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Understanding True Meditation – It Is Not Sleep

When persons without training and preparation try to make their minds vacant, they are likely to succeed only in covering themselves in tamas. Now, this is another thing: When people, without any aid, wanting to clear off everything, sit quietly — do you know what happens? They slowly go to sleep. That is why in the meditation class you get good sleep. Many people will say: ‘I have had a good meditation; I have slept well.’ Do you know why? The preparation for meditation and sleep is the same up to a particular point.

You say: ‘Let us relax our body and mind, getting rid of all alien and unbecoming thoughts and feelings, and let us enter into our inner sanctuary.’ Then comes: ‘Let us meditate.’ And you become
awake and conscious, or get sleepy — in sleep, you go down. That is the point where, if you become
awake, conscious, you are all right; but if you are not careful, slowly, unconsciously you go to sleep.
That is why you should never bend your spine when you sit for class — a little bending of the spine and slowly you relax. If you keep the spine straight, you are alert, and you overcome sleep. In meditation, keep the spine straight. If it is a little crooked, meditation is finished. That is the experience. Keep the mind alert. It is very difficult but not impossible.

‘The success of yogis differs according as the means they adopt are mild, medium, or intense.’ That is why in yoga it is said that you have to meditate daily once, twice, thrice, many times. What is the purpose? The idea is that when you keep the mind calm and quiet through meditation, it stays that way even when you throw this mind into society.

You are influenced by so many thoughts, so many ideas, so many personal equations, that you have to come back to meditation to resolve them, and again you go back to society. Going back and forth, sooner or later, you will dive deep into yourself. The more time you give for meditation, the better it is.

Do it continuously, then alone this mind can be controlled. Otherwise, it is a little meditation and
then going back to society; continually doing this does not help. The more time we give for meditation the better it is. Meditation does not mean that you have to go to your room and sit there — this is another wrong conception of meditation. Meditation is not the place where you sit, it is a state of mind. In the beginning you need the right kind of discipline, you have to set the atmosphere so that the mind can get into the correct mood.

But as you develop meditation, as you progress in mental evolution, you discover that you can meditate in any place, sitting anywhere, without needing even to sit straight or burn incense. You can sit anywhere, but go carefully through the preparatory meditation; by understanding every word prepare your mind: ‘Let us meditate on the abiding presence of the all-loving being seated on the throne of our heart, radiating joy, light, and peace.’

Wherever you are, wherever you sit, you can create the right atmosphere, you can dive deep into yourself, you do not need a particular place. These are false notions: ‘Oh, I must go back to that particular place, and I must sit on a particular seat. Certain people must not be there; I must sit at that place alone, then I will get meditation, otherwise not.’ If I am disturbed when a particular person sits in front of me, then where am I? That is an impossible situation. Meditation is not a thing to be done in a chapel or in a shrine, at a particular time or place; meditation is a mood of the mind.

You can enter into this mood of meditation anywhere, sitting quietly; in a big crowd you can be alone, you can meditate in a busy place if you know the art. You have to create the right kind of atmosphere, within yourself, not externally. You don’t always get the external situation as you want it. That is why Jesus said: ‘Enter into thy closet, shut the door.’ Closet means not a place, but in your own mind. Shut the door of your external senses, dive deep into yourself, and contemplate. Then you have the ability to understand your own mind; hold on to your own being and purify it slowly. The whole struggle is a mental struggle.

Source - Light on Patanjali – IV by Swami Sarvagatananda published in Prabuddha Bharata Magazine November 2008 issue.