A Word on Meditation


Copy-spaced image of a black woman meditating at home

For decades, we at the Chopra Center have been applying consciously chosen mantras as vehicles to move awareness from constriction to expansion. The use of mantra, a word that means “mind vehicle” is an ancient practice for settling awareness without straining or concentrating. These devices tend to be pleasant resonant sounds that have a vibratory quality without accessing the meaning quality of the mantra.

When we say the word flower, there are two components: one the meaning, which may conjure up visual and olfactory experience. The other is the actual vibratory quality, to which we have assigned an association between the word and its definition. Flower in Spanish is flora; in Italian, fiorire; and in French, fleur. In each case, we associate a vibratory quality with an experience, but this is at least in part arbitrary, based upon tradition. Unlinking the relationship between sound and meaning enables us to utilize the transcending, enhancing quality of the mantra because in this context, the vibration does not automatically require the invoking of a meaning. There are thousands of ancient mantras. The universal mantra is the sound Aum, which is said to be the vibration of the universe moving from silence to activity and back to silence. The “A” component is the expression of the beginning, in which the world moves from unmanifest to manifest. The “U” represents the maintenance of the experience, temporarily captured in time and space. And the “M” is that which expresses dissolution of the individuation, allowing for the vibration to settle back into silence. We can couple the sound with the breath, but will probably soon discover that your awareness transcends both the mantra and the breath as your mind settles and your body relaxes.

I encourage you to explore various technologies to see which meditative practices resonate with your physiology so that you have ready and reliable access to silence. After a while you will find that simply closing your eyes becomes a meditative practice, one that very effortlessly takes your mind from activity to silence. Because it is more comfortable to have peace than turbulence, with a little practice it will become easy for you to meditate and to reap the benefits of mind-quieting practices.

What is the relationship between meditation and spirituality? Although meditation does not need to be associated with spiritual unfoldment, it seems that when one practices meditation regularly, we cannot help but have thoughts about God. Perhaps this is because God lives within the gap of the mind, and when that dimension is not occupied with obsessive thoughts about the past or the future, God wanders in to fill that space. In a sense, even when we’re thinking about God, the very thought of the divine squeezes out the sacred. Words are intrinsically restrictive because the very nature of language is to differentiate one thought from another. When I say that you’re beautiful, intelligent, and kind, I’m implying that you’re not ugly, dim-witted, or mean.

However, if we’re being honest, we all know that each of us can be beautiful and ugly, intelligent and foolish, kind and mean. It is the nature of the languaging mind to dichotomize the world into pluses and minuses; it is not the nature of life. We use our mind to define ourselves.

It has been fascinating as I lose my mind as a consequence of my illness to recognize that I have a mind but I’m not my mind. In actuality, we are the silent witnessing awareness that gives rise to thoughts in the mind and sensations in the body.

Dr. David Simon