What is Meditation?
Meditation is a technique fro training and exploring the mind and the ‘self’ by using various systems and methods, which encourage ‘one-pointed’ concentration or focus.
The following from the Bhagavad Gita, instructs the practitioner 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 mediation. With body and mind controlled they should constantly practise one-pointedness, free from expectations and attachments to material possessions.’
What is the Self?
Meditation practices potentially offer the practitioners a 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 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. It is recognised in the Eastern philosophies and in yoga text that the unification offered through meditation may take many life-times. The purpose then of mediation is to experience the journey without the need for expectation or attachment to any goal.
Active meditation allows us to meditate in the midst of action when we perform daily duties: when we walk, talk, eat, garden, shop. This is the main of yoga to allow us to meditate while being involved in the world. We will offer more focus and attention with increased awareness put to the task action with clarity.
Passive meditation is the aim of sitting with the spine in an upright position and performing a mediation practice. The aim of these practices is to still the ever-chattering mind and make it one pointed.
Some general passive yoga meditation practices or tools that can aid the practitioner towards meditation include:
- Breath practices like watching the breath, counting the breath, observing pauses
- South practices such as extended pranayama practices or mantra practices
- Sight practises – focusing on a candle/point, focusing on yantras and mandalas
- Observational pratices like yoga nidra
Precautions and prohibitions for practising meditation
Meditation practices are generally offered when the teacher feels like 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. Practise should be done in a quiet, warm and non-draughty place. Certain practices are not suitable for mental and physical conditions such as trataka (candle gazing) for those with epilepsy.