Kundalini Yoga Meditation
My thanks to Sadhant Singh for this Contribution.
Meditation - what is it?
The first thing to know is what it isn't. It isn't magic, and it isn't a belief or a religion. It is simply a technology - a set of simple techniques that use what you have (your mind, senses, and body) to create a communication between you and your mind, and between your mind and your body.
Meditation is a time to be with yourself. Meditation is a time to connect with your breath, a time to be present to the life force in your body, a time to re-establish your own rhythm, a time to talk to your higher self, a time to be in love with your unique life. Meditation is between you and YOU.
Just like a daily shower cleans your body, a daily meditation cleans your mind, to help you focus your energy, avoid mistakes, stay healthy, and become more kind and prayerful. It helps you clear your subconscious, and to stay fully present.
It is an opportunity to create a stillness within yourself where you do not react to the unceasing flow of the mind. You can quickly and comfortably process all sorts of feelings and thoughts, and easily rejuvenate and relax yourself so you can handle stress and create rapport with those around you.
Where do I do it?
Any place where you can be undisturbed for a while, preferably someplace that is neither too hot or too cold. Sit on something supportive, but soft - most Kundalini Yoga practitioners like a wool or cotton blanket, or a sheepskin. For people who are stiff, a firm pillow (4-6 inches thick), placed under the buttocks, relieves pressure on the lower spine. If you can't sit comfortably in a cross-legged position on the floor, then sit in a chair, making sure that your weight is equally distributed on both feet. The goal is to ensure that the spine is erect and reasonable straight (the spine is the central channel of nervous system energy).
Many people like to create a special spot in their home that they set aside for the purpose of meditation, often putting some objects in the spot that uplift them and remind them of their spirit, or of nature.
When do I do it?
Any time you are ready to try it and are feeling alert is a good time. Experienced meditators prefer the early morning hours, between 4 and 8 am (called the ambrosial hours). Nothing much is going on at this time, so you are unlikely to be disturbed by the energy or activities of daily life.
Many people like to meditate before bed. This helps to clear away the worries and troubles of the day. preparing you for deep sleep and to build your energy for the new day.
It is best not to meditate after a big meal, since all the blood is in your stomach, leaving little for your brain.
How long should I do it?
Each meditation is different - they work on different aspects of the mind and body, so the time varies with the technique, anywhere from 3 minutes to 2 1/2 hours. The common times used are 11 minutes, 15 minutes, 22 minutes, 31 minutes, 62 minutes, 1 1/2 hours, and 2 1/2 hours.
Start with what is comfortable for you. Even 5 minutes will bring benefits. The first benefit is the chance to simply stop your automatic routine, the unconscious patterns leading you through life without even noticing that you are alive.
How should I dress? Any way you like, and find comfortable and non-restrictive. There are several aspects of dressing to consider. The first is comfort. Some meditations use physical activity, and many people like to do some yoga or similar exercises to prepare, so you should dress in a way that will allow you to relax and freely do any exercises.
Most Kundalini Yoga practitioners consider meditation a special time, a time to connect with yourself, and choose to dress in a way that honors this. They choose clothing that is clean, fresh, and often light in color and composition. Many practitioners also use cotton head coverings of various types, such as prayer shawls, turbans, yarmulkes, and so forth. Like long hair, these coverings have been found to maximize the source of etheric and solar energy entering the body. Whether or not you choose to use a head covering, tying your hair up and back aids in concentration.
Is there a special diet?
It is recommended that meditators eat lightly and with the goal of good health in mind. Many practitioners have become vegetarian, choosing the lightest diet that allows the mind to be calm and focused. Lowering the protein and acidity from meat helps. There are some meditations, particularly for healing, that do have a special diet to work on a specific gland or organ, but in general, there are no requirements. Avoiding drugs, other than those prescribed by a doctor, is also recommended, as psychoactive drugs may imbalance your body and mind.
How do I do it?
Before trying a specific meditational technique, it is useful to understand two basic components of most Kundalini Yoga meditations: the use of sounds, and the use of breath.
Many meditations use sounds (mantras), sometimes words that represent big thoughts (Love, Truth, God), and sometimes just simple sounds. Using basic sounds with rhythm penetrates the mind and redirects the flow of thoughts to allow something new to come in, such as thoughts that break our normal., narrow, confines and fears, to help elevate us. The words come from many traditions, and can be in many languages. For example, a simple English mantra is: "I am, I am". Rather than words that you make up (because you want to go beyond your own patterns and affirmations), what is needed are sounds or words that provide a taste of the state you want to be in.
Even if the words and language of a given mantra is unfamiliar to you, they are not about chanting to something, or some god that you don't know. Chanting is a energetic act that changes your brain, stimulates hormonal balance, and engages you in a special type of communication with your own mind, about truth and clarity.
One of the basic mantras in Kundalini Yoga is Sat Nam. Sat means truth, and Nam means identity, so the mantra means "truth is my identity". Chanting this mantra awakens the soul.
Many people like to use mantra in everyday life, often repeating a mantra (out loud or silently) from a meditation they are currently practicing. Meditations cause a significant alteration in brain usage patterns, neural chemistry, emotional balance, and so forth. Using the mantra at other times helps to reinforce the changes you are making during the meditations.
There are three ways to use mantra, or three languages of consciousness. Some meditations use all three:
- A normal or loud voice is the language of humans, of things and of the world;
- A strong whisper is the language of lovers, of longing to belong;
- Chanting silently or mentally is the divine language of infinity.
There are two things you can do to make the use of a mantra more powerful, regardless of whether the mantra is silent, whispered, or out loud. One is to see the mantra, as if it is being written as you say it, and the other is to actively listen - often this works best with the first two languages, whereas seeing it written out works for all of them.
2) Pranayam (Breath)
Many meditations also use the breath, perhaps simply bringing your attentions to the flow of your breath, or by consciously using specific patterns of breath, such as regulating the ratio of inhale to exhale, or breaking the breath into segments, or indirectly through the use of mantra. Since breath is correlated with your moods and energy level, altering the depth, rate, and pattern of breath can change them as well.
Be sure to follow the instructions for using the breath in a meditation carefully, and check with an instructor if you have questions. Begin with short times and gradually increase them as you get used to the changes they cause. If you feel dizzy, stop and make sure you are using the proper technique. Breath meditations create a lot of change and it is important to feel comfortable and balanced with these changes
Check to make sure that you breathe with a complete breath pattern (please see Lesson 6 of my Free Online Kundalini Yoga Course for a complete description of the long deep breath). About 30% of people do not breathe correctly, but it is easy to change, and will have a profound impact on your metabolism, vitality and moods. Unless the meditation specifies otherwise, breathing is always through the nose.
Here is a simple Kundalini Yoga meditational technique to try:
Sit with a straight spine, either in a comfortable cross-legged position or in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. Relax your hands in your lap, palms up, with the right hand rested on top of the left. Keep the shoulders relaxed and the upper chest lifted slightly to support the spine. The eyes are 9/10 closed, letting in a little light.
Bring your attention to the flow of breath, breathing only through the nose. First, just notice the breath, every part of the process of inhaling, and exhaling, all the little movements within your body. After a few minutes, begin to consciously slow your breath. Normal breathing is 14-17 times a minute. Slow your breath to 8 or fewer times per minute (4 or fewer per minute creates a state of meditation). Listen to the slight sound of the breath as it goes in and out.
When beginning with meditation, many people struggle with the "chatter" that the mind creates when we try to be still. Using a mantra like Sat Nam, where you think the word "Sat" on the inhale and "Nam" on the exhale, can help to provide a focus for the mind. If you notice that your mind is wandering, simply bring your attention back to the mantra and the breath. This simple process is how we train our mind and clear the subconscious.
Let all the thoughts simply come and go, like the background noise of people talking around you at a party. Just let go of the thoughts, as you stay with the flow and sensations of your breath. Continue for another 6-8 minutes. To end, take a deep breath, exhale, and inhale deeply again as you stretch both arms up to the ceiling. Exhale and relax.