Any sort of spiritual knowledge needs to start from the beginning which is the self. From that beginning, we discover the “end,” that is the self as well.
Alpha and Omega.
We can call the self with many names: soul, spirit, being, etc. Discovering the self, takes awareness, consciousness. That is to be “awake.”
The self can be felt in quietness, when movement is minimized. That is why meditation is a tool to feel the self primarily, and through that tool different spiritual experiences could be felt.
When external movement ceases, thoughts are discovered. To discover the movement of thoughts, takes awareness. Being “down,” or “upbeat,” is a matter of thoughts. Those thoughts change our mood and from that, our life.
Even though, we are in the physical world, our life is mental.
When thoughts slow down, we could feel the self-shining. We could feel that energy rising and a sense of fulfillment appears. Thoughts cannot be stopped with violence and “effort,” but there is a “natural” slowing down when our breath is rhythmic and our minds are at ease.
However, a level higher and deeper than thoughts is the realm of feelings. Our feelings change our thoughts and our thoughts, our feelings. It is a cycle.
For instance; If I am watching TV and see a face; that face could be recognized as “beautiful” (that is a thought) but many times, what I fail to recognize is the “feeling” that goes with it.
That is how “falling in love” happens. It doesn’t have to be a face, but there is a thought which is strengthened by a feeling and that feeling creates further thoughts which create a story of desires.
The more we think about it, the more feelings are created to strengthen that experience.
When a feeling is felt strongly, there is the sensation that something is needed. That experience is needed. I become “needy.”
That is why it is mentioned to take someone out of our minds, to free our heart.
Another example is when we think about some episode in our lives which has some emotions. Some frustration at work. Something reminds us of the name of this person who “did” something to me; and all of a sudden the movie starts rolling. It wasn’t just one thought but as long as the feelings appear (known as emotions at this time) that movie will be hard to forget. It will play there. A strong emotion means to be jailed in the movie theater of our minds, playing continuous commercial free dramas. 🙂
Paying attention to my thoughts, is the first step, but also stable feelings are needed.
Because I haven’t recognized the fullness of my own inner feelings and the beauty of the self, when free from thinking waste; there is an emptiness which needs to be fulfilled with something, which we look for in others or in something physical.
To recognize the self, we start by recognizing that our thoughts are not us. Those thoughts are not even a true story. They are a fabrication according to my mood; which in turn is dictated by my feelings.
Stability of feelings is understood when I am self-fulfilled with pure feelings and good wishes, when I am able to see the story of thoughts as watching a movie and putting that aside by simple awareness of the beauty of inner silence.
Here there is no “effort” that I have to make. Just to practice being aware of my own thoughts and my own feelings.
This is the process of Raja Yoga meditation as well.
There is a thought: The Supreme soul. There is a feeling: love. That connection creates a story. That story permeates my life, for what I am thinking and feeling, is who I am.