The Practice of Meditation

    As mentioned in previous posts Pragmatic Yoga revolves around two core practices:

    1. Spinal breathing
    2. Meditation

    This post aims at explaining in the simplest terms how to meditate.

    The Gist

    • Sit comfortably and steadily at your favorite meditation spot.
    • Relax body and mind
    • Regulate the breath if you feel so inclined
    • Repeat the mantra of your choice again and again. This is the actual practice.
    • Take a little time to come out of the meditation state and reconnect with the outside world
    Meditation portrait

    Deceptively Easy

    The meditation method is very simple and providing one adopts the proper attitude of relaxation and openness it does not take long before one con achieve a deep state of meditation, which is to say, of quieting the mind.

    Don't be fooled by the simplicity of it all. Deep meditation is the key to inner spiritual transformation and is extremely potent in allowing one to journey through the inner recesses of one's mind and consciousness. As a result the meditator experiences life changing inner states of peace, bliss, and joy but also encounters dramatic physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual experiences coming as by-products of the practice. These experiences will be discussed later on.

    For now let's discuss the aspects of the meditation technique as well as the mental attitude which will lead one to success.

    The Posture

    It's crucial for the meditator to find a posture that will be still and comfortable and in which the practitioner will forget himself or herself, at least physically. This is described at length in our sitting postures article.

    Once this is out of the way one can proceed with the gradual process of calming the mind down.

    Relaxation

    Being established in the posture we should then take as much time as required to be deeply relaxed physically and mentally.

    The posture is mastered by releasing tension and meditation on the Unlimited.

    Yoga Sutras - 2.47

    This typically takes 5 to 10 minutes for a beginner or under a minute for an advanced practitioner in the good days.

    Relaxing Physically

    Some body areas are more prone to tensions and we want to address those in priority. They are typically the face, shoulders, solar plexus, and hands. Each individual has tension patterns and one should always pay special attention to those. In other words if you know that your shoulders are usually tense spend a good amount of time in this area while relaxing.

    If you don't know at all how to relax you will benefit immensely from taking some hatha yoga classes in a tradition which does not overemphasize physical performance or fitness over the true yogic inner experience.

    In essence you just need to travel with your awareness through the different parts of your body and let a wave of relaxation go through the muscles and other tissues. You may want to imagine sending your out-breath through the tensions dissolving them in the process.

    Start with your head and face spending more time on the eyes and eyebrows, the whole mouth, the tongue, the jaws and cheeks.

    Proceed to send the relaxation wave and awareness down to your neck and shoulders, the whole back, chest, abdomen, the arms, hands, and legs.

    Spend as much time as necessary on any area you feel might need it.

    Relaxing Mentally

    Forget Past and Future

    We all carry some psychological baggage with us at all times. You want to leave that luggage outside your meditation room together with your shoes. Take a moment to remind yourself that nothing that happened in the past or will happen in the future has any relevance during this time of practice. Forgetting your worries and problems for the time being will only enable you to address them more efficiently later on. Let go of memories of the past and plans for the future, resting joyfully in the here and now.

    No Expectations

    We've conditioned ourselves to expect results for all our actions but meditation is more about 'being' than 'doing'. Nothing needs to be achieved. Just be open and aware.

    Concentration

    The process of meditation involves concentrating on an uplifting object. This will lead the mind to slow down, turn itself within and connect with the innermost spiritual Self.

    Gentle Approach

    The biggest obstacle to successful meditation for most aspirants is to just try too hard. We were raised with the idolizing of the virtue of hard work exemplified in the 'no pain, no gain' motto.

    That approach will do you lots of good if you want to become a Navy Seal, a body builder or in a great number of worldly endeavors but is downright counter-productive in our life of spiritual and inner growth.

    The harder you will try and the further away you will be from the state of meditation and mental quietness.

    Just as horse whisperers offer an alternate approach to traditional forceful cowboy techniques you con choose to battle your mind or to work with it in a playful and peaceful fashion. The 'horse whisperer' meditation attitude is the one I strongly recommend. Very few can fight their mind and come out the victor in the long term.

    Choose a Concentration Object

    There are two types of Eastern traditional meditation techniques. Those based on awareness and those based on concentration. In Pragmatic Yoga students are encouraged to experiment with every single facet of the practice. This little guide presents a concentration technique but feel free to explore 'awareness' types of meditation if you feel so inclined.

    There is a wide variety of suitable objects to focus on in concentration types of meditation belonging to Eastern traditions in general as well as the Indian yoga tradition in particular.

    This lineage's tradition advocates the use of mantras which are sound manifestations of spiritual power. Repeating the mantra taps the power lying at the core of the sound thereby unleashing it to work its magic through our nervous system and psychic body.

    Mantra Meditation

    The mantras suitable for spiritual meditation and the quest to enlightenment can be classified into two categories: abstract (nirguna) and concrete (saguna)

    The abstract mantras relate to a spiritual reality devoid of attributes and qualifications. They are used for meditations of a more philosophical nature. On the other hand the concrete mantras are usually conducive to more devotional practices as they point to deities with particular characteristics.

    We practice meditation here in the context of kundalini yoga so we are going to forego the meaning, symbols, and feelings associated with these mantras and focus on the vibration which is emitted by the repetition and the sound wave spreading to all cells of our physical body and to the energetic body as well.

    If you already have a mantra go ahead and use it, otherwise, you can use the highly esteemed and easy to pronounce 'OM' mantra. We'll publish some posts later with detailed instruction on choosing a mantra.

    Simple Repetition

    Now that you are all set and have selected a mantra just repeat it again and again in your consciousness. Let the mantra rise from your intent to reach that deep inner silence of the Self and propagate itself leading you to that peace that passeth all understanding.

    The speed of the mantra repetition can vary from session to session or within a given session. It can go from very slow to very fast. You should adopt the speed that feels just right at the time. Too slow and your mind will get bored or drowsy. Too fast and your mind will get more agitated.

    You can fix a time limit for your sitting session but I like to repeat the mantra until at least some type of quietness is experienced. Your total sitting time could go between 5 and 15 minutes if your are a beginner and between 15 and 30 minutes if you are more experienced.

    I encourage you to set a very low minimum sitting time, such as 5 minutes for the days you are very tired, busy, or in a strongly extraverted mood. You may then stop after 5 minutes on those bad days but you will find yourself going on longer more often than not.

    You WILL Be Distracted!

    A common mistake by many is to expect their mind to be fully focused during the whole sitting session. This leads to despair, guilt and a whole lot of other useless emotions.

    Unless you are the James Bond of meditation your mind will naturally drift away from your meditation object and entertain other thoughts.

    The actual practice of meditation is to nudge your mind back again and again to the mantra. Persistently but very gently and with no self judging. Do not even chase the other thoughts away from your mind. Let them be and stay there but give the priority to that one thought you have dedicated these few moments to.

    Do not give any emotional energy to the inner or outer distractions. Watch them as if they were totally different from you, as they actually are, and go back to your focal object. This repeatedly moving from the distractions to the chosen focal point is at the heart of the meditation process so do not loathe the presence of distractions but be grateful for them as they are key to the dynamics of meditation.

    Of course as these diversions disappear and moments of inner silence are experienced we become immensely thankful to taste the true meditation experience but this would never have taken place without the process that led to it.

    Wrapping it Up

    It's a good idea to not go from deep inner stillness to hurried activity too abruptly. Allow 2 to 5 minutes of lying relaxation, loud mantra repetition, doing a ritual such as arati, reading some spiritual book, or any other compatible activity.

    Summary

    Here is a quick recap of what you can do twice a day for daily cultivation of that connection with the Spiritual Self.

    • Sit comfortably and steadily at your favorite meditation spot.
    • Relax body and mind
    • Regulate the breath if you feel so inclined
    • Repeat the mantra of your choice again and again. This is the actual practice.
    • Take a little time to come out of the meditation state and reconnect with the outside world

    Just Do It

    For maximum results develop the habit to sit twice a day. Start with a few minutes of spinal breathing and shift into meditation. Let the gentle meditation process lead you to the deep meditation state where the sweetness of the inner stillness is experienced.

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