As they say, attitude is everything. This is especially true in yoga and meditation. Our ability to succeed in any endeavor depends to a great extent on our attitude.
In the beginning, after learning of the amazing opportunities that meditation has to offer, after learning no less of the highest purpose that life has to offer, many of us overflow with excitement. During this fabled time, there’s a strong sense of purpose. A feeling that we’ve finally discovered how to attain life’s greatest gift (infinite peace and bliss). With a sense of commitment, we roll up our sleeves and get down to the work of meditation – the work of purifying our mind and breath and sinking our attention into the depths of pure Awareness. It’s all very exciting in the beginning, and in a way we become like children again, full of giddy anticipation for the breakthroughs that lie ahead.
At first, the discipline is easy, but after some time the hard work begins in earnest. The mind, which was so cooperative, begins to rebel. It does not want to get out of bed in the morning to sit on the cushion. It begins to crave old desires that are not helpful to our meditation practice. It gets lazy. This period is only a transition, but it’s one of great danger, for it’s here that many yogins have fallen off the proverbial wagon, abandoning their practice. Nevertheless, we dust ourselves off and start anew.
In my own experiences of “falling off the wagon,” I’ve noticed some things that are helpful and some that are not. What is not helpful is to approach our meditation like an athlete with gritted teeth who vows to destroy his opponent. This heroic stance, though very invigorating in the beginning, usually leads to burnout. It’s like a marathon runner who leaps forward from the start line giving 100%. Without pacing and conserving our energy, we will collapse long before the finish line. Better is to move slow and steady.
When we embark on our meditation practice, we need to adopt the attitude not of a conqueror/destroyer, but of a person who is letting go. So much of meditation is, in fact, a gentle letting go. We let go of the layers of impressions that obscure our mind, we let go of our petty ambitions and desires, we let go of many parts of our personality, we let go of the endless tangle of thoughts that only cause us to worry and suffer.
Yoga is about surrendering to the depths of our own Consciousness, to God’s grace. The stream of grace is God’s fifth power; it’s an ever-flowing river that is always present. (In Non-dual Shaivism, the Lord’s powers are: creation, sustenance, concealment, dissolution, and grace). We simply need to step into the flow of grace. When I mention God, I am not referring to a distant, transcendent figure that exists apart from creation. I am referring to the sense of being – the consciousness – at the heart of our existence. In this context, grace is the centripetal force that allows our consciousness to recover its formless identity.
Instead of gritting our teeth, we should approach our meditation like a sailor prepping a sailboat. Our job is to get the boat in the water, to raise the mast and unfurl the sails. Then we let the wind fill the sails and carry us forward, sometimes at great speeds.
This is exactly how a yogin should behave. We diligently engage in our practices, we diligently apply right method and right inner feeling, but with a soft stance, knowing that we are not able to force the transformation of consciousness we are seeking. We know that it’s only the Lord’s grace that will allow the change to take place.
One of the benefits of this understanding is that it fosters an authentic humility. And it also helps us to avoid feeling that we are in constant battle against an enemy who is infinitely stronger that we are (our extroverted, restless mind). This attitude allows us to remain calm and steady in our meditation practice.
So the gist of the teaching is as follows: to meditate successfully, we need commit to it with great discipline while at the same time letting go. Then, when the time is right, results will manifest. In the meantime, we can take comfort in Sri Ramana’s teaching that perseverance is a sure sign of progress.
Keep meditating with love.
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