By Sri Swami Vishnu-devananda
Positive thinking and meditation constitute one of the 5 fundamental points of Yoga as taught by Swami Vishnu-devananda founder/Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers.
When the surface of a lake is still, one can see to the bottom very clearly. This is impossible when the surface is agitated by waves. In the same way, when the mind is still, with no thoughts or desires, you can see the “Self” this is called “Yoga”.
We can control the mental agitation by two means: by concentrating the mind either externally or internally. Internally, we focus on the “Self” or the consciousness of “I am”. Externally, we focus on anything other than the “Self” or “I am”.
When we take up some recreation on putting the ball into the hole (golf), the other thoughts are slowed down or stilled. We feel we have played a good game when we have achieved perfect concentration. The happiness we experience comes, not because the ball being put in the hole eighteen times, but because we have achieved perfect concentration eighteen times. At that time, all the worries and problems of the world disappeared.
The mental ability to concentrate is inherent to all; it is not extraordinary or mysterious. Meditation is not something that a Yogi has to teach you; you already have the ability to shut out thoughts.
The only difference between this and meditation (the positive way), is that generally we have learned to focus the mind externally on objects. When the mind is fully concentrated, time passes unnoticed, as if it did not exist. When the mind is focused, there is no time! Time is nothing but a modification of the mind. Time, Space, and causation and all external experiences are mental creation.
All happiness achieved through the mind is temporary and fleeting; it is limited by nature. To achieve that state of lasting happiness and absolute peace, we must first know how to calm the mind, to concentrate and go beyond the mind. By turning the mind’s concentration inward, upon the self, we can deepen that experience of perfect concentration. This is the state of meditation”.
The Techniques of Meditation
Meditation is an experience that cannot be described, just as colors cannot be described to a blind man. All ordinary experience is limited by time, space and causation. Our normal awareness and understanding do not transcend these bounds.
Finite experience, which is measured in terms of past, present and future, cannot be transcendental. Concepts of time are illusory, for they have no permanence. The present, immeasurably small and fleeting, cannot be grasped. Past and future are non-existent in the present. We live in illusion.
The meditative state transcends all such limitations. In it there is neither past nor future, but only the consciousness of “I am” in the eternal NOW. It is only possible when all mental modifications are stilled.
The closest analogous state that we can experience is deep sleep, in which there is neither time, nor space, nor causation. Meditation, however, differs from deep sleep, for it works profound changes in the psyche. By curbing and stilling the oscillations of the mind, meditation brings mental peace.
On the physical level, meditation helps to prolong the body’s anabolic process of growth and repair, and to reduce the catabolic or decaying process. Ordinarily the anabolic process predominates until the age of 18. From 18 to 35 there is balance between the two, and after 35 the catabolic process dominates. Meditation can significantly reduce the catabolic decline. This is because of the innate receptivity of the body cells.
Each of our body cells is governed by the instinctive subconscious mind. They have both an individual and a collective consciousness. When the thoughts and desires pour into the body, the cells are activated; the body always obeys the group demand. It has been scientifically proven that positive thoughts bring positive result to cells. As meditation brings about a prolonged positive state of mind, it rejuvenates body cells and retards decay.
One cannot learn to meditate, anymore than one can learn to sleep. one falls into both states. There are certain points to remember regarding the techniques and stages of meditation.
The 14 Points of Meditation
1. Regularity of time, place and practice are important. Regularity conditions the mind to slow down its activities with a minimum of delay.
2. The most effective times are early dawn and dusk, when the atmosphere is charged with special spiritual force. If it is not feasible to sit for meditation at these times, choose an hour when you are not involved with daily activities, and a time when the mind is apt to be calm.
3. Try to have a separate room for meditation. As meditation is repeated, the powerful vibrations set up will be lodged in the area; an atmosphere of peace and purity will be felt.
4. When sitting, face North or East in order to take advantage of favorable magnetic vibrations. Sit in a steady, comfortable, cross-legged position with spine and neck erect but not tense.
5. Before beginning, command the mind to be quiet for a specific length of time. Forget the past, present and future.
6. Consciously regulate the breath. Begin with five minutes of deep abdominal breathing to bring oxygen to the brain. Then slow it down to an imperceptible rate.
7. Keep the breathing, rhythmic, inhale for three seconds and exhale for three seconds. Regulation of breath also regulates the flow of prana, the vital energy.
8. Allow the mind to wander at first. It will jump around, but will eventually become concentrated, along with the concentration of prana.
9. Don’t force the mind to be still, as this will set in motion additional brain waves, hindering meditation.
10. Select a focal point on which the mind may rest. For people who are intellectual by nature, this may be the Ajna Chakra., the point between the eyebrows. For more emotional people, use the Anahata or Heart Chakra. Never change this focal point.
11. Focus on a neutral or uplifting object, holding the image in the place of concentration. If using a Mantra, repeat it mentally, and co-ordinate repetition with the breath. If you don’t have a personalized Manta, use Om. Although mental repetition is stronger, the mantra may be repeated aloud if one becomes drowsy. Never change the Mantra.
12. Repetition will lead to pure thought, in which sound vibration merges with thought vibration, without awareness of meaning. Vocal repetition progresses through mental repetition to telepathic language, and from there to pure thought.
13. With practice, duality disappears and Samadhi, or the superconscious state, is reached. Do not become impatient, as this takes a long time.
14. In Samadhi one rests in the state of bliss in which the Knower, the Knowledge, and the Known become one. This is the superconscious state reached by mystics of all faiths and persuasions.
If you meditate for half an hour daily, you will be able to face life with peace and spiritual strength. Meditation is the most powerful mental and nerve tonic. Divine energy freely flows to the adept during meditation, and exerts a benign influence on the mind, nerves, sense organs and body. It opens the door to intuitive knowledge and realms of eternal bliss. The mind becomes calm and steady.