All consciousness is essentially one – Fritjof Capra
On my way to explore the magnificient Himalayas, I met a yogi who claimed to have been meditating for several years. When he told me that meditation would do me good, I had two thoughts in rapid succession – both terrifying. First was, that I will get bored and Second, I will miss something. But accepting his conviction that, in seeking out for the unknown, I was a ripe candidate for meditation too. This is when I started meditating. Sometimes I was bored, but I lived through it, gaining some paitence in the process. And I don’t think I’ve ever missed anything during meditation except a few phone calls I could return later.
We live in a glittery world with lots to attract our attention. Those of us who find the notion of meditation least appealing – we who are especially fond of action, momentum, excitement, and adrenaline-have an even greater need for this quieting practice than those calm people we’ve never understood much. We devotees of the high life tend to approach yoga class with the attitude, “I’ll do the exercise part, but I’ll leave before we have to just sit there or, heaven forbid, chant.”
Like it or not, however, yogis both ancient and modern insist that the raison d’etre of hatha yoga is to prepare the body for meditation, a practice that can still the thoughts, awaken the institution, and lead to peace of mind and freedom of spirit. Even when meditation is done without the other aspects of yoga, independent medical research has shown that it improves physical and mental functioning. Regular meditators have been found to suffer less chronic diseaseand take fewer sick days. They even rank as “younger” in physiological age than non-meditators.
Meditation is simply the act of bringing your awareness to a single point.That point might be the image of a holy personage, the light of a candle, the breath going in and out of your nostrils, or a mantra, a sound vibration. The most widely known mantra is Om, the Sanskrit word that is said to be the sacred word that brought all creation into being.
Whatever technique you choose, meditation is the quintessence of simplicity. It requires no equipment, only the willingness to persist, to return repeatedly to the point of focus. In meditation, you sit. Thioughts come. They’re enticing. Interesting. Fascinating. But you don’t go with them. You bring your awareness back to the image or the breath or the mantra.
Sometimes meditation has immediate rewards. You walk away after the practice of feeling more peaceful or more positive than you did before you started, or you get some flash of intuition you can use in a practical situation. Much of the time, however, you wont feel anything. That doesn’t mean nothing is happening. Even at these times, you’re learning to become more focused. You’re gaining control over the “monkey mind” that likes to swing from branch to branch, from concept to idea to memory to yearning. And at times you even touch the state that yoga refers to as “pure being,” “field of consciousness,” or “bliss” – the ultimate reality beyond the realm of day-to-day concerns.
Many serious meditators make time to practice in both the morning and the late afternoon or evening. If you can only meditate once a day, most people find that the best time is in the morning, after a shower and before breakfast, following asanas and pranayama if you’re able. The position most amenable to meditation is the same as that for pranayama, sitting comfortably upright on the floor or a cushion or in a straight-backed chair. The lotus posture, known as padmasana is the classic meditation pose. This pose takes more hip flexibility and can be challenging at the begining. Work up to it slowly. The ideal meditation posture for you today is the one in which you’re most comfortable.
Once you’ve seated, start to watch your inhalations and exhalations, not controlling them in any way, simply watching. Then bring to ming your image or your mantra if you’re using one, and gently bring your awareness back to that focusfor the ten or twenty minutes you’ve set aside for meditation. Come back to the hustle-bustle world slowly. If your religious faith calls for daily devotions, this is a good time to include them, because you are fully awake, fully relaxed,a nd open to inspiration.