(Excerpt from A Twenty-First Century Seeker by Pradhan Balter)
At its most basic, meditation is a four-step process. The various techniques that we offer are all embellishments of these four steps but accomplish the same thing:
- Affirm your heart’s aspiration
- Calm or quiet the mind
- Leave the mind-room
- Enter the heart-room.
As you are guided through these steps, you’ll find that all the basic concepts are included.
Basic candle meditation
In an appropriately quiet location, place a lighted candle in front of you and seat yourself a comfortable distance from it, perhaps two or three feet.
(Posture) Sit comfortably erect. The back should be alert. Remember to keep the palms of both your hands over your spiritual heart in the center of your chest.
First, simply become aware of the hands touching the chest. Try to feel their warmth. Later, this same sensation will help you “enter the heart”. Take a minute or two to concentrate on your hands over your chest. Leave your hands there throughout this exercise. Gently close your eyes.
(Inner diligence) Make an inner pact with yourself. Tell yourself that these next five, seven or ten minutes are dedicated to your spiritual life, to your spiritual communion. Nothing else is more important for these few minutes. Take just one minute to feel in your heart a sincere hunger for that inner quality that “speaks” to you most—be it peace, love or God. Imagine yourself as a child in your own heart, thirsty for these qualities. Dwell in your aspiration-hunger for a minute.
(Quieting the mind) Now, invite the mind into calm. Imagine above your head a very luminous, cloudless, blue sky. It is very clear and very vast. With each gentle inhalation, imagine all the thoughts, all the images and pictures in the mind dissolving upwards into this clear sky. Feel no necessity to replace the thoughts and pictures. Let your mind become softer, more formless. Eventually, imagine the mind itself dissolving upwards into the sky, leaving you with no mind or form. You might repeat to yourself, “No mind, no form, I only exist. No mind, no form, I only exist.” And then, become silent.
Now leave the mind-room… your breathing is probably quieter now, shallower. There is no need to deepen it, but do become aware of it. As you breathe in and out, imagine that the breath is passing through your hands directly into the heart. As the breath enters, simply “ride” on the breath, leaving the mind-room and moving deeper with each gentle breath into that space just behind your hands—the heart-room.
Now establish yourself in the heart more completely. Gently open your eyes and bring all your concentration to the candle flame, and nothing else. Don’t look to the left or right of the flame, or at the candle stick, only at the flame. Try to penetrate the flame with your concentration for a minute or two.
Gently close your eyes and visualize or imagine the flame just an inch behind your hands. See it perfectly still. Concentrate on it with the same intensity.
Reopen your eyes and once more concentrate on the candle flame, but this time imagine yourself drawing the flame into your heart. Try to place it as deeply in your heart as possible.
Again, close your eyes and once more see and concentrate on the flame in your heart. Remain still for a minute more. When you are ready, take a deeper breath and reopen your eyes.
The intention of this exercise is to familiarize you with and give you a little taste of meditation. I advise you not to evaluate the experience. That would be the equivalent of the toddler, after making his first solo attempt at walking, asking himself, “Well, just how did I do?” If you experience a little more quietude—perhaps the room seems calmer to you, well and good…
Excerpt from A Twenty-First Century Seeker by Pradhan Balter / Blue Beyond Books / £12.99