Overcoming Obstacles to Higher Consciousness
by Rudra Shivananda
All spiritual seekers have tried meditation and encountered the usual obstructions to maintaining a steady practice such as boredom, daydreaming, increased emotional reactions and even depression. There may appear external obstacles such as health issues, job loss or relationship problems. The stronger the practice the more obstacles appear because a true spiritual path will speed up the karma of a life-time and even access the latent karma from previous life-times.
Of course, one should be aware that not all meditation techniques or systems are best suited to everyone and one of the first solutions is to try different techniques. This however is the most undesirable solution because it is better to make a change when nothing is happening then to make a change because undesirable things are happening. You may consider this absurd because why would we prefer a practice that is obviously causing problems! However, if our goal is to rise to higher consciousness in a short period of time, one should not shy away from growing pains. We will need to work out our karmic ledger in a shorter period of time. Most of it will be taken care of through our practice which should burn away our stored karma. However, there is karma that we have taken into this life and that is now in motion and we can only mitigate, hasten and shorten the effects of their appearance.
The primary solution is to purify the mind by cultivating an indifference to happiness and misery, to pain and pleasure, to all transient opposites. Even what are considered vice or virtue by society are but effervescent plays of the mind and lead to suffering through criticism, gossip, and judgementalism – to be avoided. The true virtues are attitudes of love, compassion, friendliness, joy, gratitude and forgiveness.
Frequently, we are beset by a lack of energy through overwork, family issues, lack of sleep, excessive talking or over-indulgence in the sensory pleasures. It is necessary in such a situation to cultivate the holding of vital energy or prana. A spiritual practice requires a lot of prana to fuel it and if the system doesn’t have an inherent technique to increase or acquire more prana, then the student must supplement it by cultivating such pranayama. However, even in a system that has techniques for increasing the vital energy, if the student wastes it on material activities, then progress can be blocked – in such a case, it is necessary to decrease the those activities to a level that does not interfere with the effectiveness of reaching higher consciousness.
When the problem appears to be an unstable or troublesome mind, steadiness of mind needs to be cultivated by focusing on subtle sounds, as well as on the light within. The mere concentration of an external object or even an internal visualization may not be enough to still the mind sufficiently in order to achieve the withdrawal of the senses and in such cases, the meditation on the internal sound of Om can be an effective solution. Also, focusing on light at the third eye center with the appropriate methodology will not only bring about the internalization of the senses and stilling of the mind but can lead to even higher states of consciousness up to and beyond the highest Samadhi that can be described.
Sometimes, it is useful to focus on those sages who are free from attachment – this can also help you acquire a steady mind, especially if you have some past life connection with the sage or can form an effective bridge to the sage in this present life. This can work whether the sage is in the body or working on a higher plane, but is very dependent on the individual seeker’s karmic connection and so what works for one may not work for another.
A less common solution but one that may work better for very advanced practitioners is to have the mind be guided from the knowledge derived during the non-waking states. However, this is fraught with danger as more often than not, the ego is involved and the guidance may be faulty and cannot be relied on. Unless the practitioner has already passed through certain tests and been blessed by a Master to have such guidance, then it is necessary to cultivate common sense and discrimination before utilizing the internal guidance to overcome obstacles to higher consciousness.
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