To get the benefits of meditation that we hear about, like being more free of anxiety, being more positive, being more calm, more clear, more focused and also maybe a lot of things having to do with physical health, does not require a lot of depth in meditation. What it requires is a steady practice, doing something like watching the breath every day or just about every day, once or twice a day, short bursts of concentrated stillness and developing the commitment to do it, but also the understanding that when you’re doing your meditation, it’s got to at least feel decent, right? So the best way to feel decent if your mind’s wandering, you’re having trouble with the breath, you’re physically fidgety, you have anxiety, you’re having negative thoughts or something, just keep bringing your mind back to the feeling of the breath without controlling it and learn to leave the meditation and feel absolutely successful that you did your best.
In the beginning, a lot of the benefits that we hear about in the medical field, in western science about meditation, those can be obtained that way and that kind of a meditation can evolve into something like twenty or thirty minutes at a time and you’re just doing something, there’s a lot of techniques out there like that, where you’re just inhaling this, exhaling that, focusing here. You’ll get a lot of the benefits. But when you read books about deep spiritual experiences, saints communing with God, St. Francis communing with Jesus, Yogananda with Krishna, or when you talk about that kind of meditation, going deeper spiritually, having a direct relationship with the Divine, the way I would define if we’re moving deep, it’s never going to be like visions, crazy astral experiences, out of body weirdness. Half the time when people experience those things it’s because they fell asleep and they don’t even know it, because you can get used to meditating and have a really straight spine and be completely asleep and you just go off into subconscious, you go off into dreamland and you’ll have dreams related to whatever you think about meditation, whatever you want about meditation and you might come out thinking you had this mind blowing, great spiritual experience and it was literally a subconscious dream.
But the way to know if your meditation is deep, specifically what I’m talking about when I say depth, it’s an experience of freedom. In other words you don’t feel like you’re meditating, you don’t feel like you’re doing a technique anymore. You might even be doing it, but you’re observing a different experience inside where you feel free and when I say freedom what I mean is (and I can only speak about my own experience) when the part of my consciousness that divides everything up into life into likes and dislikes is gone. The likes and the dislikes go away and you’re completely aware and you feel free.
And that’s the direction and that’s my personal experience. I’ve read books and my keep teacher Yogananda says that the personality isn’t who you are, the habits aren’t who you are, that you’re the awareness, you’re the soul, that inside of you, in a way trapped inside of you is the awareness that you’re one with everything, that it’s all good, that everything that’s happening is happening for a reason, even crazy things that we see in the news, it’s all for some reason to help the soul grow as it goes through all these different stages of life and stages of awareness in different forms of life. And we get all caught up in the movie, we get all caught up in the drama and it feels like life sucks or we personally, our own identity becomes a way too big, it’s more important than anything else and our own thoughts of ourselves, our own fears about ourselves become so big that they block out everything that’s beautiful. We can’t see anymore how good things are, we can’t feel any more connection with the universe because we’re so obsessed with “me”.
Like me doing this talk or me being a good guy or a bad guy or having the right answer at any time, all this ”me, me, me” stuff. And it’s the same thing like recently I had to buy some clothes for something and I hate buying clothes and it’s like a big thing. But I was thinking about it because when I was a kid it was a big deal, because I get all this ego thing about my little haircut, my little outfit, how to look cool, but not look like you’re trying to be cool. It’s all this stuff that destroyed me in high school, but I’m fifty six years old and my way of dealing with it was I just never buy anything but T-shirts for the rest of my life. I don’t have any stress about that. But then walking into a place to buy a suit and everything, I get all freaked out. And I was having these memories, it’s almost like muscle memory, of this insecure, needy, egoic crap. Those things, when I’m having a good meditation are gone. But the other thing is that there’ve been times in my life where different things have happened, I don’t want to say the exact things, but like in family and different things where let’s say I felt hurt or I felt like something was unfair. I don’t know if anybody’s ever experience that on this planet, sometimes things don’t feel fair. We’ve experienced some kind of unkindness and you know it’s hard to let it go, it’s hard to look at that individual and say it’s all good and really feel it and that’s the reality, right? But in a deeper state of meditation for whatever reason, in a higher state of awareness you could say, those things do go and maybe some people here are already free of that. I’m not, so I’m not saying that you have it, because I’m only talking about me, but there are those certain instances in life where I still have a real struggle to consciously accept and to think about it without feeling some kind of wish it was better, wish it was different, wish I could still talk to that person but it’s dysfunctional and I can’t.
But in that state of higher consciousness in meditation, it’s just love. There’s no need for anything to be different than it is and there’s also just this inherent knowing that even the greatest difficulties and challenges that we face in life are nothing compared to what’s really happening in the long run, that we will all eventually know, that we will all eventually realize in our understanding.
And so I had a little topic tonight and it’s discrimination, but I wanted to start with that because I think everybody has to have their way of having that understanding personally, your own personal experience of clarity, because once I had that experience, then it became my life goal to live in respect of what I knew, even though you come down from that experience and then you look at those same people and you can go right back to the way you were, but I still remember that there was a place where I could be where it was all OK. And so I choose to validate that memory and choose to try to live in that awareness, because I do not have that experience in every meditation.
So when you’re talking about discrimination, a lot of times we use discrimination, that word in our language could be all about separating, right? There’s a lot of bad connotations with discrimination and so we’re thinking anti discrimination, we want to include everybody, which is great, we’re moving forward. That’s wonderful. But spiritually speaking, that’s not at all the way I think about that word.
For me, my goal – I’m not always doing this – but my goal would be to use my discrimination, use my understanding, my experience, my know how to make better choices in my life to support that experience of oneness that I believe and remember from meditation.
I know that you can read in every great spiritual tradition that we’re all one, that we’re all children of something and there’s some kind of a purpose and that we’re all created equal in some way. Those things just seem to make sense to me. But it doesn’t look that way in this world and it’s so easy to get up, drive your car, go to your job, look at the news, listen to the radio and start judging everybody, start dividing up the world into groups, groups that we accept, groups that we hate, groups that we love, groups that we run away from. And there’s people on the planet that are the source of all evil and the channel of everything negative and then there’s people on the planet that are supposedly doing everything right and everything good. And so everything is divided up into all these categories.
And so one way to use discrimination spiritually is to work with our own experience of what brings us freedom.
So for me what brings me freedom is this idea that no matter what you do to me, even if you’re hitting me with a stick or shooting me with a gun, I know that inside of you is a part of me. That’s my affirmation, that’s where I want to be, but that might not be where you want to be. So I’m not here to preach, but for each one of us, what is it? What is it that binds us, because I know in me what binds me is separation. I hate thinking of groups being separate. I don’t want to think of black people different than white people and men different than women and Christians different than Jews. I can’t accept it. I’ve just not been wired that way, OK? Although I can see all the outer reasons why people feel those things, but I don’t believe it in my heart and when I start to believe it in my heart, it makes me sad. And so for each one of us I think we have to decide. That’s why meditation to me is so important. It’s great to meditate a little bit and get calm and get quiet and just feel in your heart what feels right for you, what you’re really inspired about and how you want to live and how you want to feel about life and yourself and everybody else and then use your power of discrimination to go against all the things that we hear in the world, that we hear in media, that we see happening even all around us in our families and our friends and even in our own personalities, in our own habits. We can choose to discriminate and make better choices and embrace the ideas and the feelings, the ways of being inside of us that bring harmony in our hearts, that make us feel free, that make us feel healthy and whole. And then everything else doesn’t matter.
I know that there’s not a single person in this room that to be healthy and whole you have to chop the head off another person, so we can talk about it that way, right? We’ve got a certain level of common sense and development in here. But I think that at the end of the day, that’s one way to think of discrimination – it’s just making better choices. For some of us, at least for me there was a long time where I didn’t even trust myself to make decisions on the fly and so whenever there was a big decision I would take it into meditation and I would let go of it and I would just kind of feel in my heart – does this feel right, whatever it is – business, relationships, who knows? Does this bring me the right feeling, even if I don’t understand it mentally?
See that’s the other thing about discrimination – we’ve been taught in our time, in our culture, our world to use reason, to weigh everything out, to make a list and do it mentally and I don’t believe in that at all. It’s better than nothing, but I think it’s better to trust your heart and your intuition, because your intuition will tell you by what you feel, what’s really right for you at that moment and it may defy all reason. But it depends on how we are. It needs to be balanced. Some people might be too crazy that way.
But at the end of the day, that’s all I can say about it.
Be guided by your heart, do what makes you free and don’t be fooled by what you’ve been told. Don’t be fooled by what you’ve been taught and don’t be fooled by what you see in movies and television and news. Don’t be fooled by our politicians. Don’t be fooled by spiritual leaders. Go with what you know in your heart is right and trust it and validate it with your actions and walk tall. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. Then learn from it. And maybe it’s not supposed to work out and we just needed to do that to get clear about our own intentions in life.
And then life in one way feels like a battlefield, but in another way it feels very freeing, if we’re not measuring our success by how other people view us, by the normal measurements that everybody in the world uses of whatever it is, fame and fortune or your car. And just by knowing that you can go sit down and have coffee or you can go walk at the beach or you can go to your job and the decisions that you make and the way you interact with people, like let’s say in your recent memory, like of that day, that you did your very best to operate from a place of love and kindness and sincere respect and just trying to do the right thing. And I think that’s a pretty good place to be. I would say that’s freedom, at least for now while we’re in school.
Recorded at Yogananda Meditation Center on October 2, 2017.
Join The Art & Science of Happiness to attend live talks.