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Spiritual Concentration & Meditation:
The Psychology of Meditation

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WEEKLY MESSAGES

In this new feature of our website, we present every week a new selection of the teachings of Vedanta, taken from a variety of sources – lectures and writings of Swami Adiswarananda, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Literature, and other spiritual texts.

 

 

 

 

SPIRITUAL CONCENTRATION & MEDITATION:

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MEDITATION

 

Swami Adiswarananda

Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center

New York

What is the way to overcome the restlessness of the mind? To pamper whatever desires arise in the mind would be counterproductive, leading only to greater restlessness. Punishing the mind through self-torture and mortification merely represses the desires, driving them underground. Trying to transform the mind by changing our environment is futile because wherever we go, our mind with all its habitual tendencies goes with us. The only alternative, according to the Bhagavad Gita, is to face it by control and regulation. 7

The logic for such control is compelling. If we think that we are no more than the physical body, then we will surely die; if we identify with our wild impulses and emotions, we will never have rest; and if we are nothing but our desires and dreams, we will remain forever unfulfilled. Only if we control body, desires, and mind can we find genuine peace and fulfillment. Yet control cannot succeed unless it is directed to our inner Self, the center of our being, by the practice of meditation. As the Bhagavad Gita says: “The man whose mind is not under his control has no Self-knowledge and no contemplation either. Without contemplation he can have no peace; and without peace, how can he have happiness?” 8

The psychology of meditation is to cultivate a single thought. A restless mind is like a lake, constantly agitated by the winds of desires, creating thought-waves of diverse nature. Because of this constant agitation, our true Self at the bottom of the lake cannot be perceived. When, to counter all those many thought-waves, a single thought is consciously cultivated by the repeated and uninterrupted practice of meditation, it develops into a huge wave that swallows up all the diverse ripples and makes the mind transparent and calm. The concentrated mind in meditation is the mind that has taken this form of a single thought-wave.

Meditation is a natural necessity for the soul. The two rhythms of wholesome living are withdrawal and response, meditation and action. Life goes wrong when this rhythm is broken. Mind becomes restless when it is unable to detach itself from activity and withdraw into the silence of the soul. Nature compels us to fall asleep every day, so that our bodies will get rest and become rejuvenated. But most often, though the body gets its rest in sleep, the mind does not. It continues to remain active even in the dream state.

Meditation is a technique of withdrawing the mind so that it will receive rest and rejuvenation. Such withdrawal may be called self-detachment. This self-detachment increases the general perceptiveness of the mind and produces a clear self-perception. An unclouded vision of who one is and what one is called upon to do is vital for maintenance of the balance of life. Self-detachment endows a person with creativity and fresh reserves of energy. A fatigued mind can do nothing but repeat and imitate the same old thoughts and behaviors, while a fresh mind rises to new planes of consciousness and discovers innovative ways of meeting the challenges of life. In English the word meditation is derived from the Latin meditari, which derives from the same root as the word meaning “to heal.” The practice of meditation sets in motion a process that leads to the restoration of our well-being—physical, mental, and spiritual.

Just as music is enjoyable because of the pauses of silence between the notes, so meditation likewise provides the pause that makes our activities enjoyable. Just as there are foods for the body and the mind, so meditation provides food for the soul. The world may talk of love, compassion, and sympathy, but love is a misnomer unless it is liberated through meditation from the attachments of selfishness. Meditation is the inbreathing of the soul. Without this inbreathing, we first die a spiritual death, alienated from our own depths of being, followed by psychological and physiological death.

To be continued

[Copyright Swami Adiswarananda]

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