For a core practice, I recommend an effortless meditation. While this is not what everyone needs, it is one of the most potent tools for most of us. Not only is there the rest and release, but the direct experience of allowing and of the inner Self.
However, I was reminded recently how poorly the idea of ‘effortless’ is understood by most people. Modern culture has a “work ethic” and we learn how to focus, concentrate, and try, try again. While these are valuable tools in the field of doing, if we leave out being, life is out of balance. Doing becomes a strain.
How do we learn to be? It is just innocent attention, noticing what is. Really, it is an experiential thing, simply because we already are. We only need to experience it and be reminded of what is. How it is in the moment.
Some try to teach such things on a CD or from a book, but unless the experience of ease is there, old habits will rule and results will often be stilted.
Effortless meditation typically gets quick results. People continue because it is enjoyable and brings continual and increasing benefits. It is a lifetime tool.
Almost always, the only reason a person stops is because some effort has crept in. Contrast this with many meditation techniques where one is instructed to quiet the mind, silence thoughts, stay focused or similar. This is the exact opposite. After an experience of effortless meditation, these are the strain to be avoided.
And yet ironically, the results of effortless meditation are what has been seen to be the practice of other techniques. In other words, what has been sought arises spontaneously with natural simplicity.
The mind withdraws into the practice naturally and falls silent, awareness expands, and a sharp focus of attention arises. In this allowing of the experience, one transcends the mind into moments of samadhi. Deeper and longer arise over time.
“…the mind is infinitely flexible. We all experience that in our thoughts or imagination, we can go anywhere in the twinkling of an eye; we can accomplish anything. The mind is ethereal, without substance. It is therefore very easy to ‘bend’ the mind in the direction of its source — pure, self-referral consciousness. With its innate flexibility, the mind naturally and instantaneously moves toward samadhi once it has learnt the proper technique.”
— Barbara Stienmann
It is difficult to review a range of practices without someone trying each for some time. That’s counterproductive. Those who have switched from one form to another have their subjective experience but this would require large numbers to get a balanced review.
Some practices claim to be effortless but are not. Does it use more than simple attention? Is it as effortless as a thought or memory arising?
For some, one uses an ishta-devata or chosen form of God. Others use a bija or seed mantra. Others, a phrase. Some object of attention that is not held but simply considered.
This process is one of the keys for the spiritual journey. To learn to just be, to allow, to surrender deeply. Having a practice that both gives you the experience of source and teaches you how to allow at the same time is a blessing indeed.
To be clear here – a properly taught practice has 3 aspects.
1 – suitable vehicle for transcending into samadhi. Samadhi is what brings Yoga or union and soma for refinement. The most common vehicle is a mantra or sound, as above. It should be one of known good effect, suitable for the lifestyle of the student.
2 – correct technique. As noted I recommend an effortless practice so the vehicle is not kept in the mind and leads to regular samadhi.
3 – correct experience of correct technique. Because this is experiential, it is best taught by a trained teacher. As I note above, learning from a book or CD will not likely result it correct experience. Effort is a very common habit in western minds.
Best of all are instructors that use something like a guru puja. While it may seem quaint or strange to a westerner, this raises the consciousness of the teacher as high as possible and allows “planting the seed” most deeply. The value of that becomes clear further along in the practice.