Meditation is a simple exercise where we try to quieten the mind and enter into a more peaceful and illumining consciousness.
If you have never meditated before, you might wonder what will happen in meditation. At first, not much may happen at all! But, even if you find meditation a little difficult, hopefully you will feel a new sense of happiness. As you progress in meditation, you will feel a deeper sense of peace and happiness.
Stages of meditation
Firstly, you just become aware of what it’s like to sit in outer silence. We try to keep the body as still and calm as we can; we try to forget all about our usual worries and concerns, but focus on a particular meditation exercise.
At our first attempts, we may be surprised at how persistent the mind is. Even though we are trying to keep the mind quiet and blank, thoughts still appear. Some people comment that they never realised how many useless thoughts their mind could produce in a short space of time!
After some preparation and letting go of the first thoughts that come into the mind, we may see that our mind is slowing down. We become aware that there is more to us than our surface consciousness. It is when we can distance ourselves from our own thoughts that we feel a sense of peace and well-being.
Sometimes, meditation may be quite challenging because our mind is so busy. But, other times we may feel that our thoughts drop away quite easily leaving us with quite a profound feeling of peace.
Sometimes, people feel that there mind is still quite busy, but after the meditation session, they feel really happy and positive. This shows that part of them is meditating, but the mind is still not completely quiet. This shows that, even if we are not ‘very good’ at meditation, we can still have some of the benefits from accessing a deeper part of ourselves. It is like – part of us is in the meditation world, and part of us isn’t. But, we are still getting some of the benefits of meditation.
Personal experiences of meditation
Everyone has different experience of meditation. There is no hard and fast rule. Some people may feel and see light, others may have an experience of deep and universal peace. Some people have good experiences on their first attempts, others may have to practise for several weeks or months to really get the benefits. Also, when you have a really profound meditation it is an experience completely different to anything else. It feels like you are really alive and connected to something much vaster; it can feel like you have been dreaming through your ordinary life. But, because the experience is beyond the mind, it is very hard to describe with words.
Some of the great sages and Masters of meditation have tried to express their meditation experiences through poetry, but even the most sublime poetry can be at best like a finger pointing at the moon. To really understand meditation we need to experience it for ourselves.
What is a good meditation?
Essentially, effective meditation will make us feel better; it will give us a good feeling towards other people and the rest of the world. After, meditation we perceive the world in a more loving way. This is the most important goal of meditation – to discover this source of peace and happiness. It is the type of peace and happiness we want to share and spread. In a good meditation, there is no sense of superiority or inferiority, but if we have anything good – we wish to share with others.
Sri Chinmoy writes:
“We can easily know whether we are meditating well or not just by the way we feel and see and think. Right after our meditation, if we have a good feeling for the world, then we know our meditation was good. If we see the world in a loving way in spite of its imperfections, if we can love the world even while seeing its teeming imperfections, our meditation was good. And if we have a dynamic feeling right after meditation, if we feel that we came into the world to do something, to become something, this indicates that we have done a good meditation.”
(What is a good meditation? at Sri Chinmoy Library)