Yoga and Meditation
What is Yoga and Meditation?
The Sanskrit word "yoga" actually means "union with the divine". The stretching exercises that we in the west associate with yoga were originally designed, thousands of years ago, to help the practitioner gain control of their own life force, a spiritual energy known as kundalini. When this energy rises from the base of the spine up through the top of the head, an expanded state of awareness, called self-realization, can be achieved.
Many wonder why it is necessary to meditate after practising Yoga asanas/ postures. One of the many benefits of practising yoga asanas/ postures is the fact that it allows us to slip into meditation effortlessly. Meditation being one of the main aspects of Yoga, it’s essential that we sit for meditation after practising Yoga asanas and pranayama; else it is like preparing our dinner but not eating it! In meditation one delves deep into the self. There are many kinds of meditations though they might seem different most of them are, in essence, the same.
I can’t imagine the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to alway search my destination.
When it’s dark enough, you can see the stars.
You may not be able to control every situation and its outcome, but you can control your attitude and how you deal with it.
Once you choose hope, anything’s possible. Hope never abandons you, you abandon it.
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.
Dear GOD, if today I lose my hope please remind me that your plans are better than my Dream.....
Despite all its popularity, today very few of us truly know what meditation is. Some regard meditation is the mental concentration on something, others consider that we meditate when we imagine something that gives us peace or satisfaction. All these methods are being with one goal to slow down and, eventually, completely stop the incessant activity of our minds. These exercises are not really meditation – they are substitutes for meditation because it is normally very difficult to stop our minds all-together. In reality, meditation is a state of thoughtless awareness. It is not an act of doing – it is a state of awareness. We either in this state or we are not, regardless of what we are doing in life. Truly, a man can be in meditation while doing his day’s labors as another man can be very far from meditation while sitting in a lotus posture on the top of a mountain.
When we take a look at the various explanations of meditation, another thing we often see is that meditation is defined as taking a moment to sit quietly or to ponder. True meditation, however is much more than this. It is a state of profound, deep peace that occurs when the mind is calm and silent, yet completely alert. This is just the beginning of an inner transformation that takes us to a higher level of awareness. This enables us to fulfill our true human potential. The problem, of course, is how to achieve this state.
Meditation is not a loss of control - Sounds, voices, colors and involuntary movements have nothing to do with meditation or spirituality. These are symptoms of loss of awareness and loss of control over some parts of ourselves.
Meditation is not a concentration - Concentration is an effort to fix the attention on a particular object or idea for a long period of time. The techniques used in visualization are another type of concentration.
Meditation is not a mental effort - Thoughtless awareness is achieved through the raising of the Kundalini. To get rid of blockages that prevent her ascent, we use the hands and introspection but never mental effort (e.g., the continuous repetition of “I must stop thinking”).
Meditation is not a exercises - Exercises, such as postures and breathing, do not constitute meditation. They may help establish some balance if under the guidance of a true master (a realized soul). Their practice without a true spiritual goal only leads to an imbalance in the right channel.
Meditation is seen by a number of researchers as potentially one of the most effective forms of stress reduction. While stress reduction techniques have been cultivated and studied in the West for approximately 70 years, the data indicates that they are not consistently effective.
Meditation however, has been developed in Eastern cultures and has a documented history of more than several thousand years. Eastern meditative techniques have been developed, trialed and refined over hundreds of generations with the specific intention of developing a method by which the layperson can regularly attain a state of mental peace and tranquillity, ie. relief from stress. It is a strategy that can easily be adapted to the needs of clinicians and their patients in the West.Some key points about meditation are:
Some meditation steps are:
To give meditation a try, sit comfortably, set a timer for 10 minutes, and explore one of the following strategies. And consider yourself forewarned: Meditation is a delightfully simple practice, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy!
Just Sit - Commit to doing nothing more than sitting quietly and watching what happens. Don’t pick up the phone, don’t answer the doorbell, don’t add another item to your to-do list. Just sit and observe the thoughts that arise and pass through your mind. You will likely be surprised by how difficult it is to sit quietly for 10 minutes. In the process, though, you may learn something important about the qualities of the restless mind and the ever-changing nature of life.
Listen to the Sounds of Life - Close your eyes and tune in to the sounds percolating both within and around you. Open your ears and adopt a receptive attitude. At first, you’ll likely hear only the most obvious noises, but over time, you’ll discover new layers of sounds that you had previously tuned out. Challenge yourself to observe what you hear without clinging to it or resisting it. Notice how the world feels more alive as your awareness of the present deepens.
Practice Bare Attention - Notice the raw sensations of the present moment—feelings of warmth and coolness, hardness and softness, pressure and ease. Which parts of your body are in contact with the earth? How does the shape of the body shift with each inhalation and exhalation? How does your experience change over time? Cultivating an awareness of the present moment will foster a more serene and attentive mind, one that is able to settle into the here and now.
Follow the Breath - Attach your mind to the breath. While you’re breathing in, note that you’re breathing in, and while you're breathing out, focus on the exhalation. Don’t manipulate the breath in any way; simply watch it with your mind's eye, just as you would follow a tennis ball bouncing from one side of the court to the other during a particularly engrossing match. When you find that your mind has strayed, as it inevitably will, gently refocus it on the breath and begin again.
Use a Mantra - Choose a favorite word, phrase, prayer, or fragment of a poem, and repeat it slowly and softly. Let its rhythm and meaning lull you into a quiet, contemplative state of ease. When you notice that your mind has wandered off to other thoughts, simply redirect it back toward the words you’ve chosen as your touchstone and rededicate your awareness to them.
Practice Kindness - As you sit quietly, focus your inner attention on someone you know who might benefit from an extra dose of kindness and care. In your mind’s eye, send this person love, happiness, and well-being. Soften your skin, open the floodgates of your heart, and let gentle goodwill pour forth.
Meditation and chakras
Within every human being there is a subtle body of three energy channels (nadis) and seven energy centres (chakras). At the root of this system lies a creative, protective and nurturing power which is a dormant, maternal energy (Kundalini). When this power is awakened within us, it rises spontaneously through the spinal column, passes through each of the chakras and emits from the fontanelle bone area on top of the head. This process is referred to as Enlightenment (Self-realization). This energy can actually be felt on top of the head and on the palms of the hands. Any imbalances in the subtle system can be felt on various parts of each hand. Through this meditation one can learn, not only how to diagnose and decode the state of one’s own inner subtle system, but one can also learn very simple clearing techniques to rebalance oneself.There are 7 major chakras within our subtle body:
Each chakra has different qualities and by healing or balancing these chakras, we awaken and enhance their qualities within us, making us more balanced and integrated. Our enlightened chakras give us joy and peace.
Each of these subtle chakras is a storehouse of energy for the gross plexuses supplying the physical, mental and emotional demands of the sympathetic nervous system. For instance, if the Swadisthan chakra looks after the abdominal organs, it also supplies energy to creative action and thought and depth to the aesthetic sensibility. Before Kundalini awakening, the energy in the chakras is limited and exhaustible, as in a battery. After realization, they are connected by Kundalini passing through Sushumna (the middle channel) to the infinite current of the universal superconscious, to the all-pervading power of divine love.
Mooladhara chakra - Situated below the sacrum bone, the awakened Mooladhara chakra gives us innocence and wisdom. Innocence gives us joy without the limitation of conditionings and prejudice, a quality that can be found on small children. This quality diminishes as we grow up and develop a sense of ego and selfish desires. Fortunately this innate innocence is never destroyed and can return to us by practicing Sahaja Meditation. It is like the sun which is obscured by clouds but which shines again after the clouds pass. In India the elephant-headed deity, Shri Ganesha, is worshipped as the essence of innocence and wisdom. He has the body of a child, symbolizing innocence and the head of an elephant, symbolizing humility and wisdom.
Swadisthan chakra - The Swadishthana chakra moves like a satellite around the Nabhi chakra and the Void and provides us with our sense of aesthetics, art, music, our appreciation and connection with nature. It looks after our digestive organs and provides us with the dynamic energy to do physical, mental and creative work.
The quality of Swadisthan is pure knowledge (Nirmala Vidya), knowledge of things as they are in the absolute sense. This knowledge needs to be experienced by ourselves directly not through an external agency.
The key to true creativity is in achieving the state of thoughtless awareness (nirvichar samadhi). Like a lake, silent and still, all the beauty of the creation around You, is reflected within. You become the flute, an egoless channel for the divine music of vibrations. You are, in the words of the Poet, ‘a heart that watches and receives’.
Nabhi chakra - When enlightened by the Kundalini, the Nabhi chakra gives us unconditional generosity, complete contentment and profound inner peace. On the right side, it looks after the upper part of our liver which is the organ of our attention. We seek food, shelter and comfort and ultimately, we seek to evolve into a new state of spiritual awareness and to receive our Self-realization.
"Satisfaction" is actually a key word for Nabhi. Because of liver problems and the consequent irritability people often develop the habit of expressing discontent at the slightest provocation. For them, life without worry is an impossibility.
When the Spirit manifests, you see things in their true perspective, through purified attention, and give up worrying. In the peace of thoughtlessness, you can only be content. Then you know the Spirit is not bothered with passing fads and trends, a button missing here or there. The mantra for Nabhi is : “In my Spirit I am satisfied.”
Heart chakra - Within the Heart chakra resides the Self: the spirit or atma. The spirit manifests when our heart is open, at which point we feel the pure joy of existence and the meaning and purpose of our place in creation. The quality of the Heart chakra is pure, unconditional love. Before our realization we rarely love unconditionally-we expect something in return. We mistake feelings of love for physical attraction, infatuation and selfishness. We love our children because they are ‘ours’ but do not love other children in the same way. Often we expect something back from them later in life as a repayment for our love. Love that expects is emotional attachment. Pure love has no motive. It emanates from the spirit and not from the body or mind. If you see how a small puppy runs to every person it sees in a park just to give them its love and share with them its joy, that is the essence of love. The Heart chakra also manifests in the head at the fontanelle bone so it’s important to keep our Heart chakra clean, as this is the entry point to the super consciousness, where the Kundalini escapes from the subtle system and unites us with the Paramachaitanya-the all-pervading power of divine love.
Vishuddhi chakra - The Vishuddhi embodies the qualities which governs our communication with others. As it awakens we discover greater self-respect (left Vishuddhi) and greater respect for others (right Vishuddhi). Our ego is not bloated by praise and we are not upset by aggression or criticism. The Vishuddhi is also the chakra that manifests the power of witnessing. By daily practice of Sahaja Meditation, we become identified with our spirit. In this state of union with our spirit, we become witness of our body, our mind, our thoughts, our emotions, and ultimately the detached witness of the drama of our lives.
Agnya chakra - The Agnya is the narrow gate which, when open, allows our kundalini to ascend to the limbic area of the brain. It is the chakra of forgiveness, humility and compassion. Forgiveness is the power to let go of anger, hatred and resentment and to discover, in humility, the nobility and generosity of the spirit. Once we start to see that by not forgiving others we are actually doing no harm to anyone other than ourselves, we start to realize that it is not only wise and generous to forgive but also very practical and pragmatic. By forgiving, we start to feel a tremendous sense of peace and relief. Forgiveness melts away all our ego and conditionings, our false ideas of racism and nationalism and our misidentifications.
Sahasrara chakra - Our complete subtle instrument is integrated in the Sahasrara chakra. Each chakra has its seat. As our attention and our kundalini rise to Sahasrara chakra we enter a new dimension of consciousness. We go beyond the relative to the absolute. We rise above the three channels of the subtle system-beyond the past, present and future and into a timeless state and experience the inner joy and bliss of the divine. This is a heavenly place far beyond our imagination.
When the Kundalini reaches the Sahasrara, the thousand petals of this chakra begin to open and enlightenment begins to manifest. We may experience a pulsation at the fontanelle bone, followed by a subtle flow of cool vibrations. The Kundalini unites our individual consciousness to the universal consciousness. Our individual atma, our soul, is connected to the paramatma, the supreme spirit. We are suddenly tuned into the universal wavelength of vibrations, to the subtle joy that is present in nature. These vibrations pervade the universe but before Realization we are unaware of them.
The opening of this chakra is known as second birth. Our human birth can be likened to the hatching of an egg and Self-realization to the breaking of the egg and the emergence of the bird. This is why an egg is given at Easter, to symbolize the second birth.
The 3 energy channels
The left channel (ida nadi) - The left channel (blue) corresponds to our past, emotions, desires, affectivity. Its termination is the superego, which is the storehouse of all our memories, habits and conditionings.
The right channel (pingala nadi) - The right channel (yellow) corresponds to our actions and planning, to our physical and mental activity. Its termination is the ego, which gives us the idea of I-ness, the sense that we are separate from the world.
The central channel (sushumna nadi) - The central channel is the channel of ascent, it is the power which sustains our evolution and guides us, consciously or unconsciously, towards the higher awareness of the Sahasrara.
Kundalini is described within Eastern religious, or spiritual, tradition as an indwelling Divine feminine energy that can be awakened in order to purify the subtle system and ultimately to bestow the state of Yoga, or Divine Union. This awakening involves the Kundalini moving up the central channel, piercing the Chakras along the way, to reside within the Sahasrara Chakra above the head. This movement of Kundalini is felt by the presence of a cool or, in the case of imbalance, a warm breeze across the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet. Such a phenomenon can be seen to be described in a diverse array of scripture. It is through attention to these sensations that areas of difficulty can be identified and ‘worked on’ in order to strengthen the meditation.
Once ‘Kundalini awakening’ has taken place and is established through meditation the Kundalini is said to automatically purify the subtle body and thus dispel all mental, physical and spiritual diseases.In order to achieve the real state of meditation, one needs to awaken the Kundalini energy within. With the support of Kundalini, meditation becomes effortless and easy.
Kundalini is the mothering energy that is lying dormant at the base of the spine in the sacrum bone. This energy is awakened by a process called Enlightenment (Self-realization) to connect us to the Divine and begin its work of healing and balancing our chakras.
Kundalini lies dormant but, like a tinybseed when the conditions are right, can awaken and grow into a mighty tree. In the same way that an electrical cable connects a computer to the mains, the awakened Kundalini connects the human awareness to the all-pervading power of divine love. The Kundalini can be thought of as a rope with a thousand strands; when we first get Enlightenment (Self-realization), only one or two strands find their way through the chakras and reach the Sahasrara (the top chakra). However, with twice daily meditation, gradually more strands of the Kundalini connect us to the divine power and the experience of meditation becomes more profound and blissful. The Kundalini was described by Indian saints such as Adi Shankaracharya (c 600 a.d.), Kabir (c 1500 a.d.) and Jnanadeva (c 1200 a.d.) amongst others.
There are many forms of yoga in the world today. There are stretching yoga’s, exercise yoga’s, prenatal yoga’s and even laughing yoga’s. It seems that there is a form of yoga for every walk of life. Most people think of yoga as stretching or they see it as an exercise. Yoga is in fact an ancient Sanskrit term meaning to unite or union.
Kundalini awakening and ancient practice
In the past when the ancient masters taught their disciples in the practice of yoga, they used many different methods to separate the disciple from the material world. A disciple might be told to not eat or to stand in one place for days at a time in order to break mental and physical bonds. These sorts of things would go on for years until through these penances those bonds were broken. The disciple had to prepare his body in order to endure these penances; this was done by stretching or exercises that the master or guru would prescribe. In modern times many followers of yoga believe that this is what yoga is, though it is only a small part of the ancient practice.
Why would anyone want to subject themselves to these penances over such a long period? The reason being was to awaken the primordial energy known as Kundalini. This is a motherly energy that unites the disciple to the all pervading power of the divine or gives them the yoga. At the time when Patanjali was a great master of yoga in India he taught his disciples the hidden knowledge of the Kundalini. This was a sacred knowledge that was passed from master to disciple for thousands of years. In modern times this knowledge has been made public through countless books and different forms of yoga. The problem is what yoga’s can actually give you the experience of Kundalini awakening in order to get the yoga or union. It should be obvious to most seekers of the divine that any form of stretching or exercise does not bring you closer to God. If it did the athletes of the world would be the most spiritual people. So yoga really has nothing to do with stretching or exercising, nor is it rooted in laughing, although laughing can make you feel good.
Clarifications about Kundalini awakening
Kundalini awakening is often said to be very dangerous, accompanied by tremendous heat and pain. Such is the discovery of those who have experimented in a recklessly naive or unauthorised manner, and particularly when they have tried to associate her awakening with sex. In such cases, the chakra which guards the innocence of Kundalini, the Mooladhara chakra, acts against this violation by generating waves of heat. The confused pioneer may also experience fits and seizures where he loses control of body and mind. He may jump and howl for no apparent reason. He may experience hallucinations. In the blissof his ignorance, he associates the warning signals with Kundalini awakening itself, and believes himself to have undergone a profound experience of enlightenment!
The face of such a person shows all the anguish he is going through. After genuine Enlightenment (Self-realization), the face becomes radiant. You look much younger, the body becomes more active and well-proportioned. The whole personality becomes beautiful and magnetic. As priorities change, you assume a dignified and glorious attitude to life.
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions".
"The purpose of our lives is to be happy" - Dalai Lama