by SADHANT SINGH
- 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.
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 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 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 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
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.
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 the section on pranayam 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 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.