Someone once described to me the experience of a road accident where their arm was shattered to the point that doctors debated removing it. He said that there was so much pain that he found himself surprised at how, with the mind so super saturated with pain, there was room left over for reflection on the pain.

I had a similar experience, without the trauma, at age 11. A P.E. instructor at our local swimming club had given us an exercise to end the training session. It involved sitting cross-legged on the ground, finding a convenient object such as a pebble and just focusing on it. Try as I might, I couldn’t keep focused and found myself often thinking something else with my eyes unfocused. I wondered at my inability to follow through with such a simple exercise. This brought up a disquieting feeling: if I don’t even have the ability to control my mind for a few seconds, then who am I?

Although at a conscious level the two experiences could hardly be more different, they share something significant in common. In both cases, the mind reflects on itself, and finds itself doing so. This feels natural and unusual at the same time. Natural in that it feels natural that the mind is interested in itself and unusual because that pause for reflection doesn’t seem to happen too often. The experience left me wondering whether the mind opened to more than its familiar daily doings. I don’t remember that sense coming much to the fore in the rest of my school years, but after leaving school my fascination with the mystery of being overtook other interests and I felt self- discovery as a compelling inclination of my mind. This led to learning meditation.

My first experience of actual meditation was unspeakable joy. After going through the steps I had learned, I felt my existence and existence itself blown out to the sheer moment of being. After each meditation I thought I’d had the ultimate experience only to be more emphatically annihilated and ensconced in joy in the next one.

Looking back over 35 years of meditation, I can see some isolated instances of unfathomable bliss. When I try to describe the experience, these lines from the 12th century mystic saint, Allama Prabhu from South India, come to mind:



The word ganglion has a special significance. Although it’s probably translating the word for comb in the original, it’s an inspired choice in English because it also refers to masses of nerves (ganglia). Every experience has a physiological base in which nerves play a key role. The experience of transcendental states of consciousness depends on nervous energy rallying in response to the sustained effort of the mind to attain acuity on its ultimate state of being. The image of billions of nerves bursting suddenly into light as the mind dilates ceaselessly into the non-resistant joy of its origin, is as close as I can get to a description.

What about the rest of the time when meditation is a struggle and produces little or nothing in the way of heightened experience? Although the feeling of bliss in meditation is the sign of a good meditation, the commitment to make the effort to meditate at least twice a day, regardless of transcendental experience, has immense significance. Instead of my thoughts passing as an endless stream into oblivion, I experience regularly in daily living little checks that reawaken a subliminal feeling of benevolence that I regard as intrinsic to life itself. Perhaps the most sustained and precious experience I enjoy overall from meditation, is the feeling that my efforts are not in isolation but in the full light of consciousness intent on the fulfillment of my life.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the official views, policy or position of Ananda Marga. 


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