Meditation is both an art and a science. It involves both the art of intuitive inner romance between your soul and Spirit, and the science of directing your life force away from the distractions of the physical senses so that you can truly perceive the indwelling Spirit. Through the earnest practice of meditation you realize all the things you are not, and you discover That which you are: "I am not the breath; I am not the body, neither bones nor flesh. I am not the mind or feeling. I am That which is behind the breath, body, mind, and feeling." When you go beyond the consciousness of this world, knowing that you are not the body or the mind, and yet aware as never before that you exist -- that divine consciousness is what you are. And when you reach this experience you will join the thousands of meditators who throughout the millennia have used the same words to describe it: "Ever new Joy. Inexhaustible Bliss. Infinite Love. Ecstatic Peace."
Deep meditation requires frequent solitary practice and is guided by a true spiritual master, or "Satguru" (The word "guru" literally means "dispeller of darkness." Today "guru" is commonly used to simply refer to a teacher, however, a true guru or Satguru is one who is God-illumined). Your Guru does not have to currently be in a physical body, but typically will have incarnated recently enough to have lovingly left you a roadmap of meditation techniques, inspiring scriptural commentaries, and a few advanced disciples. This will get you far enough that you can perceive your Guru's guidance intuitively and thereby continue to deepen your meditation.
Meditating at least once a week with a group of devotees who you resonate with can be an important adjunct to your spiritual growth. An inspired group of meditators can create a synergistic pool of heightened consciousness that magnetically attracts a deeper response from Spirit. If your solo meditiations have been going downhill or not going at all, group meditation can re-inspire your spiritual yearnings and devotion. Group meditation provides an opportunity for "spontaneous spiritual intimacy" such that even though the group has a facilitator, it allows Spirit to guide it without having to navigate through the inhibiting "rules and procedures" that compromise even the most liberal religious organizations. As Jesus said, "God does not reveal Himself unto the prudent and the wise, but unto babes." When a meditation group offers itself into Spirit as "babes," Spirit cannot resist because it is Love Itself. When that Love blesses a group of child-like meditators the effect is bonding, healing, and blissful.
How can a meditation group inwardly maintain the child-like qualities of loving open-heartedness, spontaneous inspiration, and joy? One of the most effective methods is devotional chanting, also known as "making a joyful noise unto the Lord" or "singing the Divine Names." Group chanting creates an opportunity for people to express their spiritual inspiration through the body while singing, clapping, swaying, making devotional gestures, or playing musical instruments. This invites Spirit into the physical and emotional bodies through which people spontaneously relax into the deeper spiritual effect of the chant. As the group continues to immerse its collective heart into the heart of the chant, the Heart of God responds such that the chanting naturally melts into the blissful silence of meditation wherein only the loving whispers of the soul vibrate.
A new chanting and meditation group is now meeting on Wednesday nights in Portland's West Hills area. It is open to anyone who has a basic knowledge and attunement to the teachings of Yogananda. An introductory class about group meditation and chanting will meet on Tuesday nights March 28 - April 18. Call 503-292-5675 for details.