In this conversation on meditation, I would mention that in the modern time we all need ability and education to keep ourselves balanced, calm and vitalized at physical, mental and emotional levels. A lot of studies are done in the field of meditation showing how meditation helps in managing stress, anxiety and healing body and mind.
Mediation creates a very conducive conditions inside us where there is less of mental clutters hence providing crucial moments to the mind to heal and rejuvenate. It provides mind a very healing space to rejuvenate. Most of the time our mind is arrested by different thoughts and issues in life. We don’t provide a healthy and healing time and space for the mind to enrich itself with new fresh creative ideas. And secondly engaging the mind all the time consumes lot of vital energies. Mind needs rest too.
And if we provide mind a healing space and time to rest and rejuvenate then you can expect relaxed alertness all the time which will help you to take healthy balanced decisions in life. Meditation is like giving mind an opportunity to reset, to reconfigure and find better and harmonious solutions in life.
When we are doing this conversation on meditation then we should not forget that our emotions also need reset. Emotions which are unexpressed and trapped or suffocated inside need to find a healthier expression. During our daily engagements with life events, we never get a chance to acknowledge and accept our emotions and their needs in non-judgmental ways. We can only reset the emotions when we know how not to judge and get out of the trap created by our own identifications with our emotions. Meditative environment or meditative space is completely non-judgmental and allowing expressions to take place. It is the art of letting go. And the moment it happens there is realignment with our feelings and emotions. We see opportunities to reset our older patterns with existing emotions and develop a new perspective.
On the physical level, our brain gets much needed relaxation and is reset by removing the cerebral tensions.
We need to understand that meditation is not just a technique. To me meditation is a condition, a state or an event which arises within the inner environment when certain conditions are met. The various techniques of meditations only help creating a conducive environment for meditation to unfold.
Now coming to the basic requirements or prerequisites for meditation to happen, we need to focus or enable the following conditions-
This is one of the most important basic requirements. Most of the time we do not talk about it. When I am talking about environment it is not just the physical environment but also includes our inner ecology. Situations and conditions creating lot of physical mental and emotional noises are not conducive for meditation to happen.
First of all, we all need to find a suitable place to meditate which encourages a condition within us to go within. It can be a corner in your room or house or a even nature.
Secondly, in modern age lot of our energies are consumed and dissipated due to our electronic uses like mobiles, social media and stuffs. So, a self-regulation is needed and most importantly selection of information we are tuned in to. Because whatever we are feeding to the brain or our mind are going to be purged out when we sit and try meditating.
Ideally before you sit for meditation at least half an hour before the practice begin to orientate the mind by preparing the environment, taking a shower if you need to, switching off your electronic gadgets etc.
If you want to immerse yourself into the process of meditation then ideally set a time aside every day, even for 15-30 mins. And this should ideally be at fixed time of the day. When we begin to sit for meditation at this fixed time everyday you would start noticing that gradually the process of moving in or internalization will need lesser time. It is because our body and energy rhythm have unique quality of adaptability. When you start doing the same thing at a fixed time everyday then our body begins to naturally get prepared and the mind anticipates the process and the entire experience. So, diving into meditation will become more spontaneous and effortless if we persist.
Learn to awaken the relaxation response in the body- A relaxed body has a relaxed and receptive mind for the process of meditation to happen.
If the body is not relaxed then mind will be dissipated and find it difficult to focus. When we are stressed, we are holding a lot of tensions, fear, anxiety and traumas in the body. These different experiences leave an impression in the body and are stored in our muscles and systems. To be able to experience meditation process deeply it is always advisable to learn to release these physical imprints of mental and emotional stresses in the body. And in this any form of hatha yoga done with awareness and relaxation will help a lot. And even if you don’t have access to yoga teachings then exercise or run. Do something to shed these nervous energies trapped in the body. These things will help you to sit quietly when you are going for meditation.
It can be chair or on floor using cushion or even support of the wall. But what matters most is that your back should be aligned with the head and neck. In Yoga we consider our spinal column as information highway. Keeping the back upright keeps the mind and body both in relaxed alertness. Secondly it is important because pranic energy has the nature of moving upwards when awakened and most of the important energy channels are situated within the spinal column. So when we are preparing for meditation we do not want to block free flow of prana otherwise mind will be dull and loose awareness and possible result will be sleep.
Breathing in most of the traditions of meditation is part and parcel of the entire process. Breath has direct connection with our autonomic nervous system which keeps on performing its job even when we are not noticing it. To hack the activities and outcomes of autonomic nervous system possible through control over our breath. Most of the time we don’t notice but our breathing gets affected due to our emotional upheavals, anxiety and stress. Next time notice your breath when you are anxious, nervous, angry or even scared of something. Your breath will be arrhythmic, shallow, paced and out of your conscious control. And notice the breath when you are absolutely calm and tranquil. The nature of the breath will be completely different. Nature has given us this privilege to monitor and control the breath consciously and we must use it. If we learn to quieten and calm our breathing process it would transport our awareness into meditative state quite easily.
Being a witness means being non-judgmental, accepting and mindful of events going on around us. Experiences in meditative space are observed without getting trapped in labelling experiences. Because the moment you apply a label on any of the inner experiences then instantaneously you encourage the onset of repetitive associated patterns in the mind. And this is the last thing we want in meditative space.
Being in the moment means you are grounded in here and now situation. Being in the moment awakens us to this very moment of reality. It makes the entire meditative experience very conscious and enlightening. Otherwise, mind is entirely consumed by obsessive thoughts, desire and apprehensions.
Sometimes when we try to practice meditation techniques we are caught by our own expectations towards the outcome. This causes the mind to become restless and in expecting mode. As a result, what happens the environment of tranquility and harmony which meditation creates never occurs. If deeper meditation is to experience then the mind needs to be completely in receptive and non-expecting modes. Letting go accepting the outcome or results are very important principles in causing a deeper meditation. Because an anticipating mind always lives in the future and it defies the principle of being in the moment.
You see meditation can be done anytime and every time. There is no such rules which bind anyone to one particular time to experience meditation. But normally morning time is preferred because mind is already fresh, rejuvenated and not so judgmental. Receptivity of the mind is very high in the morning time. So people who find very difficult to experience meditation may begin in the morning before engaging one self with their mobiles and gadgets. In the morning conditions at the physical and mental levels are more conducive. But it doesn’t mean you can not practice meditation techniques other times.
There are two different approaches of meditation. One approach is active. When you are engaging with the life events and practicing some of the above principle we just discussed. There are many traditions of spirituality in which they practice this form of meditation. Other form of meditation is passive meditation. It is done in control condition, keeping oneself isolated from distractions of outside reality.
It is always fruitful if we are beginners then start with this form of meditation and gradually apply the methods whilst in activity.
We need to understand that we can not treat meditation as a medicinal pill. We need to incorporate the principles enabling or helping us to get tuned into meditative state. And it involves rectifying our attitudes towards events and outcomes in life, be more compassionate towards our own selves, managing expectations and not being too hard on our own selves and simplify the life. Then the harmony, balance and tranquility caused by meditation stay with us most of the time.
Meditation is not something which we are borrowing from outside. It is an optimum state of body, mind and energies when there is perfect harmony and alignment within us. We have to only provide the support so that a favorable situation emerges which causes meditation to happen.
Meditation is a state when physical, mental, emotional and pranic energies working in perfect alignment and rhythm. Here awareness is not dissipated by there is ‘relaxed alertness’, body and mind are in healing mode, there is heightened receptivity and there is perfect attunement with the various levels of human functioning within.
Conclusion of this conversation on meditation is that Living life with awareness, managing aggression or reactive nature, harmonizing breath, awakening calmness in the body using mindfulness help meditative awareness prevail most of the time during the day. Hence, helping us to enjoy calmness and tranquility in our expressions and behavior.
Sushant is Meditation & Philosophy Teacher and Academic Director at Rishikesh Yogis. Sushant carries long years of experience teaching practical as well as philosophical aspects of Kundalini yoga, Kriya yoga, Hatha Yoga and Tantra philosophy.