My teacher, Sri Chinmoy, used to equate the beginning stages of learning meditation to planting a seed in a garden.
When the seed starts to germinate, it comes up as a little flower; and it’s beautiful, but also delicate. I remember back to when I was first learning meditation; it was difficult for me to get into a place where my mind was calm. Now, over 30 years later, it’s much easier for me to go into a deeper place. But when I was just beginning, finding that little bit of peace was a real challenge.
As new meditators, we have this beautiful flower and we want to protect it, put a little fence around it, make sure it gets water and sunlight. This is how we cultivate our spiritual journey. A little flower of peace starts to open up inside our hearts, and then it’s our responsibility to care for it.
I became acquainted with meditation in my first semester of college. I was really excited about what I was discovering—the peace and new energy I found inside myself—and was eager to tell everyone about it. When I returned home for Thanksgiving break, I couldn’t wait to share my new-found love of meditation with everyone. I sat at my aunt’s dining room table and started to tell everyone about my ability to calm my breathing and enter into a meditative peacefulness.
I distinctly remember the blank stares on the faces of my aunts, uncles and cousins. There was a long silence, and then the jokes started. They thought I had gone completely off my rocker; it was almost like telling them I’d been to another planet. The concept of feeling peace in my heart and quiet in my mind was completely foreign to them.
Putting a fence around our garden prevents certain things from getting in, and it’s the same with our peace of mind. If we want to maintain clarity of heart, we have to be wise about what energy, people or thoughts we let into our consciousness, including what we read, what we watch on television or the people we associate with. Everything we bring into our life is going to have an effect on the deepest part of ourselves.
It’s important to realize that meditation is subtle. We can have a powerful experience, but we can also doubt it later on. We could have a peaceful meditation in the morning, and then later in the day when we’re involved with the chaos of our lives, we begin to wonder, “Was that even real? That peace of mind I felt earlier, was that just a joke?” It’s important to be wise about who we share our inner experiences with, because if people have no sense of meditation or spirituality, their lack of understanding can affect us deeply.
It’s not just about keeping out negative influences. Sources of positive energy and inspiration are equally powerful. Twice a week I get together with members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre for a 90-minute meditation session and refreshments. In that environment, I can talk about the subtle emotions of my spiritual heart or the feeling of being stuck in my spiritual journey, and they can relate and give me insights from their own experiences. That inspires me and motivates me to continue.
Giving that little plant sunlight is what makes the plant grow, and so too, there are things we can bring into our lives that allow our inner nature to blossom. What people feed that energy within? What things can we read or watch, what influences really nurture our spirituality?
If we think of a new spiritual practice as a little flower that we want to protect and nurture, we can choose what we let in. Depending on how much we value that plant, our new inner awareness will inspire changes in our lives. In order to maintain my inner peace, I have stopped putting myself in environments that drain my energy. For me specifically, that includes loud bars and movie theaters. I also steer clear of people who focus solely on themselves.
Sometimes we cling to situations or behaviors because we are afraid of letting go. Though we know that certain energies and practices are harmful, we fear loneliness or the unknown. Cultivating inner peace and using our practice as a reference point gives us the courage and confidence to make positive changes and move forward in our spiritual journey.
Author: Sujantra McKeever
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: Sarah Mak/Unsplash