05 September 2016

Some of the best advice you will ever get on meditation

This week a very special treat. Bede Griffiths was an extraordinary combination of mystic and scholar – a true Renaissance man. And we have a discourse he gave in 1992 on meditation at the Yarra Valley Living Centre. A real gem.

Born in England in 1906, Fr Bede studied at Oxford under C S Lewis, loved nature, became a profound seeker of truth, joined the Benedictine monks and travelled to India where he lived his years in an inter-faith Ashram that combined Christian and Hindhu values and rituals.

I had the good fortune to come to know Fr Bede. I spent a few weeks in his ashram and he in turn visited the Yarra Valley Living Centre. He was a source of great inspiration.

In 1992, not so long after surviving a massive stroke - which he told me was the best thing that ever happened to him - (and not so long before he did actually die in 1993) - Fr Bede gave the following talk on meditation to a group of people affected by cancer attending a residential program at the centre.

The transcript makes for compelling reading, and you will notice quite a few overlays with what we teach at the centre. Of special note is Fr Bede’s emphasis of the importance of physical relaxation as a prelude to meditation, and the power of love. Fr Bede’s life story is amazing (he was quite a prolific author) and it is recounted in his autobiography The Golden String.

My wish is that the record of this wonderful, heartfelt talk be widely circulated. 
It first appeared in a 1993 Foundation Newsletter, so please do share it wherever you can. 

Then more details of the next meditation retreat Ruth and I will lead in October where we will give attention to the major experiences of deeper meditation – stillness, clarity and bliss. We will explore these states experientially and examine their relevance in an ongoing and satisfying meditation practice, but first

Thought for the day

I liked the solitude and the silence 
of the woods and the hills. 
I felt there the sense of a presence, 
something undefined and mysterious, 
which was reflected in the faces of the flowers 
and the movements of birds and animals, 
in the sunlight falling through the leaves 
and in the sound of running water, 
in the wind blowing on the hills 
and the wide expanse of earth and sky.

Bede Griffiths

I would like to say a word about meditation. It is very central in our lives in the ashram. We do an hour in the morning always, between half-past five and half-past six, and in the evenings from six to seven, and we follow, on the whole Fr. John Mayne. He is an English Benedictine monk from Early in London who taught meditation with a mantra. It was something new in the Catholic church really, and he learnt it from a Hindu swami. He brought the Christian mantra (instead of Hindu) which he uses: Maranatha (which is Aramaic, the language of Christ) Lord come, quietly repeated.

So our method basically first of all is to relax the body. That is the most important thing. In the Hindu tradition of Yoga, (which means harmony of the body) it is extremely important in meditation that you meditate with your body not only your mind. The great problem is we are all in the mind. We Christians do not relate properly to the body. That causes so many problems.
I always emphasize the first thing which is this : relax from tension and stress in the mind and allow the body to get peaceful and become aware of the body.

We teach Yoga Nidra in our ashram as well.

With yoga nidra you lie on the floor and consciously relax all the muscles of the body and commit yourself to simple awareness.

It is very powerful.

Then, of course, the next is the breathing.

This is very important. It is the mediator between the body and the mind. If your breathing is calm and regular, your mind becomes calm. If your breathing is short and sharp, your mind is disturbed and vice versa. Breathing should be from the abdomen.

But when you have calmed your body and your breath, then you have to face your mind and that is the main problem. The mind is always so active. It is so agitated. To bring it to silence for Western people is particularly difficult. Indians - it is not at all difficult. But we are so occupied with our minds, that to stop the mind … (does not finish).

Yoga is the gradual cessation of the movements of the mind. So the method is to sit, and your mind begins to wander and you repeat your mantra, your word, and as you do (it may go on for hours quietly continuing – most people take half an hour) - gradually the mind becomes calm. And once the mind becomes calm and quiet you become aware of the deeper levels of consciousness in your being.

The mind is keeping us in prison all the time. Children today, I believe start at 3 or 4 years old learning their multiplication tables and so on. I started French when I was 4 and Latin when I was 7 and Greek when I was 9. I went on like that until I had almost a break-down, then something deeper began to emerge.

To get beyond the mind is the great problem. The mind is controlling your body. Many diseases come with tension in the mind. Once the mind comes to this quiet calm, you become aware of the deeper self, and that is where healing takes place.

If you can go beyond the mind, which is causing stress in the body, and open it up, you become aware of a healing power. It is inevitable for everybody.

I make the distinction of the body, soul and spirit. The body is the physical organism and our link with the whole of nature. The psyche is the psychological organism with all its thoughts, feelings, desires, fears, hopes, anxieties – all that is in the area of the psyche. Beyond the soul is the neuma, or the spirit, or the Atman; and that is the deep self where you are in union with the transcendent. Truth, Reality, God - whatever you like to term it.

Once the rational becomes quiet, you open upon this deeper mind, this Atman. In Sanskrit the Atman is your real self. You have a physical self, but the Self is the reality.

Who is this self? The master will say “Go and look into yourself in a pool of water”. And the student comes back and says “Yes, I have seen myself.” But you have not. You have only seen your body. And then he says “Listen to your dreams”. And then he thinks his dreams are his real self. But, finally when you go into deep sleep, then you get into the deep centre. But you are not conscious. That is the problem. So the fourth stage is when you enter that deep centre in full consciousness. And that is what you tried to do.

You open your mind beyond the senses, go beyond the mind. You open on this deeper centre which has no name.

You cannot properly imagine it.

But it is simply an experience of deep peace, deep calm, happiness.

Being, Conscious, and Bliss.

That is what we call it – Sachitananda. The being is fully conscious and enjoys this bliss. And that is what we are aiming at.

So, I think we could all start very easily with meditation and lead into the centre. But  everything depends on being able to get into that deep centre. Beyond the mind. Once that happens, it takes over. Your mind is currently centred in your ego, your separate personality. That is where all the problems arise. All separate. As long as ego is in control we can get nowhere. But when the ego goes -  the self-centred personality opens up, then the deep self emerges.

So we try and open our heart, being the ego. It is very important that everyone know that he is self-centred from infancy. It has to grow. You discover yourself slowly. You gradually separate from parents and develop. You become very aggressive. Then you have to learn how to get beyond the separated self. Once you get beyond that separated self, you open onto Love. It is the passage from the separated self to the transcendent. And Love is in everybody but the ego takes over. Love is breaking through the ego, opening to God and to others.

So your whole life changes when you let the ego go, which means all your personality has to go. It is not easy. You have to break with that personality – that thing which you carry around with you and other people observe. All that is your outer self. But to let all that go - when that goes the deeper self is not you.

Body, Soul, Spirit. The Spirit is the point where you transcend your ego and open onto the infinite or eternal. Once you reach that point you are open to this healing power and to wisdom.

We are all in search of that. In Australia and wherever I go people are in search of a deeper level of consciousness – a deeper experience of God - a deeper realisation of oneself. They are different ways of expressing it. But the search is tremendous on every side now. Once we reach that centre, we experience this inner peace.

So many people come with no peace of mind. All are imprisoned in this ego- this rational consciousness. But when you let that go then it opens. And this letting go is the most important thing.

Unfortunately many Christians have been taught to suppress their bad thoughts – anger, fear, hatred, desire. The more you suppress them the more they come up. The more negative they become. It is a terrible disaster. Many get this terrible feeling of sin and guilt and fear and anxiety. You should allow them to come into consciousness. When they remain unconscious they are negative. There are no negative forces which cannot become positive if you open them up in consciousness beyond your ego to the deep self.

So this tremendous healing power comes if we can get beyond the ego and open up to the deep self and allow the healing to come from us. At that point you are beyond your ego – your personal self – and you experience the Divine-Spirit-God-Truth-Love.

Actually the best name is LOVE. Because love is precisely giving or surrendering yourself. When that takes place you meet with this transcendent Love.

I had an experience in 1989. I was completely laid out for about a week. When I came round I did not
have my ordinary consciousness. I could not walk and needed people to support me. But it was an extraordinary experience.

As I came round I discovered that this ego – this mental consciousness had been knocked down - this ego consciousness - and the deeper self had simply emerged.

I began to see everything in harmony instead of everything divided and separate. It was all embracing. A unity. A harmony. And that was the opening of the deep self really. I advise you people to have a stroke or something (laughter).

But there are gentler ways of doing it. Quite honestly, any serious accident in life – a disease - or losing a friend or wife, husband or child – any of those things can break through.

You are living in your world of personal consciousness - quite happy with that and you are working, and then the tragedy breaks through. You can take it negatively and that IS tragic and you feel it is a disaster, or you can accept it as part of Providence - or whatever you like to call it - and you begin to open up and discover this deeper self has emerged.

All these things knock down the ego-accident-loss-disaster and once you get beyond that, this power comes into you. And it has many forms. It can be healing power for the body and it can be enlightenment of the mind.

The Buddhists  call it enlightenment of course. There are many ways it can be experienced. Everybody should get beyond the mind. Everybody.

In every human being this power is present. I think children often have it. They have not got their ego developed. Many very simple people who are living a hard-working life; I think they also discover it. Unselfish love is one of the keys. If anybody is giving his/her life in unselfish love, it can open up this deep centre and then allow this power to come into their lives.

So that is what I give you on meditation. If we can only break through, we can all open up into this deep self - the spirit of God-truth-love. No name for it. But it is there in every human being if we can allow it to open.

So that is what I pray for all of you.

Trust you enjoyed this, and please do share it…

With thanks to the beloved for transcribing this discourse.

Ruth and I will personally lead our next 7 day meditation retreat 
in New Zealand :  October 22 - 28; 
next Aussie one, April 2017 in the Yarra Valley.

In NZ, we will give attention to the major experiences of deeper meditation – stillness, clarity and bliss. We will explore these states experientially and examine their relevance in an ongoing and satisfying meditation practice. This promises to be one of the very best retreats – well worth travelling from Australia to attend, or making the journey to the glorious Mana Retreat Centre from anywhere around New Zealand.

Meditation teacher training in the Yarra Valley in October.
This program may be fully booked already – check with the office.
Next years program will be available very soon

Specific cancer residential programs 
8 days In Wanaka New Zealand in November;
5 days in the Yarra Valley in November.



  1. This article is the answer to the cry of my heart! Thank you! I'm so grateful!

  2. This article is lovely! Very grateful to you!

  3. Thank you for sharing this article.

  4. Such beautiful words. Thank you for sharing

  5. What an amazing spiritual man - reading the 'Thought for the Day' transported me to the wind the woods the flowers etc - so refreshing - so beautiful

  6. Hi Ian just a reminder as if you need reminding! how important your newsletters are. Filled with some wonderful inspiration as this talk by Bede Griffiths. My profound thanks to you for posting it.