23 Feb The Power of Meditation | Spirituality Podcasts
Spirituality Podcast Transcript: Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast, brought to you in part by Book of Zen, makers of wearable inspiration for a better world. Today’s podcast has been edited and adapted from the book The Way of Peace by James Allen, published in 1907.
Spiritual meditation is the pathway to Divinity. It is the mystic ladder which reaches from earth to heaven, from error to Truth, from pain to peace. Without its aid, you cannot grow into the divine state, and the fadeless glories and joys of Truth will remain hidden from you.
Meditation is the intense dwelling, in thought, upon an idea or theme, with the object of thoroughly comprehending it. And whatsoever you constantly meditate upon, you will not only come to understand, but grow more into its likeness, for it will become incorporated into your very being, will become, in fact, your very self.
If, therefore, you constantly dwell upon that which is selfish and debasing, you will ultimately become selfish and debased. But if you ceaselessly think upon that which is pure and unselfish, you will become more pure and unselfish.
Tell me that which you most frequently and intensely think about (that to which, in your silent hours, your soul most naturally turns), and I will tell you to what place of pain or peace you are traveling, and whether you are growing into the likeness of the divine or the mundane.
There is an unavoidable tendency to become literally the embodiment of that quality upon which you most constantly think. Let, therefore, the object of your meditation be above and not below, so that every time you revert to it in thought, you will be lifted up. Let it be pure and unmixed with any selfish element; so shall your heart become purified and drawn nearer to Truth, and not dragged more hopelessly into error.
Meditation, in the spiritual sense in which I am now using it, is the secret of all growth in spiritual life and knowledge. Every prophet, sage, and savior became such by the power of meditation. Buddha meditated upon the Truth until he could say, “I am the Truth.” Jesus brooded upon the Divine immanence until at last he could declare, “I and my Father are One.”
Meditation centered upon divine realities is the very essence and soul of prayer. It is the silent reaching of the soul toward the Eternal. Mere petitionary prayer without meditation is a body without a soul, and is powerless to lift the mind and heart above error and affliction. If you are daily praying for wisdom, for peace, for a fuller realization of Truth, and that for which you pray is still far from you, it means that you are praying for one thing, while living out in thought and act another.
The individual who would secure any worldly advantage must be willing to work vigorously for it, and would be foolish indeed to wait with folded hands, expecting it to come for the mere asking. Do not then vainly imagine that you can obtain divine possessions without making an effort. If you really seek Truth, and not merely your own gratification; if you love it above all worldly pleasures and gains; more, even, than happiness itself, you will be willing to make the effort necessary for its achievement.
At the outset, meditation must be distinguished from idle reverie. There is nothing dreamy or unpractical about it. It is a process of searching and uncompromising thought which allows nothing to remain but the simple and naked truth. Thus when meditating, you will no longer strive to build yourself up in your prejudices, but, forgetting self, you will remember only that you are seeking the Truth.
And so, you will remove, one by one, the errors which you have built around yourself in the past, and will patiently wait for the revelation of the Truth which will come when your errors have been sufficiently removed. In the silent humility of your heart, you will realize that there is an inmost center in us all, where Truth abides in fullness, hemmed in by the material world.
Select some portion of the day in which to meditate, and keep that period sacred to your purpose. The best time is the very early morning when the spirit of repose is upon everything. All natural conditions will then be in your favor; the passions, after the long bodily fast of the night, will be subdued; the excitements and worries of the previous day will have died away; and the mind, strong and yet restful, will be receptive to spiritual instruction.
Indeed, one of the first efforts you will be called upon to make will be to shake off lethargy and indulgence. And if you refuse, you will be unable to advance, for the demands of the spirit are imperative.
To be spiritually awakened is to be mentally and physically awakened. The sluggard and the self-indulgent can have no knowledge of Truth. The individual who, possessed of health and strength, wastes the calm, precious hours of the silent morning in drowsy indulgence is totally unfit to climb the heavenly heights.
The man or woman whose awakening consciousness has become alive to its lofty possibilities (who is beginning to shake off the darkness of ignorance in which the world is enveloped), rises before the stars have ceased their vigil, and, grappling with the darkness within their soul, strives, by holy aspiration, to perceive the light of Truth while the unawakened world dreams on.
No saint, no holy person, no teacher of Truth ever lived who did not rise early in the morning. Jesus habitually rose early, and climbed the solitary mountains to engage in holy communion. Buddha always rose an hour before sunrise and engaged in meditation, and all his disciples were enjoined to do the same.
If you have to commence your daily duties at a very early hour, and are thus debarred from giving the early morning to systematic meditation, try to give an hour at night. But if that is not possible, you need not despair, for you may turn your thoughts upward in holy meditation in the intervals of your work, or in those few idle minutes which you now waste in aimlessness. And should your work be of that kind which becomes by practice automatic, you may meditate while engaged upon it.
The famous Christian mystic and philosopher, Jakob Boehme, realized his vast knowledge of divine things while working long hours as a shoemaker. In every life there is time to think; and the busiest, the most laborious, individual is not shut out from aspiration and meditation.
Spiritual meditation and self-discipline are inseparable. You will, therefore, begin to meditate upon yourself so as to try to understand yourself—for, remember, the great object you will have in view will be the complete removal of all your errors in order that you may realize Truth. You will begin to question your motives, thoughts, and acts, comparing them with your ideal, and endeavoring to look upon them with a calm and impartial eye.
In this manner, you will be continually gaining more of that mental and spiritual equilibrium without which we are but helpless straws upon the ocean of life. If you are given to hatred or anger, you should meditate upon gentleness and forgiveness, so as to become acutely alive to a sense of your harsh and foolish conduct. You will then begin to dwell in thoughts of love, of gentleness, of abounding forgiveness. And as you overcome the lower by the higher, there will gradually, silently steal into your heart a knowledge of the divine Law of Love, with an understanding of its bearing upon all the intricacies of life and conduct.
Then, by applying this knowledge to your every thought, word, and act, you will grow more and more gentle, more and more loving, more and more divine. And thus with every error, every selfish desire, every human weakness, by the power of meditation is it overcome, and as each fault, each error, is thrust out, a fuller and clearer measure of the Light of Truth illumines the soul.
Thus by meditating, you will be ceaselessly fortifying yourself against your only real enemy (your selfish, perishable self), and will be establishing yourself more and more firmly in the divine and imperishable self that is inseparable from Truth. The direct outcome of your meditations will be a calm, spiritual strength which will be your refuge and resting-place in the struggle of life.
The use of meditation is the acquirement of a knowledge of eternal principles. And the power which results from meditation is the ability to rest upon and trust those principles, and so become one with the Eternal. The end of meditation is, therefore, direct knowledge of Truth, God, and the realization of divine and profound peace.
Let your meditations take their rise from the ethical ground which you now occupy. Remember that you are to grow into Truth by steady perseverance. If you are a practicing Christian, meditate ceaselessly upon the spotless purity and divine excellence of the character of Jesus, and apply his every precept to your inner life and outward conduct, so as to approximate more and more toward Christ’s perfection.
Do not be like those religious ones, who, refusing to meditate upon the Law of Truth, and to put into practice the precepts given to them by Christ, are content to simply formally worship, to cling to their particular creeds, and to continue in the ceaseless round of sin and suffering.
Those who earnestly meditate, first perceive a truth (as it were), far off, and then realize it by daily practice. It is only the doer of the Word of Truth that can know of the doctrine of Truth, for although by pure thought the Truth is perceived, it is only actualized by practice.
Buddha said that those who have given themselves up to vanity, and do not give themselves up to meditation (forgetting the real aim of life and grasping at pleasure), will in time envy those who have exerted themselves in meditation. And he instructed his disciples in the following Five Great Meditations:
— The first meditation is the meditation of love, in which you so adjust your heart that you long for the health and welfare of all beings, including the happiness of your enemies.
— The second meditation is the meditation of pity, in which you think of all beings in distress, vividly representing in your imagination their sorrows and anxieties so as to arouse a deep compassion for them in your soul.
— The third meditation is the meditation of joy, in which you think of the prosperity of others, and rejoice with their rejoicings.
—- The fourth meditation is the meditation of impurity, in which you consider the evil consequences of corruption, the effects of selfishness and disease. How trivial the pleasure of the moment often is, and how fatal its consequences.
— The fifth meditation is the meditation on serenity, in which you rise above love and hate, tyranny and oppression, wealth and want, and regard your own fate with impartial calmness and perfect tranquility.
By engaging in these meditations, the disciples of the Buddha arrived at a knowledge of the Truth. But whether you engage in these particular meditations or not matters little so long as your object is Truth, so long as you hunger and thirst for that purity which is a holy heart and a blameless life. In your meditations, therefore, let your heart grow and expand with ever-broadening love, until, freed from all hatred, and passion, and condemnation, it embraces the whole universe with thoughtful tenderness.
As the flower opens its petals to receive the morning light, so open your soul more and more to the glorious light of Truth. Soar upward upon the wings of aspiration; be fearless, and believe in the loftiest possibilities. Believe that a life of absolute humility is possible; believe that a life of stainless purity is possible; believe that a life of perfect divinity is possible; believe that the realization of the highest truth is possible. The person who so believes, climbs rapidly the heavenly hills, while the unbelievers continue to grope darkly and painfully in the fog-bound valleys.
By so believing, so aspiring, so meditating, divinely sweet and beautiful will be your spiritual experiences, and glorious the revelations that will enrapture your inward vision. As you realize the divine Love, the divine Justice, the divine Purity, the Perfect Law of Good, or God, great will be your bliss and deep your peace. Old things will pass away, and all things will become new.
The veil of the material universe, so dense and impenetrable to the eye of error, so thin and gauzy to the eye of Truth, will be lifted and the spiritual universe will be revealed. Time will cease, and you will live only in Eternity. Change and mortality will no more cause you anxiety and sorrow, for you will become established in the unchangeable, and will dwell in the very heart of immortality.
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