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Q & A with Ajayan Borys, Author of "Effortless Mind"

by New World Library


There are many things that go by the name of meditation. What do you mean by meditation?

All successful forms of meditation have at least one thing in common: sooner or later, they make the mind’s activity subtler and subtler until you transcend the subtlest and abide in the core of your being.

There are subtle and gross levels to everything. There is the gross material level, the molecular level, atomic level, etc. This is no less true of you and me. We have many levels to our existence. But ordinarily we see only the most superficial level of the body and mind — the gross material body and the conscious, thinking mind. Meditation is the means to explore the deeper levels, which are much more intimate with our essence and source.

This is why at the heart of all the great spiritual traditions of the world there are various forms of meditation. The mystics of the world’s spiritual traditions discovered that, as their vision opened to these hidden layers of life, the presence of the Divine became an immediate, vital experience — and they have universally declared that this experience requires no special talent. It is open to any and all who are willing to dedicate themselves to exploring their own inner depths.

Meditation also offers many practical benefits for mental, emotional, and physical health — and because it’s a direct experience, it requires no particular religious or spiritual belief. It doesn’t matter whether you are interested for spiritual or other reasons — such as to sleep better; to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression; to improve physical health; or to tap your latent creative potential. All that you want lies within you, in the depths of your own being. You need only access it.

You insist that to be effective, meditation must be easy. Doesn't that fly in the face of the traditional understanding that controlling the mind is difficult and requires many years of training?

Controlling the mind is not difficult; it is impossible. The whole idea of controlling the mind is misdirected and will only bring headaches. After all, what is meditation? It is doing less and less until you are doing nothing, simply being, abiding in the core of your innermost Self. Controlling the mind is doing. It’s opposed to meditation. Meditation should dissolve the ego-mind, which is accustomed to always doing and trying. This is why meditation must be effortless: the ego-mind can’t dissolve itself by doing. Doing only keeps it intact.

Anytime you want to go from the waking consciousness to another state of consciousness, it must happen effortlessly. Consider how you fall asleep. You turn off the lights, lie down, and after some time passes, you fall asleep. When it comes, sleep comes effortlessly. It must come effortlessly. As every insomniac knows, the more you try to fall asleep, the more surely you will lay awake tossing and turning. Only when you completely forget about trying to fall asleep does sleep come. The same holds true for meditation. Let yourself be meditated.

You also say that thoughts are not only a natural part of meditation, but that having many thoughts in meditation may even be an indication of great success. Can you make sense of that for me?

It sounds like a contradiction, because we think of meditation as silencing the mind. Yet there is one factor we have to keep in mind: purification. Meditation, in fact all spiritual practice, is for the purpose of purification. It is only through purifying all the layers of our being that we become true reflectors of the infinite, divine omnipresent consciousness. Purification is a very significant part of our spiritual growth.

This process of purification during meditation is real, it goes on in every level of our beings—in the biology of the body, in the energetic body, in the mind and heart—and because it is a real process, it shows itself. It does not happen invisibly. Due to purification, you may experience physical sensations, movements of energy in the body, but mostly you experience the process of purification as the smoke of thoughts. In fact, the deeper your meditations, sooner or later, the more intense will be the purification. You can test this by going on retreat where you can meditate for many hours in a day. Yes, you will have periods of deep silence and bliss, but you will also surely have periods of intensified thoughts. This is the purging process, and it does indicate success. Several times I was on retreat in the Himalayas, meditating some 15 hours a day for months at a time: my mind would be boiling with thoughts so intensely it is indescribable. Imagine putting drops of water on a red hot skillet; they don’t even have time to boil, they just explode and evaporate. That’s what my mind felt like; it’s the best description I can give of the intensity of purification that occurs during a long retreat.

You speak of toning the energetic body. What is the energetic body and what does it have to do with meditation?

Again, there are gross and subtle levels to everything. The room that you’re sitting in and everything in it may appear solid, but modern physics reveals that all that matter is pure energy at a subtler level. This holds true of your body as well. Because we have the gift of this highly sophisticated human nervous system, we are capable of directly experiencing an energetic level of our own being.

Over the centuries, this energetic body has been thoroughly explored by the great researchers of the East: India’s yogis, meditating long hours in remote places. As they describe it, in the energetic body, energy flows through a network of innumerable subtle channels throughout the body. They refer to this energy as prana (usually translated as “life force”) and to the innumerable channels through which the prana flows as nadis. The chakras (major centers of energy and consciousness in the body), are another key feature of the energetic body. In most people, the energetic body operates at a diminished capacity, the flow of subtle energies restricted by impurities. From the yogic perspective, this diminished flow of prana, or life force, weakens a person’s mind and body, restricts consciousness and spiritual experience, and ultimately may result in illness. This concept is hardly unique to India. In China the energetic body has been recognized in terms of chi flowing through the subtle channels, called meridians, and the balanced and harmonious flow of chi is considered to result in optimal health, while restricted or imbalanced chi is a cause of illness. Toning the energetic body means awakening the subtle energies, clearing the channels and supporting a balanced and harmonious flow of prana.

The physical body, energetic body, and mind are all interrelated. If you do something to one of these, the other two will be affected. This offers a great key to preparing for meditation. By working on either the energetic body or the physical body in ways conducive to meditation, you can deepen your meditation and accelerate your progress. It will also make meditating much easier. By properly preparing, you will fall into deep meditation without effort.

Practicing yoga postures is one way to work on the physical body to prepare for deeper meditations. Often people practicing yoga find that in certain poses they spontaneously experience a meditative state. Yoga postures properly performed tone the functioning of the nervous system in a way that aids meditation. Working on the energetic body, however, can even more quickly and profoundly prepare you for deep meditation. It is a level of your being that is subtler than the physical body, and the subtle levels of existence are always more powerful than the gross ones. The energetic body is also the connecting point between the physical body and the mind. When you tone the energetic body — by awakening the subtle energies in the body (prana) and directing them to flow in a balanced, harmonious way through the nadis — the physical body’s functioning is calmed and revitalized, and the mind is empowered, cleared, and focused.

For many people, just sitting still for 15 or 20 minutes is a challenge. Do you have any secrets to help people do this?

Yes. Don’t try. Don’t try for any particular experience and don’t resist anything, including thoughts. If you can practice without expectation, without resisting anything, your experience will be easy and deep and you will begin to naturally enjoy meditation. Then sitting will be easy. You will look forward to it. It won’t be a discipline; it will be a treat. Of course it’s good to start off by learning an effective practice.

I also teach some breathing exercises on my website that help deepen meditation significantly. This will give you a good head start towards enjoying the bliss of meditation so that sitting is easy.

Om is a very popular mantra, yet you advise against its prolonged use for people engaged in an active life. Why?

Om is the primordial vibration or sound, the vibration preceding the first expression of creation that underlies all other vibrations. It is as close as a vibration can come to the unmanifest state of pure being. Were you to continually meditate on Om, continually resonate in that vibration of the unmanifest, your life would begin to reflect the character of the unmanifest. You would find yourself drawn strongly inward, away from active engagement in the world. You would also find that possessions and relations would tend to drop away from you; your vibration would neither attract nor sustain worldly objects and interests. This is an example of the transformative power of pure vibration.

Om is, in fact, a perfect mantra for those who want little or nothing to do with the world, who wish to withdraw from the world and renounce distractions from their spiritual path, such as home, intimate relationships, family, and career. It’s the perfect mantra for monks and nuns in contemplative traditions, which is why Om is a prevalent mantra in traditions of India that have come to favor renunciation of “worldly life” as an ideal. When I teach mantra meditation, I teach mantras that support a life of active engagement in the world, of prosperity and abundance.

You emphasize the need for integrating the benefits of meditation. What do you mean by integration and doesn't this just happen naturally as you meditate? Why does it take a special effort?

Experiencing the Infinite, what we would usually term “mystical experience,” during meditation is wonderful and easy with regular practice. But if the experiences during meditation do not translate into higher consciousness when your eyes are open and a transformed quality of action during the day, then the divine consciousness and feeling you experience in meditation is not being integrated. It’s failing to purify and transform the relative aspects of your being — your mind, heart, personality, and ego. Meditation is easy. The real challenge is to integrate what you experience in meditation, to allow that to change you so that the grace you feel in meditation breathes through every moment of your day. This is the true path to enlightenment, one that requires more than meditating with eyes closed. It requires, in a sense, making every moment of your day a meditation, and this does not happen automatically. It does take a special effort to break ingrained habits of thinking and behavior.

To grow toward enlightenment, you must consciously transform how you place your attention in the world in order to purify your motivations and refine the qualities of your heart and mind. Your actions, your life, can become conscious, mindful, and loving. When the pure awareness you experience in meditation is applied to living mindfully, it will result in countless instances of new awareness (transformative insights) that will enable you to act with greater empathy, compassion, openness, gratitude, and grace. This is the path tread by seekers of perfection in all the world’s great spiritual traditions throughout the centuries.

Mindfulness meditation has gained tremendous popularity. Would you call your meditation a mindfulness practice?

I cannot emphasize the importance of mindfulness enough. I feel it is the key to integrating the benefits of meditation. Without dedicated mindfulness throughout the day, subconscious patterns of behavior will remain largely unchanged no matter how many hours you spend sitting in meditation. So, we must practice mindfulness. That said, as a technique of meditation practiced exclusively, mindfulness practice expands consciousness and purifies the layers of a person’s being very gradually. There are techniques of meditation that are much more direct in terms of expanding consciousness and purifying the all the layers of your being. Effortless Mind meditation practices, like many of the practices of great mystics, are in this category: they focus on efficiently transcending into the deeper, creative, blissful layers of consciousness, on uniting with your true, innermost Self, pure consciousness. But then, having gained the bliss of infinite awareness, the path becomes one of mindfulness in order to integrate that higher consciousness into the mind, heart, and personality.

EFFORTLESS MIND by Ajayan Borys

February 11, 2013 • Meditation/Personal Growth • 200 pages • Trade Paperback

Price: $14.95 • ISBN 978-1-60868-154-9

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