How To Progress In Your Meditative Practice
By Learning These Three Stages & Five Principles
Mind — The tool without a manual
There is no denying, we all are born with mind and body, but unfortunately, it doesn't come along with an operational manual.
Does it bother us as a species? Not the least.
We are taught such a wide variety of subjects in our school, however, not a single subject on offer is remotely related to study of body and mind.
With the rapid growth in the medical field and pharmaceutical industry the incentive to promote the well being of the body has increased exponentially — and that’s about it.
The overall awareness about the body and its functional maintenance has grown but same can’t be said about the mind.
In the absence of any manual, we just learn to use this tool on our own. There is absolutely no guidance on its usage.
But despite these inherent limitations, there is absolutely no question mark on the widespread belief that we are intelligent enough to use the mind as a tool.
If you dare to do an objective analysis of the content of your thought you will soon realize that it’s nothing but an accumulation of all sorts of nonsense fed into your head in the guise of information — with the accessibility of World Wide Web the medium of information consumption has seen some unprecedented explosion.
If you can recall your moments of bliss, joy, and ecstasy (yes, including orgasm) — most of your experiences could be possible when you were not thinking about anything — you were just alive, devoid of your thinking brain.
Is there a way to extend the experience?
Yes, irrespective of the kind of meditation practice you choose — from concentrative to contemplative — the transformation of mind from (restless to restful) through the path of meditation happens in the following Three stages.
Stage # 1
Once you decide to dedicate some time to this practice, the real nature of your (monkey) mind gets an opportunity to display its true acrobatic skills. When you want the mind to be quiet, it starts resisting immediately by showing you who is in actual control.
The mind gets flooded with all sort of thoughts. As a result, during this stage, when a meditator sits down to meditate, his mind does not quieten beyond sporadic short periods lasting any more than a few seconds.
At this stage the more you try to quiet the mind for meditation, the louder it becomes. All that you manage to hear is chatter.
There is a bright possibility this struggle may persist for the entire duration of your meditative session. Even if you increase your meditation from your regular 20 minutes to 2 hours, it won’t make any difference.
You need to just remember this is something as inevitable as a stumbling child who is learning to walk for the first time. And have you ever seen any child stop trying even after nine hundred and ninety ninths fall?
So persistence is the key here. Stop fighting with your thoughts. Let it be. There is a need to bring a certain degree of awareness within you so that you start dissociating yourself from your thoughts.
Since thoughts are always dependent on your energy to run its full course of life, learn to stop giving them your mental energy, they will die their natural death. This stage is all about learning this craft. Keep practicing and you will get better with time.
It’s a lot like learning to drive for the first time. It needs an unprecedented dose of concentration, and for good reason: It involves unlocking the car door, adjusting the seat, inserting the key in the ignition, turning it clockwise, moving the rear view and side mirrors and checking for obstacles, putting your foot on the brake, moving the gearshift.
Finally, removing your foot from the brake, mentally estimating the distance between your car and the next object in the line of your path, while keeping the wheels aligned and monitoring for oncoming traffic, dodging those garbage cans while balancing a delicate pressure between the gas pedal and brake. And not forgetting to tell your passenger (if they are brave enough to accompany you) to please stop fiddling with the radio.
Stage # 2
It’s nothing but your patience and perseverance that will help you make the transition to stage two. At this stage, the frequency of thoughts starts decreasing with simultaneous increase in the period of meditation.
You start getting the occasional glimpses of a mind free from thoughts, and this quietness of mind is possible because you start observing your mind instead of getting lost in it.
Subsequently, with more practice, you learn to decide when to let your thoughts enter your head space. It may sound weird but when your thoughts become aware of the fact that you wouldn't be opening the door for them, they stop knocking. You are no longer dealing with the onslaught of endless thoughts.
Once you attain mental quietude beyond the frequent activity of stage one, your meditation goes to an entirely new level and there is no going back. It is like milk has become curd now and no process can turn it back into the milk. At this stage, you will no longer have to deal with an onslaught of thoughts regardless of when you sit down to meditate.
While stage one is like the busy Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, where as soon as the Air traffic controller manages to navigate a bunch of planes, the other bunch is already in the queue. The second stage becomes a lot like the somewhat manageable job of air traffic controllers at Moscow international airport. Although the traffic is there, it isn't as busy as the Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
It starts looking a lot like the stage of your driving when you have successfully managed to get yourself comfortable in the driving seat — you are no longer intimidated by actions requiring multiple controls.
Stage # 3
At this stage, you learn to remain unaffected by waves of thoughts and accompanying emotions. Your mind starts witnessing unprecedented stillness. Which is often reflected in your behavior, speech, and actions. You are now learning to channelize your thoughts at will.
Your mind remains unaffected by the rise and fall of thoughts and emotions. You will have rough periods but it will be far and few in between. Your energy will have the quieting effect on those around you.
Your mind becomes like a sea, where occasionally there will be tides, but those tides will no longer define the identity of the sea.
It starts looking a lot like the advanced stage of driving where you start enjoying your drive. You are no longer distracted by radio or conversation with your fellow passengers.
While making your journey through stages, these five principles will guide you like Google maps.
1. Stop engaging with the Past
As soon as you sit for meditative session your mind will start drawing thoughts of the past from its infinite store of memory. You are not supposed to pursue those thoughts. Simply drop them and gently draw your attention back to the present moment.
If you stop feeding energy into those thoughts, it will find difficult to attach itself to the next sequence of thought. If you do so mindfully, thoughts of the past will no longer interfere with your meditation.
2. Stop creating your Future
As soon as you drop thoughts of the past with some serious determination and alertness, your mind will end up conjuring all interesting images of possible future.
You may start to dream about your life in a certain way. Just remembering that thoughts are empty in their own right, you’ll find it relatively easier to drop the thought.
Otherwise, you’ll find yourself daydreaming while practicing meditation. Therefore, as soon as you find yourself thinking about the future, drop the thought and get back to the present moment.
3. Stop examination of Thoughts
Irrespective of the type of thoughts, resist the temptation of getting into the analysis. For example, a thought of you getting hurt or losing your love might possibly arise.
If you start analyzing why it happened to you or where did you go wrong or why did your partner do this and so on, before you know, your concentration will go for a complete toss.
While meditating no thought must ever be examined, unless you are doing contemplative meditation, in which case you train your mind to contemplate on a singular thought. Just be mindful that any examination or analysis will have an adverse effect on the quality of your meditation.
4. Stop Creating an Experience
Sometimes with persistent meditation, you experience beautiful sounds, internal vibrations, fragrances, or even glimpses into different states of consciousness.
One of the most common mistakes meditators make is to crave for the same experience again. This deviates you from the path.
If you find yourself longing for a certain experience or waiting for it, gently draw your attention to the present moment. Remind yourself that any desire for an experience is no more than a thought. And the thought of any kind must be dissociated at all costs.
5. Stop involuntary wandering
Simply Stay in the Present Moment. It is common to feel different emotions during your meditation. You laugh, you cry, sometimes you feel depressed and elated at other times.
While a first stage meditator can’t plug his emotions right away, it’s absolutely critical not to examine your emotions or try to find their cause (you can do that after your meditation if you wish but not during the session).
When you find yourself digressing from your meditation, gently draw your attention to the present moment. You could start listening to your breath again.
The Practice Becomes The Way
With regular practice, your — meta-awareness — that is awareness about awareness starts improving a lot. As a consequence, your attention to the things that you chose to focus witness an unprecedented enhancement.
It helps you discover your state of peace and bliss by transforming you into a person you would love to become.
The practice remolds you in such a way that you end up becoming a catalyst for positive change — especially in the lives of those who are connected with you.