Meditation is the most powerful mental and nerve tonic. Divine energy flows freely to the adept during meditation and exerts a benign influence on the mind, nerves, sense organs and body.
Meditation opens the door to intuitive knowledge and realms of eternal bliss. The mind becomes calm and steady, you discover a greater sense of purpose and strength of will and your thinking becomes clearer and more concentrated, affecting all you do.
If you meditate for half an hour daily, you will be able to face life with peace and spiritual strength.
Meditation cannot be taught. We can’t learn to meditate, any more than we can learn to sleep. Instead we must practice regularly with patience and perseverance.
Stilling the Mind
Settling of the mind into silence, and by concentration or meditation, we can observe the mind.
When the surface of lake is still, we can see the bottom very clearly, but if the surface is agitated by waves, it’s impossible. In the same way, when the mind is still, with no thoughts or desires, then we can see the self.
For many of us, the mind oscillates from one thought to another, wrestling with desires, aversions, emotions and memories, in constant search of happiness. When it achieves its desires, the mind is silenced, but only for a short while. The whole pattern soon starts over again, because our desire for contentment is always channeled outwards, attaching to external objects that are by nature ephemeral. So the mind itself remains unchanged and the true desire unfulfilled.
Benefits of Mediation
- Reduce tension and anxiety
- Increased resistance to stress
- Improved memory and concentration
- Better learning ability
- Increased energy
- Improved health
- Reduce insomnia
- Greater ability to enjoy life
- Increased self-esteem
- Improved relationships
- Reduction of biological ageing
Type of Meditation
There are two main types of meditation, one where the attention is fixed on an object, an image or perhaps a mantra. In this the meditator sees himself as separate from his object of meditation.
The other type of meditation is without form. The object of attention is an abstract idea, such as the absolute or concept that is indescribable. Here there is no dualism as meditator sees himself as one with the object.
Most practice starts with the first since it is much more easier to concentrate on something concrete than on an abstract concept.
There are many different meditation techniques to choose from. Some use sound in the form of a mantra, others use visual symbols or breathing, but all have one common aim: to fix the mind on a single point and lead the mediator to a state of self-realization.
- Third eye meditation
Sitting comfortably, bring your attention to the space between the eyebrows. This area is know trikuti, the third eye or the seat of the mind. You may begin to visualize brilliant light, vibrant colours or mental images. Maintain a steady, inner gae fixed on the space between the eyebrows. This will stimulate the pituitary gland, which controls the sixth sense, deep inside the brain. Activating this sixth sense will draw you closer to achieving divine perception.
- Japa meditation
Japa means ‘to repeat in a low voice’ and japa medition involves the repetition of a mantra or the name of a celestial being. Mantras repeated during meditation bring the individual to a higher state of consciousness. The sound from each mantra, when chanted, releases a specific energy, which creates a specific though pattern in the mind. The energy created by the sounds fuses with the energy created by the thought patterns to purify the mind and the senses and lead to a state of oneness.
- So Hum meditation
So hum is Sanskrit for ‘I am that, that I am’. This is one of the most powerful and effective of all mantras, as it is already contained within the breath of all living creatures. ‘So’ is an integral part of each inhalation and ‘hum’ is an organic part of each exhalation. We humans unconsciously recite it some 21,000 times every day.
Sitting comfortably with the eyes closed, bring your attention to your breath. Imagine during each inhalation you can hear the sound ‘so’, and with each exhalation the sound ‘hum’. Another interpretation of the mantra is: ‘I am you, you are me’.
- Om Japa meditation
For a yogi, ‘om’ is the most powerful symbol and syllable. In the Sanskrit letter, the longer lower curve stands for the dream state and the upper curve represents the waking state; the curve issueing from the center symbolizes deep, dreamless sleep. The crescent shape stands for ‘maya’, the veil of illusion; and the dot symbolizes the transcendental state. When the individual spirit in man passes through the veil and rests in the transcendental, he is liberated from the three states and their qualities.
Slowly chant the sound of ‘om’. This is called the name of God and employing the sacred, three-part syllable, the pranava – the Sanskrit name for om. This is considered to be the highest mantra of all: it is the sound as three oms, and work up to five minutes of sustained recitation. This practice will affect the heart rate and calm the senses.
- Trataka meditation
Tratak means ‘gazing’ and in trataka meditation the gaze is fixed on an object or point until the images is imprinted on the mind’s eye when the eyes are closed. Fixing the gaze on an object brings the restless mind under control. The practice strengthens the powers of concentration, increases memory and leads to greater awareness. Trataka is also believed to improve eyesight and stimulate the pineal gland in the brain.
Trataka meditation is most commonly performed on a candle flame, as it is easy to hold the image of the candle flame in your mind with the eyes closed.
Place a candle 3 feet in front of you at eye level. Make sure there are no draughts so that the candle flame remains steady. Concentrate your gaze on the flame while keeping the eyelids slightly lowered. Stare at the flame for one to two minutes, capturing the image in your mind. Then close your eyes and try to visualize the candle in your mind, seeing it at the space between the eyebrows. When the image of the flame fades, open the eyes again and recapture it. Beginners should practice for about five minutes, then build up to ten and later to 15 minutes.
Other forms of trataka meditation are (a) Om symbol trataka (b) Flower trataka and (c) Enlightened being trataka.
In the Om symbol trataka, use a picture or a statue of the Om symbol as the object of contemplation.
In the Flower trataka, the oject of concentration is a flower. Observe every detail of flower, close your eyes and draw the images of the flower into the mind, to the space between the eyebrow. When image fades, open the eyes and repeat the practice.
In the Elightened being trataka, those who are more spiritually inclined use the image of a saint as their object of concentration such as Avaloteshwara, Buddha etc. Gaze on the image and try to visualize it in your mind’s eye. Then gradually try to feel the qualities of the enlightened being as you concentrate on his likeness. In though and action, visualize or pretend that you are that being with all his qualities. The aim is to become one with the object of your contemplation and share in his wisdom.
- Sound Meditation
When sound becomes the object of concentration, the mind becomes solely focused on information gathered through the ears, as opposed to the eyes. If you live near a stream or river, sit with the eyes closed and fix the mind on the sounds of nature. Listen for the sounds as they merge into an eternal, unbroken om; alternatively, concentrate on the sound of the leaves on the trees rustling in the breeze, or the sound of rain. If it’s quiet enough, simply listen to the sound of your own breathing.
You can also practice this form of concentration on any consistent or repetitive sound to which the ear is attracted, for example the music of a tamboura or the sound of Tibetan pipes.
- Walking meditation
This practice involves walking a little with the gaze just ahead of the feet, the hands together and the arms straight and loose in front of or behing the torso. Beginning with the left foot, peel it off the ground as slowly and deliberately as possible. The weight shifts to the right foot and the left foot eventually leaves the earth, travelling in slow motion through space, until one part of foot at a time regains the earth just ahead of the right. Without pausing, shift the weight to the right foot and repaeat the process on the opposite side. After 10 – 15 minutes of deliberate, continuously slow motion, bring the feet together and stand with the eyes closed with the breath slow and steady. As the mind becomes fully absorbed, the breathing slows and the thoughts die away.
Remain motionless for a few moments before opening the eyes. This meditation can be practiced any time of the day, but early morning is recommended in an area where there is quietude, perhaps in the garden or a nearby park.
- Mantra Japa on a Mala
The practice of repeating on a mala or rosary helps the mind to focus on meditation and prevent any distractions to the steady flow of absorption. In the classical tradition, one recites silently a personal mantra given by the guru as a way to honour and connect with the preceptor and gain spiritual benefit. It is also possible to recite a general mantra. There are mnay mantras to choose from, such as Om Nama Shivaya (‘Om and salution to Shiva’), or Om Namo Narayanaya (‘Om and salutions to Vishnu’).
A mala necklace has 108 beads, plus one bead which is not counted and sits apart from the rest. This is the head bead or sumeru and symbolizes the guru. One hundread and eight is the most sacred number in the vedic system, as it represents the 108 Upanishads and is thought to be the number upon which the universe is based.
Source: The Complete Yoga Tutor – Mark Kan
Picture: (c) Jigme T. Tsering