Sunday, 02 August 2015 15:59

The 12-Step Guide to Meditation by Swami Vishnu Devananda

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The 12-Step Guide to Meditation by Swami Vishnu Devananda

Meditation is the core of the practice of Yoga. It is both its main tool and its ultimate destination. The Shivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers practice  a classical approach to the yogic path of meditation, which is  called Raja Yoga. This knowledge dates from very ancient times and has been handed down from generation to generation through an unbroken lineage of teachers. The following are practical points regarding the basic techniques and stages of meditation. They are primarily intended for the beginner. Be gentle and patient with your mind, do not expect miracles. The more care you give to the preparation the more positive the results.

  1. The Place
    It is best to reserve a special portion of a room only for your practice. Maintain it as a clean and tidy space, free from distracting vibrations and associations. Face north or east to take advantage of favorable, magnetic vibrations. Set up a focal point, simple but beautiful, to help create a sacred space.
  2. The Time 
    The most effective times are at dawn and dusk. The most desirable time is brahmamuhurta (between four and six am). In this quiet time after sleep the mind and atmosphere are clear and unruffled by activities of the day. Choose a time when you can retreat from daily activities to calm your mind.
  3. The Habit
    Consistency in your practice at the same time is important. The subconscious mind needs regularity to develop the habit of settling down and focusing easily. Start with fifteen to twenty minutes daily practice and gradually build up to 30 minutes. As you establish the practice, you will actually feel the need to meditate every morning.
  4. The Sitting Position
    Sit in a comfortable, steady posture, with spine and neck erect but not tense. The psychic current needs to travel impeded from the base of the spine to the tip of the head, helping to steady the mind and encourage concentration. A comfortable cross-legged posture provides a firm base for the body. The practice of asana will strengthen your back, making it easy to sit comfortably.
  5. The Breath
    Consciously try to relax and make the breath rhythmic. Begin with one minute of deep abdominal breathing to bring oxygen to the brain. Then, slowing the breath down to an imperceptible rate, inhale and exhale rhythmically for three to four seconds each. The breath becomes light and completely silent. This technique steadies the prana and quietens the mind.
  6. The Mind
    The degree of success will be in direct proportion to your commitment and earnest desire. Without effort nothing in our lives changes. Meditation allows us to see things as they are. Start every session assessing the willingness to face reality without escaping into imagination. Be patient and over a period of time, gently coax the mind away from destructive thought patterns. Detachment from hopes and fears protects against suffering. Make the commitment to your wellbeing at each practice session.
  7. Choosing a Point of Concentration
    The mind needs a point of anchorage to ground itself as it usually spends much of the time daydreaming, disconnected from the present moment. There are energy points in the body that are helpful to focus upon, chakras in order to release the energy stored in them and bring about an expansion of consciousness. Either the heart center (anahata chakra) or the center between the eyebrows (anja chakra) are the recommended ones for meditation. Neither point is better than the other. Once you have chosen a point, keep to it for the rest of your life. Focusing is a springboard for concentration allowing the mind to expand into infinite space.
  8. Choosing an Object of Concentration
    The mind now needs to be trained in the art of concentration itself and for this you need to give your mind an object on which to focus. Yoga considers the use of mantras (word power) as an essential tool for concentration. The simple practice is to repeat the mantra mentally and synchronize the repetition with your breath. The breath, the concentration center, and the sound of the mantra become one point. Always use the same mantra; the mind attunes itself to the sound and rhythm and will focus more easily.
  9. Giving Space to the Mind
    Allow the mind to wander at first – the mind needs to be freed very gradually from its many layers of emotional agitation. Be both firm and gentle with the mind at the same time. Keep it under close observation. Develop a relationship of trust with your mind by being patient and compassionate.
  10. Disassociating from the Mind
    Watch the mind objectively, as though you were watching a film, with the attitude of non-cooperation. “I am not the mind, I am only the spectator of it”. Your mind will gradually slow down.
  11. Pure Thought
    Sustained concentration leads into meditation, an uninterrupted steady flow of energy like pouring oil from one vessel to another.
  12. Samadhi
    Sustained meditation leads into a state where the mind finds absorption in consciousness itself. Duality disappears and you enter the superconscious state, samadhi.

Close your eyes and sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position. Your back is rigid but your body relaxed. Your hands in Mudra position or comfortable on your lap. Start with three deep breaths, counting to three on inhale and three on exhale. Now start slowing down your breath until it is almost imperceptible. Continue counting to three. Relax. Now add your mantra and coordinate it with each inhale and each exhale. If you don’t have a mantra, use the universal mantra OM. Start focusing on the energy point of the third eye which resides in front of your forehead, between your eyes, or the energy point in your chest or the heart center. Keep using your mantra and let your breath happen naturally.

When you are finished, give thanks with three OM mantras and finish with shanti.


Last modified on Tuesday, 01 December 2020 16:09

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