Meditation as a tool for inner growth

September 19, 2019

Before we see the effectiveness of meditation in our inner growth, we define what is inner growth. Inner growth is the increase in the ability of a person to face whatever life brings with positive attitude.
Let us explain what this means. If you look around in nature, animals react to the external circumstances with whatever means they have and move on with life. For example, a dog gets hurt in an accident and spends rest of his life limping around. He does not spend time crying about how it has happened only to him and not to other dogs! Or, a leaf falls on the ground, taking an ant going about its ways with it. Upon find itself in new environment, it starts to find its way home without a word about her bad luck! Even in humans, a small child adjusts easily to the changes brought about by parents moving from one place to other without spending time complaining about how unjust the life is. This instinct of adjusting ourselves without unnecessary emotional reactions to the circumstances gets lost as we grow old. The above definition of inner growth quantifies this loss. Thus, we must first understand how and where in our physical growing up did we lose this natural ability to face the world without spending extra time in feeling happy or dejected about it.
People cannot accept what is in front of them as it is only because they have already decided how it should have been. When the reality does not match with expectation, we try to bend the outer world to come close to our inner vision. It is impossible to change what is, for it is the truth and everything else is false. The futility of our efforts to change the truth to match our wants causes the inner turmoil. On the other hand, whenever one does not have any pre-conceived notion about how an event should unfold, one is calm in accepting whatever happens. For example, when England-Australia are playing a test match we accept whatever the result. But not so in an India-Pakistan match. Thus, it becomes clear that as we form expectations about how our life should be we start to become incapable to face life as it is. It is this collection of expectations that we have within us that makes us inflexible in coping with what lies in front of us.
It is of course not possible to totally remove all expectations from our lives. In fact, most of them exist within us unbeknownst. Only at an opportune time, they come to the fore, and we become aware of them. However, it is possible to dispassionately see them arise in our mind and not be swayed by their presence. The increase in this ability of man is inner growth. It is true that passage of time does help to attenuate some of our desires. For example, the desperate urge to have a sweet is very strong in childhood and weak when we grow old. However, some of the desires do not subside by the passing of time. In fact, most common desires like peer recognition, being rich, get even more inflamed by their fulfilment because we want them to remain fulfilled in future too. Therefore, we see that just growing old does not bring about inner growth.
In order to be free from the burden that our own desires bring, we should study how we became free of our juvenile wants. It is important to observe that the urge to win every match we play subsided in us not by winning all matches but only when winning a match lost its importance in our life. Now, if we play a match, we play to win but whether we win or lose, we accept that reality with certain ease and equanimity. Imagine the same calmness in all spheres of our existence. Would it not be a wonderful experience to be able to give all one has got to a cause and still accept whatever the result is with serenity? Obtaining such a vision is inner growth. This can only happen when we become indifferent to our own desires.
However, after accepting this fact, if we go about to become dispassionate about our wants, this very effort signifies a new want, namely, to be free of every want! In other words, we end up replacing all our wants into this one single want to be free of our wants. Thus, the best way towards progress is to let changes happen naturally, without efforts. Just like we have become free of our childhood obsession of eating ice-cream without doing any effort.
One then wonders, how can anything happen without effort? To answer this question, one should note that attention has great power to change things. Consider the following example – often, a new-born child is afflicted with Jaundice. It is called neonatal Jaundice and is caused by high levels of bilirubin in the blood. The treatment is to expose the baby to light. The light changes bilirubin to lumirubin which the baby’s body can easily handle. No medicine needs to be given in this treatment. In the same way, we are afflicted with desires which are hampering us from experiencing the world in a natural way. If we just take a thorough look at those desires (exposing them to the light of our attention, so to speak!) they lose their ability to colour our actions by their presence.
Thus, in order to be free of their hold on our actions, all we need to do is to see our own desires and wants with total clarity. However, most of them are hidden in the subconscious mind and therefore impossible to observe. In order to understand which desires are hidden under the surface of our conscious mind, we need to have patience. Like a hunter who lies in wait at the suitable spot for his prey to arrive there of its own will, we should stay quiet and see which desires become visible at the conscious level. Further, when they do come to the surface of conscious mind, we should be alert and not distracted with something else. If the hunter is looking at something else at the time his prey arrives, he will not be successful in his hunt, right? This art of lying in wait and continually seeing the mind is the meaning of being passively alert. Meditation is another word for this state of mind. Internally, this must go on all the time. Therefore, true meditation is a way of living.
Now, we will have a look at the limited form of meditation that will be of some help towards achieving the true meditation. But first, it is important to note that this help is not in the sense of getting money to buy a mobile phone but is in the sense of having a net practice before a cricket match. The difference between the two is, the former gives you an assurance of getting what you want while the latter only increases your chances of achieving your goal! Having said this, let us deduce what could be the best way to get help in changing our way of life.
In everyday life, desires pop up at any moment. There is so much happening at that time that we do not have time to isolate the exact form of the desire that is forcing us to behave in a certain way. Thus, in the beginning, we should try to create an environment that is free from disturbances so that if a desire arises at that time, we can give our full attention to its existence. There should be nothing else to distract us. This is the net practice of the actual match of everyday life, so to speak. Hence, we must find a place that allows us to sit or lie without physical discomfort. Make sure that there are no external demands on us and restrict all inputs from our sensory organs and just be with ourselves. Typically, eyes and ears are the most distracting influences. Thus, it is advised to close one’s eyes (so no stimulus from them), sit in a quiet room (so ears won’t distract us) and just relax and watch the movement of mind.
What does it mean by watching the mind? If we make a conscious effort to watch the movement of the mind, it is clever enough to only project those thoughts that are acceptable to us. Thus, it is advisable to only watch one’s breath after attaining a calm physical posture. thoughts may or may not come to you at such a moment. It is exactly like sitting at a vantage point in a jungle and allowing the wild animals to approach at their own discretion. When some of them do appear, one should allow them to exist without being judgmental. Thus, physically we are inert and internally we allow the mind to do whatever it wants. This is called practicing meditation. This kind of meditation allows us to know the ways of our mind and is a precursor to our alert state of existence in real life.
Now, like all activities, this meditation also has pitfalls. Our discussion is not complete without studying them. The most prominent amongst them is – we may form an opinion about ourselves depending on what we see. If we happen to see good thoughts, we may think ourselves a good person and if we see ordinary thoughts, we might get disappointed with ourselves. It is most important not to get too involved with conclusions formed after such a practice. One must understand that all our conclusions are known to observer’s mind as it itself is the observed! This possibility is a serious drawback and is the main cause of ineffectiveness of meditation in real life. In order not to fall prey to it, we should just ignore all that we have seen and continue with our lives as if we had done nothing. In short, we do this meditation and refuse to reap its rewards (which is, the so-called clarity about who we are). This `net practice’, together with the precaution of not to use our experience by drawing conclusions will increase our chances in being free in our daily life.
Of course, the question arises that if we are not going to use the knowledge that is gained in our sessions, how can we be sure that our efforts are in the right direction? How can we encourage ourselves to continue on this path? Only by observing its natural effects. The main sign of our internal growth is the feeling of energy. Without any effort, we seem to have ample energy left at the end of every day. This is so because we have stopped wasting our energy in doing actions to forcefully fulfill our desires. Day after day, we seem to get an inexhaustible supply of energy and the words, “I am tired, I can’t do it” never come to our mind, so saying it aloud is out of question! This is the main sign that meditation is working. Is it not great that we will be able to face whatever life throws at us and still be energetic at the end of every day? Second big sign is that the number of people who are comfortable with our company increases. It is observed that kids make friends easily (and lose them easily too!) but as we grow old, this ability to connect to strangers diminishes. If we are behaving naturally in everyday life, the opposite happens. For no reasons, people seem to welcome your company. From the watchman to your colleague to a stranger on the street, people are just comfortable to be with you. This happens because, as the effect of being natural, we remove our ego from our actions. We have become transparent, so to speak. People instinctively trust transparent things and are cautious about opaque objects.
To summarise: Inner growth is the solution to our angst. Is it not great to be full of energy and find ourselves amongst people who welcome us all the time? Let us all meditate in the truest sense of the word and be what we are naturally.