Excerpts from God Talks With Arjuna by Paramahansa Yogananda
So long as man concentrates wholly on the changing waves of the alternates of this world of relativity, so long will he forget to re-identify himself with the underlying changeless sea of all-protecting Spirit. Only in soul-realization does he get away from the superficial flux and attain the changeless state: one in which health and disease, life and death, pleasure and pain, and all pairs of opposites appear merely as waves of change, rising and falling on the ocean-bosom of Changelessness.
Identification of the consciousness with the alternating waves of change is known as restlessness; identity with Changelessness is calmness.
The conquest of the soul's calmness over the ego's restlessness advances in four stages:
(1) Always restless, never calm.
(2) Part of the time restless, part of the time calm.
(3) Most of the time calm, occasionally restless.
(4) Always calm, never restless. (...)
The practical metaphysician, in the course of his attempts to free his soul from material bondage, learns the exact methods for victory.
By consistently right thoughts and actions, in harmony with divine law, the soul of man ascends slowly in the course of natural evolution. The yogi, however, chooses the quicker evolution-hastening method: scientific meditation, by which the flow of consciousness is reversed from matter to Spirit through the same cerebrospinal centers of life and divine consciousness that channeled the soul's descent into the body. Even the novitiate meditator quickly finds that he is able to draw upon the spiritual power and consciousness of the inner world of soul and Spirit to enlighten his bodily kingdom and activities—physical, mental, and spiritual. The more adept he becomes, the greater the divine influence.
As the yogi's consciousness moves ever upward from body consciousness to cosmic consciousness, he experiences the following:
1. Practice of Guru-given Meditation
First: By the practice of guru-given meditation, the aspiring yogi is strengthened in his resolve to find God through Self-realization.
He no longer wishes to remain identified with worldliness, subject to the limitations of the body and the delusions of nature's opposites of life-death, joy-sorrow, health-disease. With newly awakened discrimination, the yogi is able to free his consciousness from egoistic attachment to his earthly possessions and his little circle of friends. His motive is not a limited and negative one of denial, 'but a natural expansion toward all-inclusiveness.
He severs limiting mental attachments, that they stand not in the way of his perception of the Omnipresent. After achieving his Goal, the love of the perfect yogi includes not only his own family and friends, but all mankind. The ordinary human being is the loser by attachment to a few persons and things, all of which he must forsake at death. The wise yogi therefore first reclaims his divine birthright; then he finds flowing to him all needful experiences and possessions.
2. Persevere & Be Still
Second: Though the yogi finds his consciousness free of all external attachments, it still clings tenaciously within to body consciousness when he tries to meditate on God. Experiences of peace and intuitive flashes of the bliss to come encourage him to persevere against the resistance of restlessness and of the ensuing doubts as to whether his efforts are truly worthwhile.
3. Silence the Internal and External Body-sensations
Third: By deep concentration on yoga techniques, the yogi next tries to silence the internal and external body-sensations, so that his thoughts may focus solely on God.
4. Quiet the Breath and the Heart
Fourth: By the right technique of life-force control (pranayama), the yogi learns to quiet his breath and his heart; he withdraws his attention and his life energy into the spinal centers.
5. Experience Stillness, Peace and Samadhi
Fifth: When the yogi can quiet his heart at will, he enters super-consciousness.
The ego experiences joy and relaxation when it feels in peaceful sleep the subconscious mind. In the sleep state, the heart still works, pumping blood through the blood vessels while the senses are asleep. When in meditation the yogi consciously withdraws his attention and energy from his heart, muscles, and senses, these all remain as though asleep, but he has passed beyond the subconscious sleep-state of mental awareness into superconsciousness. Such conscious sensory-motor sleep bestows on the yogi a joy greater than that of a million ordinary dreamless sleeps; greater than that of any sleep a man might experience after many days of enforced sleeplessness! (p. 35)