If you have been struggling to get started or become a regular meditator, you’re not alone. A lot of people and those who have been practitioners for many years struggle with this problem too. Initially, meditation sounds great, has proven benefits and everyone who practices it typically has at least one benefit that convinces them of its value.
Yet, things get in the way, circumstances keep changing and complacency can creep in. We know that we have to get back on track, but it feels like heavy lifting to get back to the once-exhilarating meditation schedule that gave us so many benefits. Those constant negative voices tell us it’s okay to be irregular or make meditation look daunting – yes, think of it, something that’s meant to relax you and make you completely peaceful and calm feels rather difficult. Doubts begin to creep in or meditation gets on your action items or New Year Resolutions list pretty quickly. Or it has been a bookmark in your life for many years, but you can’t just get yourself to pull the trigger.
And then there’s the quality of meditation, an even bigger challenge. The majority of meditators hit a plateau in their progress at some point and it feels like they have peaked out on their benefits and positive experiences. While they’ve established their routine and follow it diligently, there just isn’t enough depth in their sessions. Regular meditation, therefore, isn’t just about being regular; it is about consistent, high-quality meditation over the longer term.
Familiar feelings and thoughts? It’s not always your lack of self-discipline, desire to improve or put in the effort; there are other hidden forces at work that we need to understand.
Our self-improvement and spiritual improvement are bi-directional.
We can improve a lot in every way using meditation – physically, mentally, emotionally and of course, spiritually. But we can also regress and experience deterioration in our spiritual state. We can go up the evolutionary progress spiral, but if we do nothing, then there are forces acting that cause us to go down the spiral. This isn’t some conceptual analogy, it is very real.
The Kundalini energy, the basis of a powerful form of meditation like Sahaja, comprises coils wound in the form of a spiral. Ancient scriptures have described how spiritual growth is an “Evolutionary spiral.” So, while extra effort and focus is required to move up this spiral, doing nothing can easily cause us to move down this spiral or slowly degenerate and move to lower spiritual states. Our subtle energy system of channels and chakras can get increasingly filled with negativity and obstacles in these lower states, accelerating the downward movement.
This means that, whether simple gravity or some other retarding or negative force, there is something constantly acting to pull us downward. Doing nothing about it won’t keep us at the same state of existence.
The way out is to develop an awareness of this downward force in our subtle energy system – this is possible once you open up your system through the practice of Sahaja and introspect on it. Then, you can feel the upward or downward moves on the evolutionary spiral, both daily and in the longer term.
As they say, the first step to solving a problem is identifying it, and measuring it accurately.
Our attention can get tired easily.
The primary vehicle of consciousness or our existence is our attention. Even more than physical or mental exertion, if our attention is busy and tired, we will not be able to follow a regular meditation schedule. But one could argue that meditation is supposed to heal the tired attention – that’s exactly what it’s for. Yes, it is a catch 22 situation and once again some sort of a spiraling problem.
If we can’t make the initial step to meditate and use it to recharge our attention and spiritual self, our attention can get more muddled. But once we do, we put ourselves on a constant path of separating the ego, problems, attachments and unwanted desires from our pure inner self. This spiritual self grows stronger through our meditation as our attention is separated from our thoughts and emotions and becomes clearer and stronger.
Especially in today’s world, where there is an uncontrollable and bizarre number of distractions on our attention every day and the complicated lives we lead, our attention can get very tired very soon.
We’re going to make a bold suggestion to overcome this problem, perhaps, even somewhat contrary to the suggestions we normally give. For a while, forget the time or schedule management or some sort of self-discipline-driven solution for your meditation. Instead, just focus on keeping your attention fresh. This means that even if we’re busy and lots of things are going on in our lives, you are still feeling spirited, motivated and ready to go. Yes, even if you feel physically and mentally exhausted, you have smile on your face.
This can be achieved by carefully selecting what you expose your attention to – limiting that to the most essential and value-adding things and activities. Don’t just let your attention wander or casually be spent on too many things or whatever comes your way. Make your choices well and particularly, stay away from those situations, things, people that generate negative thoughts and emotions. Of course, it is impossible to do all the time, but at least limit those interactions and time as much as you can. On the positive side, load up your attention with creative activities, nature walks and being in the company of meditators.
If you consciously practice this for a month, you’ll get better at focusing your attention on those things and aspects that keep your attention recharged and jubilant all the time. Then with such attention, it becomes easier to spend more and more time on your meditation, which is a huge positive recharge on your attention by itself. So that’s how we fall into a positive cycle along the upward path on the spiral.
Overuse and overexertion of our cognitive faculties
“Analysis paralysis” is a common term these days. Sahaja practitioners call it “being stuck at the Agnya chakra”. There is a definite problem and the phenomenon of too much reading, thinking and analysis for pretty much everything. The problem we have is largely because of the information explosion in the internet age and global communication. Far too much information is available far too easily and most of it is just views and counterviews from people who are reading the same information. A small percentage of the information is from experts and of justifiable value, worth spending our attention. We have come to a point where we have to read at least 10 consumer reviews to buy a pencil. And if we have to buy a car or home, with all the options available and complexities involved, God save our poor minds and brains. Add in screen time, social media and advertising, we are facing a nuclear attack on our sanity.
This phenomenon is, of course, largely prevalent for only the last couple of decades. Before that our lives were simpler and options were far fewer. People just went with the flow or made relatively quicker decisions. They did not sit down to think about everything in their lives even though they had a lot more time than we do.
This overuse of racking our brains and thinking through everything is beginning to make permanent changes in our attitude and mental makeup. So much so that thoughts are being triggered uncontrollably inside us. Extricating our attention from this mess of muddled thoughts is not just a challenge but nearly impossible. If we try to use meditation, then we start thinking about the meditation, its benefits and how to meditate. We worry about finding the time (even before spending a single minute on meditation), what others might think if we started doing it and so on…the trail of thoughts is unending.
Breaking this quagmire of nuclear thought proliferation is something that meditation is best at achieving. So, the first step must be to do something to get to our meditation, so it can then pull us out of this quicksand. Two time-tested and powerful slogans come to mind. Nike’s “Just Do it” is the first. It inspires courage, self-confidence and the will to achieve something. In our case, the slogan should be “Shhh…Just do It,” and we should simply silence all our thoughts and get to our meditation.
The second popular slogan is “Keep it simple stupid”. Yes, we’ve become stupidly filled with thoughts and we need to jump into simplicity. The simplest state of existence, yet, most profound is the “Thoughtless Awareness” state, where we’re fully aware, yet devoid of any thoughts and reactions. That’s where the healing and reconstruction of our pure attention begins.
Our ability to stop thinking, shut down the negative voices and simply do our meditation will go a long way in solving many problems in life.
Surrender and Letting go
A major departure in the method Sahaja recommends over nearly all other forms of meditation is to surrender to the all-pervading power. Instead of constantly trying cognitive techniques like focus, concentration, clearing our thoughts and so on, give the power a chance to heal us. The most accurate and best thing for us is to “fall into the state of meditation” by allowing our Kundalini energy to lift our consciousness into a higher realm. There’s a good chance that we may be trying too hard without being humble enough to surrender to the universal divine energy. To make meditation a long-term habit, acknowledging and surrendering to the divine forces within us is absolutely essential.
Collectivity to the rescue
Speaking of surrender, another easy way to sort out the irregularity and lack of depth in our individual meditation is to jump into the ocean of collective energy. We can do this by merely committing to the group meditation meetings. When we cannot see things clearly and are having problems with our attention, the power of collectivity lifts us to a higher state where things are clearer. With a variety of instructors and meditation sessions all week long, you can take advantage of the collective meetings we have on our schedule.
Let’s unleash the powerful, innate spiritual forces within us and establish our meditation on a higher plane of consciousness than the rest of the world.