Although there are many meditation forms out there, for most people, meditation is a practice driven by one of two things. The meditator either focuses on a single object or sound as a means to disengage from the monkey mind, or the practitioner cultivates a sense of mindfulness of one’s consciousness stream as a way to become witness to, rather than absorbed by, one’s thoughts. Equally as powerful, however, is a lesser known meditation practice, called passage meditation.
Checkout this recent Yoga Journal post from Michael Nagler. In it, he discusses the what and why behind passage meditation and how cultivating this meditation form can lead to inspiration. According to Nagler, passage meditation involves focusing on a pre-memorized inspirational passage chosen from any of the world’s great spiritual traditions and allowing it to penetrate your being. One goal in passage meditation is to gain complete mastery of one’s thought processes.
To use this method, try to establish your practice in the morning, before fascinating activities like breakfast or reading e-mail have taken over. Sit in a comfortable position, with your back, neck, and head gently erect in an anatomically straight line. Then close your eyes, breathe deeply and softly, and begin silently reciting the words of the passage in your mind, as slowly as you can without losing their meaning.
You want to let each inspiring word “drop like a jewel into the depths of your consciousness,” as Easwaran’s oft-repeated phrase instructs. There is no need to think about the meaning of the words. When you’re giving them your full attention, their meaning can’t help but sink in, leading to all kinds of positive developments. As we assimilate the inspired words, we find ourselves being spontaneously kind, for example; we find that addictions and unwanted behaviors of all kinds drop away as we come to resemble more and more the ideals that the passage we’ve chosen holds out to us.
For this to happen—and this is really the core of the technique—do not follow any associations that may come up, even apparently “pious” ones. When any such distraction arises, you can do one of two things about it, depending on how long it has taken you to realize you’re not on the passage. In the case of the odd distraction, the stray thought, simply bring your attention back to the words of the passage. Don’t get annoyed with your mind or take note of the distraction in any way; rather, refocus your attention on the passage. But the mind is tricky, and sometimes a distraction will take over and go on its merry way for minutes on end before we realize what’s up. At this point, we should “pick up the mind gently,” as Easwaran often said (getting angry at it will only be a second distraction), and bring it right back to the beginning of the passage. Boring? Exactly, but that’s partly the point. You are serving notice to the mind that you are in charge—that for a half hour, at least, it is going to learn to obey you for a change or risk what it hates most: being bored.
Read more from Nagler on passage meditation here.