Many people who are trying to practice meditation often ask me these beautiful questions from their hearts:
“I have been trying so hard to meditate but nothing is happening. Why? How does one reach a meditative state? What is the difference between prayer and meditation?”
I always tell everyone, first things first. Normally what happens is that we usually correlate every action of ours with its immediate consequence. Therefore, anyone who tries to meditate after having heard or read something about meditation may be disappointed in their efforts.
They may gather information about the beautiful peace, silence, and serenity that dawn when the mind becomes quiet without thoughts. These are the things that they keep hearing about meditation. Obviously when none of this happens they think “What is wrong with me, why is it not happening? What should I do?”
One humble and simple suggestion I have for you is to forget about that word meditation. From now on, do not meditate. Just relax. Do not sit in meditation posture and try to relax your body. No. Instead lie flat on the ground and then try to relax every part of your body.
You are basically not meditating, you are relaxing. So you have no tension and all the thoughts that are related to meditation are no longer there to bother you. Whether you are able to do it or not, whether you are good at it or not, none of this will come to you. You are just relaxing. So your expectations are much less now.
Focus your mind on any part of your body and just release and relax. If you fall sleep, then you fall asleep. Don’t put too many conditions on what is happening, but try to be awake, conscious, and mindful while just lying on the floor. Try to follow your body and its vibrations, just trying to put it into a very restful state, completely relaxed. As you relax and let go, the time will come when meditation will just happen to you.
Most of us think that we can meditate; most of us think that we need to meditate, but meditation is not something do-able, just as sleep is not something do-able. When you sleep you lie on the bed in a very special posture, and then maybe think about something or just relax or do something by which you gradually get into sleep. Over a period of time you know what suits you best to fall into sleep.
Also, over time you will learn what best helps you to go into meditation. Everyone is different. As we try to relax, the gateway to the Higher Wisdom, the gateway to the Universal field of wisdom, intelligence and information becomes gradually available to us because it can penetrate into us only if our body and mind are relaxed. Relaxation is a prelude to meditation happening.
But I would repeat again, meditation is not something to do. We just have to create a situation wherein gradually the mind will become so calm and so quiet that we will not even know when the thoughts have ceased and then it happens. But most of us have expectations of what is to happen, and when those things don’t happen we start to think that it’s not happening and then the process gets delayed.
Relax, just relax and “Be”. Let go of your expectations. You are not trying to do anything; you do not need to assess your performance. If you are not meditating that’s fine. You are just trying to do nothing; you are just lying on the floor. Try to give a suggestion to your body to go, go, go into relaxation, relaxing each part of the body one at any time.
As you go into relaxation, the cessation of the mind has a magical impact on the entire body and gradually over a period of time as it listens to that particular suggestion again and again and again the body goes into a relaxed mode and the relaxation response happens. Whenever that relaxation response happens our entire body chemistry changes. The more relaxed we are the entire energy flow in our body is different. The more tense we are the flow of energy becomes constricted and it stumbles. But as we become more and more relaxed we are just allowing the Divine Energy to flow in our body.
Meditation is first of all your willingness to do nothing. If you take meditation as a break, as the most enjoyable vacation possible from pressure, as a retreat into your own inner world of peace and happiness, it cannot become an additional stress. You will not expect anything out of it. That is its purpose. When you surrender to doing nothing, to not-doing, your mind cannot whirl anymore. It cannot calculate any more. It cannot add to your stress. You allow the stress to melt away. You let your mind fill with peace. Your mind and your stress melt into the flow of the universal rhythm of joy. You will just relax until meditation happens as buds open into fragrant flowers.
Please do not make meditation another source of stress in your life. Do it as conscious act of love for yourself. Once you realize the need to connect to your deepest source within, you will come to know what you have been missing throughout your life. Then your practice cannot become a stress. It becomes a love affair with your self.
Another question that often comes to mind is what is the difference between prayer and meditation? Can prayer also be a gateway to meditation?
When you pray, you try to express your thoughts and emotions, your gratitude to the Supreme Being, in words. You try to seek that which only the Divine can grant. You pray for yourself and for those whom you wish to receive the bounty of God's grace and healing. Sincere prayers come from the very root of your heart when you are faced with situations which are beyond human control or efforts. For example, if a person whom you love is in great danger or pain, or you are moved by the suffering of many due to some calamity, then you open your heart in earnest prayer to the Universe, or to the One unseen Force that you trust. You trust the divine power to heal and help those you care about as well as your own self.
Prayer thus presupposes the acceptance of dualism: a separation between the one who is praying, and the other to whom the prayer is directed. If one's prayer deepens to complete absorption, the mind stops and words are silenced. Then prayer flows into meditation, where all dualism melts into unity consciousness.
How can prayer be a vehicle to meditation? True prayer is an unconditional offering to the Divine. When we pray our heart opens and embraces the infinite Positive Light and the ego is melted into Light. Prayer is the power of the soul in union with the Universe.
When you pray with sincerity and love, you are surrounded by an aura of peace and surrender. Prayer is the acceptance of the Divine Light over our limitedness. Prayer opens the floodgates of compassion that is our Essence. Prayer unites us with the Cosmos.
Prayer releases us from all constriction into the world of expansion. Prayer is the Bridge between the individual and the Cosmic Self. Prayer is the outpouring of the heart in awe of the infinite gifts from the Universe and our gratitude in humility. Prayer is humility in action.
Prayer is the Divine in you in communion with the Divine that is all. Prayer brings forth the purity of love in manifestation. Prayer brings the infinite within the reach of the finite.
Sincere prayer is always granted.
When you are not aware of the sun does it stop giving you light? Does the air stop giving you the breath of life? Does anything in this most beautiful universe stop sharing the infinite blessings of your sight, your power to talk, your intelligence to understand, your mind to think and feel, your emotions to have passions of life?
Universe's love for you is completely unconditional. It has nothing to do with what you do. It is only by your efforts that you grow in consciousness to realize the infinite gifts with which you are flooded every moment of your life.
We judge the Universe’s blessings by what we pray for, and what we receive or what we are denied. That is a state of life, nothing wrong, nothing right, it is just a state of consciousness. But we have to rise one day to a higher level to recognize the Universe is not just as someone who listens to you and your desires, and keeps fulfilling your desires.
When your prayer deepens, your act of offering yourself to the Divine intensifies, and then your ego melts. Your individuality melts into Universal existence. At that stage, meditation happens. You can pray, but meditation has to happen. It has to happen in the same way that sleep has to happen.
Prayer and meditation connect you to the reality that you are ever in the Divine Presence and there is nothing to worry about in life, for it is such a spontaneous flow. You will never complain like the fish in the water thirsting for water.
First practice relaxation and prayerfulness, then meditation will happen! Discover the mouth of the fountain of life covered by the debris of your so called big dreams. With complete surrender to the Divine, let that debris be cleared and then the Fountain of life in the very being of yours will gush forth in Celebration and unspeakable, ecstatic Joy!