Swami J's Newsletter
October 18, 2001
Below is an article that includes a fun story of a friend's home
and the many distractions that seem to get in the way of meditation.
The article is written for a spiritual newspaper to go along with an
announcement of an upcoming retreat. I'm sending you this because
you may identify with, and find some humor in the description of one
person's challenges with meditation. I hope you enjoy the story.
In loving service,
"THAT, I can do!"
By Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
We are like a lamp with many shades. Each of the lampshades adds a
subtle level of coloring to our light, while at the same time, the
light itself remains purely uncolored. The lampshades over
consciousness are the many levels of thought patterns of the mind-
field, the currents and crosscurrents of the energy level of our
being, and the solidity of the temple called body, in which our
eternal aspect seems to temporarily reside.
In meditation, we become aware of each of these lampshades, or levels
of our being-first the gross, then the subtle, then the subtler,
and finally the subtle-most. It means sitting still, closing the
temple doors called senses, exploring and going beyond the body,
inward to and through the level of energy and breath that drives the
body, encountering and letting go of the many subtle levels of the
mind, and finally to the silence beyond, deeper than, or within the
senses, body, breath, and mind.
The process is not so much like removing the lampshades, but turning
opaque lampshades into lampshades that are as pure as the finest
Some see this process as one of self-exploration, self-awareness,
self-training, and self-realization, or enlightenment. Others see it
as a religious process. Still others blend the two together, such
that their meditation is a marriage of self-enquiry and religious
fervor. The beauty of the practice of yoga meditation is that it can
be equally effective for all people, with whatever their
predispositions or preferences.
Yoga has become known as a physical exercise program, although it is
actually an ancient process whose purpose is solely to lead one to
the silence, stillness, and insight of the center of consciousness,
by whatever name you call that center. The word "yoga" means
"union." It means uniting the various aspects of our being,
although they were never divided in the first place. This means
integrating senses, body, breath, and mind into one well-functioning
whole, such that a state of equanimity allows the deepest truth or
reality to come through.
Anyone can do these practices of self-awareness. The basic tool of
yoga meditation is that of attention, along with its companion,
attitude. It means training the mind to be able to direct its
attention where and how we choose, rather than being dragged around
by the vagaries of the thoughts arising from the unconscious, or
triggered by the stimuli coming in through our senses. It means
lovingly developing an attitude of letting go of those other thoughts
or stimuli at our own wish and will, a process of non-attachment,
which is very different from suppressing or repressing thoughts and
emotions. Meditation is a gentle process of systematically going
forward, through senses, body, breath, and mind, utilizing these
tools of attention and attitude. The resulting process of letting go
will bring a gradually emerging sense of peace, happiness, and bliss.
A few weeks ago I was with a friend who is a student of meditation,
and we were talking about this "letting go." She said she
wanted to get away from it all-work, family, life, you know,
"stuff." It sounded like the coloring of her lampshades was
pretty thick at the time. She wanted to get away, travel to some far-
away place for an extended spiritual retreat, but felt she could not
do that right now-maybe next year.
I asked if she had some time period of about 4-5 hours, maybe on a
Saturday or Sunday morning, when she could be alone to give herself a
little retreat in her own home. She could take an hour for exercise,
a long shower or hot bath, spend some time reading a favorite
spiritual book, and spend some time doing breathing, relaxation, and
She just laughed, and then laughed some more. "You don't know
what my house is like," as she went on to tell me about the
busyness of her home, and her husband and children, all of whom she
loves very much, despite their noisiness.
"Maybe 2 or 3 hours?" I asked. And what do you think she did?
Laughed! Again, she reminded me of her house and its noise, and also
told me about her two woofing dogs and the pesky cat. At least she
was getting a good laugh from our talk!
Now, I know that an advanced meditator can relax and let go of
their "stuff" right in the middle of chaos, but what about
everybody else, who are not quite so advanced, yet? "Okay,
then..." I said, "what if we go to the beach, get a hotel, and we
have a retreat right here, only one night, 24 hours, and other people
in the same boat can come along? We'll have a 24-hour retreat that's
focused on guided meditation practices, not a bunch of theory, and
with lots of breaks to walk on the beach."
She stopped laughing. Her body loosened up-I know it did, because
I could see it happen. "THAT, I can do!" she said with a big
smile on her face. I think some of the lampshades lost a bit of
coloring in that moment.