In principle the answer to this question is, yes, everybody can mediate. Meditation is not only meant for yogis or specific people but it is meant for all human beings, men, women and children – although I do not advise children to meditate until they are at least twelve years old. Nobody is too old to meditate.
It does not matter if a person is religious or not, because meditation is more higher than a religion. It is not even necessary to believe in God; that is a question of individual choice. You can still meditate. But you have to have a feeling that there is some energy, that there is something bigger than me, so that you can surrender easily. There should be no fear, because many people have a big fear of God and think that if they do wrong, He will punish them, and if they do good, they will be rewarded. So this is not the idea. The aim of meditation is to make the mind calm and peaceful. We have no need for pictures and images in mediation. We meditate easily on one subject, on one matter, which is given by a teacher.
We say that when the right time comes, people will want to meditate. It is our karma, our previous life karma that is influencing us and encouraging us to do practice.
Sometimes people feel that there might be some pressure. They ask, “Why should I meditate?” But I can say that there should never be any pressure or force. If a seed is planted at a favourable time and in good soil with the right conditions, it will germinate and grow into a plant. But just as we cannot force a plant to grow, we can never force anybody to do meditation – the feeling has to come from inside. Some people are ready so they ask, “How can I meditate?” Some people learn to meditate from others, and some are able to meditate on their own.
But everybody has a different nature, so although in principle everybody can meditate, not everybody wants to. We first have to understand that everyone is born with a different kind of mind, and we are very much influenced by the mind.
Patanjali has written in his Yoga Sutras that there are five types of mind, and these are influenced by the three gunas, or attributes.
To first explain the gunas, these are: Satva, Raja, Tamas – or static, active and dynamic. Static is a symbol of darkness; dynamic is light, and active is to have an attraction, or it is a catalyser, for both darkness and light.
The first type of the mind is IGNORANT. Someone with an ignorant type of mind has no feeling for God, and cannot believe in a higher energy. They live for material gain, and their motto is, “Eat, drink and be merry.” They are influenced by the static guna of nature and active and dynamic gunas are suppressed.
The second type of the mind is WILD. This sort of person has a very restless and active mind and cannot sit still for long. It is hard to focus on one subject – and they are nervous. Again there is no belief in any power outside of themselves. There is no light – this is because the active guna is dominant. Static is suppressed by active but there is very little dynamic.
Then the third type of the mind is the UNSTEADY STAGE OF MIND. The dynamic and active gunas are both present and static influence is low. This person wants to be true and to think good thoughts – but sometimes because of the active attribute, the mind can be swayed. Spiritual stability will come, but sometimes the active will suppress the dynamic, so this person has to fight sometimes. This kind of person is able to meditate, but when trying to focus on one point, the mind will divert in a different direction. They will say, “I am not good at meditating. I want to, but it is not happening.” When this kind of person carries on and gets used to meditation, they can get success and the active attribute is slowly controlled. Because when we meditate, the attributes are changing.
The fourth type of the mind is the ONE-POINTED STAGE of mind. In this kind of mind, the dynamic attribute is very strong, active is suppressed, and static disappears. But dynamic is prominent, so the mind can focus on, or hold onto one object in meditation for a longer time. Mind doesn’t get disturbed. To develop this kind of mind, we usually need to have more experience in practice.
Finally, the fifth type of the mind is CESSATION STATE OF MIND. In this state of mind, the three gunas disappear altogether and the person can reach Samadhi. In Samadhi there is no separate identity. The object you are mediating on and the person meditating become one. We say, “I am that I am.” Mind totally dissolves and disappears in the highest purification of mind. In this state there is only light – we call it super consciousness.
So everyone is born with a different kind of mind, some people are born with a calm and peaceful mind, so they meditate and can have a good practise very quickly, whilst other people have to put in a lot of effort and then they can make progress and see the results too.