Lesson 8: Take a Long-Term View of Your Meditation Practice
By Nayaswami Bharat
To meditate successfully one needs to be like the long-distance runner who accepts whatever terrain he encounters. It’s normal to experience highs and lows during one’s meditation practice, just as a cross-country racer finds himself struggling up and coasting down hills during a race. In both running and meditating we can easily become discouraged if we focus too much on our present difficulties. Having an even-minded attitude will help you remain steady and positive in your meditation practice.
The Buddha said that stilling the mind is the most challenging yet rewarding task we will ever undertake. We shouldn’t be surprised when we meet challenges along the way. Yet every effort toward inner calmness helps us transform ourselves over time. St. Teresa of Avila said, “A meditation is well done if all you did was fight distraction.” In other words, a good meditation can be defined as one that you do! Every time you meditate—no matter how restless or peaceful you feel—remember you are doing the most central of all spiritual activities for discovering true, inner joy.
The best way to stay even-minded during your meditation practice is to think more about giving to God. Unfortunately, many meditators think only about what they can get from Him. Yogananda said that if God were easy to find, people would seek Him for the wrong reasons! The attitude with which we meditate is very important. Of course you want to experience higher states of consciousness when you meditate. The way to do this, however, is to lovingly, yet dynamically, offer your whole being to God. It’s only when your attitude is right, and your heart is pure, that God can come freely to you. Otherwise, you are likely to take spiritual experiences the wrong way.
George Washington’s (a hero of the American revolutionary war that won independence from England) greatness as a general, it has been said, was not in his victories, which were few, but in his ability to keep his army in the field, no matter how difficult. This persistence eventually defeated the British and brought America its freedom. Likewise, your persistence in meditation will eventually free you. The path of meditation requires consistent, life-long practice—you cannot expect to reach perfection in a few short months or years. However, the devotee who meditates regularly will find more and more that God’s love and joy are singing in his heart. This constancy also draws God’s grace to our practice.
Swami Kriyananda once said, “You may think, ‘I can never love God the way the great saints love Him. I’ll never have their fervor or joy.’ But you will find that as you keep reaching for God, He will uplift you. He will give you the power to find Him. You can’t generate that power yourself. But your love can draw that power to you.” Never define yourself by your perceived weaknesses, but by your aspirations, because they ultimately determine where your energy flows. Does not every water molecule eventually reach the sea? You are God’s child and He wants you to inherit His kingdom. When you meditate feel that you have Him already and that He is lovingly guiding your every effort.