Methods of Meditation – Preliminary Practices

MEDITATION is a complete flow of thought about an object which you have successfully concentrated upon. It is not a flow past, like a procession in the street, but a flow into, a filling-up. It is like a thread of thoughts closely wound into a ball, such that every part of the thread is intimate with every other part. In meditation you enfold yourself in a cocoon of your thoughts; you go in a grub and come out a butterfly.

There are certain preliminary practices which are a great aid to meditation. First, there is the simple method of sparing a little time each morning or evening to turning over in the mind the events of the day, and thinking about them in a gentle manner. This is a great rest and recreation for mind, emotions and body; it purifies and refines our lives and ploughs and harrows the field, preparing it for inspiration and intuition.

Secondly, the manner of our reading can also provide good preparation for meditation. Let it not be too casual — except in those times when we intentionally read merely for relaxation — but let us pay careful attention to the scene, that the characters may walk and talk like real beings before our eyes. Best of all, let us think before and after. We shall gain much more from our novel or story if we (I) reflect upon the portion previously read and the situation reached, (2) read, and then (3) reflect upon that which we have now read. In the reflection it is necessary only to pass the material in review; thinking upon it will arise spontaneously.

If it is study we are doing, the value of such reflection is inestimable. If I am going to read about geraniums, let me first ask myself what I already know about geraniums, and not be satisfied with a superficial answer, but try to name all the facts I can — geraniums I have seen and read about, varieties of geraniums, the parts and qualities of geraniums, the effect of geraniums upon things and people. This practice will revive and coordinate the ideas already in my mind, and it will also awaken in it many questions.

Now I shall bring to the reading an orderly mind, active in relation to the subject, and also alert to pick up items of information where it has become conscious of a lack. After reading, let me again reflect, asking myself what new knowledge I have gained, and perhaps causing myself to turn back to the book to see whether it really said so-and-so, or what it said on such-and-such a point, about which I am uncertain. These reflections clear up disorder in the mind, and at the same time help to remove the other two d’s of the mind — dullness and drift.

Meditation is used by different people for different purposes. I need not comment on the respective merits of their aims; my business is to describe the various methods which can help each one in his chosen line, and to mention any dangers by the way.