Real yoga gives you a lot more than good health and a “nice ass.”
We’ve all got lots of problems, but what’s the ultimate problem? The ultimate problem is that something prevents us from attaining perfect success and happiness. What’s the ultimate cause of this nasty situation? The ultimate cause is that we are not clear about what such things are, primarily because we are not even sure of who we are.
Therefore the ultimate solution is self-realization.
Self-realization is possible through self-contemplation, a.k.a. “meditation,” which is an eight-step process:
1) Yama — Rules.
To realize the true self you first have to get outside the false self. The false self is an ego that is self-centered and selfish. So we begin by making our lifestyle more group-centered and selfless. The exact rules vary from person to person, but I highly recommend at least moving in the direction of vegetarianism, sobriety, and truthfulness.
2) Niyama — Regulations.
This is a lot like the “rules” except that the “rules” focus more on how you treat yourself, while “regulations” focus more on how you treat others. Make constant efforts to be polite, sensitive to others, humble and helpful. Do good deeds for others, without hoping for a reward or thanks; instead dedicate these efforts to the divine. Don’t underestimate how important this is to successful meditation and self-realization.
3) Asana — Sitting.
To prepare for meditation itself, first you have to sit down. It’s easy to get carried away with the details of how to sit, but here are the essentials: Sit on a comfortable floor “Indian style” and put strength into your lower back (if you can, do so by contracting and raising the Kegel muscle). Keep that lower back straight and perpendicular to the floor. Release all the strength from your shoulders and let them hang down (but not forward). Stretch your neck straight by pulling your head upward and a little backward.
I have found that if I pay some attention to sitting with something close to this good posture, I really do get less distracted during meditation. I think it’s mainly because my body is making an effort to be attentive, and that encourages my mind to do the same.
4) Pranayama — Breathing.
After you sit correctly, get your breathing straight. Again, it’s easy to make this much more elaborate than it need be. Here are the essentials: Breathe deeply. Inhale through your nose, pulling the air in by expanding your stomach outward (creating more space inside your body, allows air to flow inward). Exhale through your mouth, ( this will be essential since you’ll soon want to intone a mantra) by contracting your stomach and pushing the old air out.
With one or two breaths you will feel more sharp and alert.
5) Pratyahara — Withdrawing.
Now that your mind is sharp and clear, it’s time to pull it away from all extraneous thoughts. It’s time to “withdraw.” Here is a good little catch phrase to help you with this step: “Shrink your world.” To elaborate, tell yourself something like this: “Only this room exists. Nothing exists outside this moment, outside this space, outside the object upon which I will meditate.” Get all the self-centered thoughts out of your mind, and then immediately go to the next step.
6) Dharana — Grasping.Lord Jagannath’s eyes
Now that your mind is empty it will get hungry. So, it’s time to feed it the object of your meditation. It has let go of every other thought, now let it grasp onto the one thought you desire to meditate upon.
You can meditate on anything, but the best object is a mantra. The best mantra is one that invokes a personal relationship with the divine. The most personal and intimate form of divinity is “all-attractive,” “all-pleasing,” and “all-enchanting.” So it’s no wonder that the most highly recommended mantra, the maha-mantra, or “great mantra,” is one that invokes divinity with those three terms: Krishna, Rama, and Hare respectively:
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare.
Hare Rama, Hare Rama,
Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
With your clear mind free of other thoughts, pronounce the 32 syllables of this mantra clearly and do not allow your mind to wander from the sound and meaning of the words: “All-Attractive one, enchant me! All-blissful one, enchant me!”
7) Dhyana — Meditation.
When you successfully keep the mantra resounding in your mind without distraction for a little while, you have achieved “meditation.” Just like each moment spent polishing a dirty mirror helps you see yourself more clearly—every moment spent in this state brings you one step closer to self-realization, realizing your true identity in relation to the divine whole.
8) Samadhi — Completeness.
At first it will be difficult to keep the mind quiet and focused on the mantra at all. With some practice, from time to time you will be able to do it for a few seconds. With continued effort the mind will cooperate for longer periods: a minute, a few minutes, several minutes, an hour, a few hours, several hours. Finally, you will come to a state where meditation (“dhi”) is constant and unbroken (“sama”). You will constantly be in touch with the divine, having realized your true self-identity.
No pain will disturb you, no pleasure will attract you— for you have a brilliant treasure within yourself that outshines and eclipses all other things. Your tears of pain will have transformed completely into tears of ecstasy.
He is also a practicing astrologer, prolific writer and former guitarist and song writer in the popular underground spiritual-punk band, 108. His astrology website is available here.
Editor: Thaddeus Haas
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