The Foundations of Yoga Meditation
An Inner Centre of Peace
As the pressure of the world increase and multiply, many people are turning to the practice of meditation as a step toward a calmer life, the release of strength and wisdom in their lives, and most importantly, toward direct realisation of the wellspring of strength and peace within themselves.
This is a spiritual search, and you must not lose sight of the fact that it is an inner journey. Just as the ocean has quiet depths, untroubled by the agitation on its surface, so too has every human. Within those depths, the true centre and source of all that you are, abide stillness, peace and beauty. And you can reach this inner centre
Consciousness focused on the inner centre can release the power of the divine potential that is true spiritual nature of every man, woman and child. But most of us, engrossed in the activities and self centred endeavours of everyday life in the physical world, shut out our spiritual nature and the light that flows through it from the one Energy Source
It is a natural law that our attachments and our constant busyness, our fears, desires, habits, doubts and judgements, severely limit the amount of power we take in.
By meditation we can remove the obstacles so that the door to those spiritual levels of consciousness can be opened. Then creativity and inspiration flow into our lives, reducing the urgency of our problems and allowing us to express love and peace in all that we do.
Meditation is perfect stillness. It is silence of the body, silence of speech, and silence of mind.
To find stillness of mind we have to learn the delicate art of allowing our actions, our thoughts and our feelings to be whatever they are, but not let them control us. We cannot force the mind to be still, but we can withdraw our consciousness from its restlessness. Meditation is our deepest natural state, our pure consciousness, which we experience once our minds stop being busy. This can be difficult for many of us, because it is really doing "nothing''- it is just being what we are .
Science that is centuries old
Meditation has been a central focus of most spiritual traditions, but because it takes place in silence and alone, it is less well known than more social practices such as preaching and singing. However, precise instructions in meditations set down thousands of years ago by the Indian sage Patanjali, are still available to us today, stressing the need for a pure life based not on greed and sensuality, but on harmlessness, truthfulness, simplicity, and contentment.
Patanjali's first definition to the mediator is the slowing down of the modificationof the mind - to stop it from identifying with, or responding to, stimuli. He then sets out the steps necessary to master the art of meditation.
Sit like a Buddha
In a posture known as asana, the meditator learns how work with their breath and to relax body and mind. Withdrawing the sensory mind, perhaps chanting the mantra " Om" and cultivate loving kindness.
Taming the Monkey Mind
Called the "monkey mind" is that stream of consciousness that flits from one thing to another, like a monkey jumping from branch to branch. Even while concentrating, the mind drifts off to fantasise about something going to happen next weekend or an unresolved problem that must be faced tomorrow. But you have the power to stop the antics of this monkey mind and achieve the "quiet" or "still" mind that is essential to develop your spiritual nature. Meditation is the method for exercising this control.
To observe with undivided attention develops the awareness or "mindfulness'' that is essential in meditation. We must be continually aware of the conditioning that lies behind our core beliefs-thoughts-feelings and try to act more and more from the centre of stillness, which is our real Self.
Concentration is necessary to discipline the "monkey mind''. We must learn to hold the mind steady on a physical object an idea, or a revered figure, and bring it back when it slips away. The mind tries to take control , but by carefully watching the process of our thinking we can learn to ensure that we and not the mind, determines the content and activity of our consciousness.
Meditation proper begins where active thought ceases and one becomes aware of the inner meaning of the object of meditation. It is like going from one-pointedness to no point and thus experiencing wholeness.
In this final stage the meditator becomes completely one with the object of meditation. This brings about an expansion of consciousness that lifts one out of the little self into a greater Self . There is no longer an "I and an "it" being meditated upon. There is only the One Reality.
How to Meditate
Each person tends to have their own way of meditation, but the following general instructions are common to all traditional methods:
1. Meditate regularly at the same time each day in a private place.
2. Sit in a comfortable position with spine erect.
3. Relax all muscles. Breathing deeply is helpful in the beginning.
4. Deliberately withdraw your attention from all outer stimuli.
5. Practice one of the specific techniques outlined below.
6. Radiate the peace you have experience outward to the world.
7. After about 15-20 minutes slowly come back to normal consciousness.
As aids to stilling the mind, several specific methods are used by meditators, some of which are outlined below:
A. Concentration On Your Breathing
Concentrate on the breath going in and out of your nostrils. Do not try to count breath; let it flow naturally, but focus your awareness on breathing. This keeps your concentration in the present moment, which is the only gateway to higher consciousness. The key instruction is to stay in the present. Don’t get caught up in hopes of what you’ll achieve and how good your situation will be some day in the future. What you do right now is what matters.
B. Using Mantras
Mantras are words that by their special vibrational qualities, link us with the spiritual levels of consciousness. Chanting a mantra such as the ancient Indian "Om'' ( amen is the English equivalent ) is a powerful aid in meditation.
C. Focusing on an Object or Idea
A symbol or an aphorism such as "I am one with the Divine" can be used as a focus to initiate meditation.
D. Emptying The Mind
Many meditators simply try to empty the mind or still its activities, knowing that if this can be achieved an expansion of awareness will follow.
Techniques that interfere with one's control of the mind are not recommended as they can cause serious harm to the individual both physically and psychologically. The use of drugs as aids to meditation is also discouraged, for though they may open up paranormal awareness, drugs do not take consciousness to spiritual levels. In fact all practices that either promise to awaken psychic faculties or encourage the meditator to give control of the mind to external agencies are not part of true meditation.
The Purpose of Meditation
The ultimate goal of meditation is the same as that of yoga - to allow the individual self to experience the greater Self, the Oneness which we can think of as God or Nature.
This experience is the greatest spiritual achievement any individual can enjoy.
Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.
Shantiji has brought the concepts and practices of a healthy body and a still mind to thousands of Australians through her Yoga and Meditation programs on national television... Read more about Shantiji's biography
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