There are three progressive stages in this technique. First, the student proves to himself, by following the master's guidance, that the ego is fictitious and illusory. Second, he concentrates diligently on Short Path meditation techniques to dig beneath the ego and escape from it. Third, he proves to himself the fact of Nonduality, that there is only the One Mind's existence.
Ordinary meditation is still preoccupied with his own ego and therefore is still barred from ascending to the Himalayan peaks where alone God is to be felt and found. The meditator is still too wrapped up in his own development, his own problems, his own aspirations. Advanced nondual meditation forgets all that in order to remember and identify itself solely with God.
The student must therefore understand that the exercises which follow are special and advanced applications of the more elementary technique of meditation described in our earlier books.
If he is to succeed with the Short Path, he must practise its techniques continually, must revert to them so often that they become second nature and best pleasure.
"Give yourself to the Overself" is simple to say, but one must descend and ascend through a number of levels before its full majestic meaning is realized.
Four of the fundamental features which distinguish the philosophic meditation exercises from the others and which stamp them with marked superiority are (a) their metaphysical character, (b) their permanent results, (c) their impersonality, and (d) their universality.
Grace is of two kinds. The ordinary, better known, and inferior kind is that which is found on the Long Path. It flows from the Overself in automatic response to intense faith or devotion, expressed during a time of need. It is a reaction to seeking for help. The rarer and superior kind is found on the Short Path. It arises from self-identification with the Overself or constant recollection of it. There is no ego here to seek help or to call for a Grace which is necessarily ever present in the Overself.
These exercises are for those who are not mere beginners in yoga. Such are necessarily few. The different yogas are successive and do not oppose each other. The elementary systems prepare the student to practise the more advanced ones. Anybody who tries to jump all at once to the philosophic yoga without some preliminary ripening may succeed if he has the innate capacity to do so but is more likely to fail altogether through his very unfamiliarity with the subject. Hence these ultramystic exercises yield their full fruit only if the student has come prepared either with previous meditational experience or with mentalist, metaphysical understanding--or better still with both. Anyone who starts them, because of their apparent simplicity, without such preparation must not blame the exercises if he fails to obtain results. They are primarily intended for the use of advanced students of metaphysics on the one hand or of advanced practitioners of meditation on the other. This is because the first class will understand correctly the nature of the Mind-in-itself which they should strive to attain thereby, whilst the second class will have had sufficient self-training not to set up artificial barriers to the influx when it begins.
Being based on the mentalist principles of the hidden teaching, they were traditionally regarded as being beyond yoga. Hence these exercises have been handed down by word of mouth only for thousands of years and, in their totality, have not, so far as our knowledge extends, been published before, whether in any ancient Oriental language like Sanskrit or in any modern language like English. They are not yoga exercises in the technical sense of that term and they cannot be practised by anyone who has never before practised yoga.
Although the writer regards it as unnecessary and inadvisable to disclose in a work of popular instruction those further secrets of a more advanced practice which act as shortcuts to attainment for those who are ready to receive them, suffice to say that whoever will take up this path and go through the disciplinary practices here given faithfully and willingly until he is sufficiently advanced to profit by the further initiation of those secrets, may rest assured that at the right time he will be led to someone or else someone will be led to him and the requisite initiation will then be given him. Such is the wonderful working of the universal soul which broods over this earth of ours and over all mankind. No one is too insignificant to escape its notice, just as no one is deprived of the illumination which is his due; but everything in nature is graduated, so the hands of the planetary clock must go round and the right hour be struck ere the aspirant makes the personal contact which in nine cases out of ten is the preliminary to entry into a higher realization of these spiritual truths.
Distant though it seems from all matters of a historical nature, all happenings in time, and all social experiences, the persistent affirmation of Mind's truth and reality will bear visible consequences. This is not less true of personal lives than of world events. But remember--only if harmony with the higher laws is obeyed.
Those who have gained glimpses, through long research or through hints in the classic texts, of what happened within the soul of candidates for the higher initiations of the Ancient Mysteries, whether of Greece Egypt Chaldea or Polynesia, will perceive that the exercises here revealed bear a certain resemblance to the exercises which were imposed upon these candidates during their period of training. And such indeed must be the case because the same pristine hidden teaching gave its inner nourishment to those remarkable institutions called the Mysteries, however externally different they necessarily were because of local needs and conditions.
These higher forms of yoga are not accessible to those who have insufficient leisure for reflection--that is, to most people.
If he begins his meditations as a coldly intellectual enquiring sceptic, without faith in the divine soul but willing to investigate experimentally if there be one, he will be brought to continue them at a certain stage of advancement as a warmly aspiring believer; and this will happen not by any desire of his own but by the Grace of the Overself. The gap between these two phases will be a dark night of the soul.
These are exercises in applied mentalism.
The privilege of these daily communions with the Overself is a blessed one.
The glimpse is to be welcomed as a relief from the unsatisfactory limitations of ordinary existence. But because it gives enlightenment only temporarily, it is not enough. It is necessary to seek out the way of getting a permanent result. Such a result is the best means to measure the value of any technique.
Books and discussions can, at best, serve only as guides for the individual inward search. This search for the True Self should be accompanied by efforts to impartially observe, improve, and develop that personal self which is ordinarily accepted as the be-all and end-all of existence. Constant attempts to cultivate and maintain awareness of the True Self--the Overself--together with making it the object of his deepest love and humble worship, are among the qualifications essential to progress.
He already knows the value of meditational practice for such things as self-improvement and inner peace. But there are higher values which are brought out by the integral philosophy of truth. To find these, he must carefully study The Wisdom of the Overself and experiment with any of the exercises given therein that appeal especially to him.
The grand illumination itself is sudden but the process of achieving it is a task so complex that it can be carried through only by successive stages. For the obstructions to be cleared on the way are heavy and numerous while the advances involve shifting from one tentative standpoint to another. The way to ultimate being cannot be travelled in a single leap; there must be a time-lag until the moment when it actually dawns. The interval naturally falls into elementary, intermediate, and advanced stages. Nothing once gained in yoga need be discarded; only we take it up into the wider gain which absorbs and preserves but also transcends it. The newer knowledge does not disqualify the results of earlier investigations. For the price of advanced yoga must be paid partly out of the profits got from elementary yoga. For want of a better term, we have sometimes designated the highly advanced meditation exercises here given as "ultramystic"--for a study of them will reveal that the common or popular forms of yoga do not exhaust the possibilities of man's quest of the Overself.
Successful results from these meditation exercises can be got much more quickly and much more easily if he begins their practice after he has thoroughly convinced himself of mentalism's truth and after having kept this conviction alive by constantly gravitating back to it during reflective moments.
Philosophic mysticism adopts the external form of ordinary mysticism for most of these exercises, but contains a superior innermost core. Whereas the ordinary mystic exercises in their lower phases aim at rendering the mind concentrated and undistracted and in their higher phases seek to know either the self or "God," the philosophic exercises are expanded into contemplations of the infinity of being and the universality of consciousness. Thus the latter are all-embracing whereas the former are limited. The ultimate result of the former is peace but of the latter, enlightenment as well as peace.
Only by a personal discovery of the soul, and consequently only by going "inside" himself to discover it, can a man know himself.
The yogi who sits on his bamboo mat, placed on an earthen floor under a grass-thatched roof, deaf to all noises around, blind to all scenes, his attention held firmly within, has turned back to the innermost and attained spiritual integrity.
It refreshes the heart and renews the will in the most extraordinary way if we sit with hands crossed in the lap or open on the knees and with mind surrendered, quiet, empty.
Do not let the mind occupy itself with any thoughts whenever there is no actual matter needing attention.
In the advanced practice of meditation it is not only required that the body shall be utterly relaxed but also that it shall be without the slightest movement from head to foot.
It is an error to think of the advanced contemplative practices as specially intended for sitting only. In the end they are just as much for walking and standing.
It is better not to fix a firm duration for this period but to let its terminal moment be dictated by the inner voice.
Exercise: The eyes look out at the far horizon, as if unconcerned with what is happening immediately around them.
In this matter of utilizing the body for the yogic practice, the eyes are first turned inward so that the outer surroundings are not considered. When this ability is sufficiently established, the next step is to turn them upward and hold them like that for stated periods.
It is a condition of success that the emotions be relaxed, the body still, the surroundings quiet.
A day that does not contain such a precious luminous period will be counted a day that is barren and lost.
The advanced form of meditation merges into contemplation. Here there is no special need to adopt any one posture or to sit in any one way. It is then a practice done in a more inwardly absorbed condition; the physical body and surroundings are less present or quite ignored.
The establishment of a regular evening ritual of mental quiet at the advanced level will be easy, pleasant, and successful. For the arduous struggles of a beginner are absent, the up-and-down moods or vacillations of an elementary level have vanished.
He is to sit as quietly and as unmovingly in body as he is to be still and attentive in mind.
When he has reached the stage of advancement the rules prescribed for beginners and intermediates do not necessarily apply to him. He can now meditate whether sitting upright, as the prescription usually counsels, or lying limp on his back. His mind is not now so bound by these external conditions.
Each day he should take time out of his other preoccupations to wrap himself in a certain high mood, an exalting reverie.
Specific exercises for practice
To stop abruptly activities, movements, thoughts and hold one's mind in a state of suspense, yet relaxed, is another exercise if the relaxation is passive enough. It leads into a meditative mood or a glimpse. Useful exercises are to concentrate consciousness on the point between the eyebrows or in the heart centre or in the centre behind the solar plexus. These are of course only yogic exercises, but useful as preparatory ones. More important is the attempt to put his own person into a new perspective, to transcend his own ego from the Overself plane.
The exercises of sinking oneself in enjoyment of an artistic production constitute another Short Path method, provided they are followed up and completed by further stages described in the seventh and eighth chapters of The Quest of the Overself. These exercises will be useful only if the music, literature, or painting is truly inspired.
He must eliminate from his inner life the imaginary pictures of possible happenings favouring his ego. He must cast out misleading expectations of future attainment. Only pure truths should be considered.
Another useful exercise is to meditate on the divine Cosmic Plan. As a focal point for practice, it constructively engages both the metaphysical and the physical intellect. As a theme it exalts the self and purifies the heart, instructs the mind and enlarges the point of view.
Eckhart: "Of God himself can no man think and therefore I will leave all that I can think upon, and choose to my love that thing that I cannot think. And why? Because He may well be loved, but not thought on. By love he may be gotten and holden but by thought never. . . ." Compare: "Go up towards that thick cloud of Unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love, and go not thence for anything that befall."
When Jesus invites men to "cast all burdens upon me" and when Krishna invites them to "cast off all works on me" both are suggesting that we should imagine all our troubles being borne and all our actions as being done by the higher self, if we have not yet found it, and should actually let it displace the personal ego in practical life, if we have.
This exercise requires him not only to remember and stay in the highest concept of Supreme Being as often as possible but also to counter it occasionally by remembering the transiency of his earthly ego, experiences, and life.
The Zen votary is entitled to use the Koan and can get results from it. He can get Satori. For it is a nonintellectual device--like those of other approaches--to transcend intellect.
The method of meditation appropriate to this class of seekers is to transfer self-identity to the Overself in, and by, constantly repeated declarations of the truth.
If contact with people becomes at any time or in any situation unpleasant and nothing worthwhile can be done by discussion, he can always withdraw into that mental void.
His dependence on self-effort must be balanced by his dependence on Grace. If he relies solely on his own endeavours to better his character and develop his intuition, he may find himself frustrated and unhappy with the result. Grace is to be invoked by making contact through prayer and meditation with his Overself. But the meditation should be of a special kind--what may be called the practice of nonduality. In it he should seek to identify himself with the universal and infinite power, to forget that he is an individual.
Yoga of the Liberating Smile
A valuable practice of the Short Path is to see himself already enjoying the realization of its goal, already partaking of its glorious rewards. This is a visualizing exercise in which his own face confronts him, a smiling triumphant face, a calm peaceful face. It is to be done as many times every day as he can remember to do it.
By combining deep breathing with gentle smiling, both acts being done quite slowly, and by keeping the mind solely attentive to the body's condition, a relaxed half-drowsy state will develop. No other thoughts should be allowed to enter; the whole of his being should lie completely reposed in the rhythmic breathing and happily hypnotized by the lazy smile. Everything should be light and effortless. This is the Yoga of the Liberating Smile.
The Yoga of the Liberating Smile is to be practised at two special times--when he is falling into sleep at night and when he is waking from sleep in the morning.
This truth insinuates itself into the mind in all its quiet sublimity. We alas! can receive only the mere flavour of it, such is the resistance of our ego, whereas a Buddha, with squatting body and dreaming face, can receive the full total force of it.
So there he squats on couch, seat, or rug, unaware of time, the slightest of smiles hovering over his face.
Because the Short Path is an attempt to withdraw from the ego's shade and to stand in the Overself's sunshine, it must be accompanied by the deliberate cultivation of a joyous attitude. And because it is so largely a withdrawal from the Long Path's disciplines, it must also be accompanied by a sense of freedom. Hence its proper physical facial expression is the radiant smile. Its votary should look for beauty and seek to come into harmony at all times--in Nature, in art, in the world, and in himself.
He can practise the yoga of the liberating smile. When it appears, tensions go, desires fade out. It is peace-bringing.
There is the egotistic smile of the salesman, a surface affair, put on, something added and, at times, in total contradiction to the state of his feelings. There is the smile of the philosopher-mystic, a sincere and genuine outer reflection of his inner being.
The secret of successful altruistic intercession during meditation is, first, to enter the deepest part of his own being, and then--but only then--to enter the deepest part of the other man's. Here he will begin by praying for his spiritual improvement and end by visualizing the thing as done. To spend a few minutes each day in such intercessory service for others is to bless not only them but also himself. All his other virtues flower more radiantly in the sunny air of such benign love. Nevertheless, a practical warning is called for here.
Do not carry your own troubles or your temptations or other people's troubles and situations straight into your meditation. There is a proper time and place for their consideration under a mystical light or for their presentation to a mystical power. But that time and place is not at the beginning of the meditation period. It is rather towards the end. All meditations conducted on the philosophic ideal should end with the thoughts of others, with remembrance of their spiritual need, and with a sending-out of the light and grace received to bless individuals who need such help. At the beginning your aim should be to forget your lower self, to rise above it. Only after you have felt the divine visitation, only towards the end of your practice period should your aim be to bring the higher self to the help of the lower one, or your help and blessing to other embodied selves. If, however, you attempt this prematurely, if you are not willing to relinquish the personal life even for a few minutes, then you will get nothing but your own thought back for your pains.
The exercise of drawing down the Life Force as a white light should be accompanied by deep rhythmic breathing. It will be effective only after inspiration has been sought in meditation, and partially found. Hence it is best performed just before, or just after, the stillness is reached.
The practice of extending love towards all living creatures brings on ecstatic states of cosmic joy.
In this intently concentrated state he has the power to send beneficent thoughts over land or sea to a distant person and let them penetrate his mind.
He will help others more by holding them mentally in this inner peace than by falling into a state of nervous anxiety about them.
Would you have your friend live a better life? Picture only that better life in your thoughts of him.
In the deepest state of contemplation he is not able to be concerned about himself. How then can he be concerned about other men? "At such times," said Bonaventura "one must not think of creatures."
One of the deeper ways to help others is to bring them into meditation, if the meditation has been successful in making contact with the Higher Power. For then he can let it act upon himself in all his thoughts about the different areas of his life and by merely invoking the image or name of any person let it act upon that person too.
There is no doubt that the practice of meditation leads to a sensitizing of the meditator's mind, if only because he has to make himself passive and receptive during the meditative period. After the first great battle of achieving concentration has been won there is then a possibility that the thoughts, feelings, and moods of other persons may enter his own consciousness if they are either present physically or connected with him mentally. If those impressions are of a lower character than his own character they may either disturb him and give him some trouble in dealing with them, or at the least divert him from his habitual attitude, however briefly, or he may make the mistake of identifying them as being his own, of his own creation. For these reasons it is better for those who are still under development not to attempt by mental treatment to elevate the minds of others directly, unless it is done at the peak period of a meditation, when they have been able to reach a high level of purpose, concentration, and purity. The method of trying to improve others by telepathy is only safely used by adepts, who are firmly established in the higher spiritual position.
Exercise I: To Relieve Tension and Cultivate Relaxation
(a) Sit upright on a chair of comfortable height, with the knees and legs together, if comfortable, or slightly apart if not. Lean slightly forward, keeping the spine straight, and allow both the arms to hang down full length and lifeless, like heavy weights, from the shoulders completely relaxed.
(b) Both hands are then lifted very slowly at the elbows, almost to shoulder height, then abruptly dropped, palms upright, on the upper thighs. Keep the feeling of limpness and heaviness in the arms, with the lower part of the body utterly relaxed.
(c) Picture an ethereal aura of pure, white, electrifying Light all around you. Then, imagine this magnificent Light is actually pulling you upright by the top of your head. Its compelling force should, as a result, automatically straighten the spine, and the back of your trunk, neck, and head form a perfectly erect line. Finally, imagine the Light is pervading inside the whole of your body.
This exercise should give a feeling of physical refreshment and complete physical relaxation. It is also useful when having to listen to lengthy talks, lectures, and so on, or when reluctantly trying to practise meditation after a fatiguing day. Exercise II: To Promote Harmony
Repeat Exercise I, then add:
(a) Try to see and feel that the aura of Light has an actual substance and that It is becoming part of you, that you are melting into It, becoming one with It. Next, think of it as being the pure essence of Love, especially in the region of the heart.
(b) When this Love has been experienced as a sensation of heart-melting happiness, let it then extend outwards to embrace all the world.
This exercise should give a feeling of being in harmony with Nature, the universe, with all living beings, and with humanity as a part of Nature. Exercise III: To Heal Sickness
Repeat Exercises I and II, then add:
(a) Think of the white Light as being Nature's intelligent and recuperative Life-Force.
(b) Let it pour in, through the top of your head, passing directly to the solar plexus centre, which is the region which must first be worked on and affected if the healing force is to become efficacious. Thence send it to any afflicted area, remaining there. Feel Its benevolent, restorative, and healing presence working upon it.
(c) In order to be fully effective this exercise must be accompanied by intense faith in the recuperative powers of this Light.
Astonishing proof of its effectiveness in relieving a troubled organ or curing a diseased part of the body, when persevered in for a sufficient period of weeks or months, has been clearly shown by results. In some cases, paralytics have regained full use of their disabled limbs by following the outline given here. Exercise IV: To Establish Telepathic Harmony or Help
Repeat Exercise I, II, and III (a), then add:
(a) Let the White Light enter the region of the heart, remaining there.
(b) Form a mental image of the face of the individual you wish to contact, and reduce it in size until it is small enough to fit into the palm of your hand.
(c) Place this tiny image in the centre of the white Light permeating your heart.
(d) Endeavour actually to see the individual there in your heart. This exercise should be used to promote physical or mental help to a distant friend, to bring about goodwill from one who has expressed enmity, or to establish a deeper spiritual relationship. It is also useful in the student-teacher relationship, because it promotes better sympathy and affinity, as well as strengthening the telepathic link. Note: Where imagination is well developed the attempt to visualize light may be used, but where either the intellectual or the instinctive preponderates over it, the attempt need not be made--only the unseen power invoked and directed by faith.
As taught in The Wisdom of the Overself, use the last few minutes in the twilight state of consciousness before falling asleep at night for constructive self-improvement. The best form this can take during your present phase of development is to relax in bed, empty the mind of the day's cares, and make definite, concrete suggestions about the good qualities desired and imaginatively visualize yourself demonstrating these desired qualities. Furthermore, you should go even farther and visualize yourself in possession of the Higher Consciousness, attuned to the Higher Will and expressing the Higher Poise. All this will be like seeds planted in the inner being and growing during sleep.
Character can be bettered and weaknesses can be overcome through the regular use of constructive exercises in meditation either at any time during the day, or just before falling asleep. Whatever the fault weakness or vice may be, it should be firmly coupled in meditation with pictures of its dangerous consequences, and then with a mental attitude of its danger and their horror. Such an association of ideas will tend to produce itself automatically whenever the fault manifests itself.
Pre-sleep fourth state exercise: The secret of a successful passage into the transcendental state consists in insisting on retaining consciousness but not on retaining self-consciousness. For if, at the moment when you are about to slip into the fourth state, you suddenly become aware that you are doing so, then you will at once be hurled back into the ordinary condition. The ego-sense has therefore to subside completely before the pass-over can be effected. So long as the ego knows what is happening to it, so long does the cross-over remain impossible. It must not be allowed to intrude itself at the fateful moment, yet neither must consciousness itself be allowed to lapse.
If, in the act of falling asleep, he invites the higher self through aspiration, he may one day find that in the act of waking up an inner voice begins to speak to him of high and holy things. And with the voice comes the inspiration, the strength, and the desire to live up to them.
It is a valuable exercise to review at night the events of the past day or to review in the morning those which can be expected in the coming day.
For qualified persons, and not many are, there is a form of meditational exercise which leads to a certain power over one's dreams and enables the practiser to get into and get out of those dreams. With further knowledge and practice he can even bring a dream under his own control. But not only are certain qualifications of a moral and mental character required of him, he has also to take certain risks which attend this enterprise.
All these pictorial suggestions and creative anticipations will take effect and retain their hold upon his mind after the meditation itself is nothing but a memory or after the sleep itself has been long forgotten. Time does not dispel but only confirms them. He will execute the suggested ideas even while unaware at the moment how or when he got them.
There is a verse of the Koran which says: "Arise in the midst of the night and commune with thy God. Thy ego will be crushed and things will be revealed to thee thou didst not know before and thy path in life will be made smooth."
When his ability to practise ultramystic meditation becomes well-developed, the student may frequently find himself suddenly waking up during the night at an hour earlier than that to which he is accustomed. His mind will be alert and attentive and he will not be able to fall asleep again. This is a signal to him to begin his meditation practice. If he heeds this mysterious and silent injunction, the ultimate inward effectiveness and ultimate outward results of such meditation will be far above the ordinary.
In those delicious moments where sleep trembles into waking, there is some sort of a beginning Glimpse but alas, it vanishes without fulfilling its promise as soon as the world of objects comes more fully into the circle of attention. And this is precisely where the value of such a state lies, both for the ordinary man and for the would-be yogi. It has no objects. It is "I" without a world. It is awareness-in-itself. True, it is fleeting and does not last, but a man can learn to practise holding himself to it.
In those first moments when awakening from the nightly sleep we may enter a heavenly thought-free state. Or, if we cannot reach so high, we may receive thoughts which give guidance, tell us what to do, warn us against wrong decisions, or foretell the future.
On awakening from the night's sleep, take the inspired book, which you are to keep on a bedside table for the purposes of this exercise, and open it at random. The higher self may lead you to open it at a certain page. Read the paragraph or page on which your glance first rests and then put the book aside. Meditate intently on the words, taking them as a special message to you for that particular day. In the course of your activities you may later find this to be so, and the message itself a helpfully connected one.
The point where one can pass from wakefulness to pure consciousness is naturally most difficult to find. Everyone misses it because habit-patterns compel him to do so. Much patience is needed for these exercises. This is indeed a task for one's whole lifetime. But there are easier objectives and more accessible goals which are quite excellent for most people of the present day.
There are certain intervals of consciousness between two thoughts--such as those between waking and sleep and those between sleep and waking--which normally pass unobserved because of the rapidity and brevity associated with them. Between one moment and another there is the timeless consciousness; between one thought and another there is a thought-free consciousness. It is upon this fact that a certain exercise was included in The Wisdom of the Overself which had not previously been published in any Western book. But it is not a modern discovery. It was known to the ancient Egyptians, it was known to the Tibetan occultists, and in modern times it was probably known to Krishnamurti. The Egyptians, preoccupied as they were with the subject of death and the next world, based their celebrated Book of the Dead upon it. The Tibetan Book of the Dead contained the same theme. Between the passing out of the invisible vital-forces body at the end of each incarnation and its entry into that state of consciousness which is death, the same interval reappears. If the dying man can lift himself up to it, seize upon it, and not let it escape him, he will then enter into heaven--the true heaven. And it was to remind him of this fact and to help him achieve this feat that the ancient priests attended his last moments and chanted the pertinent passages from these books. This mysterious interval makes its appearance throughout life and even at death, and yet men notice it not and miss an opportunity. It happens not only at the entry into death but also in between two breaths. It is possible to go even further and say that the interval reappears for a longer period between two incarnations for there is then the blocking out of all impressions of the past prior to taking on a new body. Plato must have known it.
To play the role of an observer of life, his own life, is to assist the process of inwardly detaching himself from it. And the field of observation must include the mental events, the thought-happenings, also. For mentalism shows that they are really one world. In the end everything belonging to experience belongs to mental experience.
The student has to stand aside from the thought-forms, which means that he must stand aside from the person and look at it as something external to himself. If and when he succeeds in getting behind it, he automatically adopts the standpoint of the Overself. He must make the person an object and the Overself its observer. Now this element of pure awareness is something constant and unbroken; hence it is not ordinary consciousness, which is a discontinuous thing made of totalized thoughts, but transcendental consciousness.
The position of the impersonal observer is only a tentative one, assumed because it is a practical help perhaps midway toward the goal. For when it is well-established in understanding, outlook, and practice, something happens by itself: the observer and the observed ego with its body and world become swallowed up in the undivided Mind.
It is an experience wherein he finds himself aware of the ego from within itself and also, at the same time, aware of it as an observer. This is not to be confused with an experience wherein he finds himself standing behind his body, not identifying with it but observing it: yet he still remains in ego.
Scott in his search for the South Pole amid ice-bound Antarctic wastes and Smythe in his quest for the summit of Mount Everest amid terrible avalanches of stone and snow, reported in their written accounts the sense of not being alone, of being companioned by a mystic unseen presence which bestowed a strange calm. Scott's venture ended in heroic death whereas Smythe survived to enjoy the warmth and safety of his home. Both however knew what it was to be uncommonly blessed at the time, for Scott passed to his fated death with an utter serenity and an inward trust in its aftermath which took all the horror out of it for him. This noble passage to another stage of existence was not the miserable calamity which it was for many other men. What was the mystic presence which walked beside these men? Each may have had his own belief about it, may have constructed in imagination what his previous knowledge experience tendencies and outlook may have naturally persuaded him to construct. Each therefore may have had different ideas about it, but this would not affect the actual power which inspired and animated him at the time. For that power was nothing less than the Grace of the Overself, and if we understand the psychological secret of what happened to Scott and Smythe we may then understand that it is not only far-wandering explorers and high-climbing mountaineers who may call up the Overself by their brave trust. The same dangerous experience which has brought fear, horror, and despair to other men brought them dignified confidence and mystical enlargement of consciousness which made them aware for the time of the hidden observer. They had indeed suddenly but partially stepped into the transcendental state. Whoever successfully practises the Hidden Observer meditation will experience precisely the same sense of not being alone, of being companioned by a mystic presence which brings with it a benign sense of assurance and security. He will, however, experience much more than that.
Can he look at himself as if he were a total stranger, as if he were meeting for the first time an alien from a distant land? Can he treat his own speech and actions as if those of somebody else?
Although the aspirant has now awakened to his witness-self, found his "soul," and thus lifted himself far above the mass of mankind, he has not yet accomplished the full task set him by life. A further effort still awaits his hand. He has yet to realize that the witness-self is only a part of the All-self. So his next task is to discover that he is not merely the witness of the rest of existence but essentially of one stuff with it. He has, in short, by further meditations to realize his oneness with the entire universe in its real being. He must now meditate on his witness-self as being in its essence the infinite All. Thus the ultramystic exercises are graded into two stages, the second being more advanced than the first. The banishment of thoughts reveals the inner self whereas the reinstatement of thoughts without losing the newly gained consciousness reveals the All-inclusive universal self. The second feat is the harder.
He must keep this part of himself firmly held back, must guard it against getting entangled with the world, must make it a silent observer and mere looker-on only.
He begins with self-watching, with immobilizing and stilling a part of attention to observe the mental and physical self. This requires frequent remembrance--not an easy task--and refusal to identify with what is thus brought into awareness--which is even less easy.
When a man has practised this exercise for some time and to some competency, he will become repeatedly aware of a curious experience. For a few minutes at most and often only for a few moments, he will seem to have stepped outside his body and to be confronting himself, looking at his own face as though it were someone else's. Or he will seem to be standing behind his own body and seeing his face from a side angle. This is an important and significant experience.
To become the Witness-self does not mean to contemplate one's gestures and listen to the sound of one's voice.
He feels that he is gazing down at himself from a height, seeing his personal ego for the trivial thing that it is.
If he were standing there, looking at someone else undergoing this experience, it could not be more objective, more impersonal, than now.
One special exercise of the Short Path is easily done by some persons and gives them excellent results, although it is hard to do by others. It consists in refusing to let remain any particular mental registration of the surrounding place or people, or of any physical experience being undergone. Instead the mental image is to be firmly dismissed with the thought, "This too is like a dream," and then immediately forgotten. The exercise may be kept up for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time. The practical benefit it yields is to give improved self-control; the metaphysical benefit is to weaken the sway of illusion; the mystical benefit is to enable him to take the stand of the Witness-attitude more easily; and the personal benefit is to make him a freer and happier man.
He has to learn a new art--that of remaining relaxed and at ease, almost an impassive observer, while his body or his intellect does its work in the world, performs in the role set for it.
His role is to play witness of what he is, how he behaves, the thoughts he admits, just as if he were witnessing someone else. This move-over from the actively-engaged person to the watcher who is impersonal and disengaged even in the midst of action, is one from drift to control. He must begin by putting the ego, his own ego, forward as an object of observation. He will not succeed fully in doing so, because he is involved on both sides--as subject and object--but the direction can be fixed and the work can be started. With time and practice, study and reflection, help and sincerity, some sort of impersonality and neutrality can be established. When inner stillness is fully reached, the work becomes much easier until it is completed by the grace of the higher Self, Overself. Of course, outside of meditation, he is conscious of his commonplace body; but he is also conscious of his awe-inspiring Overself. He sees the first as part of a passing show, himself as an uninvolved observer, and behind both the eternal Overself.
The first important need is to separate himself in thought and outlook from the animal side of his nature--not for any moral reasons but for metaphysical ones--and part of the inner work which this calls for is to take up the observer role. He is to look at the body (and its actions, desires, and passions) as if it were apart from himself--in short, to gain a detached view. This practice is fruitful because one idea can be used to counter or displace a second idea: both cannot be held in attention simultaneously. When this has been carried on for a long enough time to show its benefits, it may be used on a higher and more elusive level: he can adopt the impersonal observer attitude towards the ego itself, of which the body is of course a part.
He participates in every action not only as the performer doing it but also as the audience seeing it.
Let him play the part of a witness to his own ego, through all its experiences and vicissitudes. In that way he will be emulating by effort those enlightened men to whom the part comes easily and naturally by their own development.
Mindfulness is a Buddhist exercise, but practising the Witness attitude is a Hindu one. Pythagoras too gave an exercise which is in some ways similar.
His role in everyday life is a double one: that of being both the world's actor and a spectator.
The attitude of detached and impartial observer helps to protect him, to diminish his animality, and to correct his egoism even while he takes part in some of the chief concerns of human activity. As for the others, if he chooses to withdraw from them because he considers them unworthy of a philosopher, we should be grateful that someone has had the moral courage to do so.
As meditation is practised, further indrawing takes place and the apparatus for thinking is repudiated in turn. "I am not this mind." The process continues further; as the self ever draws inward he casts off, one by one, all that he once held to be himself.
Thus whatever he is experiencing physically, he trains himself to replace the unillumined thought "I am eating, hungry, walking" by the thought "My body is eating, hungry, walking." He recognizes that the bundle of sensations which makes up such experiences is not the true self, which it represents itself to be, but is only connected with it.
The question "Who am I?" is asked somewhere in that monumental ancient book The Yoga Vasistha. It was often included centuries later by Saint Francis in his prayers. But Sri Ramana Maharshi gave it central importance in his advice to spiritual seekers and meditators.
Not only all other men's bodies but also his own must be regarded as objects to Consciousness, as the not-self which is seen by the Self.
What is the practical use of enquiring, "To whom is this experience happening? To whom this pain, this joy, this distress, or this good fortune?" First, it makes him remember the quest upon which he is embarked by reminding him that it is the ego which is feeling these changes and that he is not to identify himself with it and thus limit his possibilities if he really seeks the higher self behind it. Second, it suggests that he look for the root of his ego and with it his hidden "I" instead of merely being swept away by what is happening within the ego itself.
On this Short Path he searches into the meaning of Being, of being himself and of being-in-itself, until he finds its finality. Until this search is completed, he accepts the truth, passed down to him by the Enlightened Ones, that in his inmost essence he is Reality. This leads to the logical consequence that he should disregard personal feelings which continue from past tendencies, habits, attitudes, and think and act as if he were himself an enlightened one! For now he knows by evidence, study, and reflection that the Overself is behind, and is the very source of, his ego, just as he knows by the experience of feeling during his brief Glimpses. Bringing this strong conviction into thought and act and attitude is the "Heavenly Way" [or "As If"] exercise, a principal one on the Short Path.
He pretends to be what he aims to become: thinks, speaks, acts, behaves as a master of emotion, desire, ego because he would be one. But he should play this game for, and to, himself alone, not to enlarge himself in others' eyes, lest he sow the seed of a great vanity.
It is objected, why search at all if one really is the Overself? Yes, there comes a time when the deliberate purposeful search for the Overself has to be abandoned for this reason. Paradoxically, it is given up many times, whenever he has a Glimpse, for at such moments he knows that he always was, is, and will be the Real, that there is nothing new to be gained or searched for. Who should search for what? But the fact remains that past tendencies of thought rise up after every Glimpse and overpower the mind, causing it to lose this insight and putting it back on the quest again. While this happens he must continue the search, with this difference, that he no longer searches blindly, as in earlier days, believing that he is an ego trying to transform itself into the Overself, trying to reach a new attainment in time by evolutionary stages. No! through the understanding of the Short Path he searches knowingly, not wanting another experience since both wanting and experiencing put him out of the essential Self. He thinks and acts as if he is that Self, which puts him back into It. It is a liberation from time-bound thinking, a realization of timeless fact.
Practice of the "As If" exercise is like being spiritually reborn and finding a new way of life. It gives courage to those who feel grievously inadequate, hope to those who feel hooked by their past failures.
Exercise: In this pictorial meditation, he is to put himself in a tableau of achieved result. He is to see himself doing successfully what he seeks to do, and the sight is to be accompanied by intense faith and firm conviction. The desirable qualities of character are to be thought of as already existing and possessed, already expressing themselves in action and living. Furthermore they are to be pictured vividly and clearly; they must be understood without any uncertainty, dimness, or hesitation.
The "As If" exercise is not merely pretense or make-believe. It requires penetrative study and sufficient understanding of the high character and spiritual consciousness in the part to be played, the role to be enacted, the auto-suggestion to be realized.
When the assaults of man's animal nature, the instincts of his body, have to be dealt with, a swift assumption of the AS IF attitude is necessary.
A part of the practical technique for attaining the inner awareness of this timeless reality is the practice of the AS IF exercise. With some variations it has already been published in The Wisdom of the Overself, and an unpublished variant has been included in descriptions of the Short Path as "identification with the Overself." The practitioner regards himself no longer from the standpoint of the quester, but from that of the Realized Man. He assumes, in thought and action, that he has nothing to attain because he bases himself on the Vedantic truth that Reality, of which he is a part, is here and now--is not reached in Time, being timeless--and that therefore he is as divine as he ever will be. He rejects the appearance of things, which identifies man only with his ego, and insists on the higher identification with Overself also.
The self-identification with the Overself should be as perfect as he can make it. He is to be it, and not merely the student meditating on it.
He must sink himself in the imagined character of the ideal with intense feeling until he becomes the image itself.
This practice in the Short Path of self-identification with the Overself is to be done both casually at odd moments and deliberately at daily contacts in meditation. It is through them--whenever the identification is effectual--that Grace gets some of its chance to work its transformation upon him.
It is a useful elementary and preparatory exercise in learning detachment from one's own ego, to try to project it into someone else's from time to time. By imaginatively sharing in another's life and mind, situations and surroundings, so far as one can, by putting oneself into the point of evolution where the other stands, one gains more facility in extracting oneself from the inveterate self-centeredness of the ordinary man. It is a kind of mental histrionics, a play-acting which substitutes one kind of egoism for another and in the process loosens the replaced kind. For such a special exercise, it would be still more profitable to select somebody with whom one is normally unsympathetic, perhaps even an opponent or enemy. Other valuable qualities will then receive a stimulus. There is of course a danger in such a masquerade, the danger of becoming neurotically unstable to which so many actors and actresses are exposed. It can be avoided by practising the complementary and finishing exercise taken from the Short Path series of banishing both personalities in reverent self-identification with the Overself.
Whatever name be given to this exercise, whether "As If" or another, its essence is to consider the goal as already reached, to convert the end of the quest into the beginning. Is this too audacious an assumption? This elicits counter-questions. Why remain within the circle of the probable as if the circle of the possible did not also exist? Where did the saying "Adventures are for the adventurous" come from if not from human experience?
Even if he has no spiritual experience at all but only complete faith in it, even if he cannot live the role of the illumined fulfilled man, then let him act it. This is an exercise to be practised. Let him try to think and behave as if his quest is successful, let him copy the fulfilled philosopher.
The "Heavenly Identity" exercise is to be used without exaggerating its possibilities. It should not lead anyone into the belief that it can confer sudden enlightenment. The ego should not be allowed to set up a pseudo self-realization. Yet it remains a useful practice to offset the others which work differently.
This practice of picturing oneself as one ought to be, of visualizing the man free from negative qualities and radiant with positive ones that are part of the Quest's ideal, has near-magical results.
It is as if the Overself were hypnotizing him out of his lower nature.
Let him picture his own self as if it were at the end of its quest. Let him see it enthroned on the summit of power and engaged in tranquil meditation for his own joy and for mankind's welfare.
Stilling the mind stills also the thoughts and feelings which when active appear as obstacles. Questers are to take the Ideal for suggestion or the Exemplar for imitation, not to torment themselves with the continual thought of the impossibility of success, not to try in hopelessness and despair to create a perfect human being, but because this exercise has the practical value of lifting them, however little, from their present condition.
The practice aims at saturating the mind with this idea of true Identity.
He learns that he may set his own limits, that so long as he thinks all day that he is only this person, doing and speaking in the ordinary way what men usually do, then he is certainly nothing more. But if he starts the day on a higher level, thinking that he is divine in his inmost being, and keeps on that level as the hours pass, then he will feel closer to it. This is a practical procedure, one which has its effect on consciousness, on character, and on events.
The method of the Short Path is to affirm that in the heavenly consciousness of the Overself there is no evil, no wrong-doing, no sinfulness, and no faultiness; and that because the true being of man is there the aspirant should identify himself with it in faith, thought, and vision. In that threefold way he sees himself dwelling and acting in the Overself, and therefore without his specific sins and faults. He regards them as non-existent and drops anxiety or concern about them. He does this as much as he can from morning to night and this fulfils Jesus' injunction to "pray without ceasing" in a deeper and philosophical sense.
Although these methods of picturing your possession of qualities of the Overself as you suppose them to be is helpful, they will not solve your final problem, will not dispose of the parasitic, clinging, personal ego for you.
Identity Exercise: He will not have to struggle as on the Long Path. There will no more be irksome effort. The mind will be glad to rest in this positive state, if he holds from the very beginning the faith that it already is accomplished, that the aspiration toward it is being fulfilled now, not at some unknown distant time. Such an attitude engenders something more than pleasant feelings of hope and optimism: it engenders subconscious power.
It is now and not in some future time of achievement that he should, in this exercise, regard only his best self as his Identity.
The old trouble-bringing attitudes and self-frustrating ways are the ego's. At the appearance of irritating circumstances, go into reverse by practising the "As If" exercise and thus lift up consciousness here and now.
If a man has acting talent, let him try it on this visualization exercise: let him copy the characteristics of illumination. It will be immensely more profitable to him than copying those of some worldly role on a stage. The latter may gain him a livelihood; the former will gain him LIFE.
The sage Asvaghosha suggested a practical method of realization which he called "following skilfully" and which was much like the "As If" method. It was more specialized, seeking to combat the habitual dualistic attitudes of thought and speech.
Chuang Tzu uses the term "heavenly identity" to express the sudden enlightenment that appearance and reality are basically one.
It is a part which he must act for himself, a character which he must take on again and again until it seems as natural to him as it ought to be convincing to others--until what was said about the great Garrick, "You wouldn't know he was acting," becomes just as applicable to him.
To practise the "As If" Short Path exercise successfully, it is necessary to let go and forget all past techniques and begin afresh; they are attachments and, to that extent, distractions. They may cause self-consciousness, anxiety for success, and impatience. The divinity is there, within you; have faith that it is so and entrust yourself to it.
Balance the "As if I am enlightened" exercise: Counter by "As if the Divine Mothers were present" whenever I speak to others, whatever I do, alone or in society. It notes and judges my speed and action. In the first example I am alone always; but in the second I am not, there is the other. The idea is not so much that it notes and judges our actions as that we are in a holy presence.
The "As If" exercise uses the kind of imaginative experience which has some affinity with the aspirant, with his temperament. It cannot be the same for everyone. Each will put into it some pictures created from his own ideal, but for all aspirants there will be certain elements shared in common.
He cannot be a philosopher part of the time and an unawakened unenlightened person the remainder (or most) of the time: but he can, for the sake of this exercise, imaginatively think that he is one. In the light of his antecedent personal history, the attempt may be an audacious one; but if his present longing, determination, and self-discipline are large enough, it may become a magical transforming one.
The "Identity" exercise is a changeover from humbly aspiring to a higher level to creatively imagining oneself as being there already. The dangers here are conceit, deceit, and complacency.
It is a vision of himself as he could be but transferred from future possibility to present actualization. This "Identity" exercise rightly belongs to the Short Path, for in the case of a beginner, whose knowledge is small, efforts limited, and character unpurified, its practice could be self-deceptive.
He shapes himself into another person in imagination, in faith, and in will. For a while he creates the illusion of a new destiny accompanying this new person. Is this not a veritable rebirth? Does he not get away from the old everyday person and forget him utterly through this miraculous transformation? He lives so completely in this visualized ideal self that there is no space left for the old faults, the old weaknesses to creep in
See yourself as you ought to be. Try to act accordingly.
The aspirant seeks to feel in his own life the same inner state which illuminated men have described as being in theirs.
Even if it only be a pose that is cultivated, it still remains a valuable discipline and exercise which gives good results. For it has much suggestive power, this "As If" method, and is an essential part of the Short Path.
The "As If" attitude pays well, provided it is maintained rigidly after having been assumed.
Why should the Short Path be a better means of getting Grace than the Long one? There is not only the reason that it is not occupied with the ego but also that it continually keeps up remembrance of the Overself. It does this with a heart that gives, and is open to receive, love. It thinks of the Overself throughout the day. Thus, it not only comes closer to the source from which Grace is being perpetually radiated, but it also is repeatedly inviting Grace with each loving remembrance.
Any action must be properly timed if it is to give its best return, but this is the only kind which can be done at any time--now--and in any place--here. This simple movement of the mind in remembrance is easy enough for anyone at any stage of evolution to perform yet important enough for the wisest of us.
To acknowledge this Presence and this Power within him as continually or as often as he can, is a practice whose results are larger than its simplicity suggests.
The basis of this exercise is that the remembering of the Overself leads in time to the forgetting of the ego. To let the mind dwell constantly on the thought of the Overself, tranquillizes it. To bring the figure of the spiritual guide into it, strengthens it.
To keep the Overself constantly in our thoughts is one of the easiest ways to become worthy of its grace.
The student must place this seed-thought in his mind and hold to it throughout the day. He need not fear that he will lose anything material thereby. Let him remember the definite promise of the Overself speaking through Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita: "I look after the interests and safety of those who are perpetually engaged on My service, and whose thoughts are always about Me and Me alone." He will learn by direct experience the literal meaning of the term Providence--"that which provides."
How long should a man practise this remembrance of the Overself? He will need to practise it so long as he needs to struggle with his ego.
No amount of exaggerated homage to a guru can take the place of remembering the Real.
Emerson knew this practice. "By His remembrance, life becomes pervaded with nectarine bliss," he said.
If the past is unredeemable, and the future unpredictable, what more practical course is open than to safeguard the present by constant remembrance of the divine?
The practice of recollection was, and still is, used by the Sufis, Muhammedan mystics, to draw the feelings more and more away from the earthly things to the divine.
The Overself, like a woman, wants to be loved ardently and exclusively. The door upon which you may have been knocking a long time in vain will open to your frequent loving remembrances.
He may not mention such a thing as spiritual being but it is thought at the back, in the middle, and even in the front of his head. It is irremovable and irreplaceable.
The Vedas tell us that the constant remembrance and thinking of oneself as pure Spirit makes one overcome delusion and obtain Truth.
Constant remembrance of the Overself's presence becomes a way to counter the much more evident presence of the body and the world--that is, the illusion of matter.
His awareness is still only a babe; it needs to grow and growth calls for nourishment. This he is to give by the simple act of remembering and attending to it.
Fix the attention undividedly upon the Overself which is anchored in your heart-centre. Then everything you do during the day will naturally be divinely inspired action and true service. The Overself is your true source of power: turn towards it and receive its constructive guidance for your task of daily living.
By reorienting thought toward Overself, forgetfulness sets in for the little self: the measure of one is the measure of the other.
It is needful to reserve a part of one's being, consciousness, or thought, for this unique remembrance, which is of a value set apart from all others.
To remember the Overself's presence amid the bustle of everyday living is more cheerful than to remember Death's presence amid the fullness of everyday activity. But whereas the one is always desirable the other is only occasionally desirable. And whereas the thought of dying repels, disgusts, or frightens most men, the thought of the Overself exhilarates them.
By keeping close to the Overself he can gain its protective guiding or helpful influence. No day should pass without its remembrance, no enterprise should be begun without its invocation.
Forget "me" in the remembrance of "Thee."
Shams Tabriz: "Keep God in remembrance until the self is forgotten." Here is a whole yoga path in one short, simple sentence.
The best way to honour this immense truth of the ever-present reality of the Overself is to remember it--as often, as continuously, and as determinedly as possible. It is not only the best way but also the most rewarding one. For then its saving grace may bestow great blessing.
He will not even approach the hour of his daily exercise without feeling quieted and inspired. For he remembers that it was during such a period that the Overself gave him his most joyous experience, his most heartening moments.
To put oneself regularly into the practice of this remembrance is to come within the cheering warmth of these higher truths.
Better than any long-drawn yoga discipline is the effort to rivet one's hold on the here-and-now of one's divinity.
THE OVERSELF REMEMBRANCE EXERCISE
Name: It is so simple that it is called an exercise only for name's sake. In the beginning it requires effort just like any other practice.
1) To be practised at all times, in all places and under all bodily conditions. It consists of the constant loving recall to mind of the existence of, and his inner identity with, the Overself.
2) It involves the repeated and devoted recollection that there is this other and greater self, a warm, felt, living thing, overshadowing and watching over him.
3) It should be continued until he is able to keep the thought of the Overself as a kind of setting for all his other thoughts.
Glimpse: If he has ever had a glimpse of a supersensuous higher existence which profoundly impressed him and perhaps led him to take to the quest, it is most important that he should also insert the remembrance of this experience into his exercise. He should try to bring as vividly as possible to his mind the sense of peace and exaltation which he then felt.
Warning: One danger of this remembrance exercise is that it can become automatic too soon and thus merely mechanical and hollow. The remembrance must be a warm, felt, living thing if the spirit of the exercise is to be retained and not lost.
1) The inward concentration should persist behind and despite outward activity.
2) The Overself remembrance should be held in the back of the mind, even though he may appear to be properly attentive to external matters.
3) He should keep the exercise always or as often as possible in the mind's background while paying attention to duties in the foreground.
4) Though the foreground of his consciousness is busy attending to the affairs of daily living, its background abides in a kind of sacred emptiness wherein no other thought may intrude than this thought of the Overself.
5) The remembrance should become the unmoved pivot upon which the pendulum of external activity swings perpetually to and fro.
Free time: When he has free time, it should come to the fore. Every time there is relaxation from duties, he should let attention fly eagerly and more fully back to it.
How long: He should train himself in this exercise:
1) until it becomes quite easy and effortless;
2) until this inward concentration has been set in habitual motion;
3) until the remembrance continues of its own accord;
4) until its practice has become firmly and successfully established as ceaseless flow;
5) until the loving recall to mind of the existence of, and his inner identity with, the Overself becomes constant;
6) until the practice is absorbed in perfect and perpetual performance;
7) until he experiences the Overself unceasingly as the unannounced and impersonal centre of his personal gravity.
Potency: This method has a peculiar potency of its own despite its informal and unprogrammed character. Its unexpected effectiveness is therefore not to be measured by its obvious simplicity.
Grace: When the remembrance becomes ceaseless flow, the Overself will bring him a remarkable fruitage of grace. When he turns habitually inwards toward the Overself, grace can operate more readily in all matters. When the grace starts working, this is likely to remove a number of internal and external obstacles in his path--sometimes in a seemingly miraculous manner--and eventually bring him to a truer self-awareness.
Constant Remembrance Exercises: The Overself is a term of which past experience may furnish no meaning. But perhaps you have had strangely beautiful moments when everything seemed to be still, when an ethereal world of being seemed very near to you. Well, in those moments you were lifted up to the Overself. The task you should set yourself is to recapture that blessed presence and feel once again that beautiful interlude of unearthly stillness. If, however, you cannot recall such moments or if, recalling them, you cannot regain afresh their vividness and reality, then there is an alternative path. Make it your business to recall the picture and presence of some man whom you believe is awake to his Overself-consciousness. Take him as your guru and therefore as an outstretched hand which you can mentally grasp and by which you can gradually lift yourself. Thus if the Overself is a vague abstraction to you, he, as a living person whom you have met, is not. He can easily be for you a definite focus of concentration, a positive point in the infinite to which you can direct your inward glance.
Seize the odd moments for Remembrance practice, escaping from the web of self-thoughts into the Void of Being.
His practice of constantly bringing the Overself to mind is a valuable part of the aspirant's equipment. Each remembrance has a twofold value: first, as a mystical exercise to cultivate concentration, and second, as a recurrent turning-away from worldly thoughts to spiritual ones.
There are leisure moments or unoccupied minutes during the day which could profitably be used for this exercise.
If he can lovingly recall those moments when thought became incandescently bright and feeling was lifted high above its ordinary self, meditation upon them will be especially fruitful and profitable.
At odd moments in the very midst of worldly activity he is to recall what his mental and emotional state was like when he reached peak heights during formal meditation in seclusion. And for the brief space of those moments he is to try by creative imagination to feel that he is back on those heights.
In this meditation he reproduces the conditions which surrounded him at the time the Glimpse came. He fills in every tiny detail of the picture--the furnishings of a room perhaps, the faces and voices of other persons who were present, and especially how he became aware of the first onset of the Glimpse.
It could well be said that the essence of the Short Path is remembering who he is, what he is, and then attending to this memory as often as possible.
Concentrate on reliving in intense memorized detail former moments of egoless illumination.
In remembrance, he should once again love the beauty and revere the solemnity of this experience. If the effort to remember the Overself is kept up again and again, it attenuates the materialistic mental tendencies inherited from former lives and arrests the natural restlessness of attention. It eventually achieves a mystical concentration of thoughts akin in character to that reached during set periods of meditation, but with the added advantage of not stopping the transaction of worldly activity.
Moments of utter inward stillness may come to him. The ordinary familiar ego will then desert him with a lightning-like suddenness and with hardly less brevity. Let him fix these moments firmly in his memory. They are to be used in the ensuing years as themes for meditation and goals for striving.
A useful method is to stop whatever he is doing, remain still, and let his mind fly back to the thought of the Overself. He is to make this break several times a day, the more often the better, but he may find it easier to begin with only two or three times a day and gradually to extend the number over a few months.
Those moments when the feeling of something beyond his present existence comes to him are precious indeed. They must be eagerly welcomed and constantly nourished by dwelling upon them again and again, both in remembrance and in meditation. The loving recollection of those beautiful inspired moments and the intense concentration upon them is in itself a mystical exercise of special importance. This exercise is designed to help the learner transcend his attachment to externality, his tendency to live in the senses as though they alone reported reality.
It is not only needful to practise this remembrance as often as convenient or even possible, but also for as long as convenient or possible.
The earnest seeker is always busy, for whenever there is a slackness of time he has business to transact with the true self.
There is one method whereby the treasures found in meditation may be brought, little by little, into the active state. This is to try to recollect, at odd times during the day, the peace, bliss, strength, or truth, or any messages gleaned during the best moments of the preceding meditation. The more often this is done, the sooner will the gap between meditation and activity be bridged.
What Confucius called "the Superior Man" will constantly keep his mind on superior topics and not waste its energy on trivialities. And the best of all these topics is the Overself--the glimpses of its nature, the remembrance of its being his essential selfhood.
Hatim Hashim, a dervish of Khorassan, said: "Remember whatever you do, eat, enjoy, it is being seen by God who is looking at you. During the silence hour, meditate on God as the All-Seer." He also said, "He who looks up to God in the daily trials of life, and whose only hope is God and none but God . . ."
If he is to reconstruct this brief yet beautiful experience, he must work systematically every day to create within himself a condition of mental quiet for a few minutes at least.
He has to learn by practice the art of retreating at any moment into the mystic citadel within the heart.
Let him immerse himself in that feeling and little by little a powerful sense of well-being will penetrate his heart.
Concentrate on the remembered delight, the lovely silence, of some past Glimpse. Try to bring it into sharp vivid focus.
The effort at this higher stage (Short Path) is not to follow fixed schedules for mental quiet but constantly to remember Overself. If, however, he feels drawn to practise at any time, he does so.
If he practises this exercise in remembrance frequently throughout the day then every act not only becomes a necessary or a useful one but helps to carry him forward on his quest of higher being.
Although when feeling a descent of the stillness the aspirant is told to drop whatever he is doing and to hold himself in the stillness as long as he can or as long as it is there, he may also practise a useful exercise entirely on his own initiative at any time of the day involving a similar mental and physical posture. For this purpose he holds whatever he is doing whenever he wishes and as often as he wishes and keeps himself suspended, as it were, not moving, not thinking of anything else except the passive remembrance of the Overself. This special exercise of remembrance may be done for a single minute or for a few, just as he wishes.
He should try to remember the inner and outer conditions under which the glimpse came to him and, temporarily, try to make them again part of himself and his surroundings. He is to do so as if he were an actor appearing in this part on a stage. For the time being, he must think, feel, and live as if the experience is really happening, the glimpse really recurring. For the time being he must enter the world of imagination and copy the remembered details, the treasured impressions, as specifically as he can. The image which his past supplies is to be transferred to his present, brought to life again and reincarnated afresh. If he is unable to achieve such similarity at the first trial, this need not deter him from making a third, a seventh, and a twentieth trial on later days.
Recall the glimpse as vividly as possible. Select the highest experience that stands out in memory and recast it.
In this matter the words of the Koran must be taken literally: "Believers hasten to the remembrance of Allah and leave off all business."
When this stage is attained, the work he has to do in reorienting attention toward the Overself-thought is not any more for the particular sessions of meditation practice alone, but also to be kept up during the day's activities. Attention will have to be returned again and again to this simple but primary requirement.
There is no moment when this work of inner remembrance may stop. It ought to start at the time of rising from bed in the morning and continue to the time of retiring to bed at night.
It is possible that he may fall into the mistaken belief that because he has relieved himself of the duties and toils of the Long Path, he has little else to do than give himself up to idle dreaming and lazy optimism. No--he has taken on himself fresh duties and other toils, even though they are of a different kind. He has to learn the true meaning of "pray without ceasing" as well as to practise it. He has to meditate twenty times a day, even though each session will not be longer than a minute or two. He has to recollect himself, his essential divinity, a hundred times a day. All this calls for incessant work and determined effort, for the exercise of energy and zeal.
The next goal is to keep himself in the Consciousness, whether he lives with others in community or alone with himself in solitude.
This work of constant remembrance is one of self-training. The mind is accustomed by habit and nature to stay in the ego. It has to be pulled out and placed in the thought of the higher self, and kept there.
You should imaginatively recapture it as if its benign presence comes over you, its goodwill pervades you, its guidance helps you, and its peace enfolds you.
Continuous remembrance of the Stillness, accompanied by automatic entry into it, is the sum and substance of the Short Path, the key practice to success. At all times, under all circumstances, this is to be done. That is to say, it really belongs to and is part of the daily and ordinary routine existence. Consequently, whenever it is forgotten, the practitioner must note his failure and make instant correction. The inner work is kept up until it goes on by itself.
The essence of the matter is that he should be constantly attentive to the intuitive feeling in the heart and not let himself be diverted from it by selfishness, emotion, cunning, or passion.
One of the most valuable forms of yoga is the yoga of constant remembrance. Its subject may be a mystical experience, intuition, or idea. In essence it is really an endeavour to insert the transcendental atmosphere into the mundane life.
The method of this exercise is to maintain uninterruptedly and unbrokenly the remembrance of the soul's nearness, the soul's reality, the soul's transcendence. The goal of this exercise is to become wholly possessed by the soul itself.
This constant remembrance of the higher self becomes in time like a kind of holy communion.
The first goal is to become absorbed in this recollection of the Overself and anchored in this affirmation of it.
Stick to the remembrance of the Overself with dogged persistence wherever you are and whatever you are doing. This is one of the easiest, the simplest, and the safest of all yoga paths to reach the goal effectively. Anyone, be he the most intellectual of metaphysicians or the most unintellectual of illiterates, may use this path and use it with success.
He must think as often and as intently of the Overself as an infatuated girl thinks of the next appointed meeting with her lover. His whole heart must be held captive, as it were, by this aspiration. This is to be practised not only at set formal times but also constantly throughout the day as an exercise in recollection. This yoga, done at all times and in all places, becomes a permanent life and not merely a transient exercise. This practice of constant remembrance of the Overself purifies the mind and gradually renders it naturally introverted, concentrates and eventually illumines it.
Take it with you wherever you go--first, in remembrance as Idea, then, as you develop, in actuality as Presence.
It is a long way from the custom which satisfies religious need by attendance at church for an hour or two once a week, to the recollection which thirsts and hungers every moment anew.
Whether he is leisurely at ease or actively at work, the practice of Remembrance can go on--the only difference between the two states being a difference of its intensity and vividness.
The practice of Remembrance begins with an act of choice, since it throws out of the mind all that it conveniently can without interfering with the work or matter in hand.
He is to keep the mind concentrated inwardly on the real self every wakeful moment until it will stay by itself in the real self. The aim is not to entertain a passing idea but to surrender to a habit which remains.
The woman far advanced in pregnancy may be attending to household duties--may cook, sew, or wash most of the day--yet not at any moment will her mind be completely carried away from the infant she is bearing inside.
With his mind constantly reverting to the Overself (like a silent mantram) as the Reality to which he aspires, the inner work goes on.
It comes with time and practice, this ability to move at will from activity to meditation, from working or walking to stillness or worship.
How can he adjust his vision of eternity to living prosaically in the here and now? It is hard and, like many others, he will fail. But repeated effort, undaunted practice, comprehension of the Short Path may enable him to do so at last.
"Be with IT" is the best advice for those who can understand it.
Once you have caught this inner note in your experience of your own self-existence, try to adhere firmly to the listening attitude which catches it.
Whether his body finds itself among thieves or his mind finds itself among theories, the aspirant's duty of being aware ever remains paramount. He may work in the home, the office, or the field, and this activity should be quite compatible with holding on to the higher consciousness, through practice of this Recollection Exercise. The latter need not get in the way of his ordinary faculties or perceptions.
The teaching of "the practice of the presence of God" by Brother Lawrence seems very simple to follow and very easy to do. After all, did he not succeed in it for upwards of forty years? But let us remember that he combined it with merely mechanical kitchen work. It did not and could not distract him from carrying out his tasks. But to combine it with intellectual desk work is quite another matter. Obviously this is far more difficult than combining it with simple manual labour.
The mind's faculties are all brought together in an intense projection out of himself into the unpicturable but inwardly sensed Presence, the Overself.
Reminiscence--recollection by the mind of its own identity--is itself equal to a meditation.
Let it be constant meditation on or remembrance of (and return to) the Ultimately True, the Supremely Important, the Absolute Real.
Every time he departs from the stillness there is needed a warning awareness. This does not easily or normally come by itself but by self-training, self-observation--"mindfulness," the Buddha called it. The feeling for it has to be persistently nurtured; first brought into being, then preserved at all hours of the day and in whatever surroundings he finds himself.
The Short Path not only requires him to turn his attention in the Overself's direction but also to maintain it there.
Be present at your thinking and breathing and feeling and doing. This is what the Buddha called "mindfulness." But the highest possible form of mindfulness is to be present with the Overself for, after all, the other four are concerned with the ego, even though they are attempts to free yourself from it; but here it concerns that which completely transcends the ego.
The loving, adoring recollection of the Overself, the constant return to memory of it amid the world's distractions, the reiteration of this divine thought as a permanent background to all other thinking, is itself a yoga path. Indeed it is the same as that taught by Saint Paul when he wrote, "Pray without ceasing" and "Bring every thought into captivity to Jesus Christ."
The immediate task is to become increasingly aware of the Overself's presence, or, if you are working under a master, of the master's presence in your own heart.
This seemingly simple exercise is of universal availability, for it can be done wherever he wishes and whenever he wishes. There is no moment which does not offer a chance to practise it, no situation in which it is not opportune. All that he has to do is to remember that he is a Quester, that he is also a divine being as well as an animal being, that he must act from his whole manhood and not merely from a fragment of it. But this remembrance is not to be struggled for; it is to be established as a natural habit and a relaxing one, whatever the tensions around him. The more he practises the more he can consolidate this way of life, this unique combination of acting in the world as if he knew nothing more than worldly demands and being within himself quite detached from the world.
When the naturalness of living fully in the Divine Presence while working in the world becomes a daily experience, the man will be living and existing at one and the same time on different levels.
"As a bird may go to roam in the sky and still think of its young one; as a mother may be engaged in household duties and yet think of her child; as a she-monkey may leap from tree to tree and yet clasp its young one to her bosom; even so we should constantly think of the Lord of the three worlds," sang the Indian poet Janabai.
The successful philosopher is no dreamer: he keeps his practicality, his interest in world affairs, his willingness to accept responsibility, thus remaining an effective servant of mankind. But all this is done within the Remembrance.
When activity of any kind, in work or in leisure, takes place in this atmosphere of remembrance, it becomes sacramental even though the ordinary observer may not know it.
To keep up this remembrance all the time, in all circumstances, requires practice and perseverance to an extent that seems beyond the ordinary. But they are actually within everyone's untapped resources and untouched reserves.
The double awareness practised by women who knit a woollen garment at the same time that they talk with one another is one familiar example of the mind's power in this direction. It makes plausible the double awareness practised by the sage, whose movement and activity in ordinary worldly life is concurrent with his rest in the background of transcendental spirit.
In this way, and by this regular observance, he sets up gradually a new rhythm in his mental and emotional worlds, imposes little by little a new pattern on his behaviour.
The young man who longs to see his sweetheart once again, the professional man who nurtures the ambition to get a higher position, and the businessman eager to secure a contract--each revolves in his mind the same intrusive thought again and again. It is in fact the background of all other thoughts all the time.
The continuous remembrance of the Overself as the unseen background upon which the personal panorama unfolds itself enables us to keep a proper perspective upon events and affords us the final cure of troublesome ills.
Meditation should so develop that it becomes a constant attitude of recollectedness. The set exercises in concentration for short periods belong to the earlier stages and are intended simply to obtain mental control.
The practice of this remembrance exercise may be pushed so far that it comes to haunt the man to a surprising degree.
The goal is to remember the Overself without interruption and at all times.
He must work unwearyingly at this task of self-recollection, for it is important that he shall not show spiritual-mindedness out merely because he has let business-mindedness in.
He has a mirror in his hand all the time.
He learns to look away from the ego and turn to the Overself. He keeps his thoughts as often as possible on the remembrance of the latter's infinite ever-presence. He keeps his heart occupied with the feelings of peace, faith, harmony, and freedom that this remembrance generates.
This act of recollection requires no effort, no exercise of the power of will. It is an act of turning in, through and by the power of love, toward the source of being. Love redirects the attention and love keeps it concentrated, sustained, obedient.
He is wrong to object that you can't hold two different thoughts at the same time and that hence you can't remember God and attend to worldly details simultaneously. You can. God is not a thought, but an awareness on a higher level. Mind does not hold God. Certainly, mind can't have two objects of thought, for they are in duality, but they can be held by God's presence. Only here is the union of subject and object possible. All other thoughts are in duality.