clearly as you can in your mind. For me, this often looks like Paramhansa Yogananda. See that form, and picture a tunnel of energy connecting your eyes to theirs or your spiritual eye to their spiritual eye. Feel yourself drawing the consciousness of that form. You can do this also with your eyes open focusing on a photo of a great saint. (It is recommended to use a photo rather than a painting.) Stare at the eyes of the saint, and feel the consciousness of the saint coming through your eyes and into your nervous system. You may even be able to feel that you are drinking in waves through your eyes, descending down through the brain and into the body.
Like so much in life, meditation and its varied practices get better and easier with experience. It can be hard to explain exactly how to do things when you are working with energy, but if you just have a general notion of what you are wanting to do and you go forth with sincere effort, you will begin to understand and perceive. Asking that higher consciousness for assistance and keeping yourself open and receptive also helps very much.
One of the great benefits of meditation is that ability to raise our consciousness, and this can be an effective way to take that further. Through attunement we are deepening our connection with something greater than ourselves. We can feel the effect of this while we are practicing attunement, and we can also feel it subtly impacting our lives outside of meditation. Over time, we notice that outside of meditation our thoughts and actions have changed and are truly more similar to that higher consciousness with which we have been working on connecting. A grand prospect, and a true one!
Yoga is an ancient science. Its practices have been used for centuries. Of course, when I refer to "yoga" I mean much more than the postures (asanas) which we in the West have whittled "yoga" down to. Yoga means union, and it is a set of much broader practices which lead to union with all things, including the divine. Meditation is a big part of the ancient tradition of yoga, and ancient, sacred yogic texts (predating Jesus Christ by hundreds of years) heavily emphasize the practice of meditation as central to divine union.
Yogic practices like meditation are inward in nature. In meditation, we literally turn our attention from the outside in, noticing the breath and controlling our focus. Through concentration, we can achieve elevated states of consciousness, which can include feelings of joy, calmness, and love.
The beautiful thing about experiencing states of joy, calmness, and love in meditation is precisely because you are experiencing those states while meditating. While doing "nothing" (so it appears under outside observation - although meditation is actually active and not passive, but perceiving the action is difficult since it is all inward). In this experience, no outside validation is needed. We aren't feeling joy because someone noticed us, or because we were recognized for an achievement, or because we bought or were given something we longed for. There is nothing causing the joy which is related to anything outside ourselves. We experience joy in its purest state. Just joy, just because. The same goes for calmness or love or any other experiences in meditation. As long as we are holding true to the meditative state and not drifting into memories or meandering thoughts, these states are generated from within without external cause. This is something to get habitualized to! Not depending on the outer world for your joy, peace, calmness, and love can be downright revolutionary if you have been living your life in relation to everything around you and how you fit in with all of it. We realize that we already have - in fact, we are - that joy, calmness, and love which we have been looking for in our partners, friends, family, work, things, and so on. The joy, calmness, and love is within us at all times - we only need stop and tune into it.
The deeper we go in meditation, the more able we are to detach from the likes and dislikes of others. We can separate our worth from how we are seen by others. We can understand that if someone is rude to us without cause, it's a reflection of their inner state and not a reflection of us. We needn't fret over how we are perceived because we are directed within - not in an egotistical way, but working to align ourselves with our Higher Self, with our divinity.
Consider these words from Paramhansa Yogananda, from the book The Essence of Self-Realization:
Do not expect a spiritual blossom every day in the garden of your life. Have faith that the Lord, if you surrender yourself to Him completely, will bring you divine fulfillment in His time, which is the right time.
It is important to remember that changes which come from incorporating meditation into your life can be subtle. We may feel that we aren't really affecting any change because we don't get dramatic visions or hear yes or no answers to our questions in meditation. I have personally reflected that my efforts seem verily one-sided: much sending energy out without being able to perceive what is being received back. What a blessing it is for those who can perceive these things more easily than I can.
So, this passage by Yogananda is a wonderful reminder to me. I must remember that if I keep up my side with devotion, meditation, and doing what I can to keep my vibration high, I am watering that seed which by divine law will flower in its time. This has probably been a stumbling point for countless souls through the ages - giving up their efforts toward Self-realization because they believe divine fulfillment would have come sooner were it to come at all. But particularly in this age, where instant gratification is at an all-time high, citizens of many cultures on this planet have set themselves up for disappointment when they are up against something which requires patience, steadfastness, and subtlety.
Keep going with your meditation practice, even if you experience periods of what seems like stagnation. Use your willpower to persevere, and know that things will unfold in their time. Continue to look for that fairest flower of Self-realization, knowing that it ultimately appears for all souls.
I remember the ten-speed bike I had as a girl. It was red with purple accents, and it seemed so grown up compared to the bike I'd had previously. The brakes were controlled by hand as opposed to pedaling backwards, and controlling the bike with gears was totally new to me. Two friends who lived on the same cul-de-sac and were my same age also got ten-speeds about the same time as me. We loved riding around the neighborhood together, edging further and further from the familiarity of our culture-de-sac and onto streets unknown to us.
I really didn't understand the purpose of the gears, but through experimentation I realized gear one made pedaling really easy. I tried the higher gears, but I didn't understand why I would ever choose to put myself through the effort required of them! I vaguely remember being advised to stick to a middle gear unless I "needed" the others at specific times, but I threw that advice out the window when I experienced the nearly non-existent resistance of gear one.
As my two friends and I began branching out from our little cul-de-sac and exploring the other parts of our neighborhood, our cycling behaviors changed. We were covering bigger differences for longer stretches of times, and I began to notice how much faster they were than me! I would pedal, pedal, pedal, and get a fraction of the distance that they got with less pedaling. It took me a while to understand that I kept falling behind because my gear was too low. I needed more resistance to be able to go further. I needed the higher gears to advance.
And such it is with life. We can tailor our lives so we are met with mostly ease all day long, day after day. Maybe we have stayed too long in a job which doesn't demand our best, and we move through the workday without much thought or interest. Perhaps we spend far too many hours each day scrolling through social media, YouTube, or watching TV. Maybe the bulk of our waking hours are fixated on other people - what they are doing, wearing, saying - and we let this distract us from the work we are here to do on ourselves. There are countless ways we can move thoughtlessly through the world, allowing ourselves to be distracted by outer things and thus not introspecting and growing as we might otherwise.
In yogic tradition (and many others), it is said that we are all here for a purpose. The purpose is individual - we aren't all meant to discover the theory of relativity, for instance - but we all have lessons to learn through this incarnation. The way we learn our lessons, the way our souls grow and mature, is through experience. The lessons we get the most from typically aren't fun or easy, they are painful. The things which really grab ahold of us and snap us to attention are usually things we wouldn't choose - the death of a loved one, a serious illness, a broken relationship, the loss of a job, a fire, an accident, and so on. These are things anyone would resist going through. But what if the worst things you have gone through are the perfect alchemy to deliver you to the best you can get from this life? What if it's a cleverly disguised present from the universe to allow you to experience growth which wouldn't be possible with comfort?
Yogic masters say that for a soul to evolve, it must neutralize all its karma from all incarnations. The soul will only be free when it has paid all karmic debts and released all desires. Paying off incarnations of karma takes work! Riding around life in first gear isn't going to do very much to advance the soul. We need those higher gears which make us work a little harder in order to advance our souls. Trust in the universe when you are going through a difficult patch that you are in fact being held and watched over. That higher intelligent power which flows through everything is seeking to help you get what you came here for by giving you the exact opportunity to experience what you need to experience to work through your lessons. This is not to say that you are enduring any type of "punishment" when you go through something painful. What can feel like pain and sacrifice can be just what the soul needs for progression.
I am an Ananda® certified meditation teacher. I am passionate about meditation and embrace a yogic lifestyle for greater wellness physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
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