For any serious meditator, of all the difficulties in meditation, this is often the most challenging – images. Anything we see is stored in our memory forever and as the mind begins quieting down, it dregs up from its storehouse random images such as a water bottle, an umbrella, a boat at sea etc. Overcoming this is a huge aid in mental transformation. Read on to learn how one can move past this stage of meditation.

Today, as I finish my exposition on mental transformation, I bring to you the fourth common defect in meditation.

Over twenty weeks ago, we started our journey on understanding the Yoga of Self Transformation. I wrote that self-transformation comprises transforming oneself at four levels; namely – mental, emotional, moral, and physical.

Without purification, understanding, and transformation at all four levels, it is simply just not possible to attain the exalted state. I started with my writings on Mental Transformation. We went through various exercises to strengthen your concentration, resolve, and knowledge. Of the four primary hurdles, the difficulties in meditation, we have already covered three. 

The Usual Scenario

Let us say you sit down to meditate with resolve and attentiveness. After a while, you start to feel restless. You feel the urge to move or to stop your session. A little while later you check your restlessness by calming your mind, then a sort of lethargy, a dullness, blankets you. Many people erroneously think this is relaxation or a good meditative experience – a grave error. A good meditator, however, stays alert, applying mental exertion with attentiveness, to overcome this hurdle.

As you progress with a mind that is neither dull nor restless, the natural tendency to engage in thoughts springs up. Soon, you find yourself either pursuing a thought or actively engaging in it.

For example, you may recall a conversation, an unpleasant one. Forgetting that you are meditating, you start to mentally pursue that conversation. You start to think you should have said this or said that, or, you should have responded in such and such a manner; how the person was ungrateful, shallow, rude, wrong, and so on.

Great meditators do not lose sight of their thought of meditation. They are able to simply drop the thought immediately, putting a plug in the conversation. Now, they are not restless or dull, nor are they pursuing their thoughts. But this does not mean they are meditating flawlessly. There is one more distraction you have to watch out for.

A Subtle but Strong Defect 

In a way, this is the greatest hurdle. It is innate, the natural fabric of a conditioned mind. It does not leave you even while you are sleeping. It’s what causes you to dream. As you cross the three hurdles and try to meditate, you will experience various mental images flashing in front of you from your past. They may seem unrelated.

As you try to focus on your object of meditation, you find yourself battling with the appearance of mental images stored in your memory. During your meditation, you may have pictures flashing in your mind, of: gadgets, cars, houses, buildings, ice-creams, food, people, creatures – anything for that matter. You are not engaging in any thought, you are not pursuing any mental conversation, but you keep getting hit with these random mental images. They severely impede your ability to meditate correctly.

Mental Images: The Flowing Wind 

In any place, even if empty of all existence, there always exists air. Furthermore, there is always movement in the air, however inert it may be. So, in a way, the wind is omnipresent. Only a vacuum may be devoid of such a phenomenon. A vacuum though is an artificial construct. It is not a natural state. Similarly, even when a mind is empty of all thoughts, restlessness, and sluggishness – there still exists memory. 

In fact, it is the basis of your analytical skill and your intelligence. You may be a Nobel laureate in physics or a genius in calculus; in an unconscious state, in the absence of memory, however, you are unable to count even up to three. Does it not seem natural then, with intense meditation, as you gain new mental territory and cleanse your psychic imprints, that you gain super knowledge and superconsciousness?

The Cause 

Your memory is the source of all imagery. Anything you see or hear, even once, always stays in your memory. Whether it is a giant ship, or a needle, sinking in the sea, it retains both as mental images – always and forever. Just like creating an artificial vacuum, you can use certain methods to suppress such imagery, but they remain temporary measures.

How can the attainment of your natural and permanent state be dependent upon anything artificial and temporary! In my opinion, it is not possible to erase your memory. It is possible to cleanse it, though; to the degree that the mental images flashing in front of you fail to trigger any thought or emotion. Such cleansing is possible with emotional and moral transformation. I will cover them in due course. Only when you allow your inner wounds to heal can you remain unaffected by the appearance of any image in front of you.

The Remedy 

So, what do you do when you are in a windy area? You cannot battle with or win against the wind. All you can do is cover yourself, not face the wind and accept it. In much the same manner, there is no need to react to the images. You simply cover yourself with a balance of alertness and relaxation, exertion and pacification. Soon the mental images will begin to disappear. 

As you continue to meditate, intentionally recalling only the object of visualization each time, the other images start to fade away automatically. Furthermore, as you cleanse away your psychic imprints, you recall less and less disturbing, enticing or exciting mental images. Their impact becomes negligible and their recollection, faint. You are well on your way to experience lucid meditation thereafter.

This finishes my treatise on Mental Transformation. Coming up next: A brand new world for you, an original piece of work – Emotional Transformation.

My obeisance and gratitude to my Ishta, my foremost Guru, for allowing this transmission.

Peace.
Swami

 

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Anyone who has sat down to meditate has, at some point, felt despair. The whole attempt feels futile and the mind seems too overpowering. What is the use of continuing, we wonder.

The good news is, such difficulties in meditation are not just normal, they are essential hurdles to overcome if we wish to progress on the path. Read on to gain a deeper understanding of this transformational practice:
Even though I try to concentrate while meditating, I soon feel physically or mentally exhausted. How do I overcome these difficulties in meditation?

Laziness during meditation can take the form of dullness of the mind or lethargy of the body.
When you try hard to concentrate and keep doing so even when you feel restless, there comes a time when you feel worn out and tired. If you are not attentive at that time, you will slip into stupor right that very moment. If you can take corrective measures at the time of restlessness, when you face these difficulties in meditation, it becomes relatively easy to overcome laziness.

For example, the moment you realize you are losing the sharpness of your meditation, you need to exert, mentally that is. You must refresh your concentration. You need to remind yourself to focus. If your laziness has resulted from physical exhaustion, you need to stop meditating.  you should take a break, get up and inhale some fresh air, drink a little bit of water, walk around a bit, and then resume your session. Read more here.

Since I am a householder, it is hard to find time for myself. This also causes difficulties in meditation as I cannot do it regularly. What can I do?

A burning desire to experience your true nature and an unwavering commitment to your chosen path are the prerequisites. It is a question of priority. Can you give me an hour of your time daily? If not, can you start thinking about what I tell you when you are driving, or bathing, for example? If not, can you give up watching TV or reading newspapers and devote that time to the path? If not, can you set aside a certain number of days in a year exclusively dedicated to the practice, almost like a meditation retreat?

Can you start practicing compassion and non-violence under all circumstances, and, truth under all possible circumstances? If not, for every emotion or sentiment offered to you, can you return the love?

If you cannot afford the system of dhyana, you can start pouring in devotional sentiments of moral thoughts. All impurities will flow out of your system leaving you pristine and unblemished. Regardless of what all has been done in the past, if you want to go through self-purification leading to self-transformation, you can do it.

If you do not change what you do, how can Nature change what you get! After all, we only ever reap, in multifold, what we sow! Read more here.

When I sit down to meditate, I am unable to remain still even for a short period. Are such difficulties in meditation normal?

As you sit down to meditate, after a few seconds, stray thoughts from all directions start to hit you. It almost feels the more you try to stay away from your thoughts, the stronger they seem to come and get you making you restless. It is normal. When you experience restlessness, and as it builds up, during your meditation, you may feel the uncontrollable urge to move, shift, talk, and or even end your session.

Just remember, such difficulties in meditation are normal. Do not be impatient when restlessness emerges. The best way to overcome this is to stop meditating at that moment. Stay in the posture if you can but make no attempts to concentrate. Hold a little self-dialogue. Just relax. Stop all efforts to meditate. Take a deep breath.

When your mind is tired, give it rest, when it is restless, pacify it. Pacify your mind. Talk to your mind. Give it a bait, do not be too hard for too long. We are teaching it discipline, we want it to move according to you. Be patient. Calm it down. Restlessness is normal and pacification is an art, a skill. Read more here.

Of all the difficulties in meditation that I face, a constant stream of thoughts is the most discouraging. How do I get past this?

Stray thoughts in meditation – This is one hurdle you need not hold yourself responsible for. The cause is evolution. Conditioned mind’s natural tendency is to engage in thoughts. Anytime you pay attention, you will find yourself in thinking mode.

Thoughts cause restlessness and when unchecked, they also make you dull and tired compromising your meditation. With great practice, you are able to replace all your thoughts with the only thought you are meditating on. Do not react at any thought. Simply, just drop it and get back to your point of meditation. Treat all thoughts with equal indifference. Do not examine or place any importance on any thought.

As you continue to practice your meditation with mindfulness and vigilance, thoughts not only become feeble but they almost stop emerging after a certain point. Through persistence, the sincere practitioner can overcome all difficulties in meditation. Read more here.

What are some of the rewards when we overcome the difficulties in meditation?

One thing meditation immediately checks is the restive tendencies of the mind. Before Nature empowers you with bliss and insight, with siddhis and abilities, she makes sure that you are the right recipient. Too much is at stake. One wrong man, one Hitler, can cause irreparable and eternal damage to the entire mankind.

Beyond the difficulties in meditation, a state of perfect inner serenity, free from the ripples of selfishness, that arises from meditation not only helps you live through the contradictions of life, but actually appreciate them. Fearlessness is a natural byproduct of good meditation.

Fear only arises in duality, in a sense of separation, that somehow you may lose the other one or that they may harm you. But who can harm you when there’s only you around? There’s no fear in a divine union.  This state of perfect union is the final stage of meditation. In this state, meditation ceases to be an act. Instead, it becomes a phenomenon, a state of mind. Read more here.

How do I keep going with my practice when I face difficulties in meditation?

For the sincere and disciplined meditators, meditation is an arduous journey. You are removing the warts of emotions, you are getting rid of the calluses of thoughts, you are removing the layers of desires, you are trying to still your mind. It’s not easy. Pacification and complete stabilization of the mind requires great skill and effort.

To overcome difficulties in meditation, in a nutshell: while meditating, don’t brood over, don’t resent and don’t repent your past. Don’t examine what’s going on in your present life. Don’t imagine any future. Don’t analyze any thought. When any thought comes, don’t run after it. It’ll disappear. Don’t crave for any specific experience or else you’ll end up mentally constructing that experience thereby polluting your meditation. Don’t let your mind wander.

Just be here now, in the present moment. Simply maintain your awareness with alertness. Read more here.

Since most difficulties in meditation arise from not being able to tame the mind, is there a way to understand the mind before taming it?

The art of taming your mind requires that you build a healthy and functional relationship with your mind. The joy you then experience is the same as having a beautiful relationship with your loved ones.

When we experience difficulties in meditation, when a certain thought is raging, we can’t just hammer our mind and deliver relentless blows of instructions, self-doubt or, guilt. At that time, we must go beyond the surface, we need to slide in and speak to the mind and make a gentle request. We must ensure that the mind knows it’s not being ignored, that we recognize its importance and role in our life. This is the art of self-dialog.

You must love yourself enough to not defile yourself, you must value yourself so you don’t ignore what your body and mind need, you must treat yourself with respect. Read more here.