The Art and Science of Meditation
Meditation has been practiced in various forms for thousands of years all over the world. From the jungles of Borneo to the Ganges River, Tibetan tundra to Siberian back woods, shamans, sadhus and seekers alike have gone within to find God, find themselves, find purpose and meaning in life. Archaeological relics from the ruins of Mohenjo-Daro in western Punjab, India depict the ancient yogic deity Shiva (as An) sitting cross-legged meditating on his “Third Eye” in a state of transcendental bliss. Buddha sat under a tree; Jesus sat in the Desert and Mohammad in a cave. All the great prophets, gurus and saints used some form of meditation to commune with God and realize their true Self.
In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali defines yoga as the cessation of thought or the absence of mental modification. When the mind becomes still, inner clarity develops and the true nature of the Self is revealed. This is the essence of yoga; yoga is the both the art and science of Self Realization. Initially an aspiring yogi or yogini would be taught various yoga asanas or postures to prepare the body for meditation. The goal has always been to quiet the body in order to quiet the mind. In India the Rishis developed various meditation practices based on the level and temperament of the student.
Some forms of meditation are contemplative, where the student reflects on a verse from an illuminated text such as the Bible, Koran, Yoga Sutras or Bhagavad-Gita; yet others are quite active and involve some conscious movement as in tantric lovemaking, tai chi or practicing yoga postures with such inner quiet that the student goes into meditation while holding a pose. A common form of meditation to begin with involves primordial sounds called mantras. Most spiritual disciplines recognize the mind altering power of sound vibrations: the Sanskrit language of the Yogi’s, ancient Hebrew and Arabic are each believed to conduct energy when spoken or contemplated.
The most familiar mantra “Om” often pronounced as “Aum” moves life force energy up the spine to the top of the head. The “Ahhh” sound can be felt in the region of the navel, the “Ohhh” and “Uuuu” sound are carried at the heart and throat centers, and the “Mmmm” vibration is felt as the buzzing of bees in the head. Repeating this sound relaxes the mind and turns ones awareness inward. The popular Transcendental Meditation or “TM” of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi repeat a single sacred sound mantra from the Vedas is repeated to help aspirants go within and find inner peace; whereas members of the Hari Krishna movement, or ISCON, repeat a series of sacred trance inducing sounds praising God that creates a euphoric state, this is called Japa.
One of the more common forms of meditation involves concentration on various energy centers of the body called Chakras; where a meditator would concentrate their attention on such areas as their Navel Center (Manipura), Heart Center (Anahata) or Third Eye (Ajna). The energy being directed to these centers through focused attention activates the energy at these points and shifts the state of consciousness of the meditator. For instance, when one focuses at the Third Eye point between the eyebrows this activates the pituitary and pineal gland which help regulate your brain wave frequencies, like a natural biofeedback response. As the student connects with their life force energy, or kundalini shakti, at this point their brain wave frequencies drop from Beta (14-40 cycles per second) to Alpha (7-13 cycles per second), and eventually lower still to Theta (4-6 cps) and Delta (0-3 cps). While in these ultra quiet states inner clarity develops and the consciousness is liberated from the confines of the mind and sense perception and merges into the whole…samadhi. These exercises are even more powerful when initiated by a Guru whose spirit or “Shakti” can conduct the life force to make it easier for the student to tune into or connect with.
One of the most powerful forms of meditation is direct inquiry or self-reflection. When the yogi reflects on the very impetus that causes them to meditate they make a direct connection with their Self: “That which you are seeking is causing you to seek.” To ask yourself “who am I?” and go into the part of you that wants to know is to practice a form of yoga called Jnana. Simply observing that which is observing the mind liberates it from the mind. Just as one would look into their reflection in a mirror to know what they looked like, one has only to reflect upon their own nature to realize it.
At the heart of meditation lies the heart. It is through grace that our own true nature is revealed and it is through love that God is revealed. When the meditating yogi opens their heart to receive, when they surrender the “doer” then their own true nature becomes clear. The devotion to your Creator expressed through the devotion in your practice makes the practice of meditation easy and enjoyable to practice. Most people struggle with trying to stop their mind, which is like a cat chasing its tail. When the yogi allows their spirit, or life force, to meditate them then the practice of meditation becomes profound.
The use of a Guru or teacher has proven effective to help students find the truth that lies within them for thousands of years; it works. Most Westerners are leery of those who purport to be Gurus, and for good reason as this sacred trust has been abused by a few in the past, but nonetheless it is time tested and proven effective. When the student is ready the teacher will appear, but a reliable Guru is one who empowers you to find the True Guru, or Sat Guru, within your Self. Ultimately, that which created you, and which sustains your existence, is guiding you to awaken your consciousness to full realization; it is what is causing you to read this right now.
From the Heart, Steven S. Sadleir