February 3, 2016

How Meditation Opens our Minds.


Humphrey Bogart, in his role as a gruff steamer captain in The African Queen, responds to Katherine Hepburn questioning his morals by saying, “It is my nature.”

Hepburn, in character as a prim and proper spinster, says, “Your nature, sir, is what you’ve come into this world to overcome.” What a jaded perspective on life! The truth is that your fundamental nature is divine—in complete harmony with the one thing that lies at the source of all existence.

We often hear the advice to “be more open-minded.” Perspective shifts can be beneficial in the short term, but in its deepest sense, open-mindedness is about achieving a more refined physiological state over time.

A set of ancient Indian texts called the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali talk about how human awareness is conditioned by chitta. The mind is the storehouse of impressions, in which the sum total of all life experiences leave impressions upon the chitta. Those impressions determine how and what we think and feel. What we consider to be truth, wisdom, and divinity are determined by the nature of our chitta.

The Yoga Sūtras go on to say that as you evolve, the quality of your chitta changes. At first your chitta is like granite: your world view has the quality of being etched in stone. As you evolve, chitta becomes more like clay, allowing impressions to be more easily smoothed away. In time, chitta becomes more like gelatin, and then like water, and eventually like air. When your chitta evolves to become like air, you are no longer subject to impressions that condition your thinking. Instead, you function in accordance with all of nature, with Mother Nature, with your own true nature. This is sometimes referred to as “no mind.”

True open-mindedness, then, is not something we can simply choose to uphold. It is a state of physiology cultured over a lifetime. How then can you go about cultivating that state? Meditate.

Proper meditation is the most effective tool for opening the mind. The awareness goes deep within, to a place beyond thought and emotion, to the very source of our being, the infinite and unbounded transcendental source of all existence. It’s important to keep in mind that there are all sorts of meditations out there: practices to focus the mind, still the mind, and even hypnotize the mind into believing it is transcending. Take care when choosing your form of meditation.  

The most important thing about meditation is that it be natural, that it awakens you to your true divine nature. Yet so few meditations do that. Just as there is a technique we employ to enter the natural state of sleep (lie down or put your head on a pillow), there is a technique to enter the natural Transcendental state. The technique, known as Surya Ram Meditationis an ancient meditation from the Himalayas, passed down through the ages. Learning this simple technique allows the mind to open and the awareness to naturally gravitate to that place beyond the touch of chitta.

Chitta confines the mind and limits the awareness. If you wear green colored glasses, everything you see is green. Your mind becomes closed to broader possibilities. Similarly, all spiritual understanding is colored by the nature of one’s chitta. This is why all spiritual understanding, including that of meditation, is so elusive.

Newcomers to Surya Ram Meditation are surprised by its effects, which are so unique they are difficult to describe. Yet, they are deeply appreciated. When the meditation is practiced regularly, a previously unattainable level of spiritual understanding is self-evident and yet so simple and natural. That is the gift of the regular practice of proper meditation.

You do not need to overcome your nature, as Humphrey Bogart supposed in The African Queen. You only need to refine it, to encourage your chitta along on its natural path, through a proper meditation practice.

As one of the most revered sages of ancient India, Adi Shankara, said, “The spiritual path is a path of discernment.” This profound path must be directly experienced to be understood. Being more open-minded isn’t about snapping your fingers and changing your perspective—it’s about coming into alignment with your true nature.

Author: Dr. Michael Mamas

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Shutterstock

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