Meditation Made Easy
We know how to hit the accelerator; but what about the brakes or cruise control? We can recognize patterns of behavior or mental conditioning yet are unsure how to reprogram our software and definitely our hardware. Can we make meditation easy?
We have all heard about the potential benefits of meditation but what is it and how do we practice it?
Meditation or dhyana is generally the seventh limb of eight in yogic philosophy. It is supported by the Yamas and Niyamas, ethical precepts; Asana, postures; Pranayama, breathwork; Pratyahara, sensory control; Dharana, concentration; and Samadhi, absorption. These limbs work together and are all interconnected in the beautiful tapestry of yogic techniques. In yogic thought, meditation has not only mental, but physical and spiritual elements that can be investigated or experienced with greater depth and insight.
Yoga, until quite recently was primarily associated with meditation because the asanas, pranayamas, mudras and mantras all worked toward the same goal of unifying our body, breath and mind to suspend our unconscious or unwholesome tendencies and reveal the Nature of our Being or the object of meditation as it truly is; uninfluenced by postures, patterns or ideas of the past, projections of the future; unblemished and luminous, simply Being.
We can utilize knowledge of this goal to survey our body, breath and mind to understand what work we could be doing to achieve unity between these layers. This means assessing our patterns of behavior physically, energetically and mentally to discover or recover what we may have lost sight of or connection with. And yes, we can do it easily! However, we must understand the structure of our Being and a method of approach.
If we desire to maintain or to create deep internal shifts we must consider the patterns we hold in each of these layers and commit to practicing techniques which address all three.
The benefit of yogic meditation is that through the knowledge we gain in pursuing that state we purify, release or overcome conditioned patterns of behavior which impeded our capabilities, not just in meditation but throughout our lives as a whole; by addressing each layer of our Being and reconditioning them to be free of old operating systems and present to the formation of new ones.
How do we begin?
If we accept the framework of yogic theory, we notice that first come the ethical precepts (Yamas/Niyamas) which help us in our personal/social life approach and interaction. As an example, ahimsa, non-violence is fundamental in our approach towards ourselves and the world. By embracing this Yama and practicing it in relation to our body, breath and mind we will release patterns of stress or aggression which keep us from being peaceful physically and mentally. Of course this is a life-long practice but an very helpful consideration for conflict resolution within ourselves and the world.
Asana is the third limb and it’s often discussed and easy to observe that we are always in some kind of posture, but not necessarily a yogic posture. Traditionally, asana referred to a seated meditation pose, however these positions are not truly comfortable for most people until they have practiced a variety of other classical asanas which assist the body in finding ease in these seated postures. This is why we must practice some form of physical yoga or intelligent movement to regain our comfort in what used to be quite natural positions. Chairs are okay, but they are a crutch reflecting an inability we should address if we still can.
Comfort in our posture lends itself well to easefulness in the next limb, Pranayama, which is a vast subject itself; but in this context, to just breathe naturally in a way that the body and mind can be undisturbed by signals from these layers. We must work on perfecting our posture and work on different breathing techniques to liberate our breathing from conditioned patterns of physical or mental behavior to achieve a smoothness which is peaceful and enjoyable to experience and observe.
In this process we will find ourselves shifting into states of sensory withdrawl, the fifth axial limb of Pratyahara, which has it’s own set of practices; but in general conveys a distinction in our awareness as we move from external limbs, to internal limbs. This space we find in pratyahara allows for a powerful concentration to form, known as dharana the sixth limb, which still takes effort but not so much if we’ve held space to achieve success in the preceding steps. The movements of the mind will be apparent, but with increasing practice and we will find it becoming steady upon our object of concentration.
When this steadiness remains and an uninterrupted flow of awareness occurs between the object and subject, the meditator and what the meditator is meditating upon, this is finally the seventh limb, dhyana, meditation. Unlike dharana, with still requires a degree of willpower to focus, dhyana is a passive state of awareness that does not require effort, it is the result of such efforts preceding.
As we remain suspended in a state of meditation for increasing durations of time, we become absorbed in the final limb, Samadhi, and the distinctions between object and subject, meditator and object of meditation cease, revealing the true nature of the object, subject, or self and consciousness appears as a form on its own.
Distinctions between our intellect, ego, mind and body suspend as we witness the nature of our Being uninfluenced by any intellectual processing, but to witness what within ourselves witnesses all.
There are many subtleties and considerations to meditation practice that can be explored. If you have any questions or are interested in investigating these topics of practice more thoroughly, please reach out and contact us through the website about individual consultations or review our online course offerings.