Image by Vijay Hu
Meditation gets a lot of press, but what it is exactly and how it works is still a mystery to many. Some say you’ve got to do it twenty minutes a day. Others, that you must live your life as meditation. But what does that really mean? Still others prescribe complicated techniques that make you worry whether you’re doing them correctly.
But meditation is not another “thing” to do, it’s an expression of who you are. Like all authentic spiritual practices it makes life easier by removing the barriers that keep you from being the person you came here to be.
By sanctifying time for meditation you can plug in and listen to the most interesting conversationalist in the universe—God. Cleverer than any TV personality and cooler than your Facebook friends is the divine source that made you. Connecting to it is an act of defiance, a rebellion against mediocrity, a declaration of your freedom: it can make your life extraordinary.
Let’s take a look at two ways to do this; what I call active meditation and passive meditation.
From A.M. to P.M.
A.M. stands for ante meridiem, “before midday,” and P.M. for post meridiem, or “after midday.” But for us, A.M. actually means “active meditation,” and P.M. “passive meditation.” And you can do them anytime you please—morning, noon, or night.
Active meditation is any spiritual practice that requires effort or technique. This includes breathing exercises, prayer, rounds on the rosary, or even service and devotion. It includes your qigong practice as well as swimming or walking in nature, as long as these are done with focus and awareness. Yoga practice too can be active meditation . . . or it can be a contest to see who is the better acrobat in expensive tights.
What did you do before enlightenment?
—Chop wood, carry water
What do you do after enlightenment?
—Chop wood, carry water
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Any activity, even chopping wood and household chores, can be active meditation when done with complete awareness. Similarly, sitting in place can be an exercise in futility if the mind is not still and focused.
Let’s take a look at how it’s done.
✦ The Technique
For five to fifty-five minutes practice an active form of meditation, including techniques we cover in this book: deep breathing, mantra recitation, prayer, or even gentle, mindful yoga. As you practice you can create an intention, ask a question, or otherwise “talk to God.” When you’re done, let it go.
Don’t overdo active meditation but rather use it as a segue into passive meditation, where you simply sit and surrender your mantra, your practice, and just be. Sit with it for five to fifteen minutes . . . or as long as you need. Listen and let God do the talking. The answers will come. Or they won’t.
I recite a mantra that takes about forty-five minutes to complete. It is an active form of meditation because you have to focus on the recital of the thousand names of the Divine. After this I either lie on the floor or continue sitting without doing anything. I just listen, watching my breath—breathing as shallowly as possible—even suspending the breath. I listen—without thinking, wanting, or even breathing—for anywhere between five minutes to forty-five minutes.
The point is to carve out a chunk of time to talk to the Divine. Then, when you’re done talking, listen. Just as breathing requires an inhale and exhale, enlightenment requires active and passive meditation, talking and listening.
I wrote my first book, The Five Dharma Types, by sitting in passive meditation, listening, and writing while the inspiration was fresh. The ideas in it are not mine so much as the transmission of divine consciousness through my limited nervous system. To this day I sometimes read it and say, “Wow! How did I think of that?”
In your job too, you are a vehicle for divine will. Along with focused prayer or visualization (A.M.), spend some time in silence, listening (P.M.)—without hope, without expectation, without the dizzy din of the world spinning in your head, and you will find your inspiration. You will have your own conversation with God and enjoy the wisdom of your inner counsel. This is the bedrock of all great achievement.
The Power of Passive Meditation
You can become a person with a juggernaut idea that cannot be stopped. Let your powerful insight whisper to you, envelop you, take hold and possess you in your inner silence and you too will become unstoppable! The following is an example of the power of passive meditation.
I was worried about finances and sat to pray with the intention of breaking through the obstacles standing in the way of prosperity. After an hour reciting my favorite prayer I decided to sit and give up all thoughts, hopes, and expectations, to just abide in the energy I had generated.
Slowly an idea began to arise; it grew stronger to the point of overwhelming my mind: pay attention to your wife—she needs your attention. This was so clear that I got up and went to talk to her.
That led to conversations and ultimately breakthroughs in our personal and spiritual lives. We resolved much of our financial issues through that dialogue—something we probably never would have done had I been focused only on money. By letting go and letting God, I got the signal to do exactly what I needed at exactly that moment. I can’t recommend passive meditation enough!
Don’t Do Hold Your Breath!
If you’ve ever had an MRI, you know that it can be a protracted affair. During the process a technician may ask you to hold your breath for forty seconds at a time. Depending on how many images are made, you may have to do this more than a dozen times.
Getting an MRI was my weird introduction to breath holding a few years back, and I found that during and after I felt peaceful and centered, even though the MRI machine made me feel like I was inside a coffin buried at a construction site.
Forcing myself to hold my breath for as long as possible then exhaling and breathing a few extra deep breaths before holding it again allowed me to go into deep mindfulness. Doing this later, outside of the MRI, confirmed my results.
Control The Breath, You Control The Mind
As the breath, so the mind; control the breath, you control the mind. These are not my words but the wisdom of the yogic tradition.
The breath hold can be the beginning of an ever-subtler process of watching your breath until there is a natural suspension of respiration—what some call “the gap.” This natural suspension is not a forced breath hold but rather what happens when you’re fully engrossed in something you love or when you witness an event that “takes your breath away.” These are spontaneous instances of a process you can consciously cultivate.
Of course, check with your doctor before practicing any type of breath retention as this can be potentially harmful or even fatal in certain health conditions! Once you get the okay, you can practice holding your breath sitting at your altar, watching a movie, or even under water. To be effective, practice holding your breath seven to eleven times in one session, for at least thirty seconds each time.
TV, or Not TV?
Some devices can help you go into meditation—others keep you from it. By far the worst of these is your TV. “The best decision I ever made was getting rid of my TV. I’m so much more at peace. I have time for meditation and hobbies, and I’m not totally stressed by the latest crisis on CNN.” Statements like this from my clients are common.
Getting rid of your TV may be the easiest way to create more peace at home. If you can’t do it, take mini steps by getting rid of cable, or watch only Netflix or other noncommercial programming. This may not only save you money but also your time and sanity.
Finally, minimize your online profile. Do you really need LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and all the other time-sucking apps that keep you glued to your computer screen and hunched over your phone? Unless you’re using them to find a job or boost your clientele, ditch the digital hitch and set yourself free.
Fire Your Lawyer
Like a lawyer, your mind’s job is to protect you from trauma, manage your life, and make you comfortable. Logically it sometimes even hides things from you by storing away past hurts. But over time these past hurts and traumas pile up and create a pressure that makes life unbearable. By sitting still and allowing them to surface you can process and let them go, even though this can be uncomfortable or even painful in the short term.
Your rational mind will make excuses why you shouldn’t face the pain. It will give you laundry lists of more important things to do and good arguments to distract you from your inner problems. But you are its boss; you can choose to look at the pain if you want to. Don’t let the lawyer fool you. He cannot argue away your problems. Only you, the witness, the judge, can face the truth and set yourself free.
Have you ever sat in a class feeling anxious or bored, your mind giving you good reasons to get up and leave? It is not the right subject or The teacher doesn’t like me, you may think. Instead of listening, however, try sitting with the anxiety. Where is it coming from? Where in your body is it expressing? Maybe it’s heartburn—a result of bad diet and poor digestion. Maybe you have stored anger that wants to come out.
Watch the anger—or any emotion that arises—without judgment. Let it come up. Sense what body parts it moves through and how it makes you feel. Make it a point to exercise that part of your body the next time you do yoga or go to the gym. Make it a point to go to the chiropractor or get a massage or simply stretch the areas that hurt.
A deeper part of yourself waits for the moments when you are still. A deeper part of yourself arises when you let it. Witnessing and watching is not being idle but active—a direct way to release pain in your body and mind. It takes a hero to do it: stillness takes work.
Hear the Mind of God
Sit every day in passive meditation and let your body and mind talk to you. Witness what they have to say. And when they become silent, listen to the mind of God. Perhaps the most important reason to witness your body and mind is to allow them to grow still, which leaves you with the universal hum, the sound of divinity. This is the real meaning of “Be still and know that I am God.”
The definition of yoga is “ceasing the fluctuations of the mind/body stuff.” With active meditation you encourage the stuff to come out; in passive meditation you witness it go and invite stillness in its stead.
No matter how bad my day has been, no matter how poorly I’ve eaten or how many hours after sunrise I finally get up . . . sunset meditation is my salvation. I would not trade the forty-five minutes on my blanket for any drug or contraption. I would not trade it for another man’s enlightenment. It is the slice of heaven I’ve earned with the meager power of my austerity.
Talking to God and then listening, done for forty-eight days, either at sunrise or sunset, will change your life. Guaranteed, or your money back.
©2018 by Simon Chokoisky. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Destiny Books,
a division of InnerTraditions Intl. www.innertraditions.com
The Dharma Method: 7 Daily Steps to Spiritual Advancement
by Simon Chokoisky
In this practical spiritual guide, Simon Chokoisky shares 11 time-tested yet simple daily techniques to help you find your spiritual path, or “dharma,” no matter what your spiritual background -- be it Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, or Agnostic. He explains how everyone has a unique learning style as well as a spiritual style -- your “Dharma type” -- and how the Dharma method allows you to pick any seven of the 11 methods described in the book to practice. You can even change them daily, all based on your unique needs. And by holding to the 7/11 “rule” daily, you’ll soon find yourself on the road to rapid spiritual progress and personal enlightenment.
(Also available as an Audiobook and as a Kindle edition.)
About the Author
Simon Chokoisky is a pioneer in using Vedic Astrology and Dharma Typing to help people discover their soul’s purpose. He runs a private consulting business based on his trainings in Vedic life mapping and Vedic Astrology. The author of The Five Dharma Types, Gambler’s Dharma, and Sex, Love, and Dharma as well as the creator of the Decoding Your Life Map with Vedic Astrology DVD series, he travels widely conducting seminars. Visit his website at http://spirittype.com