Before going into any discussions on meditation, we should try to understand the basic terminology which will be helpful in grasping the fundamentals. What is consciousness? How does it relate to meditation? Read more to find out!
As mentioned earlier, it’s important to break down the fundamentals of meditation and to fully understand them before we begin the meditation process in order to gain the most of our practice.
We often come across the word "consciousness" in varying contexts. Being conscious can be an attribute of life or being alive. Consciousness, as a word, can also be used in terms of our wakeful states when we are engaged in a sensory connection with our outside world, while on a more spiritual level, it is used to denote a very fine quality of all beings and that of God.
To define consciousness is a complex task, as in the process we will come across various levels and planes of the same. There is human consciousness, animal consciousness, individual consciousness, universal consciousness and so on.
Say we try to understand it with the analogy of sunlight. Light from the sun spreads all around the earth giving illumination to every corner. In a way, it is omnipresent. Consciousness, here, is like that light, present everywhere. Although the light coming from the sun is singular in nature, existing in one form, yet when it spreads over the shapes and forms on earth, it takes different forms.
When it enters a house through a small window, for instance, it appears to be restricted in form of small beams of light giving a totally different view. When it rinses down through huge trees in a forest, it appears to be like a lightning effect with shades of versatility in it. When it falls down on a reservoir of crystal clear water, it gives a reflection like that of diamonds. When it passes through the clouds, it forms a rainbow. The same sunlight appears in vivid forms and colors.
Consciousness is similar. It is expressed on individual levels through the mind, which is just like that sunlight entering a house through a window. In yoga, this window is called Antahkaran, an inner structure, a blueprint of a being. It is a box with four compartments of ego, mind, intellect and chitta, the subconscious mind. This blueprint is associated and responsible for the manifestation of consciousness in different species, in different life forms on different planes. And as the lines of evolution, it is developed in certain degrees on each plane. The antahkaran of animals is different from that of humans, for one, and in animals themselves, there are several classifications as well as in humans.
When this structure gets associated with gyan indriyas, the organs of senses, and with karmendriyas, the organs of actions, the world comes into existence. Every individual has its own world based on the design of the instruments of anatahkaran. It comprises of all our ideas, thoughts, convictions, memories, associations and other acquired impressions. Based on these, the actions and reactions are decided by every individual, giving rise to its own perception of world or Samsar.
Meditation and the mind
Meditation is a process of gaining an insight and knowledge of this instrument, giving us an opportunity to become clear about who we are. The practice of meditation opens doors towards an inner quest of rediscovering our selves.
Meditation with Jeevmoksha Institute of Yoga Studies
The process starts with the initial task of acquiring relaxation. Relaxation of the most outwardly unit of the instrument called the mind or manas. The mind, in this case, is the part that directly comes into contact with the objects around and shows patterns. It is like a relay station which connects outside and inside. All the signals and commands which are routed through the mind leave repercussions on its surface, and depending upon its composition, each mind handles these signals and commands differently.
This is why some people are more fragile than others when dealing with certain things, while some others show more composure and balance. This is also the cause of disturbances in our lives: we feel shackled and shaken, we feel annoyed and exhilarated, we feel enthusiastic and depressed — all because of this unique sensitivity of our minds.
How to meditate
The first step towards meditation is achieving calmness on the surface of the mind. This is made possible through the basic techniques of trying to limit the wavering and transfer of signals. When we start meditating, we need to work upon our body and breathe as these two are directly related to the states of mind. Once the body is comfortable and the breath is stable, the mind is prepared to revert its forces from being fragmented externally, thinking about several objects at the same time, to a more consolidated state where its power can be used to reflect onto itself.
This stage is called concentration or dharana, where a person learns to control the tendencies of the mind. This stage gives so much relaxation and mental clarity that a person starts realizing its importance. A feeling of contentment arises and petty issues aren't troublesome anymore. A depth in perceptions and broadening in acceptability are some of the outcomes.
Meditation lets you discover your true self
Moving further, concentration starts turning into dhyan or meditation, which is the state of an unwavering and undisturbed flow of mind while it disconnects from the acquired tendencies, and getting closer to its natural attributes. At this stage, we closely experience the dimensions in which our ego and intellect operate, and with a structural line of practice, we can learn to remove these two components from contaminations so that they are purified and their natural states can be experienced.
The natural state of ego is the notion of existence that is called am, and the natural state of intellect is called vivek, or the ability to discern without a prejudice. This is, in fact, the true state of being just with the self and others.
As we go deeper into this journey, our purpose of being alive starts getting clear and we are led on a path to fulfill that purpose, rather than just wandering aimlessly into the objects of temporary enjoyments and wasting our energy. Meditation is a gift given to mankind for actually realizing what we are, not what we are being told we are, but our true existence. May all be guided to this path and realize.
Interested in finding out even more about meditation and the philosophy behind it? Learn all about meditation and put it into practice on a yoga and meditation retreat!