This blog post is authored by my dear friend Anil. I’m thankful to him for sharing his wisdom here. Anil is not only a strong practitioner of meditation and spiritual way of life, but has also been impacting lives through his training and sessions. Let’s see what he has to share…. Parth
How to meditate?
What, is the purpose of diving within?
Firstly, it would be an error to assume that there is only one correct way to meditate. To use a common analogy, there are many ways to the top of the mountain. Yes, some will be more challenging than others, but the choice is ours as to which path we take, and which guides we use. We’re all unique, so some forms of meditation will resonate more with us than others. Perhaps one particular form will be more ‘in tune’ with our personal make-up, or vibratory frequency, than others.
Yoga is a great example of a moving meditation that gives us the opportunity to mindfully observe our own thoughts and emotions as we move through the physical postures, exploring our own psyche. All styles of yoga give the student the chance to connect with his/her breath – breath contains subtle energy (prana) and not only gives the body life but links the body and mind to higher states of consciousness when used mindfully.
Yoga isn’t about doing ‘yoga aerobics’ on the mat! If you can do a fancy pose but you’ve lost control of your breath, and your mind is wandering, then you’re not doing yoga and your mind is anything but
Sitting meditation is yet another way to observe the mind and train it to be still. It requires a different approach since it is more of a mental practice. Sitting for extended periods of time is actually more difficult than most people think since the body will want to move or fidget, and the untrained mind is easily ‘bored’. It can also quickly drop down into ‘Alice in Wonderland’ rabbit holes, and become trapped into fantasy and illusions of all kinds.
When sitting in meditation, there are various ways one can learn to still the mind. For example, watching the ‘third eye’ (the area between the eyebrows, about one inch behind the bridge of the nose), or counting up to a particular number whilst rhythmically inhaling and exhaling. Whatever the focal point, these methods come back to the same intention, watching thoughts arise and allowing them to fade into the ‘no-thingness’.
Sitting meditation is perhaps the most common idea that people have when the word ‘meditation’ is casually mentioned – particularly, the clichéd image of a yogi sitting in ‘cross legged lotus position’ with the thumb and forefinger of each hand touching.
However, meditation doesn’t have to be formal, at least not to begin with. It can be cultivated whilst “doing the dishes” or “running in the open air” … Anything that brings stillness to the busy mind is useful. In a chaotic world, which is used to over-stimulation, most people are finding themselves weary with mental overload. The ‘busy mind’ seems to be getting even busier and can’t get a break!
Do you know how to reach for the ‘off button’ or do you have to numb your mind with alcohol, or flop down on your sofa to watch TV shows after working all day? Perhaps distraction is your method, playing endless games on your X-Box?
What is the point of meditation? Is it simply to relax the mind?
At first, yes, it is about relaxing the mind’s tendency to engage in thought. Every thought seems so important to the untrained mind. Worried thoughts, anxious thoughts, excited thoughts, pleasant thoughts, negative thoughts – all thoughts, regardless of their form, burn up your mental energy. Have you noticed?
Having time ‘away from thought’ is critical to balance and health.
Yet, if you start to drift away and fall asleep, then you are most likely doing the opposite of meditation. This needs to be clearly understood.
It’s okay at first, when one first starts to experiment, but it isn’t useful to drift off all the time because nothing can be changed if you fall below the level of thought. You need to ‘rise above’ thought, which means rising above the conscious mind to commune with the super conscious, or supra conscious aspect of Self.
The first stage of meditation is about relaxing the body-mind and letting go of unwanted mental clutter. However, the second stage is to allow yourself to see your own self-limiting, and often self-destructive, patterns clearly.
From this, we might say that meditation is about “seeing clearly” and “penetrating the unconscious” depths of oneself with compassion.
When we shine the light on the deepest (and darkest) ourselves, it is necessary to have compassion because ‘clear seeing’ means we will observe things that we will not like, and we will try to deny them. Meditation can be a painful process, at first.
As one practices meditation more and more, then one moves into ‘alert stillness’. This is both soothing and liberating at the same time. Stillness and heightened awareness go hand in hand.
The problem with allowing oneself to ‘drift away’ means that one may be falling into unconsciousness, which is the opposite of true meditative practices. People usually associate alertness with effort, because they cannot understand relaxed, mindful awareness.
For this reason, it is useful to find a good teacher that can help you. A teacher doesn’t have to be perfect, but they must be ‘walking their talk’ and have a joyful practice that is transforming for both themselves and their students.
Authored by: Anil Sonwane