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October 2019, Instructions for Spiritual Living: Meditation

The newly available paperback edition of thirteen essays by Paul Brunton (plus an appendix titled “My Initiations into the Overself”) provides insightful instruction on the spiritual quest. These essays, unpublished during PB’s life, cover such topics as ‘’The Adventure of Meditation,” “Self-Reliance or Discipleship?” “Surrender of the Ego,” and “Ascetic Mysticism Reconsidered.” Any person serious about the quest would do well to read and reread these essays.

The Adventure of Meditation: This essay points out that the ideal rhythm would be to meditate 3 times a day in accordance with sun’s movements at dawn, noon and dusk, but one must allow for limits of personal circumstances. PB writes that at times in his own life he remembered the higher purpose of his life in prayer, if only for two or three minutes in the morning and every evening he withdrew in an hour-long meditation, if he could (p. 7). Each of us should choose the bodily posture that best suits us at the time, or as we receive inner prompting to adopt, and not conform rigidly to some system we find uncomfortable or impossible. He emphasizes that “you are already as divine as you are ever likely to be, but suitable training can help to give you the consciousness of what you possess. No practical system can develop a Soul for you, for it is already there. There is no universal formula for the practice of meditation suited to all people at all times. The philosophic ideals of a balanced development and an equilibrated personality would alone forbid it…. Real meditation is an intuitive process. But the tensions that prevail in the mind usually prevent this intuition from being felt, and still more from being followed even if felt (p.15). Postures should be adjusted to personal comfort. Emerson meditated in a rocking chair. Even one who has practiced meditation for many years will find answers to details and teachings not previously understood. We know It takes a long time to master the art of meditation. PB points out that in the fully developed meditative life there is ease, naturalness, and stability. These writings remind us that “we are digging a well. Some have to dig far and long before water appears, therefore we should push our search deeper down. The water of life is there, we need not doubt that. Every ancient seer, every medieval saint, every contemporary mystic testifies to this fact. Our mystical progress will be characterized by an increasing withdrawal into ourselves, by a drawing back from the physical senses and an interiorizing and immobilizing of attention…” (p.22). “If we faithfully follow these instructions and diligently perform these exercises, we will sooner or later become conscious of this subtle presence within our own mental atmosphere. It will be something exalted, noble, serene and transcendental, but it will be something we cannot keep and quickly lose. Nevertheless, it will return again and again. As soon as we sit down to meditate, its spell will seem to be magically thrown over us like the fabled enchantment of fairy tales. We should unhesitatingly surrender to its mysterious and delightful influence. The process of bringing this new life to birth within ourselves, which was hitherto naturally a painful and prolonged one, will henceforth be a source of growing joy. Little by little we will forget our worldly affairs as we sit in meditation and more and more remember our spiritual affairs (p.24).”