Excerpt from First Step towards Advanced Meditation, by Swami Rama.

This recording will instruct you in the first step towards advanced practice. Before I lead you on the path of inner light, I would like to give you some specific instructions.

Your posture by now should be steady. If you sit on a chair, preferably it is a wooden chair, keeping your head, neck and trunk straight. Or sit on a cushion applying Swastikasana, which is called auspicious pose, or Siddhasana, which is called the accomplished pose. Or you can use any other easy pose in a cross-legged position. But see that your posture is not distorted. The aspirant should remember that if he wants to pursue the practice, first he will have to accomplish a steady posture, and Siddhasana is recommended. The practice Padmasana [lotus pose] is part of physical culture; it’s healthy, but I do not recommend it for meditation because in Padmasana applying mulabandha becomes difficult; in Siddhasana, or accomplished pose it becomes easy.

Your hands and your palms should be on your knees, making jnana mudra or the finger lock. Both hands should be aligned on the knees so that the fingers are not uneven.

Breathe deeply. Your breath should be serene. Diaphragmatic breathing is very basic, but important for the pranayama practices. By now you have begun to form the habit of diaphragmatic breathing and have experienced its benefits. Now, if you focus your mind on your breath so that your mind and breath are perfectly coordinated—breath and mind are twin laws of life—your breath naturally becomes finer when you become still. Breath and mind integrate and you may have the feeling that you are not breathing. This is an encouraging sign of advancement.

After you have mentally surveyed that your position is steady and comfortable, take a deep breath, observing that you do not create a noise from your nose, and that your breath is not jerky, or unrhythmic, or shallow. Another important point is not to allow the pause between inhalation and exhalation to be expanded. Gradually the aspirant controls the pause, and the inhalation and exhalation becomes like an unbroken wave rising and merging without pause.

Now, there are two points on which the mind can be focused. Without having the focal point for mind in meditation, the mind runs around. By now you should also be learning to observe your inner tendencies. If you are emotional, your center is the anahata chakra, the center between the two breasts. If you are intellectual, or think much, your center is ajna chakra, between the two eyebrows. But in no way, at this point, should you ever try to meditate on the crown chakra, or any lower chakra. If you meditate on the crown, on sahasrara chakra, you might start hallucinating.

There is a tiny circle on the space between the two eyebrows, and on both sides of the circle there are two petals. In the center of the circle, there is an unflinching flame steadily burning. It is like a milky white light. This center is called ajna chakra, or the breath chakra, third eye. By concentrating and focusing the mind on the center, one becomes clairvoyant. Clairvoyant means seeing things clearly. Then you see things as they are. Ordinarily, one does not see things as they are, therefore experiences confusion. Once the mind has become inward and one-pointed it can steadily meditate on this tiny circle.

You do not have to make a conscious effort to remember your mantra, for the mantra, or the spiritual sound which has been given to you, has become part of your life, and you spontaneously remember it. And this is called ajapa japa, remembering your mantra without effort. When the unconscious mind assimilates the mantra, then ajapa japa starts. When the mantra becomes part of your life, it becomes a predominant habit of the mind; it becomes predominant in the unconscious, which is the reservoir of all the thought patterns.

Mind has a tendency to become extroverted, not to remain introverted. But meditation, being a conscious effort, makes the mind inward. After learning to apply sushumna, which creates a state of joyful mind, then you should withdraw your mind from the objects of the world, and the objects of the senses, by focusing your mind on the center between the two eyebrows. Now you allow your thoughts to come forward from the unconscious. Learn to witness them. Witnessing is very important, instead of brooding on thoughts. If the mind does not brood on the thoughts, then you remain unaffected, and you allow your thoughts to let go. You only remain aware of the center of consciousness within.

Here the light and the sound are mingled and are inseparable. There is a fine and subtle point. A sadhaka [student] has a choice according to his inherent tendency. The sound and light come from within. They are not external sounds and light. Either you should strengthen visualization or you should engage your mind in listening to the sound coming from within. You can consult your teacher. Every individual has one of these two predominant tendencies. For someone visualization is easy; for others, hearing sound becomes easy. You should talk to your teacher about your inner tendencies, and the observations you find in your meditation. You have to judge yourself by studying the tendency of your mind, whether it visualizes or is apt to listen to the sound.

One-pointed and inward mind has a power. When you have attained a one-pointed mind, it can penetrate into the inner dimensions and unfold your interior states. If you pay attention to your breath flow in a calm and still position, you find that your breath whispers a song, and so does your brain. The heart, of course, gives a particular rhythm; it’s perfect music. Those who listen to the sound within begin to hear the anahata nada, the inner sound. When an aspirant is able to make his whole being into an ear, he hears the sound of anahata nada. But … meditation helps you in listening to these sounds systematically. The first sound resembles the dropping of a nail on the floor. Next one, is like whistle sound. You are listening now to the grosser sounds. Those inner sounds that are coming to your consciousness, when your mind is more and more concentrated, you start hearing the finer sounds. These sounds are heard by the ear of your mind. The next sound resembles trumpets. Then the sound of flute, a very melodious sound. And next, you’ll hear the sound of like a stringed instrument. And then it comes again; many stringed instrument sounds are heard, all at the same time. Finally, you’ll hear the sound like OM; your whole being vibrates from within, though your body is still. Your mind is being led by the mantra, toward the silence.

When your mind is not following the subtle sound of the mantra, then it becomes aware of the illumination of ajna chakra. This prevents the mind from running toward external objects. Suddenly your mind enters into something like a tunnel, that leads you to the gateway of sahasrara chakra, the thousand-petaled lotus. This particular gate, according to the yogis, is called the tenth gate in the city of life. Now you have come in touch with your interior state, and have acquired mental strength. No external sound or disturbance is able to distract you at this state. On the way, you’ll find many experiences and visions. Sometimes you’ll receive hunches. Sometimes thoughts flash from the source of intuition. Colorful sparks of light and strange sounds are experienced. One might experience thunder clouds. These experience do create confidence in the mind of the student, and he becomes more inclined towards practice.

If one day you experience something, and the next day you don’t, you should not be disappointed. This happens because the mind remains distracted, and still has a tendency to flow into the past grooves of memory. After doing meditation for more than thirty minutes to an hour, in one position you’ll be able to observe the habits of your mind and it hidden tendencies. You can gradually eliminate them, and cross the final boundary made by your mind within you. Your mind gradually experiences the joy of expansion and finds delight. Depression and anxiety reduces. Calmness and fearlessness increases. When you’re calm and fearless, then you are sure that you are progressing. This gradual process of self transformation increases your awareness.

By meditating regularly, at the same time, the mind forms the habit of going within, in the inner world, and rejoices in having unusual visions. But all visions are not unalloyed; they are mingled with fantasies, hallucinations, and confusions. Intuitive knowledge is unalloyed knowledge, which does not need any support or proof. At this state, many times the intellect comes with a [unintelligible] or it recalls previous experiences stored in the unconscious. It is better for the true student of meditation to discard all such experience and watch without being affected. You should meditate on the anahata chakra, the center between the two breasts, if your nature is emotionally predominant. The anahata chakra divides the upper hemisphere from the lower, and helps in guiding the emotional power into emotional maturity. The power of emotion is immense, and can lead the student to the height of ecstasy. If you cannot judge for yourself, you should consult your teacher. Both these centers, the anahata and ajna chakra, involving visualization and listening to the sound vibrations, are equally helpful, but switching from one to the other is a waste of time and can be discouraging. Intuitive knowledge is received by both ways when practiced faithfully. When your mind is tired, and you start losing your awareness, or feel sleepy, or you start having deep…, you’ll just start daydreaming, you should not force yourself, or sit for meditation. Come back to breath awareness and start breathing, deeply according to your comfortable capacity. Breathe again, to your fullest capacity, and exhale. You’re exhaling all your fears, confusions, and problems. You’re reenergizing yourself by inhaling the prana, the vital force, which is given to you by the cosmic center.

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