Meditation

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Meditation is an intensely personal and spiritual experience. The desired purpose of each meditation technique is to channel the awareness into a more positive direction by totally transforming one's state of mind. [1] The entire process of meditation usually entails the three stages of concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana) and enlightenment or absorption (samadhi). The individual preparing to meditate usually starts off by harnessing his awareness, such as focussing his mind onto a certain object. Once attention gets engaged, concentration turns into meditation or dhyana. And through continuous meditation, the meditator merges with the object of concentration, which might either be the present moment or the Divine Entity.

In some branches of Indian philosopohy, direct perception from the inner self (mana) together with perception that is filtered through the five senses (pancha indriya) form a part of their valid epistemology (pratyaksha jnana). And this self-realization or self-awareness (as popularized by Paramahansa Yogananda), is nothing but the knowledge of the "pure being"—the Self.

Humanity is increasingly turning towards various meditative techniques in order to cope with the increasing stress of modern-day lifestyles. Unable to locate stability in the outside world, people have directed their gaze inwards in a bid to attain peace of mind. Modern psychotherapists have begun to discover various therapeutic benefits of meditation practices. The state of relaxation and the altered state of consciousness—both induced by meditation—are especially effective in psychotherapy.

But more than anything else, meditation is being used as a personal growth device these days—for inculcating a more positive attitude towards life at large.

Meditation is not necessarily a religious practice, but because of its spiritual element it forms an integral part of most religions. And even though the basic objective of most meditation styles remain the same and are performed in a state of inner and outer stillness, they all vary according to the specific religious framework within which they are placed. Preparation, posture, length of period of meditation, particular verbal or visual elements—all contribute to the various forms of meditation. Some of the more popular methods are, Transcendental Meditation, yoga nidra, vipassana and mindfulness meditation.

Contents

Meditation Techniques

There are a number of meditation techniques for effective meditation. Different cultures have different mediation techniques. The different techniques are suited to different personality types. While some techniques are concentrative, involving focusing, other techniques are expansive such as 'Vipassana' meditation which allows for the free flow of thoughts and their observation.[2]


Mantra Meditation

A Mantra is a grouping of sound vibrations which have an effect on the mental and psychic consciousness. Although traditionally given by a Guru, in the absence of a Guru, the practitioner may choose his mantra. An important criterion for mantra selection is that it must appeal to the mind fully when spoken verbally.

Mantra chanting creates powerful vibrations which are said to be directed to the right "chakras" to attract divine forces. This process is said to mysteriously heal the spiritual, physical & psychological body. It is important that when the mantra is chanted, the words and their rhythm must be enjoyed and one must surrender oneself to this experience.

Mantras do not have any specific meaning. Their power lies not in the meaning of the word but through the vibratory effects of the sound that they produced when spoken verbally or mentally.

In fact, a Mantra should not be confused with religion. Just because a mantra refers to a Hindu God, it does not mean that it cannot be said by a Christian. Also, a Mantra should not be translated as this has the effect of altering the sound vibrations wherein lies the strength of the Mantra.

Repetition of a Mantra forms the basis of Mantra Meditation. Mantras for spiritual evolution should be practiced for a fixed amount of time each day. Repeating a mantra too much may not be right for sensitive or psychic people as it may affect them adversely. Generally, if you repeat a mantra for about 10 minutes every day, then, within a few days you will know whether the vibrations feel right for you.


Understanding the Power of Mantras

Every matter - from the tiniest DNA strand in us to the largest of continents - is in a state of constant vibration resulting in the emission of subtle sounds. The great teachers of ancient times had the power to listen to the subtlest of these sounds. They discovered that specific sounds energized specific portions of the brain thereby awakening extraordinary powers (Siddhis). They used these sounds to form sacred words that are called Mantras.

Mantras have a profound impact upon us due to two reasons: - The vibration effect of the sound; and - The effect of the collective emotional energy behind that word due to constant repetition over time.


Benefits of Mantras

Mantras act upon our bodies by reprogramming the vibrations of the cells that have somehow gone askew. They restore the pattern of sounds at the heart of each and every cell, thus pushing the cells toward harmonious health.

Mantras affect not only our physical body but also our subtle body - our emotions, intellect and soul. They positively affect our aura - the energy shields surrounding our body.


Energy of a Mantra

We hear any word and have an emotional reaction to it. This is because we are conditioned by OUR experiences connected to that word AND the collective emotions that people have towards that word.

As an example, the word "mother" when spoken with deliberation, evokes an emotional energy realignment. Just imagine the power of sounds repeated billions of times, with great collective devotion and over centuries!

These sounds form the heart of Mantras and deeply influence the energy alignment within us. Repetition of a Mantra is a powerful way of keeping us in the Present and stilling our "monkey mind", which is forever jumping uncontrollably from one thought to another.

The moment we inculcate the practice of being "intensely" present - with neither any 'baggage' of the subconscious past nor the remotest anxiety of the future - we, then, automatically experience great peace, profound silence and supreme joy!

Mantra Meditation is the easiest and safest form of meditation and can be practiced by anyone at anytime and under any conditions. The most common way of practicing Mantra Meditation is Japa. Japa (literally means 'rotate') is performed by repeating a mantra in sync with the rotation of a Japa Mala. A Japa Mala is a rosary of 108 beads where each bead is turned after the mental or audible recitation of the mantra.

Using a Japa Mala for Mantra Meditation is very effective as it provides an anchor to bring the mind back as it experiences wavering thoughts. The Mantra combined with the Japa Mala provide tangible anchors to which the thoughts are directed back as they spin out of control. That is why, Japa Meditation is one of the most recommended forms of meditation for the beginner.

Yogic Gaze (Trataka)

Trataka means steady gazing. It is a very simple and beautiful Meditation Technique.

Method

In this a regular candle is used, however any other object of choice can be used. The candle is set up at an arm's distance, level with eyes, and steady gazing is first done with the eyes open. After some time, the eyes are closed, and the after image of the flame is 'gazed at' with eyes closed at the eye brow center. Try not to move through out the practice. Relax your breath , let it lengthen, deepen. This open gazing of the flame and then with the eyes closed is alternated a couple of times before concluding the practice. If using a candle for Trataka, the gaze should be fixed at the wick tip and not on the flame. Trataka on a candle flame is best practised with a trataka stand. Click here to read about the Trataka Stand.

Caution

If practicing Trataka on a Candle flame, do not continue the practice for more than a month or two at a stretch as it may lead to damage of the retina.

Benefits

It improves the optic function, both external and internal, such as poor eyesight and visualization abilities. It helps develop concentration and mental resolve. Develops the ability to maintain one-pointedness in amongst the noise and distractions of daily life. Develops the psychic eye, that is the ability to "see" or understand what is inside and beyond the obvious. It develops the power of Intuition.

Chakras Meditation

Chakra Anusandhana means "discovery or search of the chakras". It is a simple way for beginners to explore the chakras self-tutored. It helps in awakening them gently, and in a balanced integrated way. It can be done sitting, or lying.

-Close your eyes, adjust your body, clothing. -Let the breath relax, slow and deepen, but do not control it. -After a few minutes of settling in, commence Ujjayi pranayam, and carry on for some time -Now bring awareness to the spinal passage, such that awareness of breath is from bottom to top, Spend a few minutes establishing this inner breath pattern up and down. Ascending with inhalation, descending with exhalation. -Begin to locate chakras within that channel. Need not pin point the exact location, just focus on general area. Try to feel the location of each station and mentally repeat its name as you pass by it. On your way up mentally repeat from Mooldhara to Ajna, and way down reverse the order. -Just before finishing let go of breath sound, then names. And chant mantra' 'Om' 3 times.

Precaution

Awakening of Chakra can have its side effects. Excessive mental energy can be a problem with those who do not have abundant physical activity. Never meditate on one Chakra without qualified guidance. It can lead to an imbalance and cause personality problems.

Vipassana Meditation

Vipassana means "insight" -to see things as they really are, through a process of self-observation. It means insight into your own nature which enables one to recognize himself the cause of suffering and eliminate it.

Method

It is usually done in a course of 10 days, when the participants refrain from reading, writing, and even talking (except discussing difficulties faced during meditation with the teacher). Set aside 15 minutes. Find a quiet place. Sit down cross-legged on the floor or a chair with a straight back. Become aware of your breath. Take a mental note of whatever feeling you are experiencing. Open your eyes slowly after 10 or 15 minutes and get up gradually. Do not worry if you do not get any great insights in your first session. Try to be aware of your senses and emotions and their impact on you.

Benefits

It is free of rites. Allows one to study sensation in the body like cold, pain, itching etc. One develops wisdom.

Raja Yoga Meditation

Raja yoga meditation fills the yogi with super-sensuous joy or bliss which is the highest and the most ennobling experience. The bliss elevates the mind and raises the yogi above carnal pleasures, and moulds his bad habits.

A Raja yogi establishes a relationship with God . He withdraws from all the superfluous and avoidable worldly activities. He spends minimum time and resources on his personal comforts and devotes maximum energy for noble cause i.e. spiritual awakening of his felloe-beings.

Method

In this you sit in lotus position with back straight to allow free movement of the diaphragm. The chin is tucked in and the weight of the body equally distributed on both the legs.

Benefits

It is a way to discipline life, and makes one realize how much valuable time is wasted each day.

References

  1. Life Positive Magazine [1]
  2. HealthAndYoga.com [2]
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