Sample Chapter

Meditation for Starters

Includes CD with instruction, visualization, and music
by Swami Kriyananda

Chapter One: Why Meditate?

Think how many things you do with the hope of attaining a condition of rest, once you've done them. You think, "Let me buy that zippy red sports car, or that shiny white compact model, or that beautiful big station wagon for the whole family. I'll never rest until I get it!" Or perhaps you think, "I'll get that new house with the shaded porch and the large master bedroom; that calm, spacious dining room so we don't have always to eat in the kitchen with the cucumbers; that sunken living room. Oh, once I have all that I'll be able to relax at last!"

Usually, our mental image of an attained ideal is like a framed painting: static and never changing. It is an end in itself, not a passageway toward further beginnings and further challenges. Even when we see our goals as means to other ends, our vision of the future carries us to a time where rest becomes truly possible at last.

Peace is the natural condition of the soul. People sometimes speak longingly of the peace of the grave—as in the term "requiescat in pace"—even if they imagine death as a descent into unconsciousness. The loss of consciousness itself seems to them, evidently, an attractive alternative to the ceaseless struggle of human existence. Meditation, however, poses an infinitely more attractive alternative, one that lifts the mind into a state of superconscious peace which, once attained, can be maintained through even the psychic upheaval of physical death.

Peace can never truly be found outside ourselves. What passes for peace is a temporary lull, merely, in the battle of life. That new car, once you've bought it, will be only a prelude to new pursuits and fresh challenges. That lovely home will turn out to be an invitation to new responsibilities, further involvements, and perhaps even stronger attachments.

What happens is that, in the process of pursuing one thing after another, forever in the hope of getting everything finally just the way you want it, you become accustomed to looking for things, for more and more ways of helping you to rest better. Someday, surely (you think), youll be able to enjoy life completely. The irony is that, in the very process of pursuing rest, you gradually lose the ability to rest at all. And in the process of pursuing enjoyment, you lose the capacity really to enjoy anything.

Our very enjoyment of life begins with the simple ability to relax. The ability is simple: That is what makes it so difficult! Since our birth, our life-force has flowed outward to the five senses, and through them to this world of endless complexity. It isn't easy, now, to reverse that flow.

The more you seek rest through doing, the more rest-less you become. The more you seek happiness through the senses, the less happy you will be, for the simple reason that sensory enjoyment drains our capacity for happiness: It doesn't nourish it.

Why wait? Why wait for peace and happiness to come to you eventually? Will they come to you even after you retire from work? Hardly! If, having become safely ensconced in that rocking chair, you resist the tendency to keep on doing things no matter how unproductive, you'll very likely die of boredom.

Everyone, no matter how busy he is, needs to devote some time every day to practicing the art of doing things restfully. You'll never find peace until you make peace a part of activity itself. Peace should be part of the very creative process.

Hence the importance of meditation.


Questions and Answers


Question: Are there other ways besides meditation to break a lifelong habit of restlessness?

Answer: There are many ways. They are less direct, however, because their focus is not so much on peace itself as on creating those conditions which will allow one to feel peaceful. Peace is not merely a passive state, experienced when the turmoil around us has ceased.

People imagine they'll find peace in a peaceful setting—in that cottage by the sea to which they hope to retire; in that quiet life on a yacht. What they discover, if peace means to them a mere end to anxiety, is a life of steadily deepening ennui. True peace is never passive: It is dynamic. It emanates from a high level of awareness. It can be found only within, in the Self. Outward awareness, if over-stimulated, drains you of your peace; it can never give you peace.

It is good to prepare the ground for higher awareness, however, by simplifying one's life outwardly, and by reducing the quantity of your personal desires. It is important to hold an attitude of peacefulness. Without it, meditation will prove difficult for you.

At work, concentrate on doing one thing at a time. Finish one project before proceeding to the next one. Try not to "gobble" life. Move in an aura of calmness, and you'll find it easy to attain superconscious peace in meditation.


Question: I find that in the welter of activity I become almost afraid of peace. Is there anything I can do to overcome this fear?

Answer: This is one of the classic obstacles on the spiritual path: false notion, in the present case fearing the very thing you may desperately need and want.

The fear you mention is quite simply the consequence of physical and mental tension. If you fight that tension, you'll only become more tense. Concentrate first, therefore, on relaxation—physical, first, then mental. Later on, I'll go more deeply into the subject of relaxation and how it can be achieved.


Question: You said at the end of the foregoing section that peace should be "part of the creative process." But isn't creativity very often the fruit of mental and emotional anguish, not of inner restfulness?

Answer: It is, yes—but also, no, it isn't. Often it takes suffering to bring human consciousness to that level of maturity which produces deep insights. At the same time, a painting, for example, or a work of music cannot rightly be called "significant," what to speak of "great," if it only poses problems, and suggests no valid solutions to those problems.

In science and technology, creativity is measured not by the "Rube Goldberg"-like complexity of an invention, but by its workability. The simpler, indeed, the better. It is not enough for an inventor to pose a problem: To be hailed for his contribution to society, he must provide answers to that problem. Creativity of all kinds is not a labyrinthine wandering in search of a way out of difficulties: It is the glad cry, "Eureka! I've found the exit."

"Solutions are difficult to come by rationally. The reasoning mind is like a rudderless ship: It describes interesting patterns on the water, but it lacks a sure sense of direction. The rudder of inner guidance comes from superconscious levels of awareness.

On a personal note here, many years ago as a young man it was my ambition to be a playwright. Gratifyingly, a number of people in the theater predicted a bright future for me. (Theater people are notoriously lavish with their predictions.) After some time, however, I realized that, although I was perhaps traveling first class when it came to my awareness of life's problems, I was in steerage when it came to offering any answers. At some point, aware of the emotional anguish (as you put it in your question) of seeing only the problems, I decided that there was no point in flooding the world with my ignorance! Instead, I determined to devote my life to searching for answers. If ever I found a few, then, God willing, I would have something worthwhile to share with others.

And here is one truth of which I have become deeply convinced: No great work can ever be produced without at least a touch of superconscious inspiration. Such inspiration comes only—however fleetingly—in a state of inner peace, the peace that is attained most directly through meditation.




Sit upright, and close your eyes. The following exercise will help to draw you into a meditative state.

Visualize yourself walking down a busy street in the center of a city. Crowds surge about you, each individual bent on some personal errand. The buildings around you hold countless other people, each one busily occupied in filing office papers, telephoning, issuing or acting upon important directives, checking into or out of a hotel, packing or unpacking, writing a letter, reading a book—the myriad occupations, in short, of a busy metropolis.

Now, imagine that all these people are a part of your own "population" of thoughts. Each one acts out some particular desire, some tendency, some perhaps forgotten interest of yours that you may have been holding, if only subconsciously.

All together they form that vast territory of consciousness which is your own mind.

Gaze calmly at all this activity and ask yourself: "Is this really who I am? Is any of it what I really want from life? What could I possibly accomplish by endlessly pursuing so many diverse, even conflicting, goals and interests?"

Reflect on the sheer madness of becoming ever-increasingly enmeshed in the search for outward fulfillment. "Surely," you tell yourself, "there must be a better way!"

Continue your walk down the street. Gradually, the crowds become thinner, the buildings, lower and less imposing. Your sense of personal involvement is diminishing.

The crowded downtown area lies behind you now. The street has become quiet, the activity in the houses, subdued.

Follow the street as it leaves the city. Relish the fresh atmosphere of the countryside. "This peace," you tell yourself gratefully, "is what my heart truly wants."

Enjoy that feeling of release from endless involvement in worldly ambitions and desires.

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