Surmounting the unpleasant images and negative thoughts which occur during meditation

Many novices to Yoga discover that once you have pacified the restless body and harmonized the breathing process before meditation, you might experience a few minutes of mental silence, but this illusory peace is quickly shattered by the sudden uprush of disturbing images and negative thoughts.  These unpleasant ideas come partly from within and partly from outside.  Within us, there are repressed parts of the personality which rebel against any imposition of harmony while on the external front, we are constantly bathing in the vibrations of the world and a desultory attempt to cut our mind off from these pervasive vibrations is bound to fail.  In an age of rapid technological change where we are being continuously bombarded by powerful and seductive audio-visual content on a wide variety of electronic devices, the frequency of this problem has probably increased rather than decreased.  These are some remarks by the Mother on this perennial botheration.

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Question: When one meditates there are moments when one sees very unpleasant forms in front of himself for some days. It begins and later ends. What does it mean?

Yes, it means probably that instead of meditating in a silent concentration, one has opened one’s consciousness either in a vital domain or in a not very pleasant mental domain. That’s what it means. It can also mean—it depends on the degree of development one has reached—it can mean in certain cases, when one is master of one’s concentration and knows where one goes—still this already requires a fairly great discipline —it may be that it is a particular attack of adverse forces, of bad wills, coming either from certain beings or from certain domains; but it is not necessarily attacks; it can simply be that one has opened one’s consciousness in a place that’s not very desirable or else sometimes, often, that one had in himself a number of movements of the vital and the mind which were not very desirable, and when one enters the silence of meditation or that kind of passive attitude of expectation of something which is going to happen, all these vibrations which have gone out of him come back to him in their real appearance which is not very pleasant. This happens often: one had bad feelings, not positively wicked but still things which are not desirable, bad thoughts, movements of dissatisfaction, revolt or impatience, or a lack of contentment or… you see, one may be angry with somebody, even in thought, no need of speaking… things like that. When one is quiet and tries to be still so as to have an experience, all these things come back to him in their true form, that is, not very pleasant forms: very ugly, forms which are at times very ugly. I think that I have already told you this several times: it’s something that happens frequently if you don’t control your thoughts and your vital reactions and if someone has displeased you for some reason or other, if that person has done or said something which you do not like, and you consider him hostile and so the spontaneous reaction is to want to punish him in some way or other or if one is still more primitive—if I may say so—to want to take vengeance or hope that something bad will happen to him.

However, it may even come very spontaneously, a violent reaction, like that, then you don’t think about it any more. But now, at night, when you are asleep, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, in a case like this, the person in question comes to you with an extreme violence, either to kill you or to make you ill, as though he wished you as much harm as possible, and then in your ignorance you say, “Well, I was quite right to be angry with him.” But it is quite simply your own formation which returns to you, nothing else but that. The person has nothing to do with it—he is quite innocent in the affair. This is a phenomenon which occurs very often, I mean for people who have movements of rancour or anger or violence; and they always see in a dream of this kind the justification of their movements— whereas it is only a very striking image of their own feelings. For the formation returns upon one in this way.

Question: Then in these cases what should one do?

What should one do? First, never have bad thoughts to begin with; and then, secondly, never be afraid, even if you see extremely ugly things—not only have no fear but no disgust and no repulsion, simply a perfect quietude—and try to be as pure and calm as possible. Then, whatever it may be, whether it be your own formation or it comes from others, whether it be an attack or a bad place—no matter what it is—everything will be all right. But above all, this: quiet, calm, naturally sheltered from every kind of possible fear, and without any disgust, without any recoiling, nothing; like that: a perfect indifference with a complete calm. Then nothing bad can happen, absolutely nothing. Even if it is truly an enemy who comes to attack you, he becomes powerless.

In all cases, without exception, whatever may happen, calm and quietude and serene peace and an absolute faith in the divine Grace—if you have all this, nothing can happen to you. And you must have all this if you want to have experiences; because experiences without this—it’s not good; but with this, it’s excellent.

(Collected Works of the Mother, vol. 7, pp. 80-84)

Question: Mother, at times unpleasant thoughts come and disturb us. How can we get rid of them?

There are several methods.  Generally—but it depends on people—generally, the easiest way is to think of something else. That is, to concentrate one’s attention upon something that has nothing to do with that thought, has no connection with that thought, like reading or some work—generally something creative, some creative work. For instance, those who write, while they are writing (let us take simply a novelist), while he is writing, all other thoughts are gone, for he is concentrated on what he is doing. When he finishes writing, if he has no control, the other thoughts will return. But precisely when a thought assails you, one can try to do some creative work; for example, the scientist could do some research work, a special study to discover something, something that is very absorbing; that is the easiest way.

Naturally, those who have begun to control their thought can make a movement of rejection, push aside the thought as one would a physical object. But that is more difficult and asks for a much greater mastery. If one can manage it, it is more active, in the sense that if you reject that movement, that thought, if you chase it off effectively and constantly or almost repeatedly, finally it does not come any more. But in the other case, it can always return. That makes two methods.

The third means is to be able to bring down a sufficiently great light from above which will be the “denial” in the deeper sense; that is, if the thought which comes is something dark (and especially if it comes from the subconscient or inconscient and is sustained by instinct), if one can bring down from above the light of a true knowledge, a higher power, and put that light upon the thought, one can manage to dissolve it or enlighten or transform it—this is the supreme method. This is still a little more difficult. But it can be done, and if one does it, one is cured —not only does the thought not come back but the very cause is removed.

The first step is to think of something else (but in this way, you know, it will be indefinitely repeated); the second is to fight; and the third is to transform. When one has reached the third step, not only is one cured but one has made a permanent progress.

(Collected Works of the Mother, vol. 6, pp. 22-23)

Question: When one wants to concentrate, why do all kinds of thoughts come which never came before?

Perhaps they came and you did not know it! Perhaps it is because you want to concentrate that you become aware that they are there. It may also happen that there is an element of contradiction in the consciousness and that when you want to be silent, something says, “No, I won’t be silent!”

I think that many of you have an inner contradiction like this. When you have resolved to be good, there is something which would like to push you into being wicked, and when you want to be quiet, there is something which pushes you into being agitated, and when you want to be silent, immediately thoughts begin to wander. It is a contradiction inherent in man’s nature. It may be this; it may be what I said: that all these thoughts are there but as you were not paying any attention to them, you were not aware of them.

It is quite certain that to create absolute silence is of all things the most difficult, for many things of which one was not aware, become enormous! There were all kinds of suggestions, movements, thoughts, formations which went on as though automatically in the outer consciousness, almost outside the consciousness, on the frontiers of consciousness; and as soon as one wants to be absolutely silent, one becomes aware of all these things which go on moving, moving, moving and make a lot of noise and prevent you from being silent. That is why it is better to remain very quiet, very calm and at the same time very attentive to something which is above you and to which you aspire, and if there is this kind of noise passing like that around you (Mother moves her hands around her head), not to pay attention, not to look, not to heed it. If there are thoughts which go round and round and round like this (gestures), which come and go, do not look, do not pay attention, but concentrate upwards in a great aspiration which one may even formulate—because often it helps the concentration—towards the light, the peace, the quietude, towards a kind of inner impassiveness, so that the concentration may be strong enough for you not to attend to all that continues to whirl about all around. But if suddenly you say, “Ah, there’s some noise! Oh, here is a thought!”, then it is finished. You will never succeed in being quiet. Have you never seen those people who try to stop a quarrel by shouting still louder than the ones who are quarrelling? Well, it is something like that. (Mother laughs.)

(Collected Works of the Mother, vol. 6, pp. 309-310)

This mind no silence knows nor dreamless sleep,
In the incessant circling of its steps
Thoughts tread for ever through the listening brain;
It toils like a machine and cannot stop.
Into the body’s many-storeyed rooms
Endless crowd down the dream-god’s messages.
All is a hundred-toned murmur and babble and stir,
There is a tireless running to and fro,
A haste of movement and a ceaseless cry.
The hurried servant senses answer apace
To every knock upon the outer doors,
Bring in time’s visitors, report each call,

Admit the thousand queries and the calls
And the messages of communicating minds
And the heavy business of unnumbered lives
And all the thousandfold commerce of the world.
Even in the tracts of sleep is scant repose;
He mocks life’s steps in strange subconscient dreams,
He strays in a subtle realm of symbol scenes,
His night with thin-air visions and dim forms
He packs or peoples with slight drifting shapes
And only a moment spends in silent Self.

(Sri Aurobindo. Savitri, Book VII, Canto II)

Related Posts

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  2. Stages of meditation.
  3. All thoughts come from outside.
  4. Taming the Monkey Mind.
  5. Walking with eyes unfocused
  6. Gorakhnath’s enumeration of contemplation methods
  7. Stabilizing the body before meditation
  8. Transcending the work-leisure cycle
  9. Rising above ennui or boredom
  10. How to eat like a Yogi
  11. Ill-effects of television on Yoga
  12. Self-control over speech
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10 thoughts on “Surmounting the unpleasant images and negative thoughts which occur during meditation

  1. Pingback: Surmounting the unpleasant images and negative thoughts which occur during meditation | Transformation Yoga | Scoop.it

  2. Sandeep Post author

    Sweating, Shaking Man Never Going to Spend A Little Time With His Thoughts Again

    LOS ALAMOS, NM—Describing it as a harrowing ordeal that he “wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy,” badly shaken 39-year-old senior account manager Daniel Tillison told reporters Friday he would never again spend a few minutes alone with his thoughts. “My God, it was just awful—that’s the last time I ever take a moment to myself to reflect,” a profusely sweating Tillison said before unsteadily pouring a large glass of whiskey and drinking it down in a single gulp. “The worst part is, I actually did this to myself. I actually said, ‘I think I’d like a little time alone to think about some things.’ Then, for a few brief, horrible moments, I looked deep within myself and saw who I really was. It was honestly the scariest, most nauseating experience of my life.” Tillison said that if he ever again found himself alone and without the distractions of music, the Internet, television, or video games, he would repeatedly hit himself in the head with the handiest large blunt object to prevent any sort of return to his own innermost thoughts

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/sweating-shaking-man-never-going-to-spend-a-little,27553/

    Reply
  3. Pingback: The exchange of vital forces during social interactions | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  4. Al

    Very important subject, very few replies.

    Title reads: [Surmounting the unpleasant images and negative thoughts which occur during meditation]

    These images and thoughts (negative and positive as well) wreck the meditation. What to do?

    Effect pratyahar, the 5th step of Ashtanga Yoga. One must deactivate the Buddhi orb and its adjuncts at the front of the subtle body head. Attention is brought into the Self at the center of the head, then pulled to the back of the head, effectively removing the energy that activates thoughts and images when constantly impacting the Buddhi orb. At the back of the head, merge into Naad sound, tune to it from either ear. Stay there and wait. At first, once and again, this concentration effort (dharana) will fail, relax, punctuated by newly-aroused thoughts and images. Retrieve again to the back of the head and into Naad. Do that for weeks, months, or years, till Naad becomes the lover, the brother, the sister, the guide.

    Things will start happening at the 3rd eye. Several types of vision will occur. The main objective is the opening of the frontal part of the subtle head into the chit akash (the sky of consciousness). This is the experience paramount.

    What is this chit akash? It is also called Vaikuntha. This is not an astral vision, but the spiritual environment.

    Much like when a third-world African youngster prepares himself for entry into Europe, now browses the net, reads maps, rehearses, explores routes; a yogi, now convinced of being always on the losing end of material nature with no chance to ever win, verily tired of being used and abused and taken hither and thither against his will, decides to make a run for a permanent relocation to that rarefied, and trauma-free environment.

    The map and SOP (Standard Operating Procedure)? The Baghavad Gita and Canto 11 of Srimad Bhagavatam (Uddhava Gita). Also SOP Patanjali Yoga Sutras. The Yoga/Moksha of Relocation.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  5. S

    “Naturally, those who have begun to control their thought can make a movement of rejection, push aside the thought as one would a physical object. But that is more difficult and asks for a much greater mastery. If one can manage it, it is more active, in the sense that if you reject that movement, that thought, if you chase it off effectively and constantly or almost repeatedly, finally it does not come any more. But in the other case, it can always return. That makes two methods”

    So in the first method you need to distract yourself, but subsequently thoughts will return.
    In the second method, you become aware of the negative thoughts and you are consciously able to reject them to a point where they never bother you again. So, if one has had a disturbing/traumatic experience in the past and several years later, thoughts of that experience do not disturb him/her anymore (they may enter the mind but do not create any kind of mental / emotional disturbances), how can he/she be sure whether those unpleasant thoughts / memories have been rejected for good or have simply been suppressed deep into the subconscious mind? Would they come back to disturb the person in a subsequent birth maybe?

    Quoting your reply to my comment on ‘Difference between genius and mysticism’ :

    “If one just sticks to spiritual practice, keeps the mind and heart passive, eventually (maybe after many years) one will get the Knowledge one needs from within. ”

    Did you mean spiritual practice = japa / chanting?

    The method of japa/chanting is supposed to clear the subconscious mind.
    Any repeated thought or action forms an impression that, if reinforced, becomes a centre. Apparently, just as we remove a thorn embedded in our foot or hand with a needle, so also we create a new impression (devotional) in the subconscious mind to remove the unwanted/defective/negative ones. But I really wonder if repeating God’s name 24/7 (even during daily activities) would be effective? Or is it a matter of time or several births? I mean, isn’t that just another form of method 1 as above? Distraction? Coz even WHILE chanting (mechanically that too), many thoughts can still cross the mind ….. let alone when one stops chanting!

    Do you meditate regularly? If yes, did you do some meditation courses or something? If you don’t mind my asking, are you a member of any spiritual organisation or maybe a psychologist / psychiatrist? Asking coz you have created such a wonderful blog!
    Btw – you don’t have to answer the last 3 questions if you don’t wish to 😀 😀

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      how can he/she be sure whether those unpleasant thoughts / memories have been rejected for good or have simply been suppressed deep into the subconscious mind? Would they come back to disturb the person in a subsequent birth maybe?

      They can rise back from the subconscious but at the some point, the subconscious is also purified by the Light coming from Above. In that case, they may not disturb in subsequent births.

      Did you mean spiritual practice = japa / chanting?

      I meant any practice as opposed to discussion on which Guru said what about which historic figure or who has predicted what would come. All these discussions around the subject keep the mind chattering instead of silencing it. Thats what I meant.

      Yes, chanting Mantras is good. It creates a deep vibration within.

      Do you meditate regularly? If yes, did you do some meditation courses or something? If you don’t mind my asking, are you a member of any spiritual organisation or maybe a psychologist / psychiatrist? Asking coz you have created such a wonderful blog!

      I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist.
      Your question is answered here
      https://auromere.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/anecdotes-of-my-guru/

      Reply
  6. john

    Even the Mother couldn’t quiet her mind. lt was only when Sri Aurobindo put ‘Silence’ in her head that She managed it. lt’s really an act of Grace that the Divine can grant when asked.

    Reply
  7. S

    From what i know, when one reaches a certain spiritual level, the Divine grace begins to flow through the Guru to the disciple. Till then most people r lost in this world. Sincere efforts would be required …. and one needs to know whether those efforts r in the right direction or not ?! Or as one Guru says …. let go of all efforts …. let go …. dont try to become …. just be …

    Reply
      1. arpanrox

        In my personal experience, if one becomes conscious of(and if one is sincere he/she does become so) desire to indulge in dullness/sleep then total letting go is a very valid path. Mahamudra and Dzogchen lineages of Tibetan Buddhism follow a similar approach. Dullness/sleep is just another vritti of mind according to Patanjali, albeit a very subtle one.

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