by Naomi Ozaniec
Excerpted with permission
Yourself Meditation by Naomi Ozaniec
(Teach Yourself Books Series). Visit Naomi
Ozaniec's web site at www.naomiozaniec.co.uk.
Chapter 1. Beginning - The First Step
Meditation begins with sila which is virtue
or moral purity.
Daniel Goleman, The Meditative Mind
It is wisely said that the journey of
a thousand miles begins with a single step,
so let us begin. Your journey towards meditation
will take shape as you find yourself this
very day. This path will be built within
your life as you find it now. The practice
of meditation will arise from your own needs,
aspirations and intentions. The life that
is yours today, is like a seed-bed in which
you have chosen to plant the possibility
of meditation. Your behaviour, attitudes,
values and commitment will determine whether
this seed dies or flourishes. People come
to meditation for many differing reasons.
It can begin out of curiosity, or as a dimly
felt need. It can commence as a purely intellectual
interest or an antidote to stress. It is
sometimes triggered by a crisis. More often
it the end result of a long process of discontent
and dissatisfaction with the goals offered
by society. It is possible to be successful,
financially independent, surrounded by the
trappings of family and career and yet still
feel empty. Some people just have an instinctive
feeling that there is more to life than
just a succession of experiences.
From the outset it should be understood
that meditation touches the whole life and
the whole person. Therefore the first step
towards meditation consists in taking stock
of the person we are today, of the life
we have today, of the whole situation in
which we find ourselves. This is no idle
suggestion but a serious request and an
opportunity to build your future meditation
practice on a firm foundation. Please, take
some time for personal reflection. What
factors have led you towards meditation?'
What hopes and expectations do you have?
Do you feel ready to plant the seed of meditation
in your life? Are you willing to be changed
We should not forget that meditation has
always been part of a wider spiritual life.
Meditation is a an integral aspect of all
Buddhist and Yogic practice. Taking the
practice out of its wider context is not
without difficulties. By contrast, meditation
remains undeveloped in theory and practice
within mainstream Western spirituality.
Despite the fact that we find relatively
few deep cultural hooks to which we may
attach practice, we seek meditation with
sincere heart and genuine need. We may profitably
look to the older, long established traditions
of the East while at the same time bearing
our own cultural and spiritual circumstances
in mind. This particular period offers great
opportunities. Meditation is not static
but dynamic. The West has its own needs.
Recognising and meeting our needs may legitimately
give rise to new forms of ancient principles.
Meditation can take many forms as history
shows. Through time, practice has evolved
as enlightened teachers have arisen and
nourished the tradition which nourished
them. There can be do doubt that meditation
is a living stream. The West may drink deeply
It is valuable to understand the origins
and developments of the great spiritual
traditions of the world. Buddhism which
now has several forms began with the life
of Prince Siddhartha Gautama son to king
Shuddhona and Queen Mahamaya. Wise men were
consulted to explain a dream received by
the queen. It was foretold that the child
could either become a great universal monarch,
or a great religious teacher. His father,
the king determined that his son should
pursue the life of the world. He created
a fabulous world of pleasure and plenty
to occupy the prince. Time passed, Siddhartha
grew, married and had a son. But he longed
to see beyond the palace. Despite every
intent, the king could not prevent the curious
Siddhartha from seeing the real world. For
the first time, Siddhartha encountered death,
sickness and old age. He was deeply moved
and shocked. On a fourth outing, Siddhartha
met a wandering holy man and saw a new possibility.
Though he returned to his palace, his thoughts
now turned to leaving the life of plenty.
Finally he left for the world and undertook
the great quest. He passed some six years
and mastered the spiritual practices of
his time. He learned concentration and followed
the path of extreme asceticism. But he knew
that liberation still eluded him. Determined
to find enlightenment he settled into meditation
beneath the shade of a tree. With each hour
of the night came revelation. By dawn he
had attained enlightenment. He thought,
"I have attained the unborn. My liberation
is unassailable. This is my last birth.
There will now be no more renewal of becoming."
He was transformed from the man, Siddhartha
Gautama to the Buddha, 'One who is Awake.'
The prophecy of the wise men was set in
Details of the birth of Patanjali are
more legendary than factual. A devout woman,
Gonika prayed for a worthy son. At the same
time, Adisesa, Lord of Serpents, bearer
to the God Vishnu, began to meditate on
who would become his earthly mother. In
meditation Adisesa saw the figure of Gonika.
In her world, Gonika meditated upon the
sun and as she did so a tiny snake emerged
on her palm and immediately was transformed
into a human who asked to become her son.
Gonika was delighted. She named him Patanjali.
Pata means 'fallen' and Anjali
means 'hands folded in prayer.' Even though
it has been suggested that the 196 Aphorisms
attributed to him are in fact the collected
works of more than one author, Patanjali
is always referred to as svayambhu,
an evolved soul who incarnated in order
to help humanity. These uncertain details
need not detract from the wisdom to be found
in the Yoga Sutras which open with
a code of conduct and close with a vision
of man's true nature.
At this point we may profitably look at
the principles which sustain Buddhist and
Yogic practice. Both the Noble Eightfold
Path of Buddhism and the Eight Limbs of
Yoga provide a context in which meditation
can take root. If we do not set meditation
within the context of a whole life, we make
the fundamental mistake of believing that
we can simply add practice to daily live
without truly making the space to incorporate
and integrate its effects. There is some
noteworthy similarity between The Noble
Eightfold Path and The Eight Limbs of Yoga.
In each case a moral framework precedes
meditation practice. Both traditions establish
clear moral ground rules which cover behaviour
in all forms, social, moral and ethical.
Buddhism sets out the Five Precepts: killing,
stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and taking
intoxicants are expressly forbidden. Yoga
commences with the Five Yamas: non-violence
or non injury, truthfulness, not stealing,
chastity and non acquisitiveness. Both traditions
build the practice of meditation upon a
period of moral and ethical preparation.
A period of preparation has value which
should not be overlooked. In our present
culture of moral relativism, we are ready
to ignore the idea of a preliminary moral
training. Yet this always precedes Eastern
practice. As a result Westerners are ill
prepared for the psychological changes which
rightly take place during the period of
preparation. Meditation which is the development
of consciousness and the discovery of a
deep one pointed state of mind, can only
truly arise from the moral life.
The Noble Eightfold Path
I take refuge in the Buddha,
I take refuge in the Dharma
I take refuge in the Sangha
- Right Understanding: This sets out
the first step on the path. It asks us
to set out with the right attitude about
the journey which we have chosen to undertake.
Right understanding includes understanding
the karmic nature of events and understanding
that the the true nature is to be found
- Right Thought: This stresses the importance
of the thoughts that arise in the mind.
Right thinking means being aware of desires
that arise in the mind.
Right Speech: This covers interactions
with others. It includes speaking the
truth, avoiding slander, gossip and harsh
language. Right speech establishes harmony
and peace between people.
- Right Action: This restates the moral
precepts. It includes not killing, minimising
pain to others, not stealing and avoiding
- Right Mode of Livelihood: This covers
social and economic relations. Work should
not be harmful to others, involve stealing,
dishonesty or killing.
- Right Effort: This refers to the fact
that effort is required by the individual.
- Right Intellectual Activity: This refers
to the mindful use of consciousness.
- Right Contemplation: This refers to
one-pointedness of mind. It is the ability
to stay focused on a subject.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
Let us bow before the noblest of sages
Patanjali, who gave Yoga for serenity
and sanctity of mind, grammar for clarity
and purity of speech, and medicine for
perfection of health.
Prayer of Invocation
- Yama - Self Control or Restraints: The
five yamas are non-violence or
non injury, truthfulness, not stealing,
chastity and non acquisitiveness.
- Niyama - Observances: The five niyamas
are purity, contentment, religious effort,
the study of scripture and devotion.
- Asana - Posture: Asanas are
familiar to all students of Yoga as the
physical poses of the tradition. However
the asana is not merely a physical action
but a bridge between mind, body and soul.
- Pranyayama - Breath Control: Prana
means life force and ayama means ascension,
expansion and extension. Pranayama is
the application of the controlled breath
to the life force.
- Pratyhara - Sense Withdrawal: The work
of stilling the five senses builds naturally
upon the practices already established
and prepares the mind for the practice
- Dharana - Concentration: Concentration
needs to be developed as a basis for deeper
- Dhyana - Meditation: Meditation proper
flows from the development of concentration.
- Samadhi - Contemplative Experience:
The state of Samadhi stems from
the established meditative mind. It is
a state of deeply focused awareness.
These principles provide a solid foundation
from which the spiritualised life may arise.
Western spirituality does not offer a counterpart.
Once again it is worth taking the time to
reflect and consider. What characteristics
would you consider to be important as a
foundation for a spiritually based life?
Let there be no mistake the practice of
meditation is derived from the monastery
and the ashram. It may have travelled into
the outside world with good effect, but
it remains the spiritual discipline par
excellence. We should not make the mistake
of attempting to separate the practice of
meditation from the life in which it is
The Spiritual Path
If you wish to know the road up the
you must ask the man who goes back and
forth in it.
It is common to speak of the spiritual
life as a path. This metaphor has value,
it gives us the idea of a journey with a
beginning and a destination. It is also
comforting to realise that we are not alone,
others have trod this same path before us.
The idea of the path is established most
strongly in the East where monastic communities
have a long history. In such specialised
environments a shared language evolved naturally.
Generation upon after generation ensured
continuity through lives of study, practice
and discussion. The path is a natural consequence
of long lived continuity. Buddhism offers
the Lam rim which is the graduated path
to enlightenment. Hinduism recognises diversity
in unity. It offers several avenues. The
Karma Marga is the Path of Action. The
Bhakti Marga is the devotional path.
The Jhana Marga is the Path of Knowledge
and the Virakti Marga is the Path
of Renunciation. These various avenues recognise
that individuals bring different temperaments
to the spiritual life.
By contrast the idea of a path is less
developed in Christianity. Christian mystics
have indeed existed but where mystical experience
has successfully evolved into a line of
transmission, the Christian mystic has proved
to be the exception rather than the rule
and as a result, a lineage of mystical transmission
has never evolved.
The concept of the path is not absent
from Western esoteric tradition however.
Through the lifelong work of Alice Bailey,
a new and extensive corpus of esoteric material
was incorporated into the Western heritage.
She acted as a telepathic receiver for a
figure who chose to be known simply as the
Tibetan. In these recent works we find a
The Universal Path
Nothing can arrest the progress
of the human soul on its long pilgrimage
from darkness to light from the unreal to
the real from death to immortality and from
ignorance to wisdom.
Djwahl Khul, Problems of Humanity
The Tibetan describes the spiritual path
into three stages: the Path of the Probationer,
The Path of the Disciple and the Path of
the Initiate. The Probationary Path corresponds
to the period when the spiritual call has
been sensed in some way. It is a time of
distinct questing and searching. According
to the Tibetan, this period is characterised
by self-aware character building, a conscious
desire to assist the side of evolution,
a rudimentary interest in the Divine Wisdom
and a desire to be identified with transpersonal
intent. This period of life is outwardly
active. Books are avidly read, teachers
are sought, groups are joined. It is often
a challenging and frustrating period; disappointments
go hand in hand with discoveries. However
diligent questing does bring a reward, the
seeker finds a spiritual home which provides
support and sustenance. The individual is
able to deepen both commitment and understanding.
The quest does not cease but expands in
The stage of discipleship as the name
implies, establishes the unshakeable commitment
to spiritual principle. However this too
is a time of challenge and personal growth
for the doors of spiritual responsibility
now open to new horizons. The seeker becomes
committed, aspirations begin to change,
values shift and priorities are altered.
The frenetic activity of the early years
is replaced by a more focused but settled
outer life. According to the schema written
by the Tibetan, the Path of Discipleship
is characterised by a deeper commitment
to serve humanity and its evolution, the
development of the higher faculties of consciousness,
a shift from the personal to the transpersonal
and a deepening realisation of the spiritual
responsibilities that come from spiritual
Finally the consolidating work of the Path
of Discipleship flowers into the Path of
Initiation. This is characterised by successivly
deeper spiritual experiences, a continuous
expansion in consciousness and an increased
understanding and interaction with the non-physical
levels of reality. This brings a total transformation
of being at all levels. The path and the
individual merge, the initiate takes up
the challenges and work of the tradition
with fullness and joy.
This outline has universal application,
curiosity changes to commitment, spiritual
questing brings its reward, consciousness
is expanded. Meditation is the single key
to the unfolding of this pattern. Without
the unifying practice, curiosity will remain
idle, questing will be incomplete and consciousness
can do no more than process information.
We can begin to unravel the complexities
of meditation by drawing upon the familiar
image of a target. As a target serves to
direct our aim, so the subject of a meditation
serves as a target within the mind. Quite
simply during meditation, the practitioner
will attempt to keep the mind focused on
the subject of the meditation. In other
words, thoughts will be aimed a particular
target. We find this notion in the Judaic
tradition through the classical Rabbinical
term for mental concentration, kavvanah
which is intentionality. The word is derived
from kaven to meaning to aim. The development
of kavvanah is a central theme of
the Judaic mystical tradition. It is the
same one pointed concentration elsewhere
called samadhi. It is the state of higher
consciousness. At it simplest meditation
may be described as a state of focused awareness.
Diagram 1. (A Target )
Text : Meditation places a target in the
Focused Awareness - The Path of Concentration
Using the idea of a target in the mind, it
is easy to see that our intention is to strike
as near to the bull's eye as often as possible.
This is of course much easier said than done
as anyone who has tried will know. Nevertheless
we should not be disheartened by early failure.
The difficulty of this apparently simple task
has been recognised by the sages and spiritual
teachers of all times. In the Bhagavad
Gita, Arujna says, 'The mind is so relentless,
inconsistent. The mind is stubborn, strong
and wilful, as difficult to harness as the
wind.' It does not take long to discover the
truth of this statement. Soon enough, we come
face to face with our own mental clutter,
our boredom, our resistance and our inability
to concentrate. As we set out on the journey
towards meditative practice, it may be that
we are considering the qualities of mind for
the first time. There is much to discover
and much to learn. Geshe Rabten describes
meditation as 'a means of controlling, taming
and eventually transforming the mind.' (1)
This ambitious goal begins in the simplest
way; we begin to develop a more focused awareness.
This includes a level of sustained concentration
and additionally contains an element of self
observation. Using the mind in this way is
quite different from everyday awareness which
makes no attempt to constantly review itself.
A simple exercise will introduce you to the
idea of one part of the mind watching another.
Watch the stream of your own consciousness
by observing your own thoughts.
Although at first our concentration
may be very brief, if we persevere in
the practice it will progressively lengthen.
Geshe Rabten, Treasury of Dharma
Exercise 1 Just Watching
Simply sit quietly for a short period of
time, no more than a few minutes will be
enough. Close your eyes and turn your attention
inwards. Try to watch and remember everything
that is happening inside your mind. It is
more difficult than it sounds. When you
have finished, write down all the thoughts
that came to you in that short time.
The results are usually surprising;
distant memories, associations, future plans
and disconnected ideas flow at an extraordinary
pace. The idea of slowing down our thinking
is a helpful analogy. The first attempts
to focus our awareness often proves to be
disheartening. Unwanted thoughts arise as
if from nowhere. Developing this skill as
a sustained and reliable ability will take
time and effort. It will not happen in a
week, it will not happen without frustration.
It will not happen without personal commitment.
The advice from the experienced is universally
gentle and comforting; don't give up, just
carry on. Don't get involved in your thoughts,
just let them pass. Return the mind to the
subject of the meditation, the target. Allow
other thoughts to flow through. Stay focused.
Focused awareness clearly demands a development
in concentration. Unfortunately this particular
quality still smacks of the classroom and
enforced learning which is not helpful.
Too often we associate concentration with
mental strain, intense effort and difficulty.
Concentration is not an end in itself but
the necessary precondition which excludes
distractions and diversions. Without concentration
no subject for meditation can be held in
the mind. Geshe Rabten presents us with
six similes of concentration which enable
us to extend the concept of meditative concentration
to include qualities of calmness, constancy,
dynamism, clarity and lightness.
The Six Similes of Concentration
1. Concentration is likened to the
way a small child views a painting. The
child will be aware of the whole canvas
but oblivious to the small details. In the
first stage we begin to observe the mind
at work without the need to observe the
fine details of processes.
2. Concentration is likened to the
calmness of an ocean which is not disturbed
by the individual events taking place in
it or upon it. A calm mind should not be
disturbed by external events such as a knock
at the door.
3. Concentration is likened to the
sun shining in a cloudless sky. Mental concentration
should be bright and clear, unclouded by
4. Concentration is likened to the
great birds such as eagles or vultures in
flight. These birds flap their wings briefly
and then glide for great distances. The
mind should be able to provide short burst
of energy which then sustain mental flight.
5. Concentration is likened to a
bird flying in the sky. It leaves no trail
as it passes through the sky. Thoughts come
and go but the well developed concentration
6. Concentration is likened to a
cottonwood seed or piece of down which floats
gently on the air. When we meditate we must
concentrate in such a way that our mind
remains very light, not becoming heavy and
Meditation begins with concentration, the
focused awareness. This is the first step
but not the last. Concentration requires
a subject, the target at which we will take
We do not need to look to the arcane and the
distant but to the ordinary and the present
for meditation subjects. Meditation is considered
to be a means of uncovering the true nature
of the human being. Practice therefore often
commences with ordinary human activities such
as breathing and moving. Awareness is focused
on these mundane activities, daily activities
serve as serve as the target for the opening
of the meditative mind. The breath is followed
universally as a subject for meditation. It
is after all an obvious and simple choice.
Focused awareness become mindful as we take
in more and more everyday activities. We begin
to live mindfully instead of mindlessly as
we attempt to notice what we are doing as
it happens. So much of daily life is automatic
and neglected. Meditation brings awareness
into ordinary life.
Subjects for Meditation
Everything can be used as an invitation
Sogyal Rinpoche, Meditation
In complete contrast to the detached observation
of natural processes, meditative practice
may also focus on created visualised images.
This form of meditation draws upon the mind's
ability to create and hold internal images.
This approach is widely found in Tibetan
Buddhism and the Western Mysteries. Such
images are invariably symbolic and often
complex. A word has a particular limited
meaning but a symbol speaks volumes. It
opens the mind through a rich train of assosciations
and connections. Meditation can take place
on a single symbol or a constellation of
symbolic images. The symbolic offers a rich
vein for meditative and contemplative thought.
Symbols serve to expand consciousness and
develop the qualities of insight and intuition.
Symbols can be presented for meditation
through innumerable forms. Sometimes a physical
representation is used, at other times the
image is just created with one part of the
mind while it is simultaneously contemplated.
Symbolic paintings, constructions, stories,
statues, sacred objects, treasured icons
and even imagined realities all serve to
transform the mind.
Particular symbolic traditions have evolved
as certain forms have become regularly employed.
The mandala is a circular symbolic
representation of both universal and personal
forces. It is employed in a particular way
for meditation. The traditional Tibetan
mandala is drawn according to a symbolic
schema and approached through a long established
The yantra is another visual representation
but it uses geometric shapes to represent
cosmic and personal connections. The Shri
Yantra is composed on nine interpenetrating
triangles which symbolise male and female
energies. It represents the whole of creation.
The Judaic mystical tradition is unique
in representing a complex philosophy entirely
in symbolic form. This is a most remarkable
interplay between philosophy and symbol.
The single embracing image, Otz Chiim
or the Tree of Life contains a host of interconnected
symbols. Here is a lifetime's study and
Subjects for meditation are varied and
endless, traditional and emergent, widely
different yet unified in purpose. In startling
contrast to the symbolic and the ordinary,
Zen Buddhism holds a unique place among
meditative traditions. It takes no subject
as its subject and rejects all conceptual
tools, words, images, theories and mental
structures. It has created its own unique
series of subjects for meditation, namely
the koan, a riddle without an answer.
As we consider meditation practice in further
detail, we can remain open to endless possibilities.
Although certain subjects have become
traditional through extended use, we should
not feel confined by the past nor intimidated
by the learned. Sogyal Rinpoche takes meditation
right into the heart of daily life. He reminds
us to be inventive, resourceful and joyful
as we take the openness of the meditative
mind into the everyday world. 'A smile a
face in the subway, the sight of a small
flower growing in the crack of a cement
pavement, a fall of rich cloth in a shop
window, the way the sun lights up flower
pots on a window sill. Offer up every joy,
be awake at all moments.' Subjects for meditation
Joining the Company
Close you eyes for a moment and imagine
that you are standing beside a broad pathway.
People are walking along. Some walk in groups,
others travel by themselves. You stand and
watch them pass. You notice that these people
radiate a serenity and contentment that
you have only rarely seen. Someone comes
over to you and offers you a warm handshake.
"Are you coming?"
You step onto the path, People greet you
with warm smiles knowing that you have just
joined them. Your journey has begun.
You reply and ask, "What will I need
to take with me"?
"Everything that you are."
"Where are we going"? you ask.
"To discover all that you can be,"
comes the reply.
"When shall we start"? you ask.
Excerpted with permission
Yourself Meditation by Naomi Ozaniec
(Teach Yourself Books Series). Visit Naomi
Ozaniec's web site at www.naomiozaniec.co.uk.
Copyright © 2003 by