by J. Donald Walters (Swami Kriyananda) (excerpted from the book: Awaken to Superconsciousness)
Meditation teaches you to relate to life and to your environment from who you are, not from the way others view you. The average person is like an eccentric flywheel. I don’t mean a flywheel with an offbeat personality, but simply a flywheel that isn’t centered properly. The faster the wheel turns, the more violently it vibrates. At a certain speed, its vibration may actually cause it to fly apart. Most people are frequently in danger of “flying apart,” at least mentally. Living at their periphery, not at their center, they vibrate more violently the faster they whirl through life. It is safe to say that few people think of themselves as even having a center. They are forever “on edge.” One problem with living at your periphery is that it forces you to relate to other people at theirs. They, in turn, will be “on edge” with you. Your understanding of them, and theirs of you, will be a view from the outside; it will therefore be superficial. As opposed to the concept stated earlier, “center everywhere, circumference nowhere,” most people perceive life as “circumference everywhere, center nowhere.”
The secret of understanding is to get mentally inside whatever it is you are trying to understand—to gaze outward, so to speak, from its center rather than inward from its periphery. The secret of understanding other people is to identify with them at their center. To find the center of anything or anyone, first withdraw to your own center and project your feelings empathetically from that point.
Meditation is the process of finding your own center. Techniques exist for doing so, but success depends also to a great extent on holding the right attitudes. Let me first discuss some of those attitudes. Then in the next chapter I’ll discuss the techniques.
The first attitude fundamental to “centering” is self-acceptance. You are who you are. Make the best of it, and envy no one for what he or she is. Don’t draw comparisons between you and others: Encourage yourself, rather, in your efforts to attain your own highest potential. Self-acceptance will come progressively as you try to live up to the highest that is in you. Unless you are already in superconsciousness, you cannot but recognize the fact that an inner conflict exists between your soul’s call to the heights, and the siren call of temptation to the depths. You can’t laugh off soul-longing, though you may try. Soul-conscience is not something imposed on us from without. It rises spontaneously from within ourselves. Often in history, soul-conscience has pitted individuals against society—it brought Jesus Christ to the cross, and Socrates to the poisonous cup of hemlock.
True conscience is innate. It is the silent voice of the soul. To achieve self-acceptance, you must be clear in your true conscience. Such clarity comes only when we accept that our higher Self is our eternal reality. Needless to say, one doesn’t achieve this degree of self-acceptance in a single leap. So long as you sincerely resist your lower impulses, and strive toward your own inner heights, your conscience will be reasonably clear, and you will find yourself able to achieve that measure of emotional and psychic relaxation without which it is not possible to find rest at one’s center.
Acceptance leads to the second attitude necessary for finding your own center: kindness. To achieve that clarity of conscience which is the companion of self-acceptance, you should practice kindness also toward yourself. You’ll never overcome your failings by hating your shortcomings, nor by hating yourself for indulging in them. Of course, you shouldn’t allow kindness to excuse them. In true kindness to yourself, you should work, rather, to strengthen yourself in virtue. Seek always your own highest potentials. If this means being stern with yourself occasionally, so be it. But never be judgmental. Kindness is necessary also for understanding other people. In fact, without it, there can never be acceptance of them. By kind acceptance you will find yourself intuitively aware of them at their center.
The more you attune yourself from your center to the center in everything, the more you will find that there is a sympathetic inter-relationship in the universe that makes possible the perfect understanding of all things. Depend not on intellectual analysis, which separates things and compartmentalizes them, but try to feel the heart of whatever it is you are trying to understand.
Anandamoyi Ma, a saint with whom I spent some time in India, was illiterate. But if scholars asked her to explain some difficult or obscure scriptural text, she would do so to their full satisfaction. All she asked was that someone read it to her first. She once told me, “I could speak English, if I concentrated on it.” She went on to say a few words in English, laughing merrily as she did so.
Paramhansa Yogananda could converse easily with people of specialized knowledge, such as physicians, using their own terminology as though he’d been to medical school himself. As another example, a lady in Mexico City who spoke no English had a private interview for one hour with Yogananda, who spoke no Spanish. “I don’t know how it happened,” she told me years later, “but we understood each other perfectly.”
A Process of Unlearning
Finding your own center, then, is not a process of divorcing yourself from objective reality, but of touching that universal center of which all objective reality is a manifestation. To do so bestows far greater than normal comprehension. And this comprehension differs radically from the usual understanding gleaned from superficial facts and observations. Wisdom gained from tuning in to one’s own center is not at all like going to school, where the goal is to learn. Meditation is a process of unlearning. I don’t mean that we should try to forget all the knowledge we acquired at school. That knowledge has its place, and its own usefulness. Meditation, moreover, is not a path to intellectual ineptitude: Quite the contrary, it greatly sharpens the intellect. What we must “unlearn,” instead, are the limitations of delusion imposed on us by our egos.