Meditation is the soul’s perspective glass. ~ English writer Owen Feltham
Meditation facilitates slipping into transcendence. As it engenders a quiet mind, meditation is essential for attaining enlightenment.
When thoughts cease, the mind naturally turns to what is truly beyond the mind: the infinite Ĉonsciousness. ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
There are many meditative techniques, differing in ease and efficaciousness. There is nothing mystical about this ancient and natural practice to transcend, which should be an effortless form of rest.
The primary purpose of meditation is to become conscious of, and familiar with, our inner life. The ultimate purpose is to reach the source of life and consciousness. ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi had the good fortune to make Transcendental Meditation® (TM) the best-known meditation technique. A resonant mantra – mental vibration – is invoked as a calmative. (The mantras dispensed by TM teachers are derived from a list of Hindu deities and doled out according to the age of the initiate. The mantra self-selection method described in this book is better tailored to the individual.) The mind naturally quiets into transcendence.
TM is expensive. The organization’s business model is to offer superb service, and have you feel that you are investing in something important, which you are. If you want to invest in meditation without seriously lightening your pocketbook, here’s how. (The author is a TM siddha and meditation practitioner for over 4 decades who achieved realization through regular meditation and studying the teachings of Nisargadatta Maharaj (as well as other gurus).)
How to Meditate
Find a comfy chair or prop yourself up in bed with cushions. The room should be quiet, and preferably dimly lit.
Spend a few moments quieting the mind-body by listening to one’s bodily rhythms, such as the breath, or heartbeat, if you can sense it. If possible, breathe through your nostrils, not your mouth.
Begin meditating with the intention of quietude. When thoughts arise, gently smother them by bringing your mantra to the conscious mind, making it the mental focus.
Repeat the mantra as if calmly breathing it. Do not concentrate on the mantra. The aim is to clear the mind, not hold it captive.
When in a comfortable repose, consciousness commingles with Ĉonsciousness. A mantra merely expedites the process by mesmerizing the mind, and so putting it to sleep.
Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. ~ Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thích Nhat Hanh
The rhythm of nasal breathing affects the mind-body more profoundly than is commonly appreciated. Breathing coordinates energetic and physical activity throughout the body, notably in the brain.
Prāņāyāma are breathing techniques practiced as a yogic discipline which originated in ancient India. The term prāņā is Sanskrit for life force or vital energy; yāma is to extend or draw out. Prāṇāyāma is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita (verse 4.29), a cherished Hindu text written in the 2nd century bce.
Prāņāyāma may be used to settle the system before easing into meditation. Here is one technique.
Put a finger on the left nostril and breathe in the right nostril. Block the right nostril and breath out left nostril. Breathe in the left nostril. Again, block the left nostril and breathe out the right, then breath in (the right nostril).
Repeat breathing out-in through alternate nostrils for a minute or 2. Then begin meditating.
Choosing a Mantra
Refuse attention. Let things come and go. Desires and thoughts are also things. Disregard them. ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
The purpose of a mantra is to ease toward transcendence. A mantra is a mental breath that gently takes one’s attention away from the mind’s prattle, thereby acting as a vehicle to experience the echo of eternal Ĉonsciousness.
A mantra is of meaningless syllables, relating to nothing. It is solely a vehicle for silencing the mind through vibratory repetition. There should be no associative meaning for you in a chosen mantra.
Choose a mantra with 1 or 2 vowel-based sounds, perhaps with a consonant to assist in resonance.
Here are some vowels (using those peculiar pronunciation symbols you see in dictionaries, and thereby illustrating the inadequacy of the English alphabet as a phonetic representation): ә (as in abut), æ (at), ä (mop), ȯ (law), eɪ (fate), ε (let), ē (ease), ɪ (bit), ow (boat), ɔj (toy), ʊ (look), ü (coo), and ō (go).
Every vowel has its own feel, and may suffice for a mantra unto itself, though vibratory combinations provide a harmonic that simulates breathing.
For example, ē is especially vibrant. ē is a suggested possibility for energetic people as a lead vibration, with a lower frequency follow-on, such as ȯ or ü in the 2nd vowel spot. ēmȯ (ee-ma) is an exemplary mantra: a resonant flow from high to low energy, to guide the mind to empty itself.
Consonants in language exist for distinct audition. For a mantra, a vibration that naturally resonates toward quiet is ideal. m is such a consonant. The classic Hindu mantra is ōm, with good reason. (If you like it, use it.)
As with vowels, consonants have their own vibrational qualities. h is nicely breathy (consider: ah, perhaps leading to the mantra ah-mә).
n is shorter variant of the echoic m. änō (aw-no) is an exemplary mantra.
r is the long, rumbling version of l. lә–eɪ (lay-ah) is there for the taking as a mantra, as is eɪ–lә (ah-lay).
In contrast to r, s offers a breathy rumble. sü-ō (sue-oh) and ä-shō (ah-show) or ȯ-shә (aw-sha) are exemplary mantras using s.
Glottal (e.g., k, g) and popping (e.g., p, b) consonants should be employed only in a muted form which emphasizes flow, not abruptness.
There are innumerable possibilities for mantras. Select a mantra that resonates within you as affording focus, and which eventuates in peaceful resolution, as if the mind were taking a deep, relaxing breath (inhale, exhale).
You may at first try a few different mantras to evaluate their quality. You can’t choose a wrong mantra; if it resonates with you, it’s right for you. Once you find a pleasing mantra, claim it as your own and let it be a centerpiece for your meditation practice.
A mantra is merely a malleable device. My own mantra evolved upon becoming realized, to a subtle whisper.
Meditation is a form of relaxation, not concentration. Have no expectations about your meditations. Some might feel busy; others serene. Regardless of seeming quality, meditation is always helpful.
Meditate 20–30 minutes, time permitting. Even a short session of a few minutes is beneficial. Transcending or falling asleep for a longer period is perfectly natural. Your mind-body takes what it needs for rest when it can. Rest is as critically important to health as vigorous activity.
At the end of meditation, lay down, or slump in your chair. Spend 3 to 5 minutes relaxing with your eyes closed, allowing yourself to ease back to the waking state.
Do not abruptly end meditation. It may give you a dull headache.
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Meditation should be practised every day of one’s life. ~ Anandamayi Maa
Meditate twice a day if possible: preferably at the beginning of the day, and in the early evening (before dinner).
Practice meditation regularly. Meditation leads to eternal bliss. Therefore meditate, meditate. ~ Indian guru Sivananda Saraswatī
[ Do not speak your mantra aloud or use it outside of meditation. It is your vehicle to quiet the mind, and so should remain reserved, unspoken. ]
You may meditate 3 or 4 times a day if you have the time and inclination, and your daily activities are not demanding.
Begin every day with a meditation if you can. If the mind is restless when the body is ready to sleep, prāṇāyāma and a short meditation may sooth the system sufficiently to slumber.
Do not meditate on a full stomach. Meditation slows the system, and so can degrade digestion, as your gut microbes may meditate with you (who knows how the little ones spend their spare time).
Do not exercise shortly after meditating. Let the calm settle in. (Meditating a while after exercise is good.)
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Meditating with others is recommendable, as the field of calm is reinforced among participants. Multiple consciousnesses harmonizing with the unified field of Ĉonsciousness amplifies calmness in the environment.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a proponent of mass meditation as a means to elevate the spiritual atmosphere of social environments. His plan to do so in impoverished districts of Washington, DC was not approved by officials there. In his frustration, Maharishi called the city “a pool of mud,” which is especially funny considering that Washington DC was built on swampland.
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After extensive practice as a meditator, the mantra may become superfluous. Having acclimated to transcending, the sheer desire to do so may suffice.
Do not just meditate; live in meditation. ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj