WHAT IS MEDITATION?
The English word ‘Meditation’ has been derived from two Latin words; meditari which means to think, ponder, dwell upon, exercise the mind, focus attention; and mederi which means to heal.
In Sanskrit, Meditation is called ‘Dhyana’, which comes from the root word ‘dhyati’ meaning to contemplate or meditate. That is why the contemporary usage of the word Meditation has been confused with ‘concentration, contemplation, mind control’ etc.
Over the years, the word ‘Meditation’ has been loosely used to describe a variety of practices, across cultures and traditions, ranging from techniques designed to promote relaxation and well being to techniques designed to achieve enlightenment.
One definition, which finds a universal and wide spread acceptance, is that meditation simply means a ‘no thought state’. A restless mind creates an ‘inner chatter’ and does not know how to remain in the present moment. Meditation cuts through this incessant thought flow to reach a tranquil state. Hence, a simple definition of Meditation is ‘stillness of mind’.
No thought state
The mind is the sum total of all our thoughts. On an average a human being thinks more than 50,000 thoughts in a day. Most of these thoughts dwell in either the past or the future. Usually our body remains in one place while the mind wanders around in all directions.
Meditation is about dropping this mind and becoming absolutely still and silent. When there are no words in the mouth that is silence; when there are no thoughts in the mind that is Meditation. Just as it requires a sincere effort to silence the mouth, silencing the mind too requires a sincere effort.
In Meditation, a practitioner attempts to move beyond the ‘reflexive, thinking’ mind state to tap into ‘pure consciousness’, and expand the human mind into the divine mind.
Non doing state
There is nothing to ‘do’ in Meditation. It is only about ‘be’ing. It is about remaining unoccupied. Once the mind becomes unoccupied, Meditation happens spontaneously. When we don’t do anything, the energy moves towards our centre and settles down there. When we ‘do’ something, the energy moves out of the centre and gets directed towards the object of doing. Doing makes energy move out, non doing makes energy move in.
Various types of Meditation
Meditation encompasses a wide variety of practices. Some of the most well known are Anapanasati, Vipassana, Transcendental Meditation, Zen Meditations, Guided Meditations, and Mantra Meditations. In general, practices these days can be classified as either meditation or mindfulness practices.
In meditation practices, the practitioner anchors his focus and awareness on a particular object of attention and consistently brings the mind back to the chosen object. This chosen object could be a candle flame, an image, a sound, a mantra or one’s breath. It is like using a zoom lens while taking a picture and focusing upon one single object.
In mindfulness practices the practitioner freely shifts from one perception to the next, being mindful of all sensations, images, memories, thoughts, sounds and smells without becoming involved in any one of them or thinking about them. This form of Meditation can be compared with wide-angle lens photography. Here instead of zooming onto a selected object, one remains aware of the entire spectrum of experiences without judgement.
All such practices have one thing in common. They all focus upon quieting the busy mind. In each practice mind is filled with peace and calm. While the methods of meditation may be different, the end goal remains the same.
One should engage in a practice which allows one to reach the meditative state in the best way possible.
In meditation our Consciousness travels
Meditation is a journey of our consciousness towards the Self. In Meditation, we consciously travel from body to mind, then from mind to intellect and then, from intellect to Self and beyond.
Consciousness refers to our state of awareness. So in meditation, our state of awareness is moving from the dense realm of physical body to mind and intellect to even higher realms towards the Self and beyond.
It is said that Sleep is unconscious Meditation because in the deep sleep state our consciousness travels beyond the body, mind and intellect however, we are fully unaware of that journey!
In meditation, when the body relaxes, consciousness travels to the next zone which is mind and intellect. Mind is nothing but a bundle of thoughts. There are always numerous thoughts coming to the surface of the mind and whenever there are thoughts in the mind, we may start to question, analyze and think.
To transcend the mind and intellect, one has to observe the breath. Observation or witnessing is our true nature, the nature of the Self. That means we do not do conscious breathing by inhaling or exhaling consciously. We allow inhalation or exhalation to happen on its own. We simply observe the normal breathing. We should not go behind the thoughts or cling to queries or questions. During meditation, one should pay no attention to their thoughts and return to observing their natural breathing at all times. This is the fundamental principle.
With more and more practice of meditation, the breath slowly becomes thinner and shorter. Finally, breath becomes smallest and settles like a flash in-between the eyebrows. In this state, one will have no breath! And no thought! One will be totally free of thoughts - this is the Meditative State! In this state our consciousness has transcended body, mind and intellect.
In meditation we receive Cosmic Energy
Once our mind is more or less empty, we have a great capacity to receive Cosmic Energy. Cosmic energy is also known as 'chi', 'prana' or life force energy. The more meditation one does, the more will be the cosmic energy one receives. Cosmic energy is needed to maintain the cellular structure of our physical body and to expand our consciousness. We use this energy for all our day-to-day activities of the mind and body (e.g. speaking, listening, thinking, etc). This is the reason why we feel exhausted at the end of the day even though our physical bodies engaged in minimal physical activity during the day. We do receive some cosmic energy during sleep to recharge ourselves however it is only in the state of meditation that we receive abundant cosmic energy.
Meditation is a ‘no-mind’ state.
Meditation is emptying the mind of all thoughts
Meditation is the science of (cosmic) energy maximization
Meditation is letting go
Meditation is non-doing
Meditation is living in the here and the now
Meditation is being absolutely silent and still
Meditation is silencing the inner chatter
Meditation is an awareness of the inner silence
Meditation is making contact with our inner essence.
Meditation is awakening oneself to altered states of Consciousness.