So, first of all, because there’s some first timers, here are some things that will help with concentration when you sit to meditate: it’s really good to have been fasting, to not have eaten or drank anything that you have to digest. I mean water’s fine, but you know that’s why first thing in the morning before you eat is a really good time to meditate, at night time, a few hours after you’ve had a meal and it’s before you’re going to sleep, that’s a good time to meditate because when your body is digesting food it’s harder to concentrate, it’s just not going to work as well. So if you ate right before you came here, that’s going to make it a lot harder for you.
That thing about having the erect spine and keeping your mind on the breath and all this, no matter how many times your mind wanders, just bring it back. If you lose your posture, just bring it back and these are skills that you develop over time. And if you’re trying to get meditation going at home, don’t meditate too much. It’s better to do short meditations where you can feel really concentrated than doing long ones where you start drifting around. It’s better to develop your ability to concentrate in short bursts of meditation, five-ten minutes kind of a thing, get really solid on that and then just start growing it as you feel naturally that you can continue meditating, instead of saying “Oh, I meditate half an hour or an hour a day” and your mind’s just drifting all over the place. It’s much better to do short ones and go deeper.
And then the other thing is that you don’t measure your meditation practice or your spiritual growth or anything, by anything that’s happening in your meditation. It just doesn’t matter. Measure your progress by how you live. When everything goes wrong in your life and the people you’re counting on let you down, the kids mess something up or you look at the news and it’s just so ridiculous, that is when you know how you’re doing. That’s the only way to measure. It’s practical life experience. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting next to someone and they’re meditating and they’re telling you “Five angels came to me and they played me a song or Jesus came to me and read me a book”. That’s great, but it doesn’t matter, if the way we’re living isn’t fulfilled and isn’t useful and positive in some way. And there’s a lot of approaches to meditation. I’m just giving one and it’s the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda. I’m not making anything up. He wrote a book called “Autobiography of a Yogi”. It’s about his life and it’s very humble the way he wrote about himself and there’s a movie out there called “Awake”. If you haven’t seen it, it’s pretty interesting.
So the topic was Clarity of Purpose. We were talking about it a little bit last week when some of you were here and one of the things I said to the group was that if you were to get quiet and think about what’s your ultimate purpose in life, no matter what it is, where you are – what matters to you, if you are going to die tomorrow or if you knew that your mortality was really coming in on you and you had six months to live – what would you be doing with your life, but not so much what you would be doing, but why? What is it? It’s personal and people get all quiet and everything, so I told some people earlier today before the class started, I was just going to tell everybody what they want. But just for conversation’s sake – you want to be happy, you want peace, you want to be useful and you know how hard it is? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been with a group that says – and if I’m wrong and you feel differently about yourself, that’s OK, I can accept that, I’m not saying that everybody has to be what I’m thinking – but just from my own personal experience, at the end of the day we do what we do, we buy what we buy, we choose the career, the relationships, whatever it is, because we want to be happy.
And the funny thing is that we live in a consuming based society. To be a good teacher, you don’t tell people where they are OK?, but I’m not a good teacher, I stink! So I’m just going to tell you anyway! Just for fun, OK? This is just hypothetical stuff. It’s like we were born in a place like Disneyland, OK? And we never saw outside. We’ve never been on the freeway, we never went to school, we never had a job, unless it was inside Disneyland. And everybody is telling you that riding on the Small World or Pirates of the Caribbean is supposed to be fulfilling for the rest of your life and you’re like it’s pretty cool at first you know, and then after a while it starts to feel like something’s missing. This is the world we live in.
Swami Kriyananda, he was Yogananda’s student and he’s passed away now too, but he said it was like you were like in a carnival, in a house of mirrors and you go in there and you can see yourself in the mirror, but you never look quite right. He said that all of life, outer life, the experience of a human being is like that house of mirrors and the reason this house of mirrors is distorted, Yogananda said, is because we’re experiencing everything through our senses, through our eyes, through our hearing and there’s an extremely limited spectrum of light that our eyes perceive, there is an extremely limited spectrum of sound that our ears hear, yet we feel that it’s the truth. And if anybody talks about something that you can’t personally hear, that you can’t personally feel, that you can’t personally see, you don’t believe it. Why would you? or maybe you do, maybe you believe everything you’re told, but either way you don’t really know, OK? The ultimate goal of yoga meditation the way Yogananda taught it is to direct all of your energy that’s been running out toward everything through the senses and trying to experience reality (and he called it the sense telephones) inward and upward. He said: “Cut off the sense telephones, withdraw your energy into the spine (in yoga they call that pranayam), withdraw your energy inside, direct, internalize your focus and with practice and in time, you will attain spiritual vision, in other words you will be able to experience reality intuitively with or without your eyes, with or without your ears. And it is doesn’t come in words and it’s not like reading a book. It’s a feeling, it’s a sense of knowing what is real, what is true, what is right and it’s not black and white.
Bibiana and I recently were talking and whether is concentration or whatever it is that we’re trying to learn, it’s directional, right? So it’s a skill that you develop over time, but what happens is that if you give yourself the opportunity daily or regularly to develop your intuition, what happens is you start to realize that it’s real and you start to trust it. But to do that you have to go against almost everything that you’ve been taught, everything that everybody ever says, everything that you hear on TV. It doesn’t matter, it could be spiritual teachers, it could be politicians. It’s all chopped up and it’s all been homogenized and it’s so difficult to find the truth, OK? But the reality is that everyone in this room has the ability to directly perceive, directly experience a reality that is, I call it divine.
I talk about God, OK? But when I say God I just want to explain. I don’t know what it is.
It’s a lot bigger than all of us, but it’s the thing that contains everything that there is. It contains the planets, it contains the universe or the universes, it contains thought, energy and matter and time and it makes us all one because we’re all kind of made of it, we’re in it all together like a big ocean. I don’t know what it is, but I know that much of it to some degree has to be real because from my own meditations I can feel my connection with you, I can feel my connection with other people in a way that isn’t belief.
It’s not related to belief, it’s not anything I was taught, it’s an experience that I have in meditation. That’s why when I guide you, first we watch the breath and it’s to really quiet you down and to direct your energy inward and then I asked you to try to think of something, whatever it is that inspires you, whatever brings a sense of wonder and upliftment or gratitude or love. It’s the secret to meditation and happiness. So then we put that in right? and then we ended the meditation with sharing that love with others, thinking of other people instead of ourselves. These are the components to a happy, healthy life. It’s that simple. Direct your energy inward instead of thinking that your satisfaction will be in a car, or shoes or the perfect family and the job. Direct your attention inward and learn to be happy now even if you don’t have all the things that you think that you want or you deserve. Then the weird thing is that when you’re able to be happy without anything and you’re have able to have sort of like unconditional contentment, you become such a better person, that people want to be around you, they want to help you, they want to give you a job, they want to give you stuff, they’ll give you a ride wherever you want to go.
It’s weird, but when you walk through life and you’re like a competitor and you feel that you have to get yours, otherwise someone else is going to take it away, it’s kind of like you create this reality that life is competition and everyone’s out for themselves and if you look in the news and if you look at the way people are talking and the way we think of each other based on where we live, the color of our skin or which political party we’re in, we’re starting to turn the other side of whatever the issue is into some kind of demonic thing. Well this is what they did in Germany, this is what Hitler did. Hitler was awesome at convincing people that we need to rid the planet of these people so that we can all be happy. How stupid is that? Who in here can believe that?
Sorry, but the fact is that everybody here is a human being with a heart and has intuition and knows better, but the media and everybody around you, on the radio and everything, it hypnotizes us. So that’s why I say it’s like Disneyland. It’s like you’re in that that hall of mirrors where you see everything and you feel it, so you think it’s real but it’s not. The reality is that love does heal, that people need friends and people deserve understanding and that through kindness and patience and compassion, we will personally be guided to what’s really right for us and we won’t be fooled.
And so I think the biggest thing I love about meditation is that it’s all on you. I mean I can say what I just said right? but I think the reason you’re not getting up and running is because you feel it too. And it’s through meditation that I’ve learned more about myself and about other people and I’ve learned to accept people the way they are and I’ve learned to understand the teaching that I was first taught, but now it’s my life experience that every single person that you ever meet, good or bad is always doing the very best that they can do. You can’t change them, you can’t really explain anything to them. I believe that when people come here, it’s because they’re ready to discover something about meditation or something about themselves and I hope that you leave with some tool that you can continue using.
Am I close? So we’re kind of feeling relatively close, semi-close to the same page? Alright. So there is one more step and so this is me, this is my promotional effort OK? We’ve got to survive. We do this free gig and we have this space because we know that people need it. We know people need to develop or want to develop an inner life, a sense of independence and a way to make good decisions without being dependent and without being told what to do or without reading a book. It’s inside of you and it doesn’t have to be tied to any religious post. It’s just your own personal experience that matters, but what I would say is that there’s a cool thing that happens in a group meditation like this, the people that you’re with now, the people that you meet here and other places that are like this (we’re not the only thing going on). It should be important to you. I’m not saying this center and what I’m doing, but people that you know in your life that will understand or give you the space or help support and just let’s say respect your desire to develop this inner life, to develop your intuition and live a life that’s in sincere alignment with your own highest beliefs, not something that you’re settling for. Don’t settle! It’s better to die fighting for what you know is right in your heart, because then you die whole. Than to sell out and say yeah, you know I got the house of the picket fence. There’s more to life than that OK?
So what I’m trying to say is be with people and put yourself in situations where you’re encouraged to be free and you’re encouraged to listen to your heart. I hope that this is one of those places, but go where you feel guided and trust what you feel in your heart. It doesn’t matter if you’re right. It only matters that you try. And if you stay sincere and you’re trying and you feel that you’re trying for the right reasons to do what’s best for you, but also what’s best for everybody else involved, if you have that is your goal then you’re golden. Just keep going and do the best you can and learn from all the mistakes that you make, because we make lots of mistakes.
So I hope that’s helpful in some way. Thanks for being here.
Recorded at Free Monday Night Guided Meditation and Lecture August 7, 2017.