The First Step in Meditation

“Now the discipline of yoga”, Patanjali says. The atmosphere is pure and peaceful. In recent weeks, you have assimilated the introductory teaching, achieved some basic theoretical understanding of things, as set out not just in yoga but in sankhya and vedanta. You knew it was necessary to approach a real, authentic teacher. You are aware you have been learning about what is truly interesting and important, indeed decisive in life.

You sit still, with eyes closed, relaxed. Your senses are now withdrawn from their outer objects. You remember the clear, well-articulated words of guru, and his presence, through which alone much has been tacitly communicated and transfered to you. You are filled with the impression of the few images of guru and the few, traditional spiritual symbols in the room. Some flowers and fruit lie next to the portrait of guru. There is the aroma – not too strong – of a certain kind of incense, which you will always associate with this moment.

The mantra comes to you. You think it quietly. This practice of transcendence is the central practice of yoga, which, although not in itself difficult, few seem able to practice with the requisite regularity in the contemporary world. You understand that to the seed-mantra some can of course add other strengthening and supporting techniques from traditional yoga. Softly, the mantra begins to penetrate the layers of mental content. You – the conscious self – are immersed, dispersed in that content, the subtle objects of the senses, the images and ideas, the feelings and desires, the mental noise. By a mild, initial impulse of the will and the direction of guru, your attention is focused on the mantra. In this way, you are subtly led in the inner direction. In the stillness, you already sense something of the tremendous potential power of the finer levels of awareness. It is a natural process. Through the mantra, you are silently led out of the many phenomenal identifications of the false ego. Lightly and quietly thinking the mantra, or rather just being aware of it, leads you beyond thinking, beyond the mind.

A path is opened, which you already feel will take you beyond the plurality of manifestation and relativity. You move through the mists of the mind. Thoughts come, images come, plans and memories, you hear a faint sound from the street outside, you note some sensations in your body. But again and again, you return to the pure quality of the soft mental vibration of the mantra. You approach the fuller exploration of consciousness itself, of its true nature. You go deeper and deeper on the subtler levels. You are turning towards home, towards your true self. With the help of the mantra, you are beginning to pass through the cloud. You are quietly pulled towards the field of all possibilities, towards the higher nature of transcendent being, knowledge, and bliss. This is not faith. This is experience.

At some point you stop. You begin to return towards the surface. You come out of the meditation. A small but bright, mild ray of the sun of higher consciousness has been allowed to shine forth in you as you moved through the levels of conditional experience. From the partly uncovered sky beyond, there emanates a force of purity, of freshness, of life, of creative intelligence. You open your eyes. To some extent you already experience the world around you in a different way. You see deeper. You understand there is a truer perspective on everything you have known. That knowledge is structured in consciousness. Your mind is being modified in accordance with the light of right knowledge, which allows you to see everything as it really is.

You feel fully centered, present, crystallized. Finer energy fields are stirring in your vividly felt inner body. You feel in control of enhanced faculties of all kinds. You sense that bad habits and destructive or non-optimal patterns in your life are going to be dissolved of their own accord; that major transformations and developments are available to you, that illusion will fade away. Beyond the modifications of the mind, you will come in contact with the source of happiness beyond outer pleasure, with the highest reality, with the lofty realm of truth. You see how you can become a being that spontaneously works for the ultimate good of society and of all living beings; how you will be able to promote that spiritual good by simply being, by simply being a certain kind of being.

You are already on the way to ultimate fulfillment, higher than and different from any achievement in the transitory sphere of phenomena. You begin to awake. This is the sublime way of realization, beyond the theory of the metaphysical philosophers, beyond the moral and aesthetic discipline of classical humanistic culture, beyond all forms of psychological therapy, beyond any intellectual and professional skill. You are set on the path of perfection, reoriented towards the true goal of life, towards ultimate good, the manifestation of life’s full values on all levels, the actualization of the essence of the beauty and sublime greatness you have had intimations of in art, music, poetry, nature, love. You realize that you can live in, that you can become “oned” (to use Julian of Norwich’s wonderful word) with that very essence. The attainment, in a certain sense, of the fullness of the absolute, of the life of the spirit, of the divine, appears possible. You stand before, and are becoming part of, the Great Tradition. You sense that if you just continue on this path, the insights, the powers, the enlightenment, and the liberation spoken of by the greatest spiritual teachers, seers, mystics, saints, and avatars throughout history is ultimately within your reach.

The path is clear – the path that is no path, the path that is rather the goal rediscovering itself. You remember you have been taught that patient, regular practice is needed, and that you must not make any drastic changes in your life in premature reliance on the increased strength you now feel is yours. Humility is always needed. But it will come naturally. The higher nature of divine being, knowledge and bliss has already begun to penetrate and spread through you. It pulls you, your impulses, your will, and your imagination without resistance towards itself, towards the unbroken continuation of the practice. You begin to desire to become immersed and absorbed in that nature, to make your whole mind and body a translucent medium, entirely shaped by and soaked in it. Your whole existence, inner as well as outer, has already been elevated in a wholly new and beautiful way.

If you do not experience the things here described, it does not mean something is wrong with your practice. The qualities and presence of guru may not have been as effectively communicated as it could have been, the theoretical understanding you acquired may not have been clear enough, and, above all, your mental cloud may be too thick and dark for such experiences to be possible. Still, the practice is the right one and you need only continue it a little longer before these realizations begin to happen.

This first step of practice, added to contact with guru and basic theory, is all that is needed. Even if the force of illusion created by strong attachment to conditional experience should delay you, hinder you, mislead you onto lower paths, it is certain that you will sooner or later find your way back. A different seed has been sown deep inside you. The awakened glimpse of your higher self, of transcendent being, will always attract you anew.

6 Responses to “The First Step in Meditation”

  1. 1 Jan Olof Bengtsson October 27, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    A reader points to “oned” as an erratum. That is understandable. But it is in fact a word used by the major mystic Julian of Norwich, and a wonderful one which I would like to revive and promote.

  2. 2 Jan Olof Bengtsson October 28, 2013 at 7:28 am

    The reader now advises me to use a parenthetical gloss on the word, and I have followed his advice.

  3. 3 Kristo Ivanov October 28, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Swedish Radio’s program “Kropp och Själ” on 14 July 2013

    contained some thoughtful statements by Katarina Plank concerning the theoretical bases for the satisfaction of our needs for renewed spirituality, yoga, and such.
    Se t.ex. artikeln
    In my own reflections on “personalism” I prefer to rely on analytical psychology (related to Carl Jung) but I perceive an absence of critical comments on these thought about “meditation”, e.g. as compared with Christian “prayer”.

    • 4 Jan Olof Bengtsson October 29, 2013 at 10:25 am

      I can’t find the radio programme; there was as far as I can see no such programme on that day. Then, “artikeln” – what article? Where do you perceive an absence of critical comments – in analytical psychology or in my post? What is your criticism? This is important.

      • 5 Kristo Ivanov October 29, 2013 at 11:05 am

        I had painstakingly retrieved the URL-links to both program (if not already deleted on the SR-page) and articles but the WordPress editor seems to have deleted them, possibly because enclosed in angular parentheses as it is technically recommended to be done for other reasons. I will try to retrieve them if and when I have time, and refrain from such parentheses – assuming that they were the cause for their disappearance. If that is the case there should be a warning on the WordPress page.

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