In the previous blog, we talked about concentration being the preliminary step that leads the mind to a state of meditation. This article will discuss meditation and its practice.
“Meditation is a mysterious ladder which reaches from earth to heaven, from error to truth, from darkness to light, from pain to bliss, from restlessness to abiding peace” – Swami Sivananda
From Concentration (Dharana) to Meditation (Dhyana)
In the beginning, when you decide to concentrate on a certain object, the scattered mind slowly begins gathering around the meditation object. The mind needs some time to settle down and focus on a particular object. Once the mind is able to focus on the meditation object, with few other related thoughts in the background, it is in a state of Dharana (Concentration). When there is an unbroken flow of thought towards the meditation object, with no other thoughts in the background, this is the state of meditation. The process of meditation is often compared to the flow of oil in a steady unbroken stream.
Practice of Meditation
Meditation is a state of relaxed awareness. It is not possible to teach someone how to achieve this state, just like it is not possible to teach someone how to sleep. However, in the beginning, it is good to give some attention to preparing the body and mind for meditation.
The preparation can be divided into two parts:
I. Physical Preparation
- Place – It is best to set aside a room for meditation, but if this is not possible, then try to separate one portion of a room for meditation practice. You can keep spiritually uplifting images in this room and burn incense sticks. Use a meditation cushion or blanket to sit for meditation. As one meditates regularly in this designated space, powerful vibrations will be set up in the area. This atmosphere will make it easier for the mind to go into a state of peace and calm.
- Time – The best times for meditation are at dawn and dusk, when the atmosphere is peaceful and charged with spiritual force. It is important to fix a time of the day for meditation practice. This makes it easier for the mind to focus.
- Habit – Regularity of time and place are very important. The subconscious mind gets accustomed to the regularity, and you will find it easier to settle and focus. One can start with 15 or 20 minutes of practice and gradually increase to one hour. Make sure you practice everyday!
- Sitting position – Try to sit on the floor, with your legs crossed (Sukhasana), in Lotus posture (Padmasana) or half lotus posture (Ardha Padmasana). If it is not possible to sit on the floor, use a chair. It is very important to keep the spine and neck straight and relaxed. One can use hand positions (Mudras) like chin mudra for meditation.
- Breathing – Once you are in a comfortable position, relax the body as much as possible and focus on your breath. Slow down the breath and notice how your breath becomes light and completely silent.
II. Mental Preparation
- Give the mind space – Try not to be too eager to control the mind. Allow the mind to take time to settle down and focus. Bring awareness to your breath. Slowly start observing the mind. Be patient and compassionate with the mind and develop a trusting relationship with the mind. This ensures co-operation.
- Disassociate – Watch the mind objectively and try not to identify with the thoughts and emotions which are being observed. Slowly, you will observe the mind becoming quiet.
- Concentration point – Bring your awareness to a chakra. Focus on the heart center (Anahata Chakra), if you have an emotional temperament. Or you can focus between your eyebrows on the Self-awareness center, Ajna Chakra, if you have an analytical temperament. Aim to keep this focus for life.
- Concentration object – Focus on a symbol, try something which inspires you like the sun or sky, or a positive quality like compassion. One can use a personal mantra or the universal mantra OM.
To still the mind and enter into silence requires practice. A beautiful tree grows slowly, and we have to be patient for the flowers to blossom and the fruit to ripen, before tasting the sweetness of the fruit. So also, with meditation, we must be patient and regular with our practice. When meditation blossoms, there is an inexpressible peace that permeates the entire being. The fruit of meditation is the bliss of superconscious state which is indescribable as there is no duality in it.
At the Sivananda Yoga Retreat House you will experience yoga and meditation as part of a holistic lifestyle. Join us for a yoga and meditation holiday or explore the meditation experience more in depth on one of our special meditation theme retreats.