What is Meditation?
“Meditation is the process of controlling and transcending the waves of the mind, allowing the flow of radiance from the soul.”
— Yogi Bhajan
Meditation is for everyone. It uses the inherent self-sensory system, the mind, and the body. Through the use of refined patterns, meditation creates a communication between you and your mind, and between your mind and your body.
You cannot make meditation happen. The very act of trying to make it happen pushes it away. You can practice the means by which meditation may happen using tools such as breath awareness, eye focus, mantra, mudra, imagination, and other means.
Profound physiological and psychological changes take place when we meditate, causing an actual shift in the brain and in the involuntary processes of the body.
Meditation . . .
- develops the meditative mind
- promotes a sense of well-being, inner peace, stability, and calm
- develops intuition
- promotes the ability to focus energy, enhancing effectiveness and efficiency
- promotes clarity of mind, mental awareness, and the ability to be present
- resolves core issues of stress-producing patterns
- develops the frontal lobe of the forehead which controls your personality
- releases reactions and unconscious habits, fears (and blocks), and builds the spontaneous and intuitive link to awareness itself
- takes us from a finite to an Infinite perception of reality, by connecting us to the soul
Yoga and Meditation
In the yogic context, meditation or dhyana is defined more specifically as a state of pure consciousness. The last three limbs—dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (ecstacy)—are inextricably linked and collectively referred to as samyama, the inner practice, or subtle discipline, of the yogic path. Yogic Meditation is the disciplining of the mind until it becomes still. Although it is not something you can learn to do in a day, the feeling of well-being and peace it creates is worth the time and commitment required.
Stages of Meditation:
- As you develop your practice of meditation, you will most likely find yourself moving through progressively deeper levels of stillness.
- When you first meditate you will get drawn into the mind's drama, and then you will realize you've been drawn in. Little by little you begin to watch the mental activity. (This is the process of the 5th of the 8 limbs of yoga—pratyahara or inner focus, sensory withdrawal.)
- With practice your mind will eventually settle down. By aligning the breath and the inner focus, you experience one-pointed concentration. You find that you are able to direct your mind with your will and imagination. (This is dharana, the 6th of the eight limbs of yoga.)
- As you go deeper, you will open into an inner space of awareness that changes constantly, yet you are solid and sitting, aware of all your thoughts without being involved in them. (This is dhyana, the 7th of the eight limbs.)
- The last of the eight limbs of yoga is Samadhi, the realm of total identification with the spirit. You live as one who is grounded in what is often called higher awareness or your higher nature.
Meditation with and without Mantra
Zen Buddhism Meditation:
Sit in a comfortable position with a straight yet relaxed spine. Bring your neck in line with your spine, so that your chin will be slightly tucked in. Your breastbone is lifted, and your shoulders will naturally drop without rounding forward. Your hands rest at your knees or Gyan mudra (first finger and thumb together with your palms facing up).
Begin your practice by mentally counting the breaths. While inhaling, count “one,” while exhaling, count “two.” On the next inhale, count “three” and so on—up to ten. Then begin again. If you lose track, just begin again with “one.” Simply follow the breath with awareness.
Tratak Meditation (Gazing at a candle flame or mandala)
Tratak is Sanskrit for using a visual technique for improving concentration.
Mantra Meditation (Mind-guiding sounds)
The sounds or chants that are made not only give your mind something it can hold onto while the usual mental chatter recedes, but also resound with your energy centers in a way that activates and balances them.
Many meditations involve the use of a mantra, a repeated sound that alters the mind and consciousness. Chanting a mantra out loud activates positive change, releases hidden potentials, and stimulates the centers of the brain that create the experience of God-conscious or Universal awareness. When we chant a mantra either silently or aloud, we are focusing on a positive (divine) sound that cuts through the negativity of the sub or unconscious mind.
Meditations that use mantra work on the upper palate of the mouth, which controls the autonomic system and the impulses of the old brain and limbic systems.
Kirtan Kriya: SA TA NA MA (Mantra meditation) is designed to bring inner and outer reality into alignment, creating peace and balance.
Bring your first finger and thumb together and chant “SA.” Second finger and thumb together and chant “TA.” Third finger and thumb and chant “NA.” Then little finger and thumb and chant “MA.” Chant 2 minutes with the hand gesture (mudra), whisper 2 minutes with the mudra, chant to yourself silently for 4 minutes with the mudra, whisper 2 minutes with the mudra, and chant 2 minutes with the mudra. Sit silently for a few moments and observe your state of mind.
A common meditation tool that is used to draw energy into different charkas and stimulate the higher glands is to focus your attention on different parts of the body.
- The 6th chakra or third-eye point: Gently roll your closed eyes upward and imagine that you can see out through the space between your eyebrows; this centers you and stimulates your intuitive centers of the brain.
- The tip of the nose is another strong focal point that relaxes the body while activating the pituitary gland in the brain. Your eyes are only open a fraction.
- Many people like to focus on their heart centers while meditating. Bring you hands into prayer position with the thumbs touching the heart or cross the hands over one another at the heart center.