“Regular meditation opens the avenues of intuitional knowledge, makes the mind calm and steady, awakens an ecstatic feeling, and brings the practitioner in contact with the source of his/her very being.”
Sri Swami Sivananda Saraswati
Meditation is a practice that has been praised by saints and sages, great artists, renowned scientists and athletes and many others sentient beings since beginning of time.
The purpose of meditation varied from person to person, for some it is a method to relax their mind, evacuate mental tensions and reduce their stress, for other it is to get insight in the nature of thing understand their true Self, their Buddha or God nature, for others it is just to experience the moment the way it seems to express itself in the now and for many other is just to get healthier and happier.
But something is certain is that meditation is something one’s have to experience by himself or herself.
The benefits of meditation are numerous but trying to list them would be like trying to fit and ocean in a small aquarium.
Imagine if meditation is a method, like many said, to make you realise your infinite nature, Than how would it be impossible to define infinity?
It is important to understand that if we have expectation on our practice we bring disturbance and interferance into our mind.
Meditation is usually define has a state of relaxed concentration on the reality of the present moment, a state that is experienced when the mind dissolves and is free of all thoughts.
But before reaching such state of meditation one’s need to go through some important preliminary practices.
One of those practices is concentration. Without concentration your practice often resume itself to thinking and daydreaming. Like you probably notice our mind is like a monkey always moving here and there. It never stops, as long as we don’t bring an effort to end its continuous chaos, we are under its control.
Many have understood this fact, and they have found ways to use the mind as a tool, instead of being us by it.
When we start to understand this, we bring a whole new perspective into our life. We start to gain control over it; we open the door to happier and healthier way of being.
To get closer to our Goal many techniques have been developed to learn to observe and direct our mind.
We will give few techniques; they are not the only one existing many others are as good but your choice depends on our inclinations.
IMPORTANT: Meditation is not advised for all. For example, if you are going through depressive moments it wont be advise to go deeper inside yourself unless you have been advise otherwise by your teacher or doctor. Instead it will be more advise to be active with your outer environment, to get together with friends, family or community.
It is very important to get good guidance when we first start our meditation practice, and let your teacher know about your mental condition specially if it is unstable.
When to practice:
The best time to practice meditation is early morning just before sunrise. In the morning the air is fresher, quieter and your mind is more relax. Any other time is all right, night time before bed is also interesting.
Better practice before meal, Avoid doing practice after meal( wait two hours), your stomach is on working mode and you risk to fall asleep easily.
Try to do meditation at the same time every day.
Where to practice:
Have a quiet, well-ventilated place. This space should be for meditation and yoga practices only. That will be your sacred space.
How long should I practice
At first start with 15 to 20 minutes then move up to 30-40 minutes. Do it according to your feeling but not just five minutes!
Later on when you feel comfortable with your practice you can increase to one hour and more
One of our goal in meditation practice is to try to bring stillness to the mind. Without stopping the incessant movement of the mind it impossible to achieve the connection or union, we yogis, are aiming for.
Our mind is in constant chatting, thinking about what happen yesterday, what our colleagues at work are doing, what was the movie we just saw about, when is the dentist appointment for the kids, why the red color attract more my sight then the brown etc etc, we are in constant dreaming state without really being aware about it.
Our practice is to try to stop this incessant chatting to see what is beyond it, to experience the silence underneath it. It is in this silence that yoga will reveal its essence.
To bring our mind to a state of stillness we need to understand it , we need to tame it. It is like a horse, if we don't tame it we wont be able to ride it. We have to befriend it we have to learn to communicate with it. this way we will be able to direct it and we will be able to go where we are aiming to.
The Mind like to be busy, like to do things and when we understand this we can get a lot from it.
In our practice to get to still the mind, we will need to first make it busy, we will need to stay with it and keep on directing it. At first it wont listen, but step by step by repeating the same steps, it will start to follow the direction.
When those first steps are achieved we will engage the mind in a subtler practice. It is like our horse, first we need to make contact with it, and slowly we will learn to sit on it and then we will start to learn together how we both can work together.
It is with the help of our mind that we will discover what lie beyond it. We should not deny our mind, we have to work with it and understand it. This way we will find how to silence it. In this silence it will reveal it higher nature its true Self.
Stillness of Body For meditation practice. KAYA STHAIRYAM
To be able to isolate our mind we will first need to detach it from sensory impulse from the body. To do so the first practice we will implement is call Kaya Sthairyam, Which mean in sanskirt stillness of body.
The first step we will need to achieve for our practice is to immobilize our body we have to find a proper sitting posture with which we will be able to keep for a certain amount of time without moving.
The use of cushion is important to help you keep your back straight.
Your hands should be on you knee or on our your tights depending on the duration of your practice.
Your Shoulder are slightly back and relax and your chin slightly in.
Body Awareness and relaxation
Here we will keep our mind busy by bring the focus of our mind to each part of the body by feeling it and relaxing it. starting with the right foot.
Right foot, right foot toes, top of foot, sole and heel of the right foot. Feeling and relax…
Right ankle, calf muscle, knee, right tie. Feeling and relax.
The whole right leg feeling and relax.
Left foot, left foot toes, top of foot, sole and heel of the left foot. Feeling and relax…
Left ankle, calf muscle, knee, left tie. Feeling and relax.
The whole left leg feeling and relax.
Buttocks right, left feeling and relax
The Lower part of the body is grounding itself to the earth becoming steady and comfortable.
Now bring your awareness to the right hand , fingers, top of the hand, palm, wirst, lower arm elbow, upper arm, right shoulder feeling and relax…
Now bring your awareness to the left hand , fingers, top of the hand, palm, wirst, lower arm elbow, upper arm, left shoulder feeling and relax…
Now bring awareness to the back, right side of the back left side of the back , feeling and relaxing the unnecessary tension.
Now bring awareness to the front of body stomach, Chest right side and left side… feeling and relax.
Now feel the the middle part and lower part of the body are connecting and become one steady solid structure. Like a statue. There is no distinction between hands and knee or tights they are connected.
Now bring your attention to you neck, your head, your face. Feeling and relax.
Head and the reast of the body become on unify structure steady and comfortable.
Now feel the whole body vibration tingling heat any sensation.
(At and more advance stage there is no more distinction between ground, sky and body they are all merging together. We have detached from body sensory impulse…)
(To help us detach from the outer sensory impule now we bring our attention to the sounds)
Bring your attention to the outside sounds
Listen to the sound as a sound don't try to identify the source of the sound.
The furthest sound… closest sounds
Sharpest sound subtlest sound…
Now bring you attention to the breath
Feel the air coming in and out of your nostrils
cool air in warm air out
feel the hair in your nose moving the breath…
(first phase of practice completed now we direct or meditation practice to the second step…)
Now bring your awareness at the forehead between the or at the heart space…
Japa is an exact science, but it is simple to practice. It is just a matter of repeating a mantra while maintaining an attentive awareness of its sound. Japa is not connected to Sanskrit and Hinduism only. Many spiritual traditions use the practice of repeating songs and prayers, such as the Hebrew Shalom, Aramaic Maranatha or Christian Ave Maria.
Japa is a Sanskrit word derived from the root jap, meaning "to repeat quietly and internally." Likewise, Japa yoga can be practiced verbally or mentally. Repeating the mantra out loud has the advantage of shutting out external wordly sounds. This is called vaikhari japa. The next stage, as the mind becomes more focused, is a whispering or humming repetition, called upamsu japa. Finally, the practitioner reaches silent mental repetition, or manasika japa. This is the most powerful form. Another type of japa is likhita japa, which is writing of the mantra.
When practicing Japa yoga, all the mantra repetitions are considered moments of connection with the true Self. When the mind adjusts to the vibration of a mantra, it awakens and becomes thoughtful. Practicing Japa yoga can also help improve concentration, problem solving and overall health
How to hold your Mala
Three fingers are used for holding and rotating the mala: the thumb, third finger and fourth finger. The second and fifth fingers are not used at all. Hold the mala in the fingers as shown in the diagram above. It is very simple. Join the tips of the thumb and ring finger. In the small groove formed between the thumb and finger, rest the mala. Now with the third finger you should begin to rotate each bead one after the other. Remember, you should rotate the mala towards the palm of the hand.
Two fingers are used for holdin and rotating the mal: The thumb and the third finger. The mala rest on the third finger and you should begin to rotate each bead one after another with the thumb pulling the bead toward the palm.
Position of the right arm
The mala is always held in the right hand. Traditionally japa is done while holding the right hand near the heart, with the right forearm resting lightly against the body. The left hand is cupped and placed in the lap facing upwards. It can be used to catch the lower end of the mala to prevent it from swinging to and fro and becoming entangled.
Those people who practice a large number of rounds of the mala every day will find that their arm gets very tired. The position is not suitable. Something must be used to support the arm, but you should not use the other arm to support it. Instead, take a piece of cloth and make it into a sling. Use that to support your right arm. This is essential for those who do hundreds of malas every day.
Besides the 108 beads of the mala, there is also one extra bead called the meru,sumeru or guru bead. When practicing your Japa you should never cross over the meru bead. if you want to do more then one mala, you will need turn the mala around and start the opposite way.
Ajapa Japa Dhyana(So-Ham meditation)
Ajapa japa Dhyana, is a meditation on spontaneous repetition of a mantra.
Like we already know, concentration is a very important if not the most important practice to help us reach meditation. Ajapa Japa is, in this sense, a very simple and effective practice to reach this goal. To be able to concentrate the mind we need an object on which we bring our attention on. Ajapa japa use many different objects for this purpose.
Japa mean repetition of a mantra. When the suffix “a” is added to “japa” it mean that the repetition of the mantra become spontaneous. The Yogis have discover that our breath was having a particular sound, while breathing in the sound created was like the sound “SO” and while breathing out the sound created was like “HAM”. So they realise that we are unconsciously repeating the mantra “SO-HAM” all day long.
With Ajapa japa practice we’ll be consciously repeating the mantra So-Ham using the breath and the sound to focus our mind. A third factor will be use to increase our focus and this will be according to the movement of the breath and energy in the body.
There is an important psychic pathway in the body its name is shushumna. It is where we want our energy to flow freely and harmoniously . This pathway begin at mooladhara chakra (perineum for man and cervix for women) and end up at ajna chakra (pineal gland). With this practice will be visualizing the energy moving up from mooladhara to ajna and down from ajna to mooladhara.
The breath, the sound, and the movement will be the anchor for the focus of our mind. Unnecessary to say that it is enough to keep our mind out of the usual daydreaming mode!
Another important aspect of the practice is the purging of the mind. During the practice we’ll be doing SO-HAM for a while then we’ll stop this practice and allow our mind to evacuate or to express it unconscious content by focusing on the dark space at the for head area call “chiddhakasha”. Like looking at a movie screen we'll let our mind play its deepest and far rooted memories film. Taking a witness attitude, we’ll learn about our unconscious self and its surprising content.
Those deep rooted memories have significant influences on our behaviour andour way of thinking and deeling with our environment. By allowing them to surface and acknowledging there presence we take a step to understand our self and subsequently to modify our own attitude, pattern and behaviour.
Sit comfortably, take off your watch and glasses, turn off your cell phone. Make sure that nothing can disturb you practice. Your hands are on your knees with Chin, Gyan or Bhairava mudra. Your spine is straight the shoulder slightly back and relax the head is straight and chin slightly in. Adopt ujjayi breathing (restriction of glottis) and if you feel comfortable adopt ketchari mudra (tongue fold tip on soft palate).
Before starting Ajapa Japa Dhyana do a short kaya sthairyam (body stillness) practice, Be aware of your body posture, make sure your body is still, relax and grounded. Then move your awareness to the body sensation from toes to head. Make sure that you are now still, steady and comfortable. Then move your awareness to the outside sounds, move from one sound to the other without trying to identify the sounds but just by observing the different sounds. Move from the furthest to the closest sound.
Then bring your attention to the breath. Feel your breath in and out of the nostrils, feel the cool air in and the warm air out. Stay focus on your breath for a while, you can even feel the hair of you nostrils moving with the breath. Then slowly increase the depth of you breath, make it become deep and slow.
Imagine the breath in moving from the navel to the throat and the breath out moving from the throat to the navel.
Feel the energy moving from mooladhara chakra to vishuddhi ksetram(passing all other ksetram on the way) to bindu with the breath in and down from bindu to ajna chakra down to mooladhara chakra (passing all the other chakra on the way) with the breath out.
Add the sound “SO” to your awareness while the breath is in, and “HAM” when the breath is going out.
Continue this practices of SO-HAM keeping ujjayi, ketchari and awareness on the movement, breath and sound. Be completely focus on those object. Become the breath, the sound and the movement.
After about 5 to 10 minutes stop the practice, breath normally and focus on chiddhakasha, the screen in the dark space at the forehead area. Keep focus, let the mind shows its content, don’t censure any thought or feeling. Allow anything to surface be attentive take a witness attitude. Don’t get emotionally involve into what you are seeing or feeling let it be. If you feel to cry you cry, but you cry with a witness attitude. It is a time of purging, your mind has deep rooted memories and it is a perfect time to allow them to surface and show themselves to you. They are part of you and you need to acknowledge them. Now you see them with different eyes and it is time to redigest them with awareness and compassion to you and other.
Then go back to SO-HAM practice for another 5 to 10 minutes, then again take time for chiddhakasha dharana. And continue this sequence as long as you feel comfortable
Then you stop SO-HAM practice, focus again on the breath, again become aware of the breath in and out of the nostrils.Then become aware of the outside sounds, then bbring your awareness on your body sitting in the studio or your room. Fell comfort and at be at peace with yourself and surrounding. Keep the feeling of Joy, Harmony, Happiness, Love and Peace with you and spread it to everyone you’ll meet.
End up the practice by chanting Om three times, do palming one time and open your eyes slowly when you feel ready.
Hridayakasha Dhyana, meditation on the heart space.
The heart space is consider by many has being the seat of the soul, you just have to look at some pictures of statue of Saints, Buddha, Gods and Goddesses and often you will see a radiating heart in their chest region. This Sun is our divine source of energy it is our connection to the Energy of the universe. We already know that every thing is made of energy, that energy can’t be destroyed or created. But we know that, energy can be transform and use, it can be redirect and focus. And the purpose of this meditation practice is to connect with this source of energy to connect with our divine nature and create an energy field overflowing Joy, Harmony, Happiness, Love and Peace. It is said to be the attribute of our Buddha nature or God nature.
This practice has a great influence on us but more then that it benefits our relatives, our neighbourhood, our country and the whole universe. I know for many this may seems a bit overwhelming but for many others it is a day-to-day reality and they continue their practices understanding that it give great assistance to all sentient being.
Many research have been done on the effect of meditation. It has been proven that meditation practice influence positively the overall health of a person.But more then that, some research have proven that when a large group of meditation practitioner were active in a region the crime rate of this region was lowering. For example you go to a city like Kyoto in Japan filled with temples and monks and then you go to another city having the same population you will notice the difference. It is palpable, it is in the air, people are more joyful and relax in Kyoto. So we can modify ourselves, we can influences others and then those others can influence others. Knowing this why shouldn’t we start our practice as soon as possible.
Sit comfortably, Took off your watch and glasses, turn the cell phone off. Make sure that nothing can disturb your practice. The hands are on your knees with hridaya Mudra see picture below. If you feel uncomfortable with this mudra just take Chin, Gyan or Bhairava mudra. Your spine is straight the shoulder slightly back and relax the head is straight and chin slightly in.
Before starting Hridayakash Dhyana do a short kaya sthairyam (body steadiness) practice, Be aware of your body posture, make sure your body is still, relax and grounded. Then move the awareness to the body sensations from toes to head. Make sure that you are now still, steady and comfortable. Then move your awareness to the outside sounds, move from on sound to the other without trying to identify the sound but just observing the sound. Move from the furthest to the closest sound.
Then bring your attention to the breath. Feel your breath in and out of the nostrils, feel the cool air in and the warm air out. Stay focus on your breath for a while, you can even feel the hair of you nostrils moving with the breath. Then slowly increase the depth of you breath, it become deep and slow.
Then bring your focus on your chest area, to the heart centre. Visualize a dark space having in its centre a tiny white crystal energy light. This light is your energy,. this light represent Joy, Harmony, Happiness, Love and Peace
With each breath in, this light is growing more and more, soon your whole chest area is filled with this light. You can feel Joy, Harmony, Happiness, Love and Peace growing in your chest. Continue to breath and soon your whole body is filled with this light, every cells of your body is radiating this light this feeling of Joy, Harmony, Happiness, Love and Peace. You can really feel it, it feel great.
Then think about your family members, your children, husband and wife, father, mother, sister, brother, their children. Either if the are Living on this earth or living somewhere else. Make bridge of light with them, send them the energy of Joy, Harmony, Happiness, Love and Peace. Visualize them feeling it completely the way you feel it. They become happy and joyful too. Make bridge with everyone even if you have some differents with him or her. It doesn’t matter here. Their feeling will influence the others as well and it continue like this influencing positively each and every one.
Then come back to the studio or you home, then start sharing this light with the students and teachers, receive it too from the others. The whole studio or your room is fill with light. This light is now growing outside in the neighbourhood, the city, and the country. Then the whole planet and the whole universe is fill with this light. You become light, you become the universe ,you become Joy, Harmony, Happiness, Love and Peace. Stay in this feeling and light for a while and enjoy.
Then keeping this feeling alive inside yourself, focus again on the breath, again be aware of the breath in and out of the nostrils, then become aware of the outside sounds, then bring your awareness you body sitting in the studio or your room. Feel comfortable and at peace with yourself and surrounding. Keep the feeling of Joy, Harmony, Happiness, Love and Peace with you and spread it to everyone you’ll meet.
You end up the practice by chanting AUM three times, do palming one time and open your eyes slowly when you feel ready.