Meditation, also know as dhyana, one of the 8 limbs of yoga, is the practice of relaxed breath awareness. Meditation lightens the emotional load, creating needed distance from gloomy thoughts allowing for emotional stability and an inner focus.
There are many misconceptions about meditation. Meditation is not about not thinking at all, or stopping your thoughts. Rather, it’s identifying with the part of your mind that is doing the watching….the part of your mind that is observing everything that you say, everything you see, everything you do. This part of the mind is the essential part of ourselves to begin to understand, as it is the part of the mind that will rescue us anytime we ask it to. For example, any challenge that you are put into, if you bring your awareness back to the breath and come back to this place of observer then you will free yourself from any pain of suffering you may be experiencing.
During your silent sitting, just watch, and when thoughts do arise, as they will, just watch them come and go, come back to watching the breath. You can sit any way you need to in order to have comfort in your seat. That can be in a chair, on the floor, or on a prop like a cushion, yoga block or blanket. Adjust your body to get as comfortable as you can, extending the spine in length. Feel the roof of the mouth align over the diagram, over the pelvis and feel the sit bones press down into the earth as gravity is received, lightness is given upward. This will allow for freedom along the channels in and along the spine. I heard Amrit Desai say one time, that you “become an empty vessel for God to move in- purging, clearing, cleansing, and letting go.”
Just quieting the monkey mind is a spiritual act, in that we can start to glimpse deeper into our own true, loving, selfless natures. The more glimpses we get, the more we can remember ‘that’ is who we are, ideally lessening our dramas, and ego games.
The most famous sutra that Master Patnjali wrote about is in his first book, verse two. It says, ‘Chitta Vritti Nirodaha’, which explains the importance of learning to stop, to end (Nir) how the mind turns things around. This verse is talking about the seeds within our minds that cause this constant churning of the mind. The whole point is how do we stop our tendency to see things wrong all the time? We make things what they are based on the seeds within our mind….the impressions that we have taken in, allow us to see what we are seeing, which may be different from other people or animals. This knowledge that what we see is being projected from the seeds of our own mind, provides us a better understanding of why we label, judge, attach to something, etc. Then we can purify and clear away any negative seeds thru visualization, and loving attention given to all of life thru kindness and compassion to ourselves and to everything. There is a bigger picture to all of this, and when we connect to this dynamic understanding, the true gift of yoga is realized. It takes some time for this to even make any sense at all….It’s all a part of the journey. Go at it with steadiness and ease, and as Master Patabi Jois said “all is coming”.
The mind is often compared to a cup of dirty water. When it is shaken, the water is cloudy, but when it is still, the sand settles down to the bottom of the cup and the water is clear. The practice of meditation is like letting the cup of water, your mind, be still. Another way to look at it, is, to see the reflection of your thoughts, your mind, as a still picture of the reflection of the moon across the lakes surface. As the Old Testament says, “As the sensual eyes close, the spiritual eyes open.”
Through the practice of meditation, one can begin to maintain a state of consciousness where feelings of being separate from the others, thoughts, and feelings, are removed and the oneness of all of life is known. When you live from this perspective of peace, you can only create peace in your presence.