Before answering the question on how to meditate, let us know what actually is meditation. When you read a very interesting book, the mind is fixed upon it completely unaware of the external world. Similarly during meditation the mind is withdrawn of external thoughts and is concentrated on an idea/word/object or something far subtle.
Attention, concentration and meditation are different degrees of the same process. Therefore you already know what is meditation, now you only have to deepen it. Meditation, therfore is an advanced stage of concentration by which mind can be fixed upon.
How to Meditate and the Mind
According to The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, which was compiled around 400 CE by Sage Patanjali – Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Chitta) from taking various forms (Vrittis).
Therfore the whole of meditation has to deal with control of the vrittis in the chitta, here the vrittis are modifications of the mind-stuff (chitta). The chitta is a mental substance, and the modifications are nothing but the thoughts that arise from it.
Let us try and understand this further, Consider the mind (chitta) as the lake, and the thoughts (vrittis) are ripples in it. The bottom of the lake is the true self. As long as there are ripples you cannot see the bottom of the lake. Therefore the practice of meditation helps one to slowly reduce these innumerable ripples and attain a perfect state of mind.
Therefore Meditation is not fighting with your mind to calm it down, it would just cause more ripples. Meditation is a systematic practice of control over the body and the mind. So that these waves in the mind are gradually decreased.
“I was absent-minded; I did not hear. I was absent-minded; I did not see. It is thus evident that a person sees with the mind, hears with themind. Desire, determination, uncertainty, belief, disbelief, steadiness, unsteadiness, shame, intellect, fear all these are in the mind alone. Therefore,when touched from behind, a person knows by the mind.”
~Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, I-v-3
Samskaras: Latent Impression
When the waves in the mind sinks below normal consciousness, then it becomes a latent impression or Samskara. These Impressions can asire upon any kind of stimulation that awakens the experience. For example when you smell a Jasmine flower for the first time, it forms a samskara. Next time you experience the same smell again, it brings back this samskara to the conscious mind and the many memories associated with it. This is the reason why many meditation techniques such as yoga nidra invloves image visualisation.
Beginners Meditation Tip
There are no prerequisites for meditation, however the following will aid in faster progress of meditation.
- A person with pure thoughts without any negative ones has a better control over his mind.
- A vegetarian diet is recommended, However if you cannot follow it, you must always try to maintain a healthly diet.
- Having a steady posture for meditation is important if you plan to sit for long hours of meditation. Such as Padmasana, Siddhasana or Sukasana.
- A meditation room/Space. Having a seperate room for daily meditation will inculcate the practice in your daily life. Read more about Meditation Space.
- Daily Meditation at a fixed time. The time between 4am to 6am is considered the best time for meditation.
- Breathing exercises before meditation will result in better meditation.
- Keep a Meditation diary to track your progress.
- Wear light clothing, so that you don’t feel uncomfortable inbetween your meditation.
Meditation Technique for beginners
Know as Kaya Sthairyam, this is an ancient method in which awareness of the body is developed step by step and intensified progressively until you become unaware of the body. The bodily awareness will no longer be a hindrance to meditation and it’s practice. The Sanskrit word Kaya means ‘body’ and Sthairyam means ‘steadiness’. This technique will prepare you for higher stages of meditation and can be used as a preliminary mediation method before performing other techniques of meditations.
- Sit in any comfortable meditation posture
- Close your eyes
- Relax the body and make necessary adjustments so as to make no further movements.
- Become aware of the whole body, feel the body steady like a statue.
- Become aware of this stillness.
- If you feel any discomfort or tension on any part of the body, focus your attention there and observe as the tension fades away.
- Now become aware to the right foot, keep the focus on the right foot.
- Shift your awareness to the left foot, keep the focus on the left foot.
- Next transfer the awareness to the right leg, after sometime shift your awareness to the left leg.
- Similarly shift awareness to the whole back, abdomen, chest, right arm, left arm, neck, head and finally the whole body.
Steps 4 to 10 is one round. Do as many rounds you’d like. Intensify the awareness in each part of the body in steps 7-10. The body will soon start to feel very stiff and rigid, you will feel that the body is separate from yourself. Once this stage has been achieved, you can move on to other meditation techniques which requires internal awareness.