What is Meditation?
Meditation is a technique for training and exploring the mind and the ‘self’, using various systems and methods, to encourage ‘one-pointed’ concentration or focus.
The following extract from the Bhagavad Gita explains / describes how a state of meditation can be reached by controlling the mind and body using concentration, having no expectations or attachments to the results.
‘Those who aspire to the state of Yoga should seek the Self in inner solitude through meditation. With body and mind controlled they should constantly practise one-pointedness, free from expectations and attachments to material possessions.’
What is the Self?
Meditation offers the practitioner a potential way of experiencing, understanding, trusting and knowing the Self. It cannot be written about, named or described within the limits of language.
Purpose of Meditation
There is essentially only one purpose of meditation: to experience that which is also known as Samadhi or enlightenment. There are many different types of meditation, but they all have the same goal. In Eastern philosophies and yoga texts it is said that the unification offered through meditation may take many lifetimes. The purpose of mediation/ meditation is therefore to experience the journey, without the need, expectation or attachment to achieving any specific goal.
In active meditation the aim is to meditate in the midst of action, while e performing daily duties: when we walk, talk, eat, garden, or shop. This is the main aim of yoga; to allow us to meditate while being immersed in the world. We can then bring more focus and attention to the task at hand, with increased awareness and clarity.
Passive meditation involves sitting with the spine in an upright position.. The aim of this practice is to still the ever-chattering mind and make it one-pointed.
Some passive meditation techniques that can aid the practitioner include:
- Breath practices – watching the breath, counting the breaths, observing pauses
- Sound practices – extended pranayama or mantras
- Sight practises – focusing on a candle/point, or yantras and mandalas
- Observational practices – such as yoga nidra
Precautions and prohibitions for practising meditation
Meditation practices are generally offered when the teacher feels the class is ready. Practitioners should have a peaceful attitude, awareness of yamas and niyamas, some aptitude of discipline, the ability to maintain a firm, comfortable position, and steadiness of breath. Practice should be done in a quiet, warm and non-draughty place. Certain practices are not suitable for some mental and physical conditions, such as trataka (candle gazing) for those with epilepsy.