The inner art of meditation can sometimes be portrayed in a rather staid and boring light as the mere clearing of thoughts, but anyone who has meditated for a number of years will that this is simply not so. Meditation is self-discovery, and just as outer travel can allow you to absorb all of the beauty and diversity that the huge array of cultures on this planet have to offer, so inner exploration can reveal a vast canvas of possibility just as varied and beautiful as anything obtainable by outer travel. I have always been fascinated by the notion of meditation and self-discovery as one giant adventure, and I hope in this article to share with you some of that sense of adventure and exploration that meditation can bring.
So where to start? In keeping with the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ analogy of our title, let’s think of our mere human mind as the planet Earth. There are quite a few similarities – it’s familiar, it’s a comfort zone, there’s a lot of “fury and sound, signifying nothing” (as Shakespeare’s Macbeth would put it), and there’s the definite temptation to fall into the trap of feeling that that what you see is pretty much all there is. Like the planet Earth, we often head off on a so-called straight line of thought and instead end up at the same place having gone round in circles, and of course the mind also insists that it places itself at the very centre of the universe, pretty much like it used to be on Earth!
But then, just as there came a time when we realised that right above our heads was infinite vastness, and that those little dots in the sky were signposts to worlds far beyond the our reach, similarly there comes a time when we realise that beyond our limited mind lies something very vast indeed in the middle of our chest, at the very core of our being. And just as astronomers of old lay with their heads staring at the night sky wishing that someday they could travel to the stars, a yearning builds up inside us for something deeper than the machinations of the mind. And yet various obstacles prevent us from making that journey; technological in their case, fear and lethargy in ours. But then one day push comes to shove, the call of the stars proves too strong to resist, and our journey begins.
It is perhaps no coincidence that many of the astronauts and cosmonauts who entered into outer space returned with a profoundly humbled sense of being and became much more spiritual as a result. Seeing the Earth they called their home reduced to a tiny blue ball made them realise how small and beautiful at the same time their existence on Earth was. Similarly when we enter into the vastness of the heart during meditation, we can look at our mind from afar and begin to see it for what it truly is – not the apex of our existence but as a nonetheless essential part of our being which we try to encourage to work in unison alongside our body, emotions, heart and soul.
And onwards we go on our inner voyage, leaving the mind far behind. Throughout our journey obstacles and challenges arise which might occasionally send us scuttling back to planet Earth for comfort, but as we explore more of this inner universe we trust it more, and our fear of the unknown decreases. We get in touch with a part of our being that is truly timeless, that in the words of the ancients “that never was born and never will die“, and the prospect of death begins to lose some of its sting as a result. Depending on our nature, various experiences might happen during our meditation – we might see light in beautiful shades of white or blue or gold reflecting some deep quality of our nature, or we might get some kind of energizing inner feeling regarding what we should do in our outer life to fulfill our potential. Or like many people, we might just emerge from our meditation with a deeper sense of peace, connectedness and identification with the vaster sense of self inside the heart. In other words we begin to feel that our real home is not the earth, but the universe.
So what lies at the end of our journey to the universe within? Most of us are still learning the ABC’s of meditation, and so for now we only have the accounts left by great meditators to give us some idea of what these experiences are like (until such time as we get to that level and experience them ourselves of course). Indian philosophy talks of different levels of consciousness which culminate in the union of Sat-Chit-Ananda – existence, consciousness and delight. And of course there is the famous Nirvana experienced by the Buddha, where the soul at last is immersed in the ocean of supreme bliss. There is one thing which all agree on: the journey truly is an endless one, as any true exploration of Infinity should be.
In this light, the important thing is at all times to keep the same hunger for exploration and childlike joy of discovery as you had when you first jetted off from Planet Earth. The Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki continually stressed the importance of continually having a ‘beginner’s mind’, unburdened by the assumption that it knows everything about meditation, as there is always something more to discover. Indian meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy, who passed away last year, similarly always tried to generate a sense of newness about the inner journey and indeed always described himself as ‘an eternal beginner’; he always viewed any previous attainments as a launchpad for the next journey. With this state of mind, every discovery and experience becomes new, and encourages you to dive deeper into the source of your true nature. We here at Sri Chinmoy Inspiration would like to wish you the best of luck and godspeed on that inner journey, and hope that in it you will find something that will give you true satisfaction in life.