Meditation is being practiced, discussed and studied by a large number of people today. Not only yogis and monks are practicing meditation but across categories whether professionals, scientists, school/college students, businessmen, home-makers, male-female, young-old are tuning self to meditation. Nowadays people with dominating logical minds also want to give a try as there is substantial research that suggests that meditation can do wonders to your body and mind. Meditation brings us close to our innate nature which is characterized by joy, compassion and absolute bliss. Once you get swept by the wonderful experience of meditation, you crave for it! It’s a blissful addiction.
First time I tried mediation, around four years back, when I was pursuing my teachers’ Training in Yoga. The teacher took us from our present location to some faraway place through imagination and visualization. We all enjoyed this journey. I was so happy, excited and proud of me that I practiced meditation though at the end of session my legs refused to move out of numbness. I felt like having it more and more, and I shared this feeling with each and every friend of mine. After that session, for me, meditation just remained present in conversations, discussions and books. But when I started practicing meditation regularly very recently and got the true taste of meditative experience. The experience was momentary but it was beyond breath, time and space. It was not about visualization and imagination, like first disguised experience.
What is Mediation?
The word meditation is derived from the Latin word ‘mediatari’ which means to heal. The meditation is a loose translation of Dhyana. It is the seventh limb of Ashtanga Yoga Marg. A wholesome yoga practice is incomplete without meditation. There are many ways meditation can be practiced. However, a yogic meditation technique, focusing on the breath is well known and practiced worldwide. Our breath is the only bridge that connects your body to the mind. Contemplating on the breath helps you to minimize frequency of thoughts which is prerequisite for meditation.
Meditation is like taming the wild elephant. The way a rope is used to tame the elephant, we use our breath to tame our mind. Our mind possesses qualities of wild elephant, if left unattended; like a wild elephant, it starts running in any pointless direction. Breath can be used to give a direction to mind which go wild with thoughts. But meditation is beyond taming your mind. Once your mind (just like tamed elephant) is controlled with the breath, you can ask it to do whatever you want. Here’s a link to
a Zen meditation story “Searching for Bull” will help you understand what meditation is in an interesting way. http://www.4peaks.com/ppox.htm
How can you use the breath to tame your mind?
When you sit down for meditation, your monkey mind will start chattering consistently. You may think something very absurd—about warm milk you had in the night, colour of your dress or a random person you come across while taking your evening walk. When you try to concentrate on your breath, you may get itching sensations all over your body. Sometime you may feel that some insect is using your body for his lazy walk. These are all symptoms of wild mind. Your monkey mind will start playing a game with you as it doesn’t like to be quiet. Your breath is the best defense you have against your thoughts.
Whenever you feel that your mind is wandering in the wild, just pull it towards your breath. The best way to settle down the flow of your thoughts is to attend them without reacting. You can ask your mind to be still and non-reactive to your thoughts. Our response to thoughts actually keep us occupied and doesn’t allow to see beyond confusion and chaos. But keep coming back to your breath.
After some time, your mind will start enjoying the role of observer. Once you establish the peace with your mind, you will not require focusing on your breath as you will fall into trance effortlessly. And your mind will obey every command given to it—when you ask him to slow down, it will listen to you without any resistance.
Meditation is not only about sitting in padmasana or sukhasana and observing the breath. When you get fully engrossed in the activity or work, you totally forget about the time frame and the place. In this state, you don’t realize how the time flew away and you forget totally where you are now. You don’t feel exhausted even you put up long hours of hard work in the activity. It is a wonderful experience. Such a state is also meditation. Meditation is your complete presence into present moment. Listening to somebody with full concentration is meditation. So eating food with focused mind is meditation.
What is mean by trance?
A simple definition of trance can be gap/distance between thoughts. The general tendency of our mind is that it thinks rapidly without taking a break. The trance is the phase when you are not thinking. You may not able to go in trance for 15 to 20 minutes straight but you can enjoy moments of trance. This is nothing but mediation.
A meditative state is beyond all states we know waking, sleeping and dreaming. It is called turiya in Sanskrit—the fourth stage—pure consciousness. We have been told our whole life that ours is monkey mind which wanders continuously and we need to keep on engaging with something all the time, except deep dreamless sleep. But according to ancient rishis, the fourth stage is our original stage and it exists within us. Deepak Chopra in his book “Quantum Healing-Exploring the frontiers of mind/body medicine” explains meaning of word ‘Rishi’. A Rishi is a person who can enter the fourth state (turiya) at will and observe what is there (in the state) with non-judgment, allowing himself immersing into shunya (zero) state of nothingness.
Meditation helps us to get into touch with our true state—pure consciousness. American physiologist Robert Keith Wallace proved that the fourth stage exists and it is not a part of our imagination. He recorded alpha waves in EEGs of meditating person supported by slower heartbeats and breathing. Four stages can be explained more scientific way like this. Human beings brain shows five types of waves (electrical patterns); gamma, beta, alpha, theta and delta.
Beta waves (38 to 12 Hz): waking, irritation, anxiety, stress and fear
Alpha (7-12Hz): visualization, relaxed state, meditation state
Theta (4-7 Hz): deep meditation, dream sleep, creative experiences like painting
Delta (4 to 0.5Hz): unconsciousness, dreamless deep sleep, intuition
How can the practice of asanas and pranayamas help you to meditate?
When you sit in meditation, your all senses become hyperactive. You get the sensations of itching, tingling and the urge of constant body movements, and your legs fall prey to numbness. A regular practice of asanas and pranayamas provide you the base for meditation. Meditative postures like Sukhasana, Vajrasana, Sidhhasana, Ardhapadmasana and Padmasana offer you steady and erect posture during meditation. And breath training through pranayamas makes you aware of breath.
What are the different types of mediation?
The most popular Transcendental meditation was introduced by Maharshi Mahesh Yogi to America in 1960s. (Read: http://www.tm.org/enlightenment). Zen is the Japanese word for meditation and important aspect of Zen Buddhism. www.zen-buddhism.net. Kundalini Mediation helps you to awaken your kundalini, known as one of the path of enlightenment. http://isha.sadhguru.org/blog/yoga-meditation/demystifying-yoga/kundalini-awakening/
What exactly happens to your brain during meditation?
These meditative experiences are characterized by the practitioners’ partial or complete absence of time, space and body sense. Frontal lobe is the most highly evolved part of the brain, responsible for reasoning, planning, emotions and self-awareness. During meditation, the frontal cortex tends to go offline. Parietal lobe is the part of the brain takes care of senses. Your senses provide us the experience of the world—you can see meaning in these alphabets because of our eyes and listen to wonderful music through ears with the help of brain. During meditation, activity in the parietal lobe slows down. The research has confirmed increased gray matter in the brain, which is associated with learning and memory.
Understand more about changes in the brain after meditation here. watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZZZ55gXUAM.
What’s a teacher’s role in learning meditation?
You cannot learn meditation. It just happens to you. But your teacher can lead you towards the path of meditation. Working on mantras can help you to focus better. Your yoga teacher can make you ready for meditation through asana practice and breathing exercises. You can sit in meditative postures for long time because of your asana practice. You can feel your breath through regular practice of pranayama. Chanting of mantras will help you to relax your mind too.
You can share your difficulties with meditation with your teacher; he/she may guide you overcome it. And he will also make sure that you are on the right path.
How long and how regularly one should practice mediation?
You don’t need to sit in mediation for an hour every day. Even 20-30 minutes of mediation per day is enough to give you taste of you original being. If it is not possible to practice regularly, try to practice at least thrice in a week. Once you get the hook, you will be able to practice anywhere; in your hotel room, while commuting and even sitting in the café too.
What can Mediation do it to you?
The ongoing research proved that it has desirable visible and measurable impact on our neurophysiological mechanism, particularly brain which controls our whole nervous system. Meditation is the tool to access our pure consciousness which influences our nervous system. Nervous system works as the communication channel between our cells, tissues, body parts and other system in the body. It plays a very significant role in our breathing and our breath is what that confirms our being alive.
Few benefits are listed for your reference:
• You will develop body and mind awareness. You will be able to understand what’s wrong with your body and mind, and you will also realize how to fix it.
• You will start looking younger and feeling more energetic. The process of ageing will be slower for you than non-meditators.
• It will help you to relieve stress and you will respond in a better way to ongoing stress moments in the life.
• The practice lowers blood pressure and facilitates relaxation. Highly recommended for individuals with hypertension and sleep disorder.
• Immunity improves. You will say good-bye to many small illnesses like common allergies, cold and cough. At least, they will occur less frequently than before.
• You will experience your true self characterize by intuition, inner peace, inner joy, compassion, love and wisdom.
• You can see significant improvement in relationships whether personal or professional. You will see more love, understanding and meaning in your relationships.
• It helps you control your appetites and also you can manage extreme emotional reactions.
• You learn how to become free from fear, doubts and anxiety.
What are the common misconceptions of meditation?
Though meditation has become a healthy kind of fashion, it doesn’t demand any kind of body, race, diet or beliefs. This is the fashion which can suit everybody irrespective height, weight and figure. This is the fashion that will make you feel beautiful inside and outside.
• A Positive self-talk: if you are talking to yourself during meditation, specifically positive self-talk, it is not meditation, just a mind game.
• Imagination and visualization is not meditation. If you are visualizing something deliberately then you are just using your imagination power creatively.
• Some believe that an individual who is meditating regularly may drift away from normal life. But it is an absolute myth, a mediator is as much as normal any non-mediating person. I will go further and say that people who meditate may value and celebrate life more.
• Enlightenment is used very carelessly. It is not necessary that if you mediate every day you will be getting enlightened. Whenever it happens, you will know it. And you will not lose interest in grahasthashram—worldly things. But you will live with more awareness. The same life will seem more beautiful and meaningful.
• You don’t need to turn a vegetarian and stop drinking alcohol to practice meditation. But the possibility is that you may choose your food more consciously.