Meditation and an Active Mind
Question: When I sit and meditate my mind is flooded by unorganized thoughts. Can you give me some guidance for a more fruitful practice?
Answer: This is fruitful practice. Thoughts are the activity of the mind just as waves are the activity of the ocean. There is nothing abnormal when you see waves in the ocean. In a similar way, there is nothing abnormal about thoughts; they are just the activity of the mind. And yes, thoughts can be chaotic. But what we learn to do in meditation is to take these chaotic thoughts and organize them. We bring them to one-pointed focus and eventually experience the underlying reality that is beyond the thoughts. And that underlying reality which is beyond the thoughts is the very essence of the thoughts. Lord Jesus described it most beautifully. He said, “The silence that surpasses all understanding.”
Beyond the noise of our thoughts, there is that deep, deep profound silence which is the Reality. And that silence is permeated by consciousness; and that consciousness that permeates the silence is the stuff that makes the thoughts. For example, the waves are made of water and thoughts are made of the energy of consciousness. That silence that we are searching for is in every single thought. In a similar manner, that water can be found in every single wave, even in a very stormy ocean. The state of peace is the stuff that makes the thoughts, while the thoughts are the dynamic aspect of that peace. They are the creative aspect of that consciousness.
We should not be upset because there are thoughts in the mind because it is the very nature of the mind to generate thoughts. But we are not that mind — we are the witness of that mind. If you notice for a moment, as you watch the thoughts, you will see: you are a conscious witness, you are not those thoughts. Neither are they a problem. Thoughts are the power of your own consciousness manifested. They can be shaped. They can be re-shaped. They can be brought to acquiescence.
When what you are describing happens, what you need to do first is to relax. We get very tight; we get upset. It is very important to relax. Just take a deep breath and continue to meditate. And then, let us say that the meditation is on the mantra, we repeat our mantra. Then, if the attention wanders away, the instruction is very simple: bring it back to the mantra without being upset. If the attention wanders one thousand times, just bring it back to the mantra. In the beginning it is just hard work. The attention wanders and you bring it back; the attention wanders, and you bring it back. Do not get tight, do not get upset, and do not get stressed. Getting bored is a problem, but do not be upset that you are bored.
Eventually when you meditate bliss will come. And when bliss comes then your situation is quite good. Then meditation will become very desirable for you. You like to taste this again and again. Until bliss comes, it is like hard work. You ask yourself, “What is the point? I will never be able to meditate; it makes me miserable, it makes me nervous, it makes me fidget . . .” Or “My back is aching, my knees are aching. Where is the peace?” Like this. But it is not like this. You need to persevere for a while.
There will be a breakthrough and on the other side there is the bliss. When the bliss shows up meditation becomes very nice. Then, when you go to sleep at night you think, “Oh, tomorrow morning I am going to wake up, and I am going to meditate — it is so wonderful.” You really want to meditate. Ultimately, meditation is not just about peace and bliss, it is also about wisdom. You get wisdom through meditation; you gain a deep understanding of Reality. You will discover so many things through meditation. And so, continue to meditate.
Swami Swaroopananda is a senior disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda. A practicing yogi from a very young age, Swami Swaroopananda has dedicated his life to the practice and teaching of yoga. He taught in Yoga Teacher Training Courses around the world and is currently teaching advanced yoga philosophy courses and lectures internationally. He is Director of the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat and acharya (spiritual director) for the Sivananda centers and ashrams in the Bahamas and the Middle East. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres.