A comprehensive guide to starting and maintaining a meditation practise.
Developing your meditation practice over time
Free Meditation Classes - available in 350 cities around the world
Experience the power and beauty of meditation for yourself through our free introductory classes. Find a class near you »
Unless otherwise cited, the passages in sections 1-3 are taken from Sri Chinmoy's book Meditation: Man-Perfection in God-Satisfaction, which has been a popular guide to meditation for over 20 years. Interspersed with the passages are audio recordings and video clips that you can use during the exercises, with accompanying footnotes that link to pages where you can download for your own use.
excerpted from the writings of Sri Chinmoy
What happens during meditation?
When we meditate, we make the mind calm, quiet and still—without thoughts. At that time, we have to be fully aware of the arrival of thoughts and allow no idle thoughts to enter into the mind. The mind is vacant and tranquil, with neither good nor bad thoughts; nothing at all. Our whole existence becomes an empty vessel. When this vessel is absolutely empty, with our whole inner being we invoke infinite Peace, Light and Bliss so it will enter into the vessel and fill it. This is meditation.
Meditation is like going to the bottom of the sea, where everything is calm and tranquil. On the surface there may be a multitude of waves, but the sea is not affected below. In its deepest depths, the sea is all silence. When we start meditating, first we try to reach our own the inner existence, our true existence-that is to say, the on bottom of the sea. Then, when the waves come from the outside world, we are not affected. Fear, doubt, worry and all the earthly turmoil will just wash away, because inside us is solid peace. Thoughts cannot trouble us, because our mind is all peace, all silence, oneness. Like fish in the sea, they jump and swim but leave no mark. So when we are in our highest meditation we feel that we are the sea, and the animals in the sea cannot affect us. We feel that we are the sky, and all the birds flying past cannot affect us. Our mind is the sky and our heart is the infinite sea. This is meditation.
True inner joy is self-created
It does not depend on outer circumstances
A river is flowing in and through you carrying the message of joy.
This divine joy is the sole purpose of life. 1
What benefits do we get from meditation?
Everybody wants to be fulfilled, everybody wants happiness. Without happiness we cannot stay on earth. In spite of being a multimillionaire, a rich man is unhappy because his money is not giving him satisfaction or happiness. Without happiness he remains miserable. Why do we want to be happy? Because we want fulfilment.Meditation has two things to offer us: self-mastery and self-transformation. These two go together. When we meditate, immediately we have the beginnings of self-mastery, and when we have self-mastery, we see that we cannot cherish ugly or undivine thoughts; we cannot remain inside ignorance anymore.
If we want any real peace, real joy, real love, then we have to meditate. The so-called peace we feel in our day-to-day lives is five minutes of peace after ten hours of anxiety, worry and frustration...We get divine peace through meditation. Even if we meditate for fifteen minutes and get peace for only one minute, that one minute of peace, if it is solid peace, will be able to permeate our whole day. If in the morning we have meditated at six o'clock, in the evening we will still feel inner peace, inner joy, inner light. 2
(Video: Sri Chinmoy answers the question 'What is meditation?' during an interview, followed by footage of Sri Chinmoy meditating. A podcast from the 'Meditation-Silence' series. 3)
To follow the spiritual life, you should meditate at least once a day. It is best to meditate early in the morning when the atmosphere is calm and peaceful.
In the beginning you should not even think about meditation. Just try to set aside a certain time of day when you will try to be calm and quiet, and feel that these five minutes belong to your inner being and to nobody else. Regularity is of paramount importance. What you need is regular practice at a regular time.
When you meditate at home, set aside a corner of your room which you can make absolutely pure and sanctified - a sacred place that you use only for meditation. For your daily meditation, it is best to meditate alone. Before beginning your meditation, it is helpful to take a shower or proper bath. It is also advisable to wear clean and light clothes.
It will help if you burn incense and candles and keep some flowers in front of you. The outer flower will remind you of the flower inside your heart. When you smell the scent of incense, you will gain inspiration and purification to add to your inner treasure. When you see the outer flame, immediately you will feel your inner flame climbing high, higher, highest.
(Audio: An invocation of peace - Sri Chinmoy sings an ancient Sanskrit prayer for peace, giving first the beautiful English translation. This is followed by chanting of the peace mantra Shanti, and one of Sri Chinmoy's own peace songs in English. 4)
Start with Concentration
For a beginner it is better to start with concentration. Otherwise, the moment you try to make your mind calm and vacant, millions of uncomely thoughts will enter into you and you will not be able to meditate even for one second. If you concentrate, at that time you challenge the wrong thoughts that are trying to enter you. So in the beginning just practise concentration for a few minutes. Then, after a few weeks or a few months, you can try meditation.
If you want to develop the power of concentration, then here is an exercise you can try. First wash your face and eyes properly with cold water. Then make a black dot on the wall at eye level. Stand facing the dot, about ten inches away, and concentrate on it. After a few minutes, try to feel that when you are breathing in, your breath is actually coming from the dot, and that the dot is also breathing in, getting its breath from you. Try to feel that there are two persons: you and the black dot. Your breath is coming from the dot and its breath is coming from you.
When meditating, it is important to keep the spine straight and erect, and to keep the body relaxed. You will find that your inner being will spontaneously take you to a comfortable position; it is up to you to maintain it. Some seekers like to meditate while laying down, but this is not advisable. You may enter into a world of sleep or into a kind of inner doze.
Again, the lotus position, which is an advanced yoga posture, is not necessary for proper meditation. Many people meditate very well while they are seated in a chair.
There is only one thing to learn:
how to be honestly happy.
Proper breathing is very important in meditation. When breathing, try to inhale as slowly and quietly as possible, so that if somebody placed a tiny thread in front of your nose, it would not move at all. And try to exhale more slowly still. If possible, leave a short pause between the end of your exhalation and the beginning of your inhalation. If you can, hold your breath for a few seconds. But if it is difficult, do not do it. Never do anything that will harm your organs or respiratory system.
Meditating in the heart
If you meditate in the heart, you are meditating where the soul is. True, the light and consciousness of the soul permeate the whole body, but there is a specific place where the soul resides most of the time, and that is in the heart. If you want illumination, you have to get it from the soul, which is inside the heart. When you know what you want and where to find it, the sensible thing is to go to that place. Otherwise, it is like going to the hardware store to get groceries.
There is a vast difference between what you can get from the mind and what you can get from the heart. The mind is limited; the heart is unlimited. Deep within you are infinite peace, light and bliss. To get a limited quantity is an easy task. Meditation in the mind can give it to you. But you can get infinitely more if you meditate in the heart.
At most, what you can get from the mind is inspiration, which itself is limited. For real aspiration you have to go to the heart. Aspiration comes from the heart because the illumination of the soul is always there. When you meditate on the heart, not only do you get aspiration, but you also get the fulfilment of that aspiration: the soul's infinite peace, light and bliss.
If you want to see the Face of God,
then you must at least spend some time every day with His chosen instrument:
your own heart.
If you are meditating properly, you will get spontaneous inner joy. Nobody has given you good news, nobody has brought you any gifts, nobody has appreciated or admired you, nobody has done anything for you, but you will have an inner feeling of delight. If this happens, then you know that you are meditating properly.
There is also another way that you can know. If you are actually entering into a higher plane, you will feel that your body is becoming very light. Although you don't have wings, you will almost feel that you can fly. In fact, when you have reached a very high world, you will actually see a bird inside you that can easily fly just as real birds do.
If you have a good feeling for the world, if you see the world in a loving way in spite of its teeming imperfections, then you will know that your meditation was good. And if you have a dynamic feeling right after meditation, if you feel that you have come into the world to do something and become something - to grow into God's very image and become His dedicated instrument - this indicates that you have had a good meditation. But the easiest way to know if you have had a good meditation is to feel whether peace, light, love and delight have come to the fore from within. • Read full excerpt »
excerpted from the writings of Sri Chinmoy
Each time you breathe in, try to feel that you are bringing into your body infinite peace. When you breathe out, try to feel that you are expelling the restlessness within and all around you.
After practising this a few times, try to feel that you are inhaling power from the universe. When you exhale, feel that all your fear is leaving your body. After doing this a few times, try to feel that what you are breathing in is infinite joy, and what you are breathing out is sorrow, suffering and depression.
There is also something else you can try. Feel that you are breathing in not air, but cosmic energy. Feel that there is not a single place in your body that is not being filled by cosmic energy. It is flowing like a river inside you, washing and purifying your whole being. Then when you start to breathe out, feel that you are breathing out all the rubbish inside you - all your undivine thoughts, obscure ideas and impure actions.
Keep your eyes half open and imagine the vast sky. In the beginning try to feel that the sky is in front of you; later try to feel that you are as vast as the sky, or that you are the vast sky itself.
After a few minutes please close your eyes and try to see and feel the sky inside your heart. Please feel that you are the universal heart, and that inside you is the sky that you meditated upon and identified yourself with. Your spiritual heart is infinitely vaster than the sky, so you can easily house the sky within yourself.
(Video: Sri Chinmoy wrote many meditative aphorisms that can be used as visualisation exercises. For example, this video features a series of Sri Chinmoy's aphorisms on the theme 'Imagine', along with beautiful photographs of nature. 5)
Visualisation exercise: the heart rose
Kindly imagine a flower inside your heart. Suppose you prefer a rose. Imagine that the rose is not fully blossomed; it is still a bud. After you have meditated for two or three minutes, please try to imagine that petal by petal the flower is blossoming. See and feel the flower blossoming petal by petal inside your heart. Then, after five minutes, try to feel that there is no heart at all; there is only a flower inside you called 'heart'. You do not have a heart, but only a flower. The flower has become your heart or your heart has become a flower.
After seven or eight minutes, please feel that this flower-heart has covered your whole body. Your body is no longer here; from your head to your feet you can feel the fragrance of the rose. If you look at your feet, immediately you experience the fragrance of a rose. If you look at your knee, you experience the fragrance of a rose. If you look at your hand, you experience the fragrance of a rose. Everywhere the beauty, fragrance and purity of the rose have permeated your entire body. When you feel from your head to your feet that you have become only the beauty, fragrance, purity and delight of the rose, then you are ready to place yourself at the Feet of your Beloved Supreme.
Become the soul
In order to purify your mind, the best thing to do is to feel every day for a few minutes during your meditation that you have no mind. Say to yourself, "I have no mind, I have no mind. What I have is the heart." Then after some time feel, "I don't have a heart. What I have is the soul." When you say, "I have the soul," at that time you will be flooded with purity. But again you have to go deeper and farther by saying not only, "I have the soul," but also "I am the soul." At that time, imagine the most beautiful child you have ever seen, and feel that your soul is infinitely more beautiful than that child.
The moment you can say and feel, "I am the soul," and meditate on this truth, your soul's infinite purity will enter into your heart. Then, from the heart, the infinite purity will enter into your mind. When you can truly feel that you are only the soul, the soul will purify your mind.
The best way to become one with soulful music is to have the firm inner conviction while listening to it that as you are breathing in, the breath is immediately entering directly into your soul. And with the breath, you have to feel that the Universal Consciousness, divine Reality, divine Truth is also entering. Then, when you breathe out, try to feel that you are breathing out the ignorance that is covering your soul. Feel that the veils of ignorance are being lifted and discarded. If you can consciously imagine and feel this, it is the best way to become one with soulful music.
(Video: Sri Chinmoy meditates, and then plays flute during a 1991 concert in Malta.6 Sri Chinmoy's flute music is an especially accessible accompaniment for those beginning meditation)
Let us not try to understand music with our mind.
Let us not even try to feel it with our heart.
Let us simply and spontaneously allow the music-bird to fly in our heart-sky.
While flying, it will unconditionally reveal to us what it has and what it is.
What it has, is Immortality's message.
What it is, is Eternity's passage.
Increasing your inner capacity through gratitude
Receptivity is the capacity to absorb and hold the divine gifts that the Supreme showers upon you during your meditation. If you want to be receptive, when you sit down to meditate, consciously try to bring light into your being. Once you have brought light inside, direct it to the right place, the spiritual heart. Then try to grow into that light.
The easiest and most effective way to increase your receptivity is to offer your deepest gratitude to the Supreme each day before you meditate. When you offer gratitude to God, immediately your inner vessel becomes large. Then God is able to pour more of His blessings into you or enter more fully into you with His own divine Existence. God is infinite, but only according to our receptivity can He enter into us. God is like sunlight. If I leave the curtains open, sunlight will come in. If I keep all the curtains closed, it cannot come in. The more curtains we open, the more God enters into us with infinite light. When we offer gratitude, immediately God's light comes pouring into our being.
Gratitude means self-offering to one's highest self. Your gratitude is not going to somebody else; it is going to your own highest self. Gratitude helps you identify and feel your oneness with your own highest reality.
Beauty came to me like the morning rose.
Duty came to me like the morning sun.
Divinity came to me like the morning aspiration.
A mantra is an incantation. It can be a syllable, a word, a few words or a sentence. When you repeat a mantra many times, it is called japa. A mantra represents a particular aspect of God, and each mantra has a special significance and inner power.
If you cannot enter into your deepest meditation because your mind is restless, this is an opportunity to utilise a mantra. You can repeat "Supreme" or Aum or "God" for a few minutes.
If you want to achieve overall purification of your nature, then japa can be most effective if you do it in a systematic way, step by step. On the first day repeat Aum or "Supreme" or whatever mantra your Master has given you five hundred times. The next day repeat it six hundred times; the day after that, seven hundred; and so on, until you reach twelve hundred at the end of one week. Then begin descending each day until you reach five hundred again. In this way you can climb up the tree and climb down the tree.
Often when you complete your japa, you will hear the mantra being repeated inside your heart. Your mouth is not saying it, but your inner being has started repeating the mantra spontaneously.
|(Audio: Sri Chinmoy chants mantra Aum followed by 'Peace' during a Peace concert in Albany, New York, 1992.7)|
excerpted from the writings of Sri Chinmoy
Getting inspiration through reading
If you are an absolute beginner, then you can start by reading a few spiritual books or scriptures. These will give you inspiration. You should read books by spiritual Masters in whom you have implicit faith. There are Masters who have attained the highest consciousness, and if you read their books, you are bound to get inspiration. It is better not to read books written by professors or scholars or aspirants who are still on the path and have not yet attained illumination. Only those who have realised the Truth will have the capacity to offer the Truth. Otherwise, it is like the blind leading the blind.
It is also a good idea to associate with people who have been meditating for some time. These people may not be in a position to teach you, but they will be able to inspire you. Even if you just sit beside them while they are meditating, unconsciously your inner being will derive some meditative power from them. You are not stealing anything; only your inner being is taking help from them without your outer knowledge.
Keeping your enthusiasm alive
What should you do if you feel no enthusiasm or inspiration to meditate on a particular day? For a fleeting second remember what you were before you entered into the spiritual life. When you see the difference between what you were and what you are now, automatically a spring of gratitude to the Supreme will well up inside you, for it is He who has inspired you and awakened your inner cry, and it is He who is fulfilling Himself in and through you.
Another thing you can do is to think of a time when you had a most sublime meditation, and consciously dive deep into that experience. Think of its essence-how you were thrilled, how you were jumping with delight. At first you will just be imagining the experience, because you are not actually having that meditation. But if you enter into the world of imagination and stay there for ten or fifteen minutes, power will automatically enter into your meditation and it will bear fruit. Then it will not be imagination at all; you will actually be deep in the world of meditation.
Aspiration-efforts always supply satisfaction-results.
It may take time, at times,
But the results are unmistakably sure.
Do not be discouragedPlease do not be disturbed if you cannot meditate well in the beginning. Even in the ordinary life, God alone knows how many years one must practise in order to become very good at something. If an accomplished pianist thinks of what his standard was when he first began to play, he will laugh. It is through gradual progress that he has achieved his present musical height.
In the spiritual life also, you may find it difficult to meditate in the beginning. But do not try to force yourself. Ten minutes early in the morning is enough. Gradually your capacity will increase. If you practise every day, you will make progress in your inner life.
(Video: Excerpts from 'The Seeker's Journey' - a 1973 talk given by Sri Chinmoy in Cambridge University - set to a background of inspiring images. 8)
It so often happens that the last key opens the door.
Likewise, it is your last prayer that may grant you salvation,
and your last meditation that may grant you realisation.
Keeping a consistent standard
Please feel that every day is equally important. Your difficulty is that when you do something well you feel that you deserve some relaxation. Today you do a wonderful meditation, and then you feel, "Oh since today I had a wonderful meditation, tomorrow I can relax." You feel that your meditation will maintain the same speed, but it doesn't.
Every time you meditate, you have to feel that this may be your last chance. Feel that tomorrow you may die, so if you fail today, then zero will be your mark. When the teacher gives you the examination paper today, please don't feel that tomorrow again he will give you the same examination. The past is gone. The future does not exist. There is only the present. Here in the present, either you have to become divine, or else you will remain as undivine as you were yesterday. Since you want to become divine, you should do the right is thing here and now. This should be your attitude.
You should make yourself feel that today is the last day for you to achieve everything that you are supposed to achieve. If you fail today, then tomorrow again you have to feel that this is your last day.
(Audio: 'I go out, I come in' - Sri Chinmoy reads a series of aphorisms emphasising the contrast between the outer and the inner life, accompanied by meditative music. 9)
Do not give up!
If we practise concentration and meditation regularly, we are bound to succeed. If we are really sincere, we will reach the goal. But the difficulty is that we may be sincere for one day or for one week, and then we feel that meditation is not meant for us. We want to realise God overnight. We think, "Let me pray for one week, one month, one year." After one year, if we don't realise God, we give up. We feel that the spiritual life is not meant for us.
The road to God-realisation is long. Sometimes, while walking along the road you will see beautiful trees with foliage, flowers and fruits. Sometimes you will see that there is only a road, without any beautiful scenery. Sometimes you may feel that you are on an endless road through a barren desert, and that the goal is impossibly far away. But you cannot give up walking just because the distance seems far, or because you are tired and have no inspiration. You have to be a divine soldier and march on bravely and untiringly. Each day you will travel another mile, and by taking one step at a time eventually you will reach your goal. At that time you will definitely feel that it was worth the struggle.
Do not give up.
If you persist, tomorrow's peace will come and feed your mind today,
and tomorrow's perfection will come and touch your life today.
(This point marks the end of extracts from Meditation: Man-Perfection in God-Satisfaction, by Sri Chinmoy. You can read on the topics in fuller detail by clicking on the links at the end of paragraphs)
compiled by members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre
HomeStudy meditation course - Based on years of experience teaching meditation courses all over the world, Sri Chinmoy's students have put together this four week meditation course.
Audio exercises: given by Bhuvah from the Christchurch Centre in New Zealand. The below exercise focuses on quieting the mind and meditating on the heart. Download exercises »
Most of the links below are to Radio Sri Chinmoy, which contains a large collection of meditative music by Sri Chinmoy and his students.
Flute music for meditation
Audio on left: Sri Chinmoy performs on western flute during a Peace Concert in Yale University, 1992. Sri Chinmoy's flute music has been a very popular and accessible accompaniment to meditation beginners for many years. Downloadable albums include:
Sri Chinmoy gave almost 800 concerts of meditation music. He would begin the concert by bowing to the audience and meditating, before playing on a variety of Eastern and Western instruments.
Instrumental and singing groups
Sri Chinmoy's students spent many years learning his vast repertoire of songs, in many cases taught personally by Sri Chinmoy, who encouraged his students to arrange and perform meditative music for the general public. Some recordings are very soft and soothing, while others reflect the dynamic journey of the soul on its way to the Infinite.
Meditation evenings with Sri Chinmoy would often include acappella singing of his mantric songs by various groups. These recordings have a tremendous purity and simplicity which sound a little like Gregorian chanting.
Concert performances by Sri Chinmoy's students
The Sri Chinmoy Centre puts on concerts of meditative music all over the world. ranging from individual instrumental performances and group performances, to the international Songs of the Soul concert series - in which an ensemble of up to 100 singers and musicians perform - which has toured to over 25 countries.
Meditative soundscapes by Alap
Alap from Switzerland is a noted experimental musician who creates beautiful harmonies on a variety of instruments. Here are some recordings he has released to date:
- Meditation music page on Radio Sri Chinmoy.
A selection of mantras that are especially suitable for beginners.
These arrangements were created by the Ananda music group from the UK and Ireland. All mantras and music downloadable at Radio Sri Chinmoy.
Meditation Silence is a series of videos, introducing aspects of meditation.
View: Meditation Silence at Sri Chinmoy TV
by Members of Sri Chinmoy Centre
- Seven Secrets of Meditation by Jogyata Dallas
- Giving Meditation Classes by Devashishu Torpy
- A life less ordinary by John Gillespie
- Touching The Infinite by Jogyata Dallas
Benefits of Meditation by Tejvan Pettinger
Resources on external sites
- Quotes on Meditation by Sri Chinmoy
- Photos from the World Harmony Run site - these pictures are from a 2008 run around the coast of Australia promoting harmony and international friendship, by Prabhakar Street and others.
- Rose Photo: Phoolanjaya Beale at Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries
- Opening photograph of Sri Chinmoy meditating by Shraddha Howard.
- 1. From the Wings of Joy, by Sri Chinmoy, published by Simon & Schuster 1997
- 2. The passages for this question are taken from Meditation: God's Duty And Man's Beauty by Sri Chinmoy, Agni Press, 1974.
- 3. Podcasts available to download on Sri Chinmoy TV
- 4. Downloadable from the album Journey Beyond Within - track 7 at Radio Sri Chinmoy
- 5. Video by Kedar Misani, photographs by by Mananyu and Sushuti Siffert, downloadable at Sri Chinmoy TV
- 6. Downloadable at Sri Chinmoy TV
- 7. From the album Peace: Divinity's Dream on Earth (track 2), available to download on Radio Sri Chinmoy
- 8. Video by Kedar Misani, read by Kaivalya Torpy. Contains images from NASA space photographs. Available to download on Sri Chinmoy TV. Original talk available on Sri Chinmoy Library.
- 9. Downloadable from the album Journey Beyond Within - track 5 at Radio Sri Chinmoy