The transformation that comes through meditation is not a straight-line progression. It’s a spiral, a cycle. My own life is very much a series of spirals in which at times I am pulled toward some particular form of sadhana or lifestyle and make a commitment to it for maybe six months or a year. After this time I assess its effects. At times I work with external methods such as service. At other times the pull is inward, and I retreat from society to spend more time alone.
The timing for these phases in the spiral must be in tune with your inner voice and your outer life. Don’t get too rigidly attached to any one method – turn to others when their time comes, when you are ripe for them.
I first became involved in the journey through study, intellectual analysis and service. I found it difficult to work with methods of the heart. I would try to open my heart, but the methods seemed absurd. I recall going to the Avalon Ballroom in the early 1960’s to hear Allen Ginsberg introduce Swami Bhaktivedanta, who led a Hare Krishna chant. This chant seemed weird to me. It left me cold and cynical. I recall thinking, “It’s too bad – Allen’s really gone over the edge. This chant just doesn’t make it.” In the years since, I’ve had moments of ecstasy with the Hare Krishna chant. My heart has opened wide to the beauty of the blue Krishna and the radiant Ram, and I’ve laughed at my own changes and growth.
A student once came to me and told me that he felt turned off by devotional practices. His practice was Buddhist; his meditation was on the dharma, the laws of the universe. Yet he felt troubled that his heart was closed. So I started him on the practice of the mantra “I love you dharma,” breathing in and out of the heart saying, “I love you dharma.” He loved it.
It’s not an all-or-nothing game. You’re not totally out of one phase before you start the next – there’s a gradual shift.
– Ram Dass