Methods of Meditation
Jennie H. Croft
UNITY SCHOOL OF CHRISTIANITY
KANSAS CITY, MO.
There is an insistent call for instruction in methods of meditation and in getting the greatest benefit from concentration and from the silence; also for general information upon the silence. It was borne in upon the writer that this theme should receive special attention from instructors.
During several years of teaching of the silence and of the methods and practice of the silence, the writer found it expedient to divide the instruction into four distinct parts. Each part depends upon each of the other parts and no one part is complete and effective until all the parts are understood and utilized.
Lesson I deals with relaxation. This is a course in physical training in which the body is taught to obey mental commands.
Lesson II takes up concentration. Through concentration the mental nerves and the mental muscles are trained to obey.
Lesson III relates to meditation, which is a blending of the two preceding exercises and leads into that which is more spiritual. Here we begin to know, and to get the benefit of an inner power that we have set in operation by our relaxation and our concentration. In this exercise we consciously make this inner power an integral part of our whole being by our intelligent use of the power. We believe that man cannot know God without having meditated on Him; consequently that the practice of meditation is very necessary to our spiritual growth.
Lesson IV we have named "Realization." Realization is the outcome of the three exercises, relaxation, concentration, and meditation. Realization is purely spiritual in its working and in its power. We begin with the physical and go through the mental into the intellectual, where we meditate upon whatever we desire to hold in mind, until the spirit of it becomes a part of us and continues to unfold in realization. Realization is not temporary; it is an eternal activity. After realization the soul becomes more and more identified with its own divinity. The more we practice realization, or letting the reality of the subject of our meditation take possession of us, the more we know of it and the more quickly we find its value and observe its enlightenment of our whole being. We come to know God, to know ourselves, and to know the relation between ourselves and God. We advance into the realm of conscious knowledge in which we know that our eternal Father, the source of all, is one with us in omni- present power and wisdom.
Lesson I - Relaxation
Beginners in the science of meditation are prone to think that entering the silence means only the stilling of thought. But there is more to the silence than that, and a preliminary to the silence is the easing of the body from strain and the stilling of the mind from effort.
It is impossible for one to cease mental activity when the body is tense, when the nerves are taut and the muscles are rigid. Under these conditions Spirit has very little opportunity to find entrance to the body; therefore it is necessary to train the body to respond to the mental suggestion of relaxation. Since there is no absence of life, substance, and intelligence in any atom of our bodies, the intelligence residing in each atom will respond to the word of command spoken by divine intelligence through the conscious mind.
In teaching the body to obey we begin with the very top of the head. The student may think that it is impossible to relax in this part of the body, but there are nerves and muscles both outside and inside the skull, and we may speak to them with the authority that comes from the inner self, and bid them let go all tension. They will obey. We mentally direct our attention to the top of the head, and then slowly and firmly we repeat three times the word, "Relax." We center our attention at this point for a short time, that the word of command may become operative. We remember that it is not the personal self but the Presence within that is doing the work.
Next we direct our attention to the muscles and the nerves of the forehead. It is here that we begin to notice the effect of relaxation. The tensity of thought, or of emotion, may have caused us to frown or to wrinkle our brows, but in this practice of relaxation we are aware of the smoothing out of the flesh covering of the forehead, and we have a feeling of peace. Then we say, "Relax, relax, relax," slowly, gently, peacefully.
Next we center our attention upon the muscles and the nerves about the eyes, and at our mental command, "Relax," the eyelids close lightly and softly, without any effort. There is no determined closing of the eyelids, but there is a gentle letting go of all eye tension.
Continuing this drill in relaxation we come to the facial muscles and to the nerves about the nose and the mouth. Here we again repeat the formula, "Relax, relax, relax." It is quite habitual for us to purse the mouth, whereas, responding to this mental command to relax, the muscles and the nerves lose their tenseness and the lips assume a natural and a more beautiful position.
The neck is the column by which the head is supported, and there are many muscles with their accompanying nerves governing the motions of the head. Responding to the command of the mind, these muscles and their nerves relax; the neck falls into a natural position, the chin retreats from unnatural prominence, and all the adjacent parts relax and assume positions of greater ease and flexibility.
A desire to make haste is a pronounced trait of most Americans. Since they are not conscious of the influence of this desire, they are likely to thrust their chins forward as an outpicturing of the subconscious notion that they are hastening to their destination. This habit of thrusting the chin forward is a misuse of energy. When this habit is corrected by the practice of relaxation, the results of the work that has been done in the top of the head will become noticeable. This work in relaxation must be done faithfully.
Next the shoulders claim our consideration. Centering our attention upon this part of the body, we repeat the usual formula, "Relax, relax, relax," remembering to speak the word very slowly, and through the imagination picturing and feeling our burdens fall away and our shoulders assume a position of comfort. It is a common belief that man must carry burdens of every sort and description, but by our letting go of the nerve and muscle tension the Spirit within discards these burdens. At this point in the exercise we may claim and may realize the fulfillment of the promise: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden . . . Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me . . . For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." This means that by our relaxing and letting go of the personal self and uniting ourselves with the Christ self within, the burden has been entirely dissolved. We advise the student to give particular attention to this important feature of relaxation.
In relaxing the arms we begin at the shoulders and relax to the elbows, then to the finger tips, proceeding after the usual form until the arms are entirely limp and we feel that they might drop from the shoulders if they were not permanently attached. We are now beginning to feel a state of rest, brought about by the process of relaxation from head to finger tips.
We next consider the part of the body containing what are termed the vital organs. Here are great nerve ganglia and muscle centers that act in response to the mental attention and authority that we direct to them. We classify the trunk of the body in three divisions: the upper part, the diaphragm or center, and the lower part comprising the abdomen and the small of the back. To each one of these divisions we direct our attention as though we were looking down into it, and we go to each separately with the drill in relaxation until there is an inner feeling (not a sensation, but a knowing feeling) of harmony. This feeling is concordant activity, not mere passivity. We should take at least five minutes for the practice of relaxation in each of these sections of the body.
The lower limbs now claim our attention. As we proceeded with the arms, so now we shall treat the legs from hip to toe, slowly bidding the nerves and the muscles, "Relax, relax, relax."
Our final relaxation takes place at nearly the center of the body, in the largest group of ganglia in the whole body, the solar plexus. While dwelling in thought upon the practice of relaxation at this center, we often become conscious of a spiritual awakening, as if the very presence of the Christ were making itself felt throughout the whole being. The personal self has ceased its dominion over us; the divine nature has been aroused to activity and its harmony permeates us. Many times relaxation in this vital center has caused instantaneous healing.
For every practice of the drill in physical relaxation we advise that you take your most comfortable chair and sit in the most comfortable position, so that there will be no strain upon your body. Put everything out of your hands as you put everything out of your mind, and relax until you are inert and are not conscious of your body. We suggest that, if it can be so arranged, you take the same time each day, the same room, and the same chair for your exercise. In this way you more easily impregnate yourself and your surroundings with a consciousness that is in accordance with your thought, and you can much more readily get the realization that you desire.
Lesson II - Concentration
In this lesson we shall consider the second step in methods of meditation, namely, concentration. After spending five to ten minutes in the practice of relaxation, we are ready to begin our exercise in concentration. To be still in body is not enough; real stillness is to be still in mind. We shall center our attention upon the word "omnipresence." Let us see how long we can hold our thought steadily focused on this one word without allowing our attention to wander. We shall now concentrate steadily and unwaveringly upon the word. When we seek to hold our thought upon one subject, we find thoughts upon many subjects—thoughts from all over the world—flocking into our minds. We endeavor to banish these intruders, only to find their place taken by other unrelated thoughts. When we become aware that our thought is wandering to other things we bring it back and try again, and yet again, until our mind obeys us and remains centered upon the word that we seek to hold in steady, undeviating thought.
This is a drill in shutting out from thought everything but that upon which we would concentrate. Thus we train our mental muscles to obey us as we have trained the nerves and the muscles of the body to obey our word of command. Faithful and persistent practice in concentration will bring the reward of a trained mind that will obey the commands of the conscious self.
We are learning that concentration is a law of mind that may be applied in every circumstance that requires definite and controlled mental action. Man is so complex that he finds many desires clamoring within him for expression, but he has received the power of choice. He must decide whether he will blindly follow every impulse or choose only thoughts and desires that are constructive. Oftentimes man has to exercise the power of his will so that his determination will not yield to the old habit of allowing moods to govern him. If left to itself the mind constantly shifts its attention; hence the need of training it by concentration to obey the will.
The determined focusing of our attention consists in selecting the subject for concentration and then ignoring all other subjects that may clamor for consideration, until the power to concentrate has been so fully developed that one can exclude all that would distract. Do not let failure discourage! you; instead make every failure a stepping stone to victory; refuse to be defeated in your purpose. This lesson calls for unremitting practice.
Some persons say, when they turn the application of this law toward accomplishing spiritual results, "I cannot concentrate." Why can they not spiritually concentrate? Because they have never trained their minds to a sustained spiritual exercise. They may have used the law of concentration to achieve material gain but the necessity for using the same law to gain spiritual efficiency has not occurred to them.
For many years business and religion have been separated, but we give praise that men are coming to see that both hinge upon one law which is necessary to each if satisfactory results are to be obtained. This law—the law of concentrated mind action—is universal in its application.
Concentration is a very easy thing. It is practiced every day by every one of us. Men or women, while giving special thought to problems that arise in their business, can so concentrate their minds upon whatever they have to do that they will not be conscious that people all about them are talking; they concentrate on the problem that they have in mind, to the exclusion of all else. The housekeeper concentrates upon what she is doing, and the result is a perfectly ordered house, deliciously prepared and healthful food, and an atmosphere of peace. The artist, be he musician, sculptor, or painter, concentrates upon the ideal that he has in mind until it takes definite form and is reproduced in a great composition, a splendid piece of sculpture, or a wonderful canvas. What one has done, others can do.
A person should not be discouraged if he falls back occasionally into old mental habits while he is training his mind to give obedience to his will, but he should renew his effort until his command over his thought forces becomes second nature and concentration is almost involuntary.
In the allegory of creation God said: "Let them [man] have dominion over ... all the earth." Man has exercised this dominion in many ways, but he still has to gain dominion over himself. Today man is awakening, within his soul, to the fact that he is not in full control or dominion over himself, and he is beginning to train his mental forces so that he may come into the fullness of this dominion. God has been called the great mental substance of the universe.
Meditation offers a simple and effectual means which, if put into practice, will be of immeasurable assistance in enabling man to gain dominion over all the powers and forces within him, ultimately resulting in peace and harmony in himself and in his world.
Lesson III - Meditation
Before we begin the study of this lesson we shall have a short resume of the preceding lessons. You will remember that we said that we were dividing these instructions into four parts. The first, relaxation, deals with the body and gives directions for physical training. The second, concentration, relates to the mind and its nature and concerns mental training. The third, which we take up in this lesson, is meditation. Meditation induces a union of the mental and the spiritual.
Through the results that we have attained in our practice of the first two lessons we are, as a logical sequence, merging into the next, or third, degree of this process of soul unfoldment. Constructive meditation is of very great importance to us. Man cannot know God aright without meditation upon Him and upon His purpose in relation to man and upon man's place in His divine plan.
We have not trained our minds to obey as they should; when we now try to concentrate on a definite subject, that we may extract from it its inmost substance, we find that extraneous thoughts intrude. We have also found that under consistent and continuous training, the mind accepts and acts upon our mental suggestion and readily obeys.
To learn how to meditate effectively is to acquire a valuable ability. Through meditation we contact the Christ mind. Meditation is the great middle ground between concentration and realization and it is necessary to both.
Beginning as we have been instructed, we shall for five minutes still the activity of the nerves and the muscles of the body in relaxation. Then we shall take up the next step, concentration.
As we come into the mental phase of our practice in the way of meditation, we shall hold our minds steadily focused on our chosen word, "omnipresence." Let us not think about it or wonder what it means, but simply hold the word in mind with fixed attention. If at first we have to repeat the word over and over, let us do so until we have brought our attention under control and have made it absolutely subject to our wills.
What is the meaning of the word "meditate"? Our dictionaries tell us that it means "to keep the mind in a state of contemplation."
Now, without any break go right on into the new lesson on meditation and begin to contemplate or reflect on the word "omnipresence." We shall ask ourselves what this word means to us and what we really understand by it. Let us begin to analyze the word and seek to get from it all that it may hold, for words are but shells containing certain forms of substance. We know that the indwelling presence of the Spirit of wisdom will reveal itself to us and will make known the meaning and the purpose of omnipresence. Divide the word into two parts. Omni means all, nothing but the all, allness; presence means a state of being present, at hand, within reach or call; omnipresence means present in all places at the same time, no other presence, nothing ever present but God, who is within us, and all about us, for "in Him we live, and move, and have our being." He is All-presence, the presence of Spirit, our Source, our God; there can be no other abiding and eternal presence.
We are told that "out of it [the heart] are the issues of life." Within the innermost depths of the consciousness, of the soul, we contact this one Presence and feel its power. This is not a sensation but it is the inner knowing that we call feeling, quietly taking possession of us. Omnipresence is the one presence; it is the union of wisdom and love, and it is within us.
We shall take up this exercise in meditation: Omnipresence, manifest thyself in me that I may know thee, that I may feel thee, that I may be thee.
"As he thinketh within himself, so is he." We become like that upon which we dwell in thought. If we turn our thoughts to the things of Spirit, refusing to let material matters govern us, we begin to manifest in appearance the beauty of the divine character which is being formed in us through thinking divinely. Former ideas pass from mind and we are as new creatures in the new world of dynamic spiritual thought. In this new world we attain realization of things that are eternal.
Meditation upon our innate divinity, with a strong desire to live as befits a child of God, raises us into higher spiritual realms of thought, where we contact God and realize our oneness with Him. This realization is an eternal state of consciousness.
Carrie Moss Hawley says: "The reason meditation is so important is that the mind must be lifted out of its old ways of thinking and placed in the new, and only by continuous effort can this be accomplished. You know certain things are true. You should not think of them as in the experimental stage. Begin to use them as known forces that will produce certain results beyond question."
We readily perceive how these separate steps in meditation merge into one another in orderly sequence. In our next and final lesson, "Realization," we shall note the place occupied in our spiritual unfoldment by each of the first three degrees in knowing God. Meditation is the union of the mental and the spiritual activities of the soul, but in realization we become more and more conscious of the Christ mind in us. We find that each time we engage in the practice of the methods of meditation, the way becomes easier and results are more satisfactory because we are diligently and intelligently applying what we have learned.
Practice makes perfect. By practice we shall be able to center our thoughts just where we want them to be. We shall be able to analyze words, or groups of words, in meditation until we have appropriated the intent of the words and have finished thinking about them.
The power to know now becomes active and fills the consciousness with the knowledge derived through meditation. Knowledge becomes a reality in the entire man. Through realization the knowledge gained in meditation becomes fixed in consciousness. In realization we know that this work is done. The result abides in the soul as increasing power and joy in living. Through realization we come to know the inner quietness where we are bidden to "be still, and know that I am God." Without practicing the silence and meditation no man can really know God, whom to know aright is life eternal.
Lesson IV - Realization
In this lesson we take up the last of the four steps in our study of meditation. We shall now determine, so far as we are able, what the word "realization" holds for us when we have released its inner power into our consciousness. We shall know too what it becomes in us when it is incorporated in our whole being. When thus incorporated it is an actuality, an established activity.
In realization we cease thinking about the word upon which we have concentrated, and we come into the center or heart of consciousness, symbolized by the heart. We penetrate this innermost region when we have concentrated and have meditated upon the word "omnipresence" until we know its power and have felt the Presence. Let us continue to feel the Presence without thinking about it. At this point begins a continual realization of the presence of our Source, our Father. Here we become conscious of the activity of the Cause manifesting in the son, Christ Jesus, within the very heart of us. We should endeavor to feel the reality of the Presence and to make real in our consciousness the fullness, the joy, and the freedom of the Presence as it unfolds us within and without. We should not continue to think about it, for in our hearts we should feel the Presence, the one Presence, the All-presence. We are taught that "out of it [the heart] are the issues of life." All life is from within outward. When we become sufficiently aware of this inner power and begin to know something of its activity, all outer manifestation follows in ratio to our understanding of its capability. Realizing this to be true we no longer think about it; we know. If we are not whole we know that the indwelling Presence is health; if we do not yet understand, we know that the indwelling Presence is wisdom and that it executes its will of righteousness in and through us. We are to make within us a realization of God, our abiding strength. Consciousness of the presence of God causes us to realize the fullness of all that God is and of all that man is, and in this consciousness the unification of God and man is established within us.
When the three preceding lessons have been learned and their practice has borne fruit, then mental effort is merged into a quiet, inner knowing-feeling, a something without sensation that is an active reality and that satisfies the soul.
Relaxation, concentration, and meditation constitute half the process of unfoldment from the natural man into the spiritual man. Realization, the illumination of the soul, completes the process of this unfoldment. Realization is making a reality in consciousness of the nature and divinity of the true self and is an actuality beyond compare.
Truth may be realized in this stage of meditation, and the joy that it produces is beyond estimation. Realization will go on forever, continually bringing forth in man a richer and a truer concept of what he is as the beloved child of the Father.
Spiritual realization is a peaceful intensity of feeling that knows without effort of thought the truth of the assertions,"I and the Father are one," and "Son, thou art ever with Me, and all that is mine is thine."
The great value of Jesus' teaching is that He taught that God dwells in us. "Know ye not that ye are a temple of God?" "The true prayer is the prayer of silence, the only door that opens the soul directly to the conscious knowledge of God and brings the realization of the God-nature in ourselves." It is recorded of Emerson that it was his custom to go daily to the woods to listen.
The purpose of prayer is that through it we may consciously unite ourselves with God and ally ourselves with His power. Thus we enter the spiritual atmosphere in which we live, move, and have our real being. In our real identity we are "sons of God." Therefore we inherit the power and the limitless possibilities of the Father.
Religion with Jesus was wholly a matter of realization and not a question of creeds or of dogmas. Does theology heal disease? When we realize our oneness with the Father and with all that is eternal we have the way of life that Jesus taught, in which life and health and strength abide. The whole process of life is a resurrection. Paul said, "I die daily," and we are finding these words to be true in ourselves, for we die continually to that which is false, in order that we may live eternally in a greater and truer livingness. Soul-realization becomes God-recognition. Do not let failure discourage you; instead make every failure a stepping-stone to victory by refusing to be defeated in your purpose. This lesson calls for unremitting practice. In realization we do not think; we know. Spiritual consciousness is evolving, and there is no need to think about it; we are to "be still, and know." The purpose of realization is to form such a high order of consciousness that it will express itself in thought and manifest itself in deed.
Faithful continuance in the practice of meditation is necessary in order to know God aright.
We are now beginning to live in the spiritual influence of reality. We are incorporating the divine. We begin to note a change in ourselves. We no longer are bound by mortal limitations; we are aware of the directing power of the Christ mind, consciously active within us. We experience some of the freedom of Spirit. Every aspect of life may be converted into an avenue of righteousness. It is now our vocation to bring omnipresence—the one Presence—into its full expression and manifestation in ourselves and in our individual worlds through a full consecration to the purposes of reality, the Real.