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“The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science.” —Albert Einstein
Meditation can be challenging for many of us as it is attracted to a physical and dynamic form of yoga. The ability to sit still is an art that seems to be disappearing in a culture where multi-tasking is the norm.
Much of the distracting behaviour we seek is a response to an aversion, perhaps even a fear, of spending any time with oneself. Possibly, we feel that if we go within, we will not like what we find. Expectation is another block to developing a meditation practice. We are conditioned to expect certain tangible benefits from spending time in study. Progress on the path in the form of meditation requires both individual effort and great surrender. We may have no experience with clarified states of consciousness and may have no context for what to expect in a meditation practise, thus for results vary.
Meditation can calm the nervous system, bring equanimity to thought, and can reduce the effects of stress. The ultimate purpose of meditation is to connect to our source, the sea of consciousness in which we habitually see ourselves as only a wave, forgetting we are also the ocean itself.
Types of Meditation
This form of meditation is simplicity at its most simple. The Zen tradition’s approach is
spartan and concise. Just sit. Sitting, you begin to notice more about your internal
environment. The mind, which is always working, appears to be racing in contrast to the stillness of the body.
In the state of questioning, one can notice a response such as aversion after a time of sitting, and begin to question the source of the aversion. Following the aversion, or whatever else appears, to its source is a powerful form of self-study which proves to be quite humbling.
This form of meditation, believing the modern mind to be too unfocused to perform traditional seated meditation. Dynamic meditation can include movement, free movement, incomprehensible babble, laughter, and dancing.
Nada is the sound of our internal environment. Closing the small flaps of the ears with the thumbs, you may hear an internal ringing sound. Concentration on that sound reveals sounds which underlie it, moving attention and concentration into more subtle layers.
All Is Consciousness
Mind is consciousness. While simply sitting, notice the movements of the mind with
neither impulse to stop nor to suspend the movements. Let the mind do what it will, and recognize this as the play of the Supreme.
Take a comfortable seat so that your hips are at the same level or slightly higher than your knees. This will prevent the back from rounding uncomfortably, allowing you to sit without unnecessary difficulty or distraction from low back tension. Place your hands on your knees and bend your elbows so that your shoulders relax.
Close your eyes softly and allow them to set back in the sockets.
Bring your attention to the breath and notice its pulsation. Using the breath as the focus of the meditation, simply stay present in the moment for a time, anywhere from three minutes to thirty minutes. Begin with a duration that is comfortable to you.
Find a time and place to build the habit of meditation. This space should be a place where you will not be disturbed. Anywhere that you find inviting and relatively quiet will do. You may also make an altar on which photos of loved ones or inspiring teachers can be placed.
Trāṭaka (Sanskrit meaning: “to look, or to gaze”) is a method of meditation that involves staring at a single point such as a small object, black dot or candle flame. It is said to bring energy to the “third eye” (ājňā chakra) and promote various psychic abilities.
By fixing the gaze, the restless mind too comes to a halt. It is said also that control of the ciliary (blink) reflex stimulates the pineal gland, which some authorities identify with the third eye. Trāṭaka is said to enhance the ability to concentrate. It may increase the power of memory and bring the mind in a state of awareness, attention and focus.
The practitioner may fix attention on a symbol or yantra, such as the Om symbol, a black dot, the image of some deity or guru, a flame, a mirror or any point, and stare at it. A candle should be three to four feet (1 metre plus) away, the flame level with the eyes. Relax but keep the spine erect and remain wakeful and vigilant. The eyes begin to water. Some authorities recommend that the eyes should then be closed and the yogi concentrate on the after image, while others persevere with staring for 30–40 minutes.