Since I learnt to meditate 15 years ago, I have been drawn to the contemplative life which is an investigation into our experience of life. My natural inclination is to Self-Inquiry, also called Gyan Yoga in India, which comprises three stages: shravana, manana and nididhyasana. This translates as hearing, reflection and realisation.
Basically, you find out about the state of enlightenment – preferably from someone who is enlightened – then you consider very carefully the knowledge that they impart and make it your own (this means more than being able to parrot it) and then finally contemplate directly on your essential nature as unconditioned consciousness 24/7.
This is principally an intellectual, masculine path and I can talk endlessly about its strengths and weaknesses. However, there is a corresponding feminine path of devotion called Bhakti Yoga. This is the path of love and it yields very sweet results for those attracted to it. This path is very nicely explained by a Christian monk called Brother Lawrence in some letters and conversations recorded here.
Here is some more about him:
The 17th century French monk, Brother Lawrence, developed a technique–mostly through inspiration and intuition–which leads to results akin to those developed by the continued practice of either Zen or mindfulness meditation. He worked in the monastery’s kitchen and in later years he repaired sandals.
In The Practice of the Presence of God, he wrote:
“This made me resolve to give the all for the All: so after having given myself wholly to GOD, to make all the satisfaction I could for my sins, I renounced, for the love of Him, everything that was not He; and I began to live as if there was none but He and I in the world … I worshipped Him the oftenest that I could, keeping my mind in His holy Presence, and recalling it as often as I found it wandered from Him.
“I found no small pain in this exercise, and yet I continued it, notwithstanding all the difficulties that occurred, without troubling or disquieting myself when my mind had wandered involuntarily. I made this my business, as much all the day long as at the appointed times of prayer; for at all times, every hour, every minute, even in the height of my business, I drove away from my mind everything that was capable of interrupting my thought of GOD. Such has been my common practice ever since I entered into religion.”