By meditation, then, we connect the little joy of the soul with the vast joy of the Spirit. Meditation should not be confused with ordinary concentration. Concentration consists in freeing the attention from distractions and in focusing it on any thought in which one may be interested. Meditation is that special form of concentration in which the attention has been liberated from restlessness and is focused on God. Meditation is concentration used to know God.
Those persons whose legs are supple may prefer to meditate sitting cross-legged on a cushion on the floor, or on a firm bed. However, Paramahansa Yogananda recommended for most Westerners the following meditation pose:
Sit on a straight armless chair with the feet resting flat on the floor. Hold spine erect, abdomen in, chest out, shoulders back, chin parallel to the ground. The hands, with palms upturned, should rest on the legs at the juncture of the thighs and the abdominal region to prevent the body from bending forward. The meditation chair should be of comfortable height, otherwise there is a tendency to allow the torso to lean forward or backward. If the correct posture has been assumed, the body will be stable yet relaxed, so that it is easily possible to remain completely still, without moving a muscle.
Each of the foregoing details is a contributing factor toward the chief aim of the meditation posture—an erect spine, held stable without strain or tension for the duration of the meditation period. If, because of bad habits of posture or congenital defects of posture, you experience difficulty or discomfort in maintaining the specified positions of feet, hands, shoulders, chest, and abdomen, make whatever commonsense adjustments are necessary to your individual need; but strive always toward accomplishing the ideal posture recommended by Paramahansa Yogananda.
When you are established in the meditation pose, inhale slowly and deeply (through the nostrils) to a count of 20; hold the breath to a count of 20; exhale slowly (through the mouth) to a count of 20. Practice this six to twelve times. (A shorter count may be used, provided it is the same count in each of the three parts.) Then inhale, tensing the whole body and clenching the fists. Relax all the body parts at once and, as you do so, expel the breath through the mouth in a double exhalation, "huh, huh." Repeat this practice six times. Then forget the breath. Let it flow in and out naturally, of its own accord, as in ordinary breathing.
With the eyelids half closed (or completely closed, if this is more comfortable to you), look upward, focusing the gaze and the attention as though looking out through a point between the eyebrows. (A person deep in concentration often "knits" his brows at this spot.) Do not cross the eyes or strain them; the upward gaze comes naturally when one is relaxed and calmly concentrated. What is important is fixing the whole attention at the point between the eyebrows. This is the Christ Consciousness center, the seat of the single eye spoken of by Christ: "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light" (Matthew 6:22). When the purpose of meditation is fulfilled, the devotee finds his consciousness automatically concentrated at the spiritual eye, and he experiences, according to his inner spiritual capacity, a state of joyous divine union with Spirit.
Making a steadfast effort, the beginner may in time perceive light, or even see the spiritual eye of three colors—a reflection of the actual luminous eye in the medulla oblongata. (at the base of the skull where it joins the neck). This single eye of light reflected in the forehead is the astral eye of intuitive omnipresent perception. It takes deep concentration and calmness to behold the spiritual eye; a golden halo surrounding a circle of blue, in the center of which palpitates a five-pointed white star. Those who do see the spiritual eye should strive to penetrate it by deeper concentration and by devoted prayer to God. The depth of calmness and concentration necessary for this are naturally developed through steady practice of the scientific techniques of concentration and meditation.
Whether you see the light of the spiritual eye or not, however, you should continue to concentrate at the Christ Consciousness center between the eyebrows, praying deeply to God and His great saints. In the language of your heart invoke their presence and their blessings. A good practice is to take an affirmation or a prayer from the Lessons, or from Paramahansa Yoganandaji's "Whispers from Eternity" or "Metaphysical Meditations," and spiritualize it with your own devotional yearning. Silently chant and pray to God, keeping the attention at the point between the eyebrows, until you feel God's response as calm, deep peace and inner joy.
"Sit upright. Focus your gaze and your mind at the Christ Consciousness center between the eyebrows. Fill your heart with joy. Behold! the sphere of darkness that you see with closed eyes is becoming a sphere of light and joy. This sphere is enlarging. Now it is bigger than your body. Go on expanding the sphere of joy and light. Your home and everyone in it are present in the sphere of light that you are beholding. Go on expanding it until you see your whole city in this sphere of light and joy. Ever increasing, the sphere of light and joy is encompassing the entire United States, and still it is expanding, including Europe, Asia, the world! See the world bathed in the light of this peaceful sphere of joy. The earth appears as a little ball moving in the vast sphere of light and joy. The sphere is becoming even larger; see! our planetary and stellar system, the Milky Way, and island galaxies, like little bubbles, are floating in it.
"Expand the sphere of light and joy within you, in which all things are moving, glimmering like the lights of a city. Meditate on and try to be one with that joy. God is joy, and we must find Him through joy. The scriptures say: 'Thou art That.' Your Self is one with this vast sphere of light that is your Father. You are this sphere of light and joy! Meditate on that. You have no boundaries—eternity above, below, everywhere. In this eternal sphere of light and joy all things are moving. Mentally affirm: 'In me worlds are floating like bubbles. I and my Father are One. '
"Now open your eyes. Look at the body and see how little it is! Close your eyes and realize again that you are not the body. You are the eternal sphere of light and joy in which all things have their being. Go on meditating, mentally affirming: 'I am the cosmic sphere of light, of joy, of love, in which worlds and universes are floating like bubbles. My Father is this cosmic sphere of light; my Father and I are One. I am not the body; I am the eternal sphere of light. Aum. Aum. Amen.'"
(Paramahansa Yogananda cautioned devotees against the erroneous thought, "I am God." One should realize, rather, "God has become myself." The soul is like a wave on the sea-bosom of Spirit. The soul wave is one with the Sea, but the wave is not the Sea.)
Through daily practice of the foregoing instructions, you can prepare yourself for the practice of the basic techniques of concentration and meditation that are given in later Lessons. These scientific techniques will enable you to dive ever more deeply in the great ocean of God's presence. We all exist at this very moment in that ocean of Spirit; but only by steadfast, devoted, scientific meditation may we consciously perceive that we are individualized soul waves on the vast ocean of God's bliss.
The meditation period should last at least thirty minutes in the morning and thirty minutes at night. The longer you sit, enjoying the state of meditative calm, the faster you will progress spiritually. Carry into your daily activities the calmness you feel in meditation/that calmness will help you to bring harmony and happiness into every department of your life.
Unending joy awaits the sincere truth seeker who conscientiously meditates each day. Through the grace of God, through the blessings of the Masters, and through your own devotional effort you can achieve the state of divine joy experienced by all saints that have become established in the Lord (that have become consciously aware of their soul unity with Spirit).
2. Always begin and end your meditation with a prayer.
3. Early morning, upon arising, and the period just before retiring at night are excellent times for meditation. Do not try to meditate just after eating. Wait at least an hour if possible. The kind of food one eats also has a definite bearing on one's health or ill health, not only of the body but of the mind. Be sure the diet includes an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits. Eat nuts, cheese, eggs, and vegetable proteins in preference to meat. Fruits are the most spiritually beneficial of all foods.
4. It is good to use a woolen blanket or silk cloth (or both, with the silk on top) to cover your meditation seat. Drape the cloth over the back of the chair if a chair is used, and place one end of the cloth on the floor under your feet. The cloth helps to insulate the body from subtle earth currents. Their magnetic downward pull toward material perceptions is undesirable for the meditating devotee. The yogis have found, also, that facing East (the direction from which subtle spiritual solar currents are always flowing) is helpful in meditation.
5. Bathing has a cleansing effect not only on the body but also on the mind, and is therefore a beneficial practice before meditation. Bathing opens the pores allowing toxins to escape; it also helps to distribute life energy evenly throughout the body, quieting the nerves and inducing calmness. One should also take a "mental bath" before meditation: put aside all worries and problems. Completely give to God the time you have set aside for meditation. Concentrate on one of His infinite aspects — Peace, Joy, Wisdom, Love, Light, Beauty—or on one of the seven wisdoms. Meditation in itself is an unequaled "spiritual bath"--a cleansing and rejuvenation of body, mind, and soul.
Be regular in your meditations (whether they be deep, or, in the beginning, restless). Be persistent if you would attract God's attention. Remember that meditation should be practiced with devotion, with real love for God. Love for God means craving for God. He cannot resist the magnetic attraction of human soul yearning. Meditation techniques help you to awaken and whet that divine craving which will take you to the heights of realization, of soul union with God-Bliss. Resolve that you will never give up until He comes to you. Whether you realize it or not. He is listening to the cry of your heart. In His own time He will bestow the supreme gift of Himself.
The Self-Realization Fellowship is the official body that teaches Kriya Yoga which is the advanced teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda. Click Here To visit their website.