By Ajayan Borys
A new meditator recently asked me what it feels like to meditate after you’ve been meditating regularly for years. This is an interesting question that many might wonder about, so if you happen to be one of those, read on…
There are countless experiences you can have even when just starting on the path of meditation—deep peace and relaxation, bliss, light, colors, feeling energy, thoughts, sleep, to name a few. So are there even more fantastic experiences you will have as you advance in your practice. New vistas will continually open, even day by day. The mystics of the world’s spiritual traditions have written tomes and poems about their many wondrous spiritual experiences. But rather than discuss the variety of spiritual experiences that can come your way after years of meditation, let me focus in this blog on the fundamental, defining characteristic of meditation for someone who’s been practicing regularly for many years.
When you first begin to meditate, you might be struck by the deep peace, relaxation, and expansion of awareness you experience. It is wonderful. Something unique. It’s what keeps you coming back to your cushion. You want more of that, because you know intuitively that yes, this is good; this will lead me to live more peace, joy, compassion, expansiveness, better health, etc. But note that it’s not your everyday experience outside of meditation. It happens inside meditation, as you transcend to deeper levels within; then you glimpse the peace and expansion and joy that the sages say is your own innermost nature. It is likely a very different experience from the hustle and bustle of your daily life, and that’s precisely why you may feel motivated to continue your practice–naturally you want to enjoy more of that peace throughout your day.
Now imagine that after many years of practice, this glimpse of peace, expansion, and joy has become so familiar, so natural to you, that you are fully established in it all the time. It is no longer unique; that state has become your Home, 24/7. That fine, fine, unbounded awareness that you may have only glimpsed momentarily sometimes during the early years of meditating is now the backdrop of your entire day. You live in that unboundedness, peace, and evenness all the time. So now what happens when you meditate? In a word, you go nowhere. Fundamentally, there is no change. That pure Being that is your Home, your Self, remains as It always does. You sit, you close your eyes, and that pervasive, unbounded, transcendent awareness that underlies your entire day is there. Yet you could say that something happens: The world around you fades away and there is only That–infinite divine consciousness.
My first teacher, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, used to give an apt analogy to describe this. He said that life is like a movie projected on the white screen of pure Being. Just as the typical movie goer notices only the images on the screen and remains unaware of the screen itself (even though the screen is essential for the images to be enjoyed), so nearly everyone walking this earth notices only the vast variety of this world and misses the underlying divine Being that is the very Self of all.
Now imagine if someone put a white light behind the movie screen and gradually turned up the intensity of that light until you could see not only the images on the screen but also the pure, white screen behind the images. That is what happens over the years of meditation: the underlying unity of pure Being, the universal cosmic Self, pure consciousness, begins to shine brighter and brighter through more and more of your day. That becomes the backdrop upon which all the play of life takes place. When you sit to meditate, then, it is simply that the world fades away, and the light behind the screen alone shines, and you are left abiding in the eternal, infinite Self of all. Yet nothing has changed. You have gone nowhere.
In my book, Effortless Mind: Meditate with Ease (New World Library 2013), I include a powerful technique for living that unbounded unity that underlies everything. Check out Chapter 10: Making Life a Meditation. You may also learn this and other advanced techniques that accelerate growth towards the experience of unity consciousness in my advanced meditation classes.