By Anupama Bhattacharya January 2003 Meditation has been an integral part of all spiritual systems. Various techniques have been developed and taught for the correct practice of meditation. Yet, it is only when the practice transcends the technique and becomes the experience, that the realization can be complete Meditation is all about learning to ‘see’.To understand truth beyond subjective interpretations Attention between eyebrows, let mind be before thought. Let form fill with breath essence, to the top of the head and there shower as light. In meditation, your mind is not asleep or dreaming. It is relaxed, clear and inwardly focused Roam about until exhausted and then, dropping to the ground, in this dropping be whole. How to Meditate Meditation is a skill of conscious, sustained attention. You already have part of this skill. Except that you tend to use it more to focus on what worries and stresses you than the more positive aspects of your life. So, here are a few pointers for meditation: Begin by learning to focus on something non-threatening. This will relax you, break your stress response, and will pave the way for meditation. Choose a time when you are not likely to be disturbed. Concentrate on a subject that appeals to you—it could be a flower, a word, or the flame of a candle. Notice how your thoughts wander. Don`t attempt to control them. Observe them with detachment. Within a few weeks, you will notice a marked difference in your capacity to focus. This is the stepping stone to awareness. Place your whole attention in the nerve, delicate as the lotus thread,in the centre of your spinal column. In such be transformed. At the point of sleep, when the sleep has not yet come And the external wakefulness vanishes, At this point Being is revealed. Today, meditation has been accepted as an effective remedy for stress and stress-related disorders. Bathe in the centre of sound, As in the continuous sound of a waterfall. Or, by putting the fingers in the ears, Hear the sound of sounds. Meditation is not extraneous to our being but an integral part of it. And as long as we treat it as a chore or a disciplinary measure, its truth will elude us Nirvikalpa samadhi is the complete identification with the universe, where nothing but the awareness remains The choice of being is rarely volitional. But to see or not to see is a choice that we seem to frequently exercise in favor of the latter. Because, at the end of the day, it is easier to blind the contemplative mind in the wild mish-mash of frivolous concerns and superficial make-believes. What’s more important, bagging a good deal or putting your conscience at ease? Getting to the root of a problem, or grabbing at the nearest justification? If the answer seems simple enough from the ethical perspective, let us look back on the last few days, or even hours, and ask what has been the prime motivation for our actions and reactions. And how much of it actually resulted from conscious contemplation. On the face of it, this doesn’t seem to have much to do with meditation. After all, meditation is understood to be a largely spiritual practice, where one closes one’s eyes and focuses on the deeper meaning of existence. Where one gets in touch with one’s ‘self’. Yet, at another level, meditation isn’t really separate from the actual world. Because, to get deeper, one has to pass through the superficial and if the superficial builds a wall of ignorance or deception, there is no way one can get through? The word ‘meditation’ is derived from two Latin words: meditari (to think about, contemplate) and mederi (to heal). At its root lies the concept that meditation is not just an enlightening exercise, but is also equally essential for a healthy mind and body. “Meditation has been glorified,” wrote Swami Chinmayananda in his book Meditation and Life, “as the most sacred vocation. Humans alone are capable of this highest effort, by which they can hasten their own evolution.” And, in this context, meditation is all about learning to ‘see’. To understand truth beyond subjective interpretations. “In preparing ourselves for meditation, we should first acquire the ability to look within,” wrote Swami Chinmayananda. “You must learn to go about your daily routine and uninterruptedly watch the mind. Each thought, word and deed should emerge from you bearing the seal of your recognition. Post a portion of your attention… Let it be a silent observer of the workings of your inner life and estimate the motives, intentions and purposes that lie behind your thoughts, words and deeds.” This is self-analysis. The idea is to accept one’s psychological make-up as it is—with its glories, purity and strength as well as its deceptions, violence and ugliness. And not to live in a fool’s paradise. “Your first analysis,” explains Swami Chinmayananda, “may seem like the narration of the ideal life lived by gods.” Because, that is how we tend to perceive ourselves most of the times. We can do no wrong. And even if we do wrong, it is for a larger good! Which is why, the analysis should try and detect the dark nature, the shadow self that lies hidden under layers and layers of justifications. But this, if approached without sufficient preparation, can also cause paranoia, psychological disorders and depression. Which is why there are many techniques prescribed to achieve the correct state of mind, including prayer, relaxation routines, pranayama, sitting in silence, practicing general self-enquiry and chanting mantras. Some schools of Hinduism also suggest adopting a complete sattvic lifestyle before attempting meditation. But this stage, according to most meditators, is only the beginning. This is catharsis, cleaning your system of its clogging miasma and preparing you for a glimpse into your untouched soul. It is only when the mind is free of its past baggage that the journey within can begin. What is Meditation Meditation has often been misunderstood as thinking or contemplation. But the actual practice of meditation transcends this definition. “Meditation,” wrote Swami Rama, founder of the Himalayan Institute, “is a specific technique for resting the mind and attaining a state of consciousness that is totally different from the normal waking state.” Because, in meditation, “you are fully awake and alert, but your mind is not focused on the external world or the events taking place around you. Neither is your mind asleep, dreaming or fantasizing. Instead, it is clear, relaxed and inwardly focused”. But meditation is not the ultimate path to self-realization. “Meditation is not an entirely independent discipline but a stage in concentration common to almost all spiritual paths,” explains Swami Bhajanananda, former editor of the journal Prabuddha Bharata and an assistant secretary and trustee of the Ramakrishna Mission. “Each path of sadhana or spiritual discipline begins in a different way. But every path has a stage, which corresponds to meditation. The name given to this common stage varies from path to path. But whatever be the name given, it means some form of meditative awareness,” he adds. And every spiritual aspirant has to travel this path. “In every path,” Swami Bhajanananda explains, “the aspirant begins with a large number of thoughts in the mind. These gradually become reduced, and the aspirant reaches a stage when there exists only a single pratyaya or thought in the mind. This is the state of meditative awareness. It is the common highway which every aspirant has to travel in order to realize God or the Supreme Self.” And in this, we have to choose the technique best suited to us. “Sometimes people become caught up in comparing meditation methods or arguing about which tradition or teacher is ‘best’,” wrote Swami Rama. This can be detrimental to a beginner who does not possess the clarity needed to discover the intricacies of a particular practice. In such a situation, it is best to keep in mind that “good meditation teachers respect the universality of meditation and do not foster self-serving or cultish distinctions about their techniques”. What Meditation is Not Yet, at the same time, all systems masquerading as meditation don’t always fit the bill. “Meditation is not contemplation or thinking,” wrote Swami Rama. “In contemplation, you engage your mind in inquiry into a concept, and ask the mind to consider the meaning and value of a certain idea.” But when you meditate, you don’t ask the mind to think about a concept, but go beyond thought. Meditation is also not synonymous with hypnosis or autosuggestion. “In hypnosis,” according to Swami Rama, “a suggestion is made to the mind… there is an attempt to programme, manipulate or control the content of the mind.” Whereas in meditation, “you simply observe the mind and let it become quiet and calm… exploring and experiencing the deeper levels of your being”. So, while hypnosis or autosuggestion may help in focusing your mind, they can never replace meditation. Another misconception about meditation is its identification with religion. The difference is once again clarified by Swami Rama: “Meditation does not belong to any culture or religion… but is a pure and simple method of exploring the inner dimensions of life.” And whether you call this state samadhi, nirvana, enlightenment or Christ-consciousness, at the end of the day it is the same realisation. And even though some religions do employ meditative practices as part of their rituals, meditation itself is far removed from any set of beliefs or the
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