Saturday, January 26, 2013

Meditation - Part I

Meditation By RV Iyer

 Before we go deep in to the philosophical and technical aspects of meditation, let us delve into the practice of meditation for normal human beings.Meditation can be practiced in two ways; one by sitting in a meditative pose and the second one by lying down. The second practice of meditation in a lying pose is actually slightly unhealthy and therefore it is not advisable. The following are the sitting poses or Asanas prescribed by ancients for Meditation.
  Padmasana: This is the best asana for those really interested in meditation on the spiritual plane. Recommended for everybody.
  Siddhasana: This is also equally recommended just likePadmasana but is most useful to those who go for advanced spiritual practice. This asana gives one ability and poise to conserve one's energy in celibacy.
  Sukhasana: Those who cannot practice either of the above two asanas can sit in Sukhasana which is very easy to practice. The first two asanas require considerable practice to those in the western world. Even Sukhasana would be difficult for non-Asians, but one can gain proficiency in this asana in quicker time.
  Swastikasana: This is a slight variation of Sidhasana.
  Virasana: This is a slight variation of Sukhasana.
You can find content easily for all these asanas on the internet and learn how to do them. I would recommendSukhasana for all to start meditation.

First put a yoga mat or a woolen blanket folded on the floor. Above that put a folded cotton cloth or towel and sit on it. Fold your right leg on the knee and bring the foot below the left knee and similarly fold the left leg on the other side. If you find it difficult to keep two legs in crossed posture, you may fold your legs one above the other. This should be more convenient.

Keep the body, neck and head in a straight line so that the spinal column remains erect. This is very important as in the final equation, energy centered around the bottom of spinal column will climb to the top. Also during Deep breathing or Pranayama practice, sitting erect will facilitate the flow of Prana or Energy through the spinal cord.

Before starting meditation, first take a few deep breaths in and out. Say about eleven breaths. The breaths should be such that the time element between inhaling and exhaling should be in the ratio of 1:2. In the beginning, maintaining this ration may not come easy but gradually build the ratio.After breathing deep, try and relax for a few minutes and then close your eyes with a gradual shutting movement i.e. do not shut the eyes forcefully. Take at least 10 seconds to close the eyes completely. After closing your eyes, try to concentrate in the center of the forehead just above your eyes and between the eye brows, which is called Ajna Chakra i.e. the Command Centre in Yoga. Normally, when one closes the eyes, it will be very difficult to concentrate because the mind will not focus. The mind has been divided into four parts as per actions in philosophical and yoga texts as follows:
  Ego: The feeling of body being the self and that all actions are connected to this self. Human beings do actions based on this blind notion. Sensitiveness of the human being comes under this part of the mind. Control of this part and the eventual removal of this notion through meditation is the ultimate objective.
  Intellect: The capacity of the mind to differentiate the good and bad and make decisions. The will power to take actions comes under this. With this part only, meditation can be achieved.
  Mind: This is the energy part that controls all the body movements automatically. The five intellectual senses and five working senses come under this. Control of this part is the first objective of meditation.
  Chitha: This is the part where all vasanas i.e. attitudes and impressions which one brings along with him at the time of birth. This is also the storehouse of past lives and present life memory. One's action in this life depends upon the impressions encrypted in this part. These impressions can only be erased through Pranayama and meditation. Pranayama is a necessary part to achieve this. We will discuss in later articles.
Mind is always on movement from one object to other. It is just like a horse, very speedy. Allegorically, mind is equated to a monkey because it never remains concentrated on one subject and always fluctuates quite like a monkey changing from one action to another. In the body, the spine is the most important part which controls one's life and actions. There are three Naadis or energy flowing channels within the spinal cord which are minute and cannot be seen with microscope. These are visible only in the advanced stage of meditation. In this three energy flowing channels or Naadis, the central one is very straight starting from the lowest end of spinal column and ending in the centre of head just above the Thalamus or above the upper portion of the throat which also is the centre of the brain. This channel is called Sushumna Naadi. The left channel is called Ida or Chandra Naadi as it is controlled by Moon, which also signifies mental energy. This portion also controls the coolness of the body. The third one is called Pingala or Surya Naadi i.e. Sun channel which is the physical energy of the body and controls the heat. When the practice is advanced in Pranayama, one attains the flow in Sushumna Naadi or the central channel. Physically the flow can be gauged as follows: When the breath flows in the left nostrils it is called Chandra Naadi. When it flows on the right nostril it is called Surya Naadi. When flows in both nostrils it is called Sushumna Naadi. There is a separate science based on the flow of the Naadis, which we will discuss at a later stage. When sitting for meditation, it is advisable to start Naadisuddhi Pranayama as it is very simple to practice. One should do atleast eleven Pranayamas before start of the meditation. This will be beneficial. Before startingPranayama, one has to test the flow of breath. Normally breath flows ninety minutes alternating both nostrils. For some it can be less due to one or the other reason and discussion of this point is not necessary here.Finding the flow, first see that the entire breath is exhaled and close the nostril in which there is no flow. For closing the nostril, it is recommended to use Thumb for right nostril and little and ring finger together for the left nostril. Take as deep a breath as possible without straining the flowing nostril while closing the other one. Then close the nostril through which you have taken the breath and release the finger from the other nostril and exhale. Through exhaled nostril, take deep breath inhaling and close that nostril and open the other nostril and exhale and again inhale and repeat the same way. One inhaling through one nostril exhaling through other nostril and inhaling and then exhaling through the first nostril is one full Naadisuddhi Pranayama. Similar eleven may be practiced. One can do this practice either with closed eyes or with open eyes. This is very essential to purify the channels and ultimate results of meditation can come only after purification of the Naadis.
Once this part is over, gradually close your eyes. Try to concentrate on the centre of the forehead.

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