Meditation & Yoga

What is Meditation?

 

Meditation is a method used to raise awareness of the self, the universe and to encourage a sense of peace and a feeling of union or 'oneness'. Meditation can steady the mind and encourage feelings of acceptance and harmony. Some people claim that Meditation can allow us to experience extra-sensory and other worldy dimensions and can open us up to experience and sense things that we might overlook during our ordinary waking states. It is claimed that meditation can lead a person to reach a state known as 'Enlightenment' where one can 'know' the true nature of this mysterious universe and experience directly the true nature of consciousness and the universe.

 

There are many methods used to practice meditation, including, counting the breath guided meditations, silent sitting, mindfullness, zen, buddhist and many more.

 

Meditation is widely considered to be one of the key practices which can enable someone to have deep realisations about themselves and has been practiced probably since humans first appeared, it just may not have been classified as ‘meditation’ way back then. Over the centuries the many techniques for meditation have been developed and refined and great insights into reality and the nature of existence have been discovered by many who have walked this path.

 

One of the main things that meditation can ultimately offer is the direct experience of truth, beyond any theory or concept. In the same way that the smell of a rose is direct and unquestionable, the experience of one’s own true nature has this quality.

There are two main types of meditation, concentration; which involves the narrowing of focus on to specifics, such as a mantra or an image – this type of meditation usually produces glimpses of insight into the nature of reality whereas the other type of meditation known as Prajna often involves a wide focus and can lead to long-lasting insights into how things really are in reality. Both types of meditation play an important role in training the mind and both practices complement each other.

 

It is not only huge life-altering insights that can be gained through meditation; there can also be more subtle insights that can have a big effect on an individual’s daily life experience. For example, through regular meditation and by practicing mindfulness one can realise that by staying in the moment mental stress levels can be dramatically reduced, often because a person has a better capacity to see things for how they really are and operate in the world more effectively. Meditation on the breath can also have huge effects on physical stress levels in the body. Proper breathing reduces the amount of stress hormones in the body and has an overall effect on the nervous system, just by placing the awareness on the breath and remembering to breathe with the belly as part of the meditation practice one can find themselves living in a body that is calm and relaxed. Focusing on the breath has also been found to calm the mind allowing for insights into how breathing and thinking are ultimately linked.

 

There are other types of meditation practices which can help to de-clutter the mind and provide some day to day clarity on the true nature of one own personality and being. The use of Koans can be effective for this, using the Koan ‘who am I’ as a meditation practice one can begin to de-construct the illusionary self-image that one may have built up, there are so many definitions and ideas about what or who they think they are that often cause distortions in the true nature of one’s own character. By breaking down these ideas one can begin to live a more authentic and true existence, also the Koan ‘who am I’ can lead to deeper insights into reality and life itself, but along the way there are many more subtle insights that can begin to unfold.

 

Through regular meditation and growing insight one can come to understand the energetic nature of the human body and with time this can help to transform a person’s life enormously. Meditation can help to properly manage this energy and allow a person’s true energetic potential to be realised. There are a number of meditation techniques that have been developed so that areas of the body can be worked systematically through awareness. One of the most simple and popular practices is the body scan meditation. In this practice a person guides their awareness around the body and comes to realise that simply by placing ones awareness at specific points throughout the body one can relax and heal those areas.

 

Another meditation practice known as Naitan (energy transformation) brings a person insights into how they can transform the energetic nature of their being through focus, will and intention. This practice focuses on the belly and can provide a person with the capacity to energise and harmonise the body at will.

 

With regular meditation practice one can begin to go beyond the subtle realisations into the deep, reality-altering realisations about life and how things really are. There is a popular sequence of drawings used by the Zen tradition which depict these stages of realisation as they progress. In the early stages of insight it is possible for a person to become aware of Karma; cause and effect, how actions have consequences and the link between the mental and the physical world. Becoming aware on this link it makes it possible for a person to live life in a more positive, fruitful way. Once a person has passed through this stage deep insights into reality start to unfold, it is possible for one to realise that reality is a network of fine vibrations and life can become more blissful, this stage of insight can also often be accompanied by visions and releases of energy.

 

After this stage a person may encounter insights into suffering and themselves, this can often be a difficult stage for people to pass through. After one has dug deep into their meditation and de-identified with a whole range of phenomenon one can reach a stage of equanimity, a level of insight which can be liberating and gives a person a sense of freedom from the bondage of identification and soon one can begin to ride the waves of vibration with ease, finding existence to be a beautiful and pleasant experience.

 

If a person continues in their practice eventually they may transcend all phenomena and reach a stage of union. The internal and the external will be spontaneously united and one can feel as though they have awoke from a dream. Going deeper still one can then reach a stage of insight where there is no-thing, time and space disappear. Eventually one can realise a state of perfection and eternity, returning to the world and feeling a sense of home.

 

Meditation is perhaps the most revealing and wondrous adventure that any human being can undertake. It has the capacity to become the daily focus and can find a place in any situation whether it be sitting down to practice formal meditation or washing the dishes. It can take what seems to be an ordinary world and transform it into a magical realm filled with mysticism. It really depends on how far a person is willing to go with their meditation practice as it seems that there is no limit to the depth of insight that can be gained. More subtle day-to-day insights can be realised and can help to transform a person’s daily life experience from what might have been something rather stressful into something enjoyable. Regular meditation can also have many health benefits and can give a person insight into the functioning of the body and the relationship between the mental and the physical.

 

If a person digs deep and wishes to go ‘all the way’ meditation can give a person insight into the deep wisdom that underpins the whole of reality and can help a person to see for themselves the true nature of life, coming to realise what life is really about and why we are here on earth. The insights gained through meditation can go way beyond any theory and any ‘thing’ and can take awareness to a state of transcendence which is beyond space and time. The insights offered through meditation are perhaps the most fundamental insights that any human being can expect to realise in life, and the realisation of such insights could perhaps be the main purpose for the existence of the human race.

Two essays on meditation, click to download.

What is Yoga?

What is Yoga? and how does the practice of Yoga aim to improve our experience of life and our interaction and relationship with the physical world around us?......

Often in life it is common for people to look outside of themselves for fulfillment and satisfaction. We are living in a society that encourages us generally to believe that outer attainments can provide us with what we want and satisfy our souls. Yet time and time again our experiences often lead us to feel that nothing external can completely satisfy the deep yearning within for "something more." Most of our actions seem to be guided by a striving for that which is just beyond our reach, over the hill and far away. Most people are seemingly caught up in a perpetual cycle of 'doing' rather than 'being' and are often concerned with performing actions rather than being anchored in awareness. For a lot of people contentment and complete calmness is difficult to imagine. Yet calmness and peace allows us to engage fully with life and experience a state of bliss and contentment which is difficult to achieve when striving for it.... Letting go is actually easier then performing actions yet it seems most people believe that one must strive towards a feeling of contentment and peace rather then just let go and sink into the peace and contentment that is already present within ourselves i.e. 'there is no mountain to climb, you are already sat on the top'

Yoga is an ancient spiritual science which offers a direct means of stilling the natural turbulence of thoughts and restlessness of the mind and body that prevent us from knowing and fully experiencing what we really are.

Ordinarily our perceptions and awareness is focused on outward things in the world around us and our experience of the world is dominated by the signals we recieve from the limited channels of our five senses. Most of our thought processes and our logic and reasoning often relies upon the partial and often incomplete data supplied by the physical senses, So, one of the tasks of yoga is to try and go beyond the senses and go deeper, into a state that is steady, that does not change and is beyond a need for reason, logic, interpretation and understanding, into a place that just 'is' so that then we may know the self and begin to answer or at least feel understanding for the big questions in life such as — Who am I? and Why am I here?

The word Yoga means "union": refering to the union of the individual consciousness with the Universal Consciousness.Yoga is a method used to try and create a state of 'union' - a state of oneness with the senses, the self, the world and all worlds, both inner and outer. It is a practice that can calm the mind and allow a person to step beyond desire and beyond needs. It is a process that helps to purify our energies and harmonise us with nature and the universe and allow us to see, feel and experience the wonder and sacred truth that is life itself. Yoga can tune us in to a deep and sacred natural intelligence that is present in all.

The traditional materialistic idea of life has generally vanished with the discovery that matter and energy are essentially one: every part of this wonderous universe can be observed on a sub-atomic level as a sacred geometrical pattern or form of energy, which interacts and interconnects us with other forms resulting in one great sea of energy and consciousness seperated only through our own individual sense perceptions.

It is common for people to think that Yoga is purely a physical exercises but the postures or 'Asanas' are actually only the most superficial aspect to this profound science of the human mind and soul.

There are various pathways one can become involved with when practicing Yoga, and often people blend many of them together to practice in their daily lives.

Hatha Yoga — a system of physical postures designed to purify the body and allow for greater bodily awareness creating optimum conditions for meditation.

Karma Yoga — selfless service to others as part of one's larger universal Self, letting go of any attachment to the results; and becoming aware that the performance of all actions can be attributed to the universal consciousness of the infinate universe often refered to as God..

Mantra Yoga — A process of centering and focusing the attention by repeating 'japa' or mantras i.e. a series of word sounds and phrases spoken or sang repetatively.

Bhakti Yoga — all-surrendering devotion and selfless service through which one attempts to see and love the divinity in every creature and in everything.

Jnana (Gyana) Yoga — the path of wisdom, which emphasizes the importance of selctive intelligence and reason to achieve spiritual liberation and understanding of the true higher self.

Raja Yoga — Used by the Indian sage Patanjali, it is a form of yoga which attempts to combine the essence of all the other paths.

May your path towards liberation and truth be strong, blessed and filled with compassion, love and divinity. May the long time sunshine shine upon you.

Love, love, love.