Swami Bhaktananda often reminded devotees that our meditation routine consists of five stages.
The first is to start our meditations with a prayer, you don’t necessarily have to use a “standard” prayer; pray with whatever words come from your heart, to invoke God’s presence. Second is chanting— either aloud as we do in group meditations; or silently, mentally, Alternatively, you might have a reading from one of Guruji’s books or Lessons, just a paragraph or two, to put the mind in a devotional mood of attunement. Third is the practice of the meditation techniques taught in the Lessons. Next is the practice of stillness. And the fifth and final stage before we leave meditation is the practice of devotion.
I have observed that many devotees do not realize the importance of the fourth stage , stillness. Either they end their meditation period after practice of the techniques; or they go right in to the devotional prayer or talking to God after finishing their Kriyas. But after the meditation techniques, we should sit in stillness to enjoy the benefit of the effort we have made in the practice of the techniques. Even if the mind still feels restless— thoughts going here and there, and no feeling of stillness— that is no reason to give up, I have found that if I then mentally chant, taking the name of Guruji–“Aum Guru” —-and visualize some picture of Guruji at the Kutastha, then after three, four, five minutes invariably dawns that stillness.
When the stillness comes, the chanting can be stopped; that is the time just to sit and absorb. Put yourself in the presence of God– whatever aspect appeals to you. Or put yourself in the embrace of Guruji. The point is just to be together with God and Guru. Feel that Guruji is in your heart, or God and Guru in the Kutastha —not praying, not talking; just be in that stillness. Then you understand what meditation is all about.That is why saints say that meditation gives us joy; Stillness is always accompanied with a feeling of joy. Never miss that— it is very , very important.
By Swamy Smarananada Giri