Meditation – sound mind and sound body
“An ounce of practice is worth tons of theory” - Swami Vishnu Devananda.
Everyone I speak to these days is under some sort of stress or external pressure tipping their balance in life. So, they want to go away on a holiday just to chill out without realising that simply sitting, relaxing and paying attention can achieve much deeper lasting internal balance and equipoise. The regular practice of yoga/meditation creates that internal peace which everyone is striving to have in life.
“Meditation is one process through which you can resolve conflict and misfortune, rather than playing it through in real life."
Actually meditation is like a mental "oil filter" which traps the dirt, so meditation catches your mental dirt and the subconscious mind is cleansed. Without meditation the "mental dirt" piles up in your mind and affects your actions, your words and your whole being. Meditation cleans out the highly charged negative thoughts that get repressed in the subconscious mind. When the sub-conscious mind is cleaned, you feel clear, neutral, relaxed and joyful.
Maintaining good physical health makes it easier to enjoy meditation. Avoid drugs and alcohol. Eat a healthy diet (low carb, high protein, plenty of greens and fruits.) Exercise regularly with cardiovascular emphasis and maintain constitutional weight. Get regular medical check-ups as well as lab work in order to track bodily changes and get early warning of any potential physical problems.
Recently a friend from LA joined us on a break en route to Spain. The discussion at the dinner table was all about meditation and yoga. The burning question was about how do we relax ourselves?
She had purchased a book entitled: “Chakra Workbook: Rebalance your body’s vital energies” by Pauline Wills from the Bodhi Tree Book Store in Los Angeles. The book summed up meditation in a nutshell with a clear explanation of the chakras (energy centers) and the flow of the body’s internal energies. The book is about fine tuning the chakras of the body in the same way that a musician tunes his sitar to produce that balanced tone that sends anyone into a deep relaxed slumber. As soon the book was flashed at me, I gleaned as much as I could, and within couple of hours, it was all done and dusted. I managed to get the kernel of it which I wish to share with you who are reading this.
People rely on prescribed medication or self-medication (often with alcohol) accessing psychological therapies when feeling anxious or depressed. There is an often unprescribed treatment that is rarely put into practice. I mean meditation. The response from distressed individuals regarding yoga or meditation often is: “I do not practice it and I do not know the technique of how to do it.” In actuality it is simple and combines mantra with breathing so that the the mind and body start to merge and settle into stillness and balance.
People sometimes attempt it but get distracted and abandon it quickly and return to their preoccupation with their problems. But when one perseveres with it the results rapidly become apparent.
Enough time is wasted on trivialities that literally everyone has time to meditate. It is a matter of perceived priorities. Since it is a great antidote to stress, depression, anxiety and instils confidence to face daily challenges with calmness, serenity and fortitude, why not begin to take the time to learn and practice it?
Swami Rama of the Himalayas has this to say about meditation: “Meditation is a process of purifying the mind and making it one-pointed, inwardly directed and tranquil. Through the method of meditation, the mind will help you to fathom the deeper levels of your being and lead you to the highest state of realization. Once you get the technique right, all obstacles fall away.
Swami Rama said: “the first thing is to have a strong desire, a burning desire to do your meditation. If you want to meditate, you have to form a habit, because habit weaves your character and personality. If you systematically learn to meditate, you will find that the faculty of discrimination, the buddhi, will help you in all walks of life, both within and without. You have to pay attention to four important points: building determination, learning to pray, learning to meditate according to instructions, and not allowing your mind to be stained by self-created guilt that destroys the inner spiritual potentials. Learn to be spiritual in your daily life by doing selfless action. Learn to meditate every day, a few minutes. Don’t become a hypocrite, sitting for a long time and hallucinating. Meditate for a few minutes regularly, and enjoy life. Learn to meditate and learn to be here and now. Meditation is self-effort, a probe into inner life, and will reveal all the secrets to you in time to come.”
Evidence shows that meditation boosts the immune system and fosters positive thinking, boosting self-esteem and confidence. It is good to feel good in oneself and the radiance that meditation produces inspires others to meditate.
Meditation takes different forms depending on the school of thought they are nurtured from childhood days. It is all about one’s inner spiritual energy known in this tradition as “kundalini”-the coiled energy at the base of the spine is awakened, rises through the chakras and produces the state of cherdi kala.
Meditation is not always pleasant. While most approach it expecting inner peace and a clear mind, you must remember that meditation is a cleaning process. When you clean, you have to see the dirt. Sometimes it is not pleasant. But the process, when done correctly, is automatic. Make room in your life for meditation and spiritual wisdom (gyan) will take root within you constantly inviting you to go deeper into the inner levels of your self. In this way it becomes an integral part of one’s daily life. As Tolstoy said in War and Peace: “seek felicity not in your passions but in your heart.”
Meditation brings awareness and vigilance. A few people find their minds turn inwards with ease and settle naturally into stillness, but the vast majority of us need to employ techniques to help quieten our minds and achieve that meditative state of tranquillity and stillness. As this state becomes more familiar, it also becomes easier to attain.
The art of meditation lies in constantly returning one’s attention to the mantra whilst letting the mind ‘be’ without allowing it to run riot. The mind produces 10,000 thoughts in the blink of an eye. Only some of these reach conscious awareness. In meditation you gently bring your attention back to your chosen focus whenever you notice that the mind has wandered.
The best way to open tenth gate (dasam duar or crown chakra) is through meditation. The steps leading to this experience are controlling the mind (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana) and finally transcendence (Samadhi.)
The practices of hatha, laya, kundalini and tantric yogas are all based on the idea that there is subtle counterpart to the physical body. This “subtle body” is essentially a network of energy currents or channels (nadis) and energy centres (chakras).
There are many techniques, and it will be for the individual to discover the technique that works best for him or her. A technique advocated by many masters is meditating on the breath with the mantra. This is because the breath is always with us and constantly serves as a link to our own divinity and in controlling the breath, we can control the mind.
To get a taste of meditation, find a quiet spot where you will not be disturbed and spend a few minutes becoming fully present in the “newness of the moment”. Resting your attention in the breadth helps you stay present and aware. It goes almost without saying that the ability to enter into deep meditation takes practice. Be on the constant warning that lapsing into slumber will defeat the purpose but to be aware of our mindfulness whilst the meditation process is in tune. Approaching meditation with enthusiasm can bring rapid and dynamic changes and reap the benefits.
Sit comfortably in any cross-legged position or on a chair if you prefer with your legs uncrossed and your feet flat on the floor. Hold your back, head and neck erect yet relaxed. Tuck in your chin lightly and place your hands in your lap or on your thighs with the weight of your body centred over your sitting bones, feel these bones pressing down and your spine elongating, as though an invisible string were lifting you from the base of your spine through the crown of your head towards the ceiling. Placing a cushion beneath you to raise your hips will help keep your back in an upright position, increasing the flow of meditative energy circulating through the body.
Now close your eyes and in your own time bring your awareness to your body. Notice how your body feels. Where is the centre of gravity? Feel the contact between your body and the floor or the chair. Observe any sensations of heat or cold? How do your clothes feel against your body-are they right and restricting or light and comfortable?
Scan your body for any pockets of tension and relax with the help of your breadth; breathing in energy and breathing out tension. Notice the currents of energy swirling through your body, as you breathe in and out.
Keep aware of your breathing without disturbing its natural rhythm, visiting the different sensations as the breaths enter your body and as it leaves. Stay with the feeling of the breath. Imagine you are merging into it.
Remaining centred in your breathing, notice any thoughts and images that arise and let them drift past like clouds in the sky without getting caught up in them. Become aware of the underlying emotions and feelings without judgement or comments. If you find your attention has wandered off, gently bring it back to the breath without trying to shut out your thoughts or fantasies. Just keep returning to the breath, dissolving into the breath.
At the end of the session open your eyes slowly and sit quietly for a few moments. These sessions will grow upon you as the effects are so beneficial that you will seek for solace in these sessions.
As you progress begin to add the mantra silently as you breathe. Inhale “Sat” exhale “Nam” or inhale “Waheguru” and exhale “Waheguru.”
Be your own guide and your own torch as Gautama Buddha said. “The art of meditation is the art of shifting the focus of attention to ever subtler levels without losing one’s grip on all the levels of balance.”
When is the best time to meditate? It depends on your lifestyle. Guru Ji advises that the quiet hours just before dawn are especially suited for meditation. “Amrit vela sach naao Vadia-ee veechaar” In the ambrosial hours of the morning, meditate on His True Name and Greatness. Not only is this an especially quiet time, before the hustle and bustle of the day begins, but the angle of the sun to the earth allows us to ‘catch the wave’ or rising solar energy into the day. The birds get up early. The cows awaken before dawn. Only humans let these precious ambrosial hours slip away while we sleep unaware.
Start by meditating for a minimum of 11 minutes and a maximum of 31 minutes, once or twice per day. If you can devote 2.5 hours per day spread over the 24 hours, you are on the way to some incredible achievements. Wind up by sitting quietly for a few minutes to acknowledge your meditation and help integrate the experience into the rest of your life. Creating your own “sacred space” for meditation in your own home, however humble, can really boost your practice. It enhances your meditation by sitting in the same spot and having a special mat or blanket or cushion to sit on for meditation. If you wish, it may be helpful to have fragrant candle or incense as well. Sit where you feel relaxed, and you will slip into meditation simply and naturally.
As Kabir said, “God is the breath of all breaths.” Every breath is a gift from God and remembering Him eases the mind into relaxed state.
Going within means listening to your Guru, and your Guru is alive at every moment within you. In Sikhi, there is no initiation. You must to initiate yourself by making that connection to the Guru within yourself.
Remember, a Sikh lives with his head in the heavens, his feet planted firmly on the earth and he always remembers his postal code.
~ Daljit Singh [email protected]
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