CHAPTER NINE - THE PRACTICE OF MEDITATION - Part 1
THE PRACTICE OF MEDITATION
"It is to be noticed that the Doctrine of this Book instructs not all sorts of Persons, but those only who keep the Senses and Passions well mortified, who have already advanced and made progress in Prayer, and are called by God to the Inward Way, wherein He encourages and guides them, freeing them from the obstacles which hinder their course to perfect Contemplation."
MICHAEL DE MOLINOS, The Spiritual Guide
UP TO this point our discussion has been academic and comparative, discursive and indicatory. The Way that many have trodden has been pointed out, and the Path to Illumination has been considered. Now it behoves us to apply ourselves to an understanding of the practical work that we ourselves can do. Otherwise the entire objective of our study of meditation will be lost, and we shall only have increased our responsibility, without having made any real advance upon the Way.
Two pertinent questions immediately arise and should receive attention.
First: Can anyone, who has the desire, profit by and master the technique of Meditation?
Second: The Knowers of the East gained Illumination by retiring from the world into seclusion and silence. Owing to conditions of life in our Occidental civilization, this is not possible. Can there be hope of success without this disappearance into the solitudes of the world, into the forests and jungles, and into monastic seclusion?
Let us take each question and deal with it. These two questions must be disposed of and answered before we can go on to outline meditation work and indicate the method which it is advisable to follow.
In replying to the first question, as to the general suitability of all aspirants for this arduous work, it should be remembered, at the outset, that the very urge itself to do so can be taken as indicating the call of the soul to the Path of Knowledge. No one should be deterred if he discovers that he lacks in certain essentials the needed qualifications. Most of us are bigger and wiser, and better equipped than we realize. We can all begin to concentrate at once if we choose. We possess a great deal of knowledge, mental power, and capacities, which have never been drawn forth from the realm of the subconscious into objective usefulness; anyone who has watched the effect of Meditation upon the beginner will substantiate this statement — often to the mental bewilderment of the beginner, who does not know what to do with his discoveries. The results of the first step in the Meditation discipline, i.e., of Concentration, are often amazing. People "find" themselves; they discover hidden capacities and an understanding never used before; they develop an awareness, even of the phenomenal world, which is, to them, miraculous; they suddenly register the fact of the mind, and that they can use it, and the distinction between the knower and the instrument of knowledge becomes steadily and revealingly apparent. At the same time there is also registered a sense of loss. The old dreamy states of bliss and peace, with which the mystic prayer and meditation had dowered them, disappear; and, temporarily, they experience a sense of aridity, of lack and of an  emptiness which is frequently most distressing. This is due to the fact that the focus of attention is away from the things of the senses, no matter how beautiful. The things that the mind knows and can record are not yet registered, nor is the feeling apparatus making its familiar impacts upon the consciousness. It is a period of transition, and must be supported until such time as the new world begins to make its impress upon the aspirant. This is one reason why persistence and perseverance must play their part, particularly in the early stages of the meditation process.
One of the first effects of the meditation work is usually an increased efficiency in the daily life, whether lived in the home, the office, or in any field of human endeavor. Mental application to the business of living is in itself a concentration exercise and brings notable results. Whether a man achieves final illumination or not through the practice of concentration and meditation, he will nevertheless have gained much, and greatly enriched his life; his usefulness and power will be enormously increased and his sphere of influence widened.
Therefore, from a purely mundane point of view, it is useful to learn to meditate. Who shall say whether an increased efficiency in living and in service is not just as much a step on the path of spiritual progress as any of the visions of the mystic? The spiritual results of the mental application which our Western business world demonstrates may, in the last analysis, be as vital a contribution  to the sum-total of spiritual endeavor as any effects which may be noted in the world of organized religious effort. Confucius taught us, centuries ago, that implements of civilization were highly spiritual in nature, for they were the results of ideas, and Hu Shih tells us in that interesting symposium, Whither Mankind, "...that civilization which makes the fullest possible use of human ingenuity and intelligence in search of truth in order to control nature and transform matter for the service of mankind, to liberate the human spirit from ignorance, superstition, and slavery to the forces of nature, and to reform social and political institutions for the benefit of the greatest number — such a civilization is highly idealistic and spiritual." [cxxix]1
Our idea as to what constitutes spirituality has steadily grown. Through the use of desire, feeling and the reactions of the emotional nature, we have seen many thousands of human beings arrive at the point where they have been driven to transmute desire into aspiration, feeling into sensitivity to the things of the spirit, and love of self into love of God. Thus the mystic emerges.
Through the use of the mind in the business world, in professional work, in science and in art, we have seen two amazing things occur: Organized big business, with its selfish interests and material ideas, has, notwithstanding, been brought to a condition where it is group-conscious; group interplay and the interests of the greatest number are being for  the first time seriously considered. These are purely spiritual results; they indicate a growing soul awareness, and are the faint indications of the coming brotherhood of souls. Applied science in all fields has now been so developed that it has entered the realm of energy and of pure metaphysics. The study of matter has landed us in the realm of mysticism and of transcendentalism. Science and Religion are joining hands in the world of the unseen and intangible.
These are steps in the right direction. When the mental faculties have been developed racially through our Occidental technique in the business world (a vast school of concentration), a transmutation analogous to that which occurs in the realm of the desire nature, must inevitably take place, and has frequently done so. The mind can then be reoriented to the truer and higher values, and focussed in a direction other than that of material living. Thus the knower will emerge.
Therefore, any one who is not purely emotional, who has a fair education, and who is willing to work with perseverance, can approach the study of meditation with good courage. He can begin to organize his life so that the first steps can be taken on the path towards illumination, and this organization is one of the most difficult of steps. It is well to remember that all initial steps are hard, for the habits and rhythms of many years have to be offset. But once these have been taken and mastered, the work  becomes easier. It is far harder to learn to read, than it is to master a difficult book.
The ancient science of Meditation, the "royal road to Union," as it has been called, might equally well be entitled the science of co-ordination. We have already, through the medium of the evolutionary process, learnt to co-ordinate the emotional-feeling-desire nature and the physical body, so much so that the states are automatic and often irresistible; the physical body is now simply an automaton, the creature of desire — high or low — good or bad — as the case may be. Many are now co-ordinating the mind with these two, and, through our present widespread educational systems, we are welding into a coherent unity that sum-total which constitutes a human being: the mental, emotional and physical natures. Through concentration and the earlier aspects of the meditation work, this co-ordination is rapidly hastened, and is followed later by the unifying with the trinity of man of another factor, — the factor of the soul. This has always been present, just as mind is always present in human beings (who are not idiots), but it is quiescent until the right time comes and the needed work has been done. It is all a question of consciousness. Professor Max Müller in his book Theosophy or Psychological Religion says that:
"We must remember that the fundamental principle of the Vedanta-philosophy was not 'Thou art He,' but 'Thou art That!' and it was not Thou wilt be, but Thou art. This 'Thou art' expresses something that is, that has been, and  always will be, not something that has still to be achieved, or is to follow, for instance, after death....By true knowledge the individual soul does not become Brahman, but is Brahman, as soon as it knows what it really is, and always has been." [cxxx]2
St. Paul emphasizes the same truth when he speaks of "Christ in me, the hope of glory." Through the trained and focussed mind this indwelling Reality is known, and the Three in One and the One in Three are proven facts in the natural evolution of the life of God in man.
It becomes apparent, therefore, that the answer to our first question is as follows:
First: We accept the hypothesis that there is a soul, and that soul can be cognized by the man who can train and control his mind.
Second: Upon the basis of this hypothesis, we begin to co-ordinate the three aspects of the lower nature, and to unify mind, emotion and physical body into an organized and comprehended Whole. This we do through the practice of concentration.
Third: As concentration merges into meditation (which is the act of prolonged concentration) the imposition of the will of the soul, upon the mind, begins to be felt. Little by little the soul, the mind and the brain are swept into a close rapport. First, the mind controls the brain and the emotional nature. Then the soul controls the mind. The first is brought about through concentration. The second through meditation.
Out of this sequence of activities, the interested investigator will awaken to the realization that there is a real work to be done and that the primary qualification  that he needs is perseverance. Here it might be remarked that two things aid in the work of co-ordination: First, the endeavor to gain control of the mind, through the endeavor to live a concentrated life. The life of consecration and dedication, which is so distinctive of the mystic, gives place to the life of concentration and meditation — distinctive of the knower. The organization of the thought life at all times everywhere, and, secondly, the practice of concentration, regularly, every day, at some set time, if possible, make for the one-pointed attitude, and these two together spell success. The former takes some time, but it can be entered upon at once. The latter requirement of stated concentration periods, can also be entered upon, but its success depends upon two things: regularity and persistence. The success of the former depends upon persistence largely, but also upon the use of the imagination. Through the imagination, we assume the attitude of the Onlooker, the Perceiver. We imagine ourselves to be the One who is thinking (not feeling), and we steadily guide our thoughts at all times along certain chosen lines, making ourselves think what we choose to think and refusing entrance to those thoughts we choose to exclude, not by the method of inhibition, but by the method of a dynamic interest in something else. We refuse to permit our minds to range the world at will, or to be swung into activity by our feelings and emotions, or by the thought currents in the world around us. We force ourselves to pay attention to all that we do, whether  it is reading a book, going about our business in home or office, social life or profession, talking to a friend, or whatever may be the activity of the moment. Should the occupation be such that it can be carried forward instinctively and call for no active use of thought, we can choose a line of mental activity or chain of reasoning and follow it out understandingly, whilst our hands or eyes are busy with the work to be done.
True concentration grows out of a concentrated, thought-governed life, and the first step for the aspirant is to begin to organize his daily life, regulate his activities, and become focussed and one-pointed in his manner of living. This is possible to all who care enough to make the needed effort and who can carry it forward with perseverance. This is the first and basic essential. When we can organize and rearrange our lives, we prove our mettle and the strength of our desire. It will be seen, therefore, that no neglect of duty is possible to the one-pointed man. His duties to family and friends and to his business or profession will be more perfectly and efficiently performed, and he will find time for the added duties that his spiritual aspiration confer, because he is beginning to eliminate the non-essentials out of his life. No obligation will be evaded, for the focussed mind will enable a man to do more in a shorter time than heretofore and to get better results from his efforts. People who are governed by their emotions waste much time and energy, and accomplish less than the mentally focussed person;  it is far easier for an individual who has been trained in business methods and who has risen to the rank of an executive, to practise meditation, than it is for the unthinking mechanical worker, or for the woman who is living a purely social or family life. These last have to learn to organize their days and leave out the non-essential activities. They are the ones who are always too busy to do anything, and to whom the finding of twenty minutes each day for meditation or an hour for study presents insuperable difficulties. They are so busy with the social amenities, with the mechanics of housekeeping, with a multitude of petty activities and pointless conversations that they fail to realize that the practice of concentration will enable them to do all they have hitherto done and more, and do it better. The trained executive, with a busy and full life, seems to find it much easier to obtain the extra time required for the soul. He has always time for the one thing more. He has learned to concentrate, and, frequently, to meditate; all that he needs to do is to change the focus of attention.
The answer to the second question as to the necessity to withdraw into the solitudes in order to evoke the soul opens up one or two interesting considerations. It would appear from the study of conditions that the modern western aspirant has either to forego the culture of the soul nature until such time as he can conform to the ancient rule of withdrawal, or he has to formulate a new method and take a new position. Few of us are so situated that we can renounce  our families and responsibilities and disappear from the world of men to meditate and seek illumination under our particular Bo tree. We live in the midst of a thronging multitude and a chaotic situation which makes all vision of environing peace and quiet utterly out of the question. Is the problem then insuperable? Is there no way of overcoming the difficulty? Have we to renounce all hope of illumination because we cannot (from circumstances and climate, and from economic causes) disappear from the world of men and seek the kingdom of the soul?
Undoubtedly the solution does not lie in renunciation of the possibilities to which men in earlier races and centuries bear witness. It lies in a right understanding of our problem and of the privilege which is ours in demonstrating a newer aspect of the old truth. We belong, in the West, to a younger race. In the old, old East, the few adventurous pioneers sought seclusion and ascertained for us the opportunities, and safeguarded for us the rules. They held in safety for us the technique until such time as the masses of men were ready for a move forward in their numbers, and not in their ones and twos. That time has now come. In the stress and stir of modern living, in the jungles of our great cities, in the roar and bustle of daily life and intercourse, men and women everywhere can and do find the centre of peace within themselves, and they can and do enter into that state of silent positive concentration which enables them to reach the same goal, and attain the same knowledge, and enter into the same  Light to which the great Individuals of the race have borne witness. The secluded point to which a man withdraws, he finds to lie within himself; the silent place in which the life of the soul is contacted is that point within the head where soul and body meet, that region we earlier referred to where the light of the soul and the life of the body merge and blend. The man who can train himself to be sufficiently one-pointed can withdraw his thought at any time and in any place to a centre within himself, and in this centre within the head the great work of at-one-ment is carried forward. It involves a more dynamic attention and a more powerful meditation, but the race has progressed and grown in mental power and strength within the past three thousand years and can do what was not possible to the seers of old.
A third question arises at this point: What really happens to the aspirant, psychologically and physiologically, in meditation? The answer is: A great deal. Psychologically speaking, the mind becomes controlled, and passes under the domination of the soul; at the same time there is no negation of the ordinary mental faculties. They can be used more easily and the mind is keener than ever before. There is a capacity to think with clarity. The aspirant discovers that besides being able to record impressions from the phenomenal world, he is able to register also impressions from that of spirit. He is mental in two directions, and the mind becomes a cohering, unifying agency. The emotional nature, in  its turn is controlled by the mind, and is rendered still and untroubled, and, therefore, presents no barrier to the inflow of spiritual knowledge to the brain. When these two effects have been produced certain changes take place in the mechanism of thought and awareness in the human head — so the eastern knowers tell us, and so the evidence seems to indicate. Advanced thinkers in the West, as we have seen earlier in this book, place the higher mental faculties and the seat of the intuition in the higher brain, and the lower mental faculties and the higher emotional reactions in the lower brain. This is in line with the eastern teaching that the soul (with the higher knowledge and the faculty of intuitional perception) has its seat in a centre of force in the region of the pineal gland, whereas the personality has its seat in a centre of force in the region of the pituitary body.
The hypothesis upon which the newer school in the educational field will eventually proceed (if the theories propounded in this book have any basis in fact) might be expressed in the following propositions:
One: The centre of energy through which the soul works is in the upper brain. During meditation, if effective, energy from the soul pours into the brain, and has a definite effect upon the nervous system. If, however, the mind is not controlled and the emotional nature dominates (as in the case of the pure mystic) the effect makes itself felt primarily in the feeling apparatus, the emotional states of being.  When the mind is the dominant factor, then the thought apparatus, in the higher brain, is swung into an organized activity. The man acquires a new capacity to think clearly, synthetically and potently as he discovers new realms of knowledge.
Two: In the region of the pituitary body, we have the seat of the lower faculties, when co-ordinated in the higher type of human being. Here they are co ordinated and synthesized, and — as we have been told by certain reputable schools of psychologists and endocrinologists — here are to be found the emotions and the more concrete aspects of the mind (growing out of racial habits and inherited instincts, and, hence, calling for no exercise of the creative or higher mind). This was the theme of my earlier book, The Soul and Its Mechanism, and cannot be enlarged upon here.
Three: When the personality — the sum-total of physical, emotional and mental states — is of a high order, then the pituitary body functions with increased efficiency, and the vibration of the centre of energy in its neighborhood becomes very powerful. It should be noted that according to this theory, when the personality is of a low order, when the reactions are mainly instinctual and the mind is practically non-functioning, then the centre of energy is in the neighborhood of the solar plexus, and the man is more animal in nature.
Four: The centre in the region of the pineal gland, and the higher brain, are brought into activity through learning to focus the attentive consciousness  in the head. In the Oriental books this is called by the interesting term "right withdrawal" or "right abstraction." This means the development of the capacity to subjugate the outward-going tendencies of the five senses. So the aspirant is taught the right withdrawal or abstraction of the consciousness which is outgoing towards the world of phenomena, and must learn to centre his consciousness in the great central station in the head from whence energy can be consciously distributed as he participates in the great work, from whence he can make a contact with the realm of the soul, and in which he can receive the messages and impressions which emanate from that realm. This is a definite stage of achievement and is not simply a symbolic way of expressing one-pointed interest.
The various avenues of sense perception are brought into a quiescent condition. The consciousness of the real man no longer surges outwards along its five avenues of contact. The five senses are dominated by the sixth sense, the mind, and all the consciousness and the perceptive faculty of the aspirant is synthesized in the head, and turns inward and upward. The psychic nature is thereby subjugated and the mental plane becomes the field of man's activity. This withdrawal or abstracting process proceeds in stages:
1. The withdrawal of the physical consciousness, or perception through hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell. These modes of perception become temporarily dormant, and man's perception becomes simply  mental and the brain consciousness is all that is active on the physical plane.
2. The withdrawal of the consciousness into the region of the pineal gland, so that man's point of realization is centralized in the region between the middle of the forehead and the pineal gland. [cxxxi] 3
Five: When this has been done, and the aspirant is acquiring the ability so to focus in the head, the result of this process of abstraction is as follows:
The five senses are being steadily synthesized by the sixth sense, the mind. This is the co-ordinating factor. Later it is realized that the soul has an analogous function. The threefold personality is thus brought into a direct line of communication with the soul, and the man, therefore, in time becomes unconscious of the limitations of the body nature, and the brain can be directly impressed by the soul, via the mind. The brain consciousness is held in a positive waiting condition with all its reactions to the phenomenal world utterly, though temporarily, inhibited.
Sixth: The high grade intellectual personality, with its focus of attention in the region of the pituitary body, begins to vibrate in unison with the higher centre in the region of the pineal gland. Then a magnetic field is set up between the positive soul aspect and the waiting personality which is rendered receptive by the process of focussed attention. Then the light, we are told, breaks forth, and we have the illumined man, and the appearance of the phenomenal  light in the head. All this is the result of a disciplined life, and the focussing of the consciousness in the head. This is, in its turn, brought about through the attempt to be concentrated in the daily life, and also through definite concentration exercises. These are followed by the effort to meditate, and later — much later — the power to contemplate makes itself felt.
This is a brief summation of the mechanics of the process, and is necessarily terse and incomplete. These ideas have to be accepted tentatively, however, before there can be an intelligent approach to the meditation work. It is as justifiable to accept such an hypothesis as the above as to accept any hypothesis, as a working basis for investigation and conduct. It is perhaps more justifiable, for so many thousands have proceeded upon these assumptions, have fulfilled the needed requirements, and — as a result — have changed assumption into certainty and reaped the reward of open-mindedness, persistence, and investigation.
Having formulated our hypothesis and accepted it temporarily we proceed with the work, until it proves false, or until our attention is no longer engaged. An hypothesis is not necessarily false because it fails to prove itself in the time we deem proper. People frequently give up their pursuit in this field of knowledge because they lack the needed perseverance, or their interest becomes engaged elsewhere. However, we are determined to go forward with our investigation and give the ancient  techniques and formulas time to prove themselves. We proceed, therefore, to comply with the first requirements and endeavor to bring to bear upon life a more concentrated attitude of mind, and to practice daily meditation and concentration. If we are beginners, or are possessed of an unorganized mind, fluidic, versatile and unstable, we start in to practice concentration. If we are trained intellectuals, or have the focussed attentiveness that business training confers, we need only to reorient the mind to a new field of awareness and begin truly to meditate. It is easy to teach meditation to the interested business executive.
Next, the regular meditation work is attempted, and a certain time is set apart each day for this particular work. At the beginning fifteen minutes is ample time, and no more should be attempted for a year at least. May it not be truly said, if any one claims not to be able to find fifteen minutes out of the one thousand four hundred and forty minutes which constitute a day, that they are not interested? Fifteen minutes can always be found, if the will is on the side of the effort; it is always possible to rise fifteen minutes earlier every morning, or to forego that early morning gossip with the family, or to take the needed time from a book, or the movies, or from another gossip later on in the day. Let us be truthful with ourselves, and recognize things for what they are. The plea, "I have no time," is an utterly futile one, and indicates simply lack of interest. Let  us consider now the rules upon which we will proceed.
First of all, we shall endeavor to find time early in the morning for our meditation work. The reason for this is, that after we have participated in the happenings of the day and in the general give and take of life, the mind is in a state of violent vibration; this is not the case if the meditation is performed first thing in the morning. Then it is relatively quiet, and the mind can be more rapidly attuned to the higher states of consciousness. Again, if we start the day with the focussing of our attention on spiritual things and on the affairs of the soul, we shall live the day in a different manner. If this becomes a habit, we shall soon find our reactions to the affairs of life changing and that we are beginning to think the thoughts that the soul thinks. It then becomes the process of the working of a law, for "as a man thinketh so is he."
Next, we shall endeavor to find a place that is really quiet and free from intrusion. I do not mean quiet in the sense of freedom from noise, for the world is full of sounds and as we grow in sensitiveness we are apt to find it fuller than we thought, but free from personal approach and the calls of other people. I should like here to point out an attitude which the beginner should assume. It is the attitude of silence. Aspirants to meditation talk much about the opposition they meet from their family and friends; the husband objects to his wife meditating, or vice versa; sons and daughters are  inconsiderate and thoughtless in interrupting the devotions of the parent; friends are unsympathetic at the attempts. In the majority of cases this is the fault of the aspirant himself, and women are the worst offenders in this respect. People talk too much. It is nobody's business what we do with fifteen minutes of our time every morning, and there is no need to talk about it to our households, or to enjoin upon them that they must be quiet because we want to meditate. This will inevitably evoke a wrong reaction. Let us say nothing about the way we are seeking to unfold the spiritual consciousness; that is entirely our own affair. Let us keep silent about what we are doing; let us keep our books and papers shut away from people, and not litter up the family sitting room with a lot of literature in which they are not the least interested. If it is impossible to get a moment for meditation before the family disperses for the day's work, or before we ourselves betake ourselves to our business, let us find some time for it later on in the day. There is always a way to be found out of a difficulty, if we want a thing badly enough, and a way that involves no omission of duty or of obligation. It simply involves organization and silence.
Then, having found the time and the place, we shall sit down in a comfortable chair and begin to meditate. The questions then arise: How shall we sit? Is the cross-legged attitude the best, or shall we kneel, or sit, or stand? The easiest and most normal position is the best always. The cross-legged attitude  has been, and still is, much used in the Orient, and many books have been written upon the postures, of which there are approximately eighty. But because it has been done in the past, and in the East, is no indication that it is the best for us in the present and in the West. These postures are the remains of a day when the race was being trained psychologically and emotionally, and much resemble the discipline that we impose upon a child when we set it in a corner and tell it to keep quiet. Some of the postures have relation also to the nervous body and that inner structure of fine nerves, called by the Hindus, the nadis, which underlie the nervous system as recognized in the West.
The trouble with such postures is that they lead to two rather undesirable reactions; they lead a man to concentrate the mind upon the mechanics of the process and not upon the goal, and, secondly, they frequently lead to a delightful sense of superiority, that has its basis in our attempt to do something that the majority is not doing, and which sets us apart as potential knowers. We become engrossed with the form side of meditation and not with the Originator of the form; we are occupied with the Not-self instead of with the Self. Let us choose that posture that enables us, the most easily, to forget that we have a physical body. This is probably for the Westerner the sitting attitude; the main requirements are that we should sit erect, with the spine in a straight line; that we should sit relaxed (without slumping) so that there is no tenseness  anywhere in the body, and that we should drop the chin somewhat, so as to release any tension in the back of the neck. Many people sit, when meditating, gazing at the ceiling with tightly closed eyes, as if the soul was up above somewhere; they look as if they had swallowed the poker, and their teeth are often tightly clenched (perhaps to prevent some inspired utterance escaping them, which must have dropped from the soul). The whole body is poised and tense and tightly locked. They are then surprised when nothing occurs, except fatigue and headaches. The withdrawal of the consciousness from the channels of the senses does not involve the withdrawal of the blood in the body to the head, or the uncontrolled speeding up of the nervous reactions. Meditation is an interior act, and can only be performed successfully when the body is relaxed, rightly poised and then forgotten.
The hands should be folded in the lap, and the feet crossed. If the western scientist is right when he tells us that the human body is really an electric battery, then perhaps his Oriental brother is also right when he says that in meditation there is a bringing together of negative and positive energy, and that by this means we produce the light in the head. Therefore, it is wise to close the circuit.
Having attained to physical comfort, relaxation, and having withdrawn ourselves from the body consciousness, we next note our breathing and ascertain whether it is quiet, even and rhythmic. I would like here to sound a note of warning as to the practice of  breathing exercises, except by those who have first given years to right meditation and to purification of the body nature. Where experience and purity are not present, the practice of breathing exercises entails very real dangers. It is impossible to put this too strongly. There are many schools giving breathing instruction at this time, and many exponents of breathing as a means to spiritual development. It has nothing whatever to do with spiritual development. It has much to do with psychical development, and its practice leads to much difficulty and danger. It is possible for instance, to become clairaudient or clairvoyant through the practice of certain breathing exercises, but where there is no true understanding of the process or right control by the mind of the "versatile psychic nature", the practicer has only succeeded in forcing entrance into new fields of phenomena. He has developed faculties he is totally unable to control, and he finds very often that he is unable to shut out sounds and sights which he has learned to register and being helpless to escape from the contacts of both the physical and the psychical, he is torn in two directions, and gets no peace. Physical sounds and sights are his normal heritage, and naturally make their impacts upon his senses, but when the psychic world — with its own sights and sounds — also makes an impact he is helpless; he cannot shut his eyes and remove himself from undesirable psychic surroundings.
A Doctor of Divinity and pastor of a large church wrote me not long ago that he had been taking  breathing exercises, with the idea of improving his health, from a teacher who had come to his city. The result of his well-intentioned ignorance was that he opened up the inner hearing in the psychic sense. He said in his letter to me, "As I write to you upon my typewriter I can hear all sorts of voices and words and sounds which are not physical. I cannot stop them and I fear for my mind. Won't you please tell me what I ought to do to tune them out?" During the past ten years, many hundreds of people have come to me, asking for help, owing to the effects of indiscriminate following of the advice of teachers of breathing. They are quite desperate and frequently are in a serious psychic condition. Some we can help. Some few for whom we can do nothing end in asylums for the insane or in sanatoriums for the unbalanced. Much experience of these cases leads me to sound this warning, for in the majority of cases of uncontrolled psychic troubles, the cause is breathing exercises.
In the ancient teachings of the East, the control of the breath was only permitted after the first three "means to union," as they are called, had been somewhat wrought out in the life. These "means" are: First, the five commandments. These are, harmlessness, truth to all beings, abstention from theft, from incontinence, and from avarice. Second, the five rules, which are internal and external purification, contentment, fiery aspiration, spiritual reading, and devotion. Third, right poise. When a person is harmless in thought and word and deed,  when he is unselfish and knows the meaning of poise — emotional as well as physical posture — then indeed he may practice breathing exercises, under proper instruction, and practice them with security. Even then he will only succeed in unifying the vital energies of the body, and in becoming a conscious psychic, but this may have its place and purpose, if he classes himself as a research experimenter.
Failure to conform to the necessary preliminary steps has landed many a worthy investigator in trouble. It is dangerous for an emotional and weak person to take breathing exercises in order to hasten development, and any teacher who seeks to teach these exercises to large groups, as is frequently done, is laying up trouble for himself and his followers. It is only here and there that, in the ancient days, the teachers picked a man for this form of tuition, and it was added to a training which had produced a certain measure of soul contact, so that the soul could guide the energies evoked by the breath for the furtherance of its objectives and for world service.
Therefore, we will do no more than see that our breathing is quiet and regular, and will then withdraw our thoughts from the body altogether and begin the work of concentration.
The next step in the practice of meditation is the use of the imagination; we picture to ourselves the threefold lower man, aligned or in direct communication with the soul. There are many ways in which this can be done. We call it work in visualization. It  would seem that visualization, imagination and will are three very potent factors in all creative processes. They are the subjective causes for many of our objective effects. At the beginning, visualization is mostly a matter of experimental faith. We know that through the reasoning process, we have arrived at an understanding that, within and beyond all manifested objects, there lies an Ideal Object or Ideal Pattern, which is seeking to become manifest upon the physical plane. The practice of visualization, imagination and the use of the will are activities that are calculated to hasten the manifestation of this Ideal.
When we visualize, we use our highest conception of what that Ideal might be, clothed in some sort of material, usually mental, because we are not yet in a position to be able to conceive of higher forms or types of substance with which to envelop our Images. When we make a mental picture, the mental substance of our mind sets up a certain rate of vibration, which attracts to itself a corresponding grade of mental substance, in which the mind is immersed. It is the will which holds this image steady and which gives it life. This process goes on, whether we are, as yet, able to see it with the mental eye or not. It does not matter that we are not able to see it, as the creative work is going on just the same. Perhaps at some time we shall be able to follow and consciously perform that whole process.
In connection with this work, at the stage of the  beginner, some people picture the three bodies (the three aspects of the form nature) as being linked with a radiant body of light, or they visualize three centres of vibrating energy receiving stimulation from a higher and more powerful centre; others imagine the soul as a triangle of force to which is linked the triangle of the lower nature — linked by the "silver cord" mentioned in the Christian Bible, the sutratma or thread soul of the Eastern Scriptures, the "life-line" of other schools of thought. Still others prefer to preserve the thought of a unified personality, linked to and hiding within itself the indwelling Divinity, Christ in us, the hope of glory. It is relatively immaterial what imagery we choose, provided that we start with the basic idea of the Self seeking to contact and use the Not-self, its instrument in the worlds of human expression, and vice versa, with the thought of that Not-self being impelled to turn itself towards its source of being. Thus, through the use of the imagination and visualization, the desire body, the emotional nature, is brought into line with the soul. When this has been done we can continue with our meditation work. The physical body and the desire nature, in their turn, sink below the level of consciousness, we become centred in the mind and seek to bend it to our will.
It is just here that we find our problem confronting us. The mind refuses to mould itself into the thoughts which we choose to think, and rushes all  over the world in its usual quest for material. We think of what we are going to do that day, instead of thinking upon our "seed-thought," we remember some one we must manage to see, or some line of action which calls for attention; we begin to think of some one we love, and immediately we drop back into the world of the emotions and have all our work to do over again. So we re-collect our thoughts and start afresh with much success for half a minute, and then we remember some appointment we have made, or some piece of business which some one is doing for us, and again we are back in the world of mental reactions, and our chosen line of thought is forgotten. Again we re-collect our scattered ideas and recommence our labor of reducing the wayward mind to submission.
Will Levington Comfort, in his 113th Letter, sums this up for us as follows:
"Our shattered attention — we do not dream how shattered until we begin to concentrate, until from the practice of concentration, a new fairness and fixity dawns, in the midst of the seething ineffectiveness of personal life. In our earlier attempts at meditation, we jumped over such commonplace instructions as choosing the subject, and holding the mind closely and faithfully to it; we rushed past all that, passion for ecstasy, for initiation, for means by which we could shine and lord it over others. We were permitted to pasture up in the boggy meadows of emotion, calling them the bright fields of spirit; we were permitted to think we think...until in the pinch of lack, or the droop of importance, the breath-taking uncertainties and instabilities of our ground-work were shown up. Convinced  at last, we became very eager to begin all over again at the bottom, and the word Stability looms." [cxxxii]4
He goes on in the same letter to tell us that
"Our concentrations are breathless at first from the very effort we put into them. This rigidity fends off the results we seek for a time, but with practice we become skilful at length in holding a mental one-pointedness with a kind of effortless content which may safely be empowered." [cxxxiii]5
How is this condition of empowering reached? By following a form or outline in our meditation work which automatically sets a ring-pass-not around the mind, and which says to the mind, "thus far shalt thou go, and no farther." We deliberately and with intelligent intent set the limits of our mental activity in such a form that we are forced to recognize when we stray beyond those limits. We know then that we must retire again within the sheltering wall we have defined for ourselves. This following of a form in meditation is necessary usually for several years, unless one has had previous practice, and usually even those who have arrived at the stage of contemptation test themselves out quite often by the use of a form in order to make sure that they are not dropping back into a negative emotional quiescent state.
I have used such forms as the following in working with approximately three thousand students of the meditation technique during the last seven years,  and it has proved itself in so many cases that I am including it here.
To Develop Concentration
1. The attainment of physical comfort and control.
2. The breathing is noted as rhythmic and regular.
3. Visualization of the threefold lower self (physical, emotional and mental) as
a. In contact with the soul.
b. As a channel for soul energy, through the medium of the mind, direct to the brain. From thence the physical mechanism can be controlled.
4. Then a definite act of concentration, calling in the will. This involves an endeavor to keep the mind unmoving upon a certain form of words, so that their meaning is clear in our consciousness, and not the words themselves, or the fact that we are attempting to meditate.
5. Then say, with focussed attention —
"More radiant than the sun, purer than the snow, subtler than the ether is the Self, The spirit within me. I am that Self. That Self am I."
6. Concentrate now upon the words: "Thou God seest me." The mind is not permitted to falter in its concentration on their significance, meaning, and implications.
7. Then, with deliberation bring the concentration work to a close, and say — again with the mind re-focussed on the underlying ideas — the following concluding statement:
"There is a peace that passeth understanding; it abides in the hearts of those who live in the Eternal. There is a power that maketh all things new; it lives and moves in those who know the Self as one."
This is definitely a beginner's meditation. It has several focal points in it where a re-collection process and a re-focussing method is employed. There are many other meditation outlines which can bring about the same results, and many more that are for advanced workers. There are meditation outlines which are drawn up to produce certain specific results in particular people, but it is obvious that they cannot be included in such a book as this. A safe and general meditation form is all that is possible. In all of them, however, the primary thing to bear in mind is that the mind must be kept actively occupied with ideas and not with the effort to be concentrated. Behind every word spoken, and every stage followed there must be the will to understand and a mental activity of a one-pointed nature.
In the sixth stage where the effort is made to meditate definitely upon a form of words, veiling a truth, there should be nothing automatic in the process. It is quite easy to induce in oneself an hypnotic condition by the rhythmic repetition of certain words. We are told that Tennyson induced in himself a heightened state of consciousness by the repetition of his own name. This is not our object. The trance or automatic condition is dangerous. The safe way is that of an intense mental activity, confined within the field of ideas opened up by any particular "seed-thought" or object in meditation. This activity excludes all extraneous thoughts, except those which the words under consideration arouse. The words taken in this particular form can illustrate  this, and the process depicts a sequence of thought as follows :
Thou God seest me.
This God is the divine in me, the indwelling Christ, the Soul.
For long ages this soul has perceived and observed me.
Now for the first time I am in a position to see God.
Up till now, I have been negative to this divine Reality.
The positive relation is becoming possible.
But — this seems to involve the idea of duality.
But I and God are one.
I am God, and have been all the time.
Therefore I have been seen by my Self.
I am that Self, That Self am I.
This is easily written down, but if the mind is kept actively intent upon the sense and meaning, much hard and focussed thinking will have to be done, and much difficulty will be found to eliminate all thoughts other than those having a bearing upon the subject. Sometimes I have found it helpful to say to the puzzled beginner, who is discouraged by his inability to think when and as he chooses: "Imagine you have to give a lecture upon these words to an audience. Picture yourself as formulating the notes upon which you will later speak. Carry your mind on from stage to stage and you will find that five minutes  will have gone by without your attention wavering, so great will have been your interest."