Benefits of japa

Japa is the repetition of a sacred mantra many times. On some paths of meditation, japa plays a most significant role and can help a seeker still the mind, and invoke the divine qualities of the mantra.


I follow Sri Chinmoy’s path of meditation, and japa is not the most prominent aspect. However, I do find that japa has many benefits, in addition to regular silent meditation.

1. Easy to do

In one sense, japa is easy to do. Even if the mind is busy or you feel a little stressed, you can get into a good rhythm with japa and push the irritating thoughts to the back of your mind. However, in another sense to do japa very soulfully – is not so easy. It requires patience and daily discipline. However, even if I don’t feel like meditation, I can take up japa – and it feels like a stepping stone to the next stage – which is a deeper more silent meditation. Continue reading “Benefits of japa”

Basic Steps for Learning Meditation


In many of my articles on self improvement, I often suggest meditation can be an invaluable aid to alleviating many of our daily problems. I don’t look upon meditation just as a problem solver, I meditate because I enjoy the consciousness of meditation. But, if we can gain real peace of mind through meditation, there is no problem that cannot be helped in some way. These a few preliminary steps for learning how to meditate.

1. Location.

Firstly, find a suitable quiet place for meditation. If it is very hard to find somewhere quiet, use some meditative music to drown out background sounds. If possible keep a corner of your room reserved just for meditation; this will help build up a meditative vibration in that particular part.

2. The Basics.

  • It is important to meditate with a straight back. (If you try meditating whilst lying down, you are more likely to fall asleep, than entering into a high state of meditation.)
  • Don’t meditate after eating a heavy meal – you will feel lethargic and sleepy.
  • If possible shower and wear clean clothes before meditating.
  • Try to switch off. If you try to meditate straight after work, you may be still thinking about the day. Try reading some books on meditation to help make the transition from work to meditation.
  • If you have difficulty creating time see: Finding Time for Relaxation / Meditation

3. Relaxation.

To meditate it is important to relax and switch off. Tell yourself that for the next 10-15 minutes, you don’t have to think about the past or future – just concentrate on the present moment and your meditation. Let go of any tension in your body and try to be fully aware of the present moment. This stage of relaxation is a preliminary stage to meditation; but, it is worth emphasizing that meditation is more than just relaxation.

Continue reading “Basic Steps for Learning Meditation”

The best time is now

When giving meditation classes, a common issue is people find it difficult to find the time to set aside 15 minutes of the day for meditation and a period of quiet reflection. We all know it would be good to meditate, but to actually make sure we do it can be quite a challenge. Similarly, we can have the best of intentions to change some of our bad habits and wrong attitudes, but we think maybe it will be easier or better at a later stage. For any progressive change in our nature or worthwhile practise, the best time to start is always now!


We might think there will be a better time in the future, but in the spiritual life, the best time is always this present moment. If we wait for outer circumstances to be more favourable, we will always be delaying and procrastinating. And before we know it, we will have given up completely.

These are some tips to value the present moment and take each opportunity.

Valuing meditation

The first thing is we need to always remember the value of meditation and spiritual practise. If we see meditation as some hard discipline we need to endure, our mind will always find an excuse to avoid doing it. However, if we can focus on the benefits and joy that we will get from the practise, we will always be motivated to keep trying. Here we need to use our wisdom, we need to convince our mind that we get more joy from meditation than we would wasting our time on some inconsequential other activity. Don’t feel when we meditate we are making a great sacrifice. Our reward will not be in heaven, it will be from cultivating a genuine sense of happiness here and now.

Change attitude to difficulties

If we wish to start a practise of meditation, there will be innumerable obstacles. For example, we may find it is much noiser than we like. One option is to say, ‘it’s too noisy’ let’s wait until its quieter. The other option is to say, “I’ll take this outer noise as a part of the meditation practise. I shall try incorporate the noise into the meditation – learning to allow the sound to wash away.” If we can meditate with noise, it will make our meditation practise much stronger. It’s like a runner training on hilly terrain. When he finally reaches the flat terrain, the challenging hills made him stronger.

Learn to say no!

Sometimes, other people can take advantage of our good nature and encourage us to take on more jobs and responsibility. But, we have to learn to say no, and put our spiritual practise first. If we can lose our feeling of indispensability, we find the world doesn’t end, just because we spend 20 minutes early in the morning learning to meditate.

Live as if it was your last day on earth

If it was your last day on earth, how would you spend it? Would you really worry about paying some telephone bill? Would you waste it in meaningless gossip and chat? If it was our last day, we would concentrate on the important things in  life. We would suddenly be very clear what is important to us. Material possessions lose all meaning – they are merely passing things; but our inner practise, our inner faith and inner peace become all important.

If we don’t take this opportunity, we won’t have it again

A spiritual life means:
It is now
Or never.

Sri Chinmoy (1)

Every moment is an opportunity – either we take it or lose it. In one sense, we have eternity to achieve realisation. But, if this is our laid back attitude, we will progress with the speed of an Indian bullock cart. If we get an opportunity to meditate or change our attitude – then we should take it now, whilst we have the aspiration. If we miss out, perhaps in a few days, we will lose any enthusiasm or willingness to change.

Continue reading “The best time is now”

To Think or Not To Think?

Recently, we were giving a meditation class at a central location in Oxford. On the same evening as our meditation class, another room in the building was host to a lecture series which was part of an event called ‘Think Week’.

The location of our room meant everyone coming for the ‘Think’ lecture passed through our room. We would politely ask ‘Meditation or Think?’ (I did consider asking ‘are you here to think or not to think? but thought it would confuse too much) we would then direct them onto the location. One of the attendees was Richard Dawkins, who had already given a lecture in the series. (Dawkins famous for his book God-Delusion and atheist views). Like others, he briefly he popped into our room before being re-directed on to the more cerebral choice of entertainment for the evening.

I’m not sure what these visitors thought of our simple meditation shrine as they briefly looked in. – A picture of a spiritual master  a candle, incense, flute music for meditation and flowers…

It just highlighted the simple choice we face in life. The path of the mind or  the path of the heart.

When we live in the mind, we try desperately to work out which is the best philosophy, the right way of thinking. It is a constant process of judgement, decision and analysis. But, if we meditate and really silence the mind, we don’t feel this sense of judgement. It is no longer a question of right and wrong, best or worst; it is simply a state of being which is joyful and natural.

In the silence of the heart, there is a natural sense of oneness. This is not a mere intellectual belief/hope we are interconnected. It is a un-mistakeable sense that there is only one of us. And what we do to others, we really do to our-self.

Permit not thoughts
To come from near and far.
Let your mind remain
Tranquillity’s blue star.

– Sri Chinmoy [1. Excerpt from Silence Speaks, Part 2 by Sri Chinmoy]

However, if we feel the joy of meditation, the joy of silence, we feel it is not so important as to who is right, but only to remain in this state of being.


Exercise To Quieten the Mind

My mind,
Keep your thoughts silent.
Keep your words silent.
Keep everything that you have
And you are silent
To make me and my heart
Extremely happy.

– Sri Chinmoy [1. Sri Chinmoy,  Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 6, Agni Press, 1998.]


This exercise is quite easy and makes an excellent introduction to meditation.

  • Sit comfortable and tell yourself for next ten minutes you will just focus on this exercise and nothing else.
  • Begin by observing thoughts that come into your mind. Make no effort to control or direct thoughts, just see which thoughts come into your mind.
  • Don’t judge yourself or your thoughts, but just feel you are watching these thoughts pass through your mind.
  • The secret is to feel that ‘you’ are able to see the thoughts coming from outside into your self. This makes you feel that your thoughts are actually external to your real self. You realise the real ‘you’ is not your thoughts, but something which can view, follow and reject thoughts
  • The next stage is to let go of any thought that comes into your mind. As soon as a thought comes stop following it. Don’t pursue it any further. If you feel it is helpful, imagine you are throwing the thought out of your mind (you can feel you are just waving it away)
  • Again don’t judge any thought that comes in, don’t get annoyed if your mind creates many thoughts, just persist in waving them away.
  • Now, try to lengthen the moments of silence in between thoughts. Try to stop them coming in at all.
  • Even if thoughts do appear, feel they are very separate to you, like fish in the sea they have no effect, but feel very distant and separate. They may be there but they can’t affect you.

This exercise is a good step to becoming aware there is more to your reality than your thoughts. Even if thoughts appear in your mind, they have less power, less hold over you. When the power of thought is diminished, it is easier to go deep into the silent mind – which is the secret of meditation.


Photo: Unmesh, Sri Chinmoy Centre Gallery

Tips for Meditation

Recently, I offered a few meditation exercises. For those interested in meditation, these are a few practical tips that I have felt worked for me during the past 11 years of meditating every day.

Great Power in Group Meditation.

Meditation is about consciousness. If other people are aspiring to the same meditative consciousness it becomes easier for you to be receptive to it. If you are  in New York Times Square, meditation will feel practically impossible. Of course, when we are very advanced, we will have the ability to meditate anywhere, but, in the beginning we should take any help we can get. In the beginning we will make more progress by meditating in sacred spaces and with others who are experienced in meditation.

Feel Thoughts as Separate from Yourself.

In the beginning it is very difficult to stop thoughts coming. But, you can feel thoughts as separate from yourself. Feel that each thought is coming from outside, and you can be like a gatekeeper allowing or stopping them. For a while, thoughts will keep coming into your mind. But, when you start to feel thoughts are separate to your real existence, they lose half their power. It is this feeling of separation from your thoughts that enables you to finally silence the mind.

It is not Like Turning on a Light Switch.

Meditation is a gradual process. You can’t expect instant enlightenment. It requires constant vigilance and practise. But, sometimes when you least expect it, you will be able to go much deeper than ever before.

Soulful Music

Meditation is a sacred activity. It is an awareness of a divine consciousness. Anything that turns the mind to loftier thoughts and experiences will help us in our meditation. We need to feel an aspiration to grow into something more fulfilling and illumining. Soulful music or writings by Spiritual Masters and great seekers can give us that inspiration to delve deep within.

Try a Different Place

We are used to living and identifying with the mind. The nature of the mind is to think, judge and separate. These qualities of the mind are the opposite to true meditation, so if you have difficulty quietening the mind, try focusing on the heart. You have to put your whole attention and concentration on this place in the centre of your chest. Try to feel that your whole existence has become your heart.

Don’t Judge Your Meditation

It is easy to become frustrated that our meditation is not progressing as we would like. Don’t hold onto expectations of certain experiences, concentrate on being in the present moment without judgement. If we are drawn to meditation every day, this alone is a good sign. Don’t give up just because one morning it was difficult; just try again at a more conducive time.

“When you meditate, please do not expect anything either from yourself or from God. You will be able to make the fastest progress if you do not expect anything from your meditation.”

– Sri Chinmoy (1)



(1) Concentration, Meditation – Yoga of Sri Chinmoy

Meditation Exercises

There are a variety of different meditation exercises we can try. But, the important thing is not the number or type of meditation exercises that we learn – but how we practise them. The essential qualities of meditation we need to develop are:

  • Intensity. If meditate half-heartedly, we will struggle to meditate.
  • One Pointed Concentration. However, we meditate, we have to feel at the time nothing else is important. Nothing else should come to bother us.
  • Aspiration. This is the desire to dive deep within and experience a more divine consciousness. If we feel this need for real peace and joy, we will have the intensity and discipline to meditate.
  • Regularity. Meditation is an art. We need a daily discipline to improve our ability to detach from the mind.
  • Ability to detach from thoughts.

“When you meditate, what you actually do is to enter into a calm or still, silent mind. We have to be fully aware of the arrival and attack of thoughts. That is to say, we shall not allow any thought, divine or undivine, good or bad, to enter into our mind. Our mind should be absolutely silent. Then we have to go deep within; there we have to observe our real existence. “

– Sri Chinmoy

When giving meditation classes in Oxford, I tell people about different meditation exercises, Sri Chinmoy has written about. Other paths, will have their own variations and types of meditation exercises. However, I personally find these three meditation exercises very effective. Often people report that they have good results from these.

Three Simple Meditation Exercises

1. Concentration on A Candle

Basically, we put all our attention and focus onto a small tip of the candle. We exclude everything else from our awareness. With this concentration we can make great progress with meditation. See – Simple To Learn Concentration Exercise

2. One-Four-Two Breathing.

Many forms of meditation use observance of your breathe. This is a simple, but, powerful exercise which can absorb your attention and enable you to go deep within. In addition, our breathing can have a profound impact on our state of mind. I often use this exercise myself, because I find it very helpful.

“The rhythm of your breathing is most important. If you breathe in for one second or for one repetition of the name of the Supreme, then you should hold the breath for four seconds or four repetitions. Then, when you breathe out, it should be for two seconds or the time it takes you to repeat the name of the Supreme twice. The breathing should be done softly and silently. When you breathe in and out, you should do it so gently that, even if there were a thread right in front of your nose, your breathing would not move it.”  (- Sri Chinmoy, Pranayama. Read More)

3. Meditation on the Heart

It is in the heart where we find it easiest to distance ourselves from our own mind and own thoughts. The nature of the mind is to think, judge and separate. The nature of the heart is to feel oneness, love and identification with a vaster consciousness.

We can just concentrate on our own heart beat and try to imagine our whole sense of being is located in the heart. If you find helpful you could visualise a beautiful garden or light within your heart centre. Try this Meditation on the Heart Lotus Video


photo top Daria, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries.

Tips for Meditation


I have not written on meditation for a while. I have been busy offering free meditation classes in my home town of Oxford and in York. I always learn quite a few things when giving meditation classes. These are some tips which will help learning your meditation.


If we want to enjoy listening to a music concert, we can take part whenever we feel like it. But, if we want to perform in a classical music concert we would expect to practise everyday. To develop our meditation capacity, it is important to practise at least once a day. Sometimes, our meditation, may feel unproductive; it feels like we are not getting anywhere. But, these more difficult times are just as important as the times when meditation seems effortless. We cannot expect to eat the most delicious food everyday, but, still we need to eat everyday. With regularity, and if possible, punctuality, we will be able to make the fastest progress.

Meditating with others.

To meditate with others, we can benefit from their silence and their focus. We consciously or unconscioulsy benefit from the meditative consciousness that builds up. So these group sessions can be beneficial to our own practise.

One Four Two exercise.

In Meditation, Sri Chinmoy describes this powerful breathing exercise.

The rhythm of your breathing is most important. If you breathe in for one second or for one repetition of the name of the Supreme, then you should hold the breath for four seconds or four repetitions. Then, when you breathe out, it should be for two seconds or the time it takes you to repeat the name of the Supreme twice. The breathing should be done softly and silently. When you breathe in and out, you should do it so gently that, even if there were a thread right in front of your nose, your breathing would not move it.

In normal breathing both of our nostrils are usually functioning. But when we breathe properly through alternate nostrils, we get immediate relief from mental anxiety, worries, depression and many other things that cause disturbances in our nature. Alternate nostril breathing is a most important breathing exercise. We start by using our right thumb to close our right nostril. Next we breathe in with the left nostril, silently repeating the name of God, Supreme or puraka, just once. Then we close the left nostril with the fourth finger of the right hand, and with both nostrils closed, silently repeat the name of God, Supreme or kumbhaka four times while holding the breath. Finally we lift the thumb from the right nostril, still keeping the left nostril closed, and exhale, repeating God, Supreme or rechaka twice. (from: Pranayama)

I find it very helpful for meditation. It gives my mind two things to focus on:
My breathing and counting the mantra. I find this very effective for absorption in the meditation exercise.

Like all meditation exercises, it is important to not just do this mechanically. It is not like counting sheep when we are trying to get to sleep. We repeat the mantra with soulfulness and the aspiration that the mantra embodies a certain quality. You can choose Supreme, Aum or anything that inspires you most.

Meditation Music


Readers Question: Can you recommend some meditation music you mentioned in this post Introduction to Meditation

These links will help provide some inspirational music for meditation

  • Flute Music for Meditation by Sri Chinmoy m4a
  • Esraj by Sri Chinmoy – haunting, tradition Indian instrument
  • Sitar music by Adesh Widmar

Other Links of Meditation Music

Using Music For Meditation

I often use music whilst meditating. It has to be music composed and performed in a meditative consciousness. It is not the music that excites and stimulates, but the music that inspires us to dive deep within.

Music can be useful if you meditate in a noisy environment (e.g. student flat) The right kind of music can also help still the mind.

The power of soulful / spiritual / meditative music is that it has the capacity to awaken our inner aspiration. It is this inner cry that is the most important aspect of meditation.

Meditation and music is quite a personal choice, but it is well worth exploring.