Week 2: Focusing the Mind

temple

To think well of all, to be cheerful with all,
To patiently learn to find the good in all—
Such unselfish thoughts are the very portals of heaven;
And to dwell day by day in thoughts of peace toward every creature
Will bring abounding peace to their possessor.

James Allen

Goals for the second week:

  • Continue your regular, daily meditation practice in your special spot.
  • Learn more about how to focus your mind through concentration.
  • Learn how to meditate with your eyes open.

A New Awareness

In your meditation during the first week, did you have the following experience? The moment you tried to quiet your mind, it filled with a million thoughts!

You were probably shocked at just how rambunctious your mind is. And you may have become a bit discouraged as a result. Don’t be discouraged! This is a universal experience.

Step back for a moment, though, and think about it—unless you had meditated before, this was probably the first time you had ever really noticed your thoughts. And if you were actually aware of your thoughts, that means that you have a higher, deeper consciousness that is separate from your mind. This is a great achievement! You have already reached a level of awareness beyond what most people will achieve in their lifetime.

You are probably still wondering why it is that you seem to have more thoughts as soon as you start to meditate. In reality you don’t.

Imagine that your mind is a car travelling down the highway at high speed. When the windows are closed, you’re flowing along with the car, and you don’t have much of a feeling for how fast you are actually going. However, if you open the window and put your head outside, what happens? Wham! You get hit in the face by a blast of air, and you suddenly have a very good sense of how fast you are going. The question is, was the blast of air always there, moving that fast? The answer, of course, is yes.

This is exactly what happens when you first try to quiet your mind. In your ordinary day-to-day awareness, you are flowing along with your mind’s thoughts, and you’re not aware of how many thoughts there are and how fast they are going. But as soon as you start meditating, it’s as if you put your head out of the car window and you get hit by a blast of thoughts. Were the thoughts always there? They were, only you weren’t aware of them.

So if you are trying to meditate and you become aware that you are having millions of thoughts, don’t worry. That awareness is exactly what you need. Once you are aware of your thoughts, only then can you gently bring your focus back to your breath, or the candle, or to whatever it is you are focusing on during your meditation.

My heart needs only one thing:
It needs to be guided
Along the age-old path
Of life-blossoming
Self-awareness.

Sri Chinmoy

But will my mind ever become quiet?

Yes! Remember, you are trying to discipline a mind that has been free to roam for a long time. And as you have discovered, it is impossible to shut it off all at once. That’s why you will be focusing on concentration this week. By concentrating the mind, you may still be thinking, but at least you are thinking about only one thing, and it will be you that is directing your mind, not vice versa.

Your muscles respond to regular exercise. In the same way, as you continue your daily meditation practice, your mind will become more disciplined and the number of thoughts you have will diminish. But try not to evaluate how well you are doing; you can be sure that if you are practicing regularly you are making solid progress.

When the mind stops talking,
The heart starts dreaming
And life starts blossoming.

Sri Chinmoy

If you find it difficult to deal with the flood of thoughts during meditation, you can use some simple imagery. Think of your consciousness as the vast ocean or the limitless sky, and your thoughts are like fish swimming or birds flying by in the distance. The important thing is to feel that the thoughts are insignificant, and that you don’t have to follow them.

So please be patient. With regular practice, you will definitely notice positive changes not only in your meditation, but in your day-to-day life as well.

Readings & Exercises

Up to now you have been meditating mostly with your eyes closed. This week you will practice concentration and meditation with your eyes open. By concentrating your mental focus on an object such as a candle or a flower, you will learn to anchor your mind and curb its tendency to wander.Like many beginners, you may find that you are distracted by the everyday noises around you. There are a couple of ways to deal with this problem:

  • You could go into a soundproof room every time you meditate—not very practical!
  • Meditate early in the morning when there is less going on in the world.
  • Learn to integrate noises into your meditation by allowing them to pass by—the best solution of all, because then you will be able to meditate anytime, anywhere, no matter what is going on around you. 

Learning to detach yourself from noises takes time and practice. But once you can detach yourself from noises and meditate with your eyes open, you will possess a powerful tool to change your consciousness at a moment’s notice. And once you can change your own consciousness, you will also have a positive effect on the consciousness of those around you.

Let’s look at a brief example to see what a powerful effect your consciousness can have on the world. Imagine for a moment that you have just arrived at work half an hour late after fighting traffic for an hour. You’re in a really bad mood, and as a result you yell at your co-worker Joe for no reason. (Yes, we know that this would never happen to you, but just imagine for now.) Now Joe is in a bad mood. Joe goes home and yells at his wife, who yells at the kids, who in turn yell at the dog. The next day Joe’s family takes their anger out on others, and soon your one action has negatively impacted a large number of people.

Now imagine that you have just arrived at work a half hour late after fighting traffic for an hour, but this time you meditate for a few moments to bring peace and harmony into your being. You smile at Joe and say something to brighten up his day. He goes home, hugs his wife and kids, and pets the dog. They all feel loved, and the next day they spread this love - which started with you - to the people around them. This circle of love spreads until your consciousness has had a positive impact on a great many people.

If it sounds simple, that’s because it is.
You and I create the world
By the vibrations that we offer to the world.

Sri Chinmoy

Readings

All readings and exercises are taken from Meditation: Man-Perfection in God-Satisfaction, a collection of hundreds of extemporaneous talks and answers to questions by Sri Chinmoy, given over the past thirty-five years. Interspersed are some of his inspirational poems and aphorisms.

Meditation: Man-Perfection in God-Satisfaction can also be obtained from Heart-Light Distributors, a leading source for the books and music of Sri Chinmoy.

  • In Meditation, read Chapter 4 and Chapter 6 up to and including exercise 5 on pages 72-73. Read these chapters carefully to fully familiarize yourself with the techniques to still the mind.

Exercises

Now that you are familiar with breathing exercises, we can introduce some concentration exercises. Because you have progressed in your meditation practice, you don’t have to continue all of your Week 1 exercises. Start with your two favorite breathing exercises from Week 1. Once you have calmed your mind and body with your breathing exercises, begin the concentration exercises from Week 2.Your longing to grow into a higher and more fulfilling reality is your aspiration. While you are practicing the exercises this week, we recommend you try folding your hands with palms together, fingers straight and facing upward with the base of your thumbs gently touching your heart—as if in prayer. This physical act will remind you of what you are doing spiritually, and will actually intensify both your aspiration and your meditation.

Recommended Exercises

Chapter 6, pages 64-66, 72 (10-15 min)

As always, ensure you won’t be disturbed. Sit comfortably at your meditation shrine with your back straight. Light the candle and some incense, and play the meditation tape softly.

  • (5 min) Practice the two breathing exercises you selected from Week 1.
  • (3 min) Read pages 64-65, beginning with the section entitled “The soul’s indomitable will.” Try this exercise for several minutes with your eyes partially open.
  • (3 min) Read the next section, entitled “Concentrating from the heart,” and practice this for several minutes.
  • (3 min) Finally, turn to page 72 and try exercise 5, “The inner flower.”
  • Don’t forget to log your experiences in your journal.

Optional Exercises

Chapter 6, exercises 1-4, pages 69-72 (10-15 min)• During the week you can also practice these concentration exercises to help you expand your skills and to discover the techniques you prefer most. We each have our own unique way of meditating, and through your regular practice the methods which work best for you will slowly emerge.

We are what we repeatedly do.Excellence, then, is not an act,But a habit.- Aristotle

Week 2: Summary

During this second week, you will have:

  • Read Chapter 4 and Chapter 6 of Meditation up to and including pages 72-73.
  • Practiced the recommended meditation exercises for at least ten minutes daily - preferably at the same time each day.
  • Logged your practice and your experiences in the journal.

Nothing is Happening!

By now you’ve probably had a whole range of experiences in your medita-tion. No doubt there were some days—perhaps many days—when it felt like nothing was happening. Is this a problem? No. As long as you are meditating regularly, something is definitely happening deep within, whether you are aware of it or not.Remember, you’ve only meditated a few dozen times so far; if by now you had expected to be transported to an altered state of consciousness, or to have eliminated all negative emotions from your life, you are bound to be disappointed. Don’t be disappointed—change your expectations instead.

Peace begins
When expectation ends.

Sri Chinmoy 

Hopefully there were a few days when you felt something. It may have lasted for only a second or two, but that’s okay—that one second can change your entire day. There’s no magical milestone in your practice after which you will be able to meditate perfectly every time. Rather, as time goes on, there will be more and more moments during your meditation when you feel something happening inwardly, and these moments will increase in length.

Trust Your Soul

Every day when you meditate, your soul is being fed. And on any given day, your soul knows exactly how much and what kind of food it needs to make the most progress. The experiences you have during meditation will be determined by what your soul wants that day. So, if for a few days you have a certain experience during your meditation and then it disappears, you are not going backwards. Trust your soul and realize that it wants something else. If you regularly meditate and sincerely aspire for higher consciousness, you will have experiences that are far beyond your imagination.

Since life is but a continuous
Series of experiences,
Everything ultimately helps me
Towards my finalEnlightenment.

Sri Chinmoy

Trust the Gardener

Have you ever looked at a plant, and without even checking the soil, felt the plant was “crying” for water? When that happened, what was your immediate reaction? You probably said to yourself (or to the plant), “I’d better give that plant some water right away.” The plant played its role by crying for water, and you played your role by fulfilling its need.You are that plant. And there is a Gardener who planted the seed of aspiration deep within you. When you meditate, you are crying to the Gardener to feed your inner being with the light of self-discovery so that you may grow into a beautiful flower or a towering tree. Don’t try to force yourself to make progress—your only responsibility is to cry. It is the Gardener’s responsibility to feed you. Have faith in the Gardener.

God has prepared my meal.
Now I must prepare my hunger.

Sri Chinmoy