Step 4: Living a Meditative Life
In this fourth and final step you will:
- Learn how the power of mantra can help your meditation.
- Learn how the power of words can improve the quality of your life.
The Power of Words
You’ve come a long way in the last three weeks. We hope by now you are feeling more comfortable with meditation. This week you will be continuing all of your exercises from Week 3, plus you’ll be adding one more important technique: mantra.
Simply put, mantra is the repetition of a word or a phrase. Traditionally, mantras are specific words or phrases that invoke or embody some spiritual power. In a broader sense, any word or phrase that you use on a habitual basis is a kind of mantra. In either case, the power of mantra comes from repetition and from the qualities of the words themselves. Therefore the effect of the mantra on your consciousness depends on how often you repeat the mantra and the words you use. If you use positive, spiritual, uplifting words, your life will be positively affected. If you use negative words, your life will be negatively affected.
This week you’ll be trying a few traditional mantras and mantric songs during your meditation, using spiritual words that contain tremendous power. But you need not limit your use of mantra to meditation. Mantras can be used any time you need them. For example, if you are feeling stressed out and you are in a situation where you can’t meditate, you can always silently chant a mantra.
Tips for a Meditative Life
Does this mean you need to drastically change your life within the next ten minutes? No. Your own meditation will naturally, gradually, and gently make the necessary changes in your life. In fact, you may have noticed some of these changes already.
However, you can encourage and accelerate the process by consciously engaging your body, mind, heart, and soul in sup-port of your meditation. There are countless things you can do; here are a few suggestions:
- Exercise: By cleansing and strengthening your body and mind, exercise can have a tremendous impact on the quality of your meditation.
- Diet: Many people who meditate find a vegetarian diet to be especially beneficial, from both a physical and a spiritual point of view.
- Inspirational Reading: Many other spiritual seekers have passed this way before us, and their writings are a valuable source of inspiration, consolation, and direction. Try to make inspirational readings a regular part of your mental diet.
- Music: Music is a universal language that speaks directly to our heart and soul. Try to surround yourself with meditative music—in your car, at work, at home, even while going to sleep. Singing and playing meditative music can have a mantric effect.
- Spiritual Friendship: Friends provide strength in our moments of need and affirmation in our moments of joy. That’s why it is so important to have friends who live a meditative lifestyle, and can share in your experiences as you progress in your own meditation. Whenever possible, take the opportunity to enjoy group meditation—if the group is practicing a form of meditation harmonious with your own. The collective energy and inspiration of the group will be an invaluable aid to your own meditation practice.
Step 4: Exercises
Exercise 1: Mantric songs
These are some simple songs that we often play in our meditation classes. They are Sanskrit mantras that are thousands of years old, that have been set to music by Sri Chinmoy. Play the mantra, and try to sing along with it, either silently or (preferably) audibly. Using the folded-hands posture is especially powerful when it comes to singing mantras; it make it much easier to get in contact with your heart.
Exercise 2: One-word mantras
- You can start with the word Aum - you can read about the significance of this word in chapter 9 of the handout. Note especially that the ‘M’ sound should be about three times as long as the ‘AU’ sound, and that Aum rhymes with “home.” A good start is to chant the mantra 13 times slowly.
- After you have chanted Aum, you may wish to try other mantras as well. Another powerful mantra is the word Supreme. Our teacher, Sri Chinmoy, really liked this word because repeating it invokes the highest reality within us.
- You might also try Peace, Shanti (“peace” in Sanskrit, rhymes with “Monty”), or Gratitude.
Towards a Higher Consciousness
You would probably like to improve the quality of your life, so that means improving the quality of your consciousness. But how do you do that? First of all, it’s important to understand that your consciousness is not simply “good” or “bad”; it exists on a continuous scale from lower (worse) to higher (better). What you choose to think and do on a moment-to-moment basis determines where your consciousness is on that scale.
Let’s look at it this way: think of your consciousness as an old-fashioned balance scale, like the one pictured here. To move your consciousness from the lower end of the scale towards the higher end of the scale, you can do two things:
- Place less on, or remove from, the lower side
- Place more on the higher side
Every time you meditate, you are putting more weight on the higher side of the consciousness scale. But what happens if you are also putting weight on the lower side in other areas of your life? The scale tips back towards the lower end of the scale, and much of the benefit derived from your meditation is lost. This is why many people eventually give up meditation.
You may be thinking, “All I have to do is stop putting weight on the lower end of the scale, and I’ll get the full benefit of my meditation.” If only it were that easy! In fact, if you already had the capacity to eliminate all the negative influences in your life, you wouldn’t need meditation in the first place. But as we all know, the reality of life is that we can and do fall prey to negative influ-ences that lower our consciousness. That’s why it’s so important to support your medi-ta-tion with all parts of your being.
You Made It!
Congratulations! Four solid weeks of meditation is a tremendous accomplishment which is bound to bear fruit. Before thinking about what lies ahead, take some time now to look back through your journal.
- How has your meditation changed over the last four weeks?
- More importantly, how has your meditation changed you over the last four weeks? Is there any difference in your awareness of yourself and the world around you?
Hopefully the answer to the last question is a resounding “Yes!”—and hopefully the change in your awareness has been a positive one! If you aren’t sure how (or if) your awareness has changed, think carefully about how your day-to-day inter-actions with the world have changed over the past month. Are you less affected by outer circumstances? Are you more conscious of the underlying causes of your actions towards others and their actions towards you? If you’re not sure, let’s look at a few examples of how your aware-ness may have changed. Although you may not have been in these exact situations, and your reactions may not have been exactly the same, chances are you have experienced something similar.
Situation: Someone yells at you for no reason.
Old reaction: You immediately get defensive and yell right back.
New reaction: You have sympathy and understanding. You say to yourself, “That person must be under a lot of pressure.”
Situation: Traffic jam on the way to or from work.
Old reaction: You get angry and frustrated.
New reaction: You look for the good side of any situation. In this case you realise you have extra time do your favourite meditation practise right there in your car.
Situation: Things don’t go “your way.”
Old reaction: Your expectation of a certain result leads to frustration. You cry to the heavens, “Why do these things always happen to me!” Because you depend on outer circumstances to measure yourself, your self-esteem suffers. “Why can’t I do anything right?” you wonder.
New reaction: Things happen—but because you don’t expect them to happen in a certain way, there’s no frustration. And because you are more centered, your self-esteem is less vulnerable to outer events.
In each situation, notice something important: the external events haven’t changed; what’s changed is the state of consciousness you are in when the events occur. In other words:
- Your consciousness determines how you interpret outer events;
- This interpretation determines your experience of the world, positive or negative;
- Your experience of the world determines the quality of your life.
It all begins with consciousness. The bottom line is - the quality of your consciousness determines the quality of your life.
Where Do I Go From Here?
Keep on meditating! If you would like to receive information on other offerings by the Sri Chinmoy Centre, you can contact the Centre nearest you.
Thank you for allowing us to be of service in your search for greater meaning and fulfillment through meditation. Meditation has been an incredible gift to our lives, and we consider it a privilege to have had the oppor-tunity to share that gift with you. Wherever life’s journey may lead you, may you find peace, joy, happiness, and success. And please remember: