What is Meditation?
Meditation is an experience where we are able to take our consciousness to different parts of mind and beyond.
There are three parts of mind: conscious, subconscious, and unconscious. The subconscious or unconscious mind can be roughly divided into three groups: the lower mind, the middle mind and the higher mind. The lower mind is concerned with the activation and coordination of the various activities of the body, such as respiration, circulation, the abdominal organs and so on. It is also the area of the mind which gives rise to instinctive urges, and it is from this part of the mind that complexes, phobias, fears and obsessions manifest.The middle mind is the part that concerns itself with the data that we use during the waking state.It analyzes, compares and reaches conclusions in relation to incoming data.It is this part of the mind that gives us answers.The higher mind is the area of so-called superconscious activity. It is the source of intuition, inspiration, bliss and geniuses derive their flashes of creativity. It is the source of deeper knowledge.
Normally, our consciousness is confined to surface activity in small areas of the middle or rational parts of the unconscious. We are able to move away from intellectualization during meditation. The consciousness then functions in the domain of the lower mind, highlighting fears, complexes, etc. Before it was only aware of the manifestations of these fears in the form of anger, hatred , depression etc. Once, these deep-rooted complexes are confronted they can be removed and greater happiness can be attained in life. In higher states of meditation, the consciousness moves to the higher mind or the region of superconsciousness. The meditator enters the dimensions of inspiration and illumination. One starts to explore the deeper truths and aspects of existence.
The culmination of meditation is self-realization. This occurs when even the higher mind is transcended, consciousness identifies with the central core of one’s existence, the self.
The following is a guide applicable to most of the people.
Calming the mind. Sometimes, when you sit for meditation, your mind wanders here and there like a wild elephant. An excellent method to calm the mind is chanting AUM loudly for as long as you can. Chant from your heart and not only from your mouth, say it with intensity and feeling. Lose yourself and your ego in its sound. Feel it’s vibrations in your whole body and mind. It works wonders.
Regularity and dedication. Don;t expect your meditational experiences to occur the first time. Just to your practices regularly and persevere. The eventual aim is for the meditation to be a spontaneous, unrestrained flow of bliss. One’s whole life becomes a meditational experience.
Suitable place of practice. When you decide on a place to practise meditation, try to use the same place daily. It should be clean and conducive to tranquility. It should be well ventilated but not breezy, and it should be dry. Place a blanket or rug on the floor. During meditation it is desirable to reduce outside stimuli as much as possible, therefore a quiet corner in the room is recommended where you cannot see out of a window. Try keeping low or no furniture or other objects within a radius of about 2 yards.
Time. The best time to meditate is early morning and in the evening before retiring to bed. Best hours are 3.30 to 6 in the morning, the period of brahma muhurta, it is very conducive for meditation and 8 to 10 in the evening. Set fixed times for yourself and keep firmly to these times. Start with perhaps half an hour’s meditation daily and slowly increase the time.
Allow at least one and a half hours after taking a light refreshment and four hours after a meal. This is because the attention is drawn to the stomach and digestion process. Try to eat moderately , not heavily.
Overcoming sleepiness. People who are not accustomed to getting up early will probably find that they fall asleep. There are various methods of combating sleep: go to bed early at night, another is to take shower before you start to meditate or when you feel sleepy during your practice or both. Another method is auto suggestion. SUggest yourself that you will not sleep before you start the practice, and various times during the day you can repeat the resolve so that the idea goes deep into the subconscious mind.
If you find that you are more tired after meditation than when you started, it is a sure indication that you are trying too hard, perhaps fighting the mind. Check that you are practising incorrectly. Remember, meditation should be a source of joy, and anything that gives joy cannot possibly result in tiredness. It is only things that cause unhappiness, which are out of tune with our nature, that can result in fatigue.
Relaxation. One of the biggest obstacles to meditation is physical tension. If there is pain, stiffness or general tension in the body, the awareness will tend to dwell on the body. The ability to transcend the body to attain meditation experience will be impossible. An excellent and simple method of systematically relaxing the body is to tense it as much as possible for sometime and then release the tension. Tense the muscles as much as possible for a short time and then release the tension. They will relax more than they are normally able. It is best to lie flat on your back. Start with your legs and tense each in turn for as long as you are able without strain. Relax each completely for twenty seconds. Repeat the same procedure with the arms, fists, feet , abdomen, shoulders and finally the whole body. Then relax your body for a minute or so and start your meditation practice.
General obstacles. There are various obstacles to meditation, the main impediments are physical and mental disturbances. Many physical ailments can be removed or relieved by practising asanas and other yogic techniques, as well as by trying to meditate.Mentals disturbances of all types: jealousy, hatred, pride, selfishness, irritability, etc. can all be rooted out by a number of methods. The yamas and niyamas, along with auto suggestions will be found useful. Yamas (self-restraints): Ahimsa (non violence), Satya (truth), Asteya (honesty and non-theft), Aparigraha (non-possessiveness). Niyamas (observances): Saucha (purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (austerity), Swadhyaya (self-study), Ishwara Pranidhana (self-surrender)
It is a linked process, the more you purify your mind, the more you are able to meditate. The deeper you delve into the mind, the less your problems will become.
Thought. The aim is eventually to transcend rational thought. When this occurs, meditation will take place. The aim of meditation is to dive deeper into the mind, beyond the realms of rational thought. Therefore, when performing meditation practices, try to reduce intellectualization as much as possible. Merely, let the mind follow the mental actions necessary for execution of the practice. The practice of antar mouna is an exception in that in certain stages one actually uses the rational mind, but again the eventual aim is to transcend the intellect.
Object of concentration. Although any object can be chosen for meditation, it is generally found that objects with some deep meaning or significance for the individual are most conducive to attaining deep concentration. The object should be chosen with discrimination. It could be a form of god or anyone or anything, but again it’s preferable that it is something that the mind automatically identifies with. For example, it can be a cross, the yin, and yang symbol, Om in its symbolic form, a flower, the moon, a candle flame.
Though a concrete object is the most useful in general for concentrating the mind, sublime ideas can be utilized for purposes of concentration.A few possibilities are love, compassion, infinity, eternity, existence and consciousness.
Beginners to meditation practices can first sit in sukhasana but they should slowly progress to the classical meditation asanas such as padmasana, and siddhasana. Persons with very stiff legs or who are infirm from any form of debilitating disease can practice meditation sitting on a straight backed chair or lying on a hard bed, if necessary.
Do not on any account use undue force or strain to sit in an asana. If you find severe pain in the legs after some time in a meditation asana, slowly unlock the legs and massage them. The classical and simplified meditation poses should not be practised by persons suffering from sciatica or sacral infections. For these people only vajrasana, bhadrasana or shavasana should be employed.
Here is the list of asanas in which you can meditate.
Sukhasana (easy pose)
Ardha Padmasana (half lotus pose)
Padmasana (lotus pose)
Siddhasana (accomplished pose for men)
Siddha Yoni Asana (accomplished pose for women)
Swastikasana (auspicious pose)
Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose)
Bhadrasana (gracious pose)
Viparita Karani Asana (inverted pose)
Shavasana (corpse pose)
Nada Anusandhana Asana (discovering the physic sound pose)