Part 2 of a series on mediation. Read part one.
To build an effective meditation practice, we must be able to tune out our senses and tune in to to our inner selves.
Concentration, dharana, is an important aspect of meditation, as one-pointed focus increases our mental power. In order to be able to concentrate, pratyahara, a withdrawl of the senses or sensory stimulation, must first be achieved. This allows the mind to become immune to the distraction of the senses and sense objects. Once the senses are withdrawn, one is prepared to sit and begin concentration techniques.
So how does this relate to meditation?
Well, in order to attain any state of meditation, we have to get the wired, often robotic monkey mind to cooperate and be still. Not asleep, but still.
It may come as no surprise to you that the mind loves to take control and direct our thoughts and, thereafter, our decisions and behaviors. 95 percent of our thoughts are unconscious or subconscious. Of the five percent of conscious thoughts we produce, nearly 70 percent of those are either negative or repetitive. This is because, if a negative behavior or belief is reinforced enough, especially during developmental years, the brain creates a neural pathway for that negative thought, which outweighs the opposing belief or behavior. What wires together fires together. What doesn’t fire, doesn’t wire.
As we age, the mind’s condition dissipates as the tension and stress of our lives increases.
This further reinforces a poor quality of mind. The power of concentration, which helps to still the mind, is not a practice we were taught as we developed, and so it is often challenging. The mind has great potential power that is rarely used because the numerous thoughts that run across the film of our mind diminish the mind’s power to distract our attention. As our attention dissipates, humans experience a loss of mental activity, leading to wrong decisions, ineffective communication, poor memory and senility.
However, with an alert but inactive mind, as in meditation, we can observe our inner state of being, the thoughts that continue to arise, and the energy in the body from moment to moment. With an alert but inactive mind, we are not polarized by the senses, the external world, or thoughts—our temporary states of being! In other words, you can begin to ‘see’ clearly the internal chaos you have created for yourself based upon this reality and how to release it. When the mind is concentrated, it becomes relaxed. When the mind is relaxed, the brain becomes more relaxed, and opens to receiving and creating new ideas and concepts that increase the dimensions and depth of consciousness.
With an alert but inactive mind, we can also feel the frequency our energy is vibrating at.
Many of us vibrate at lower levels, driven by fear, ego, greed, anger and jealousy, rather than from the heart or from the wisdom of their experiences. As we move away from survival and base-level instincts, our energy will vibrate at higher frequencies, and our actions will be more regularly infused with love, compassion and creative genius.
Sitting and concentrating also helps us become more aware of the extreme or negative emotions triggered by thoughts and beliefs. Armed with this awareness, we can begin to tailor a mental hygiene practice to harmonize the nervous system as well as both hemispheres of the brain. The Tantras provide many fabulous concentration methods for accomplishing this.
Almost any object, mantra or image can be used as the basis for concentration. Generally speaking, any object that comes to your mind spontaneously will be the most effective. Once you have selected the object of concentration, it should be used as part of a regular practice. Once the mind becomes more concentrated through a regular committed practice infused with faith, our awareness increases, and the meditative experience becomes more accessible.
Stay tuned for the Part 3 of the “Meditate to Elevate” series, which discusses pranayama-breath-energy techniques, often utilized to prepare the mind and body to concentrate and reach states of meditation.
Karen Nourizadeh, a “recovering attorney,” is now a yoga instructor with Pure Yoga and New York Sports Clubs as well as a writer and media contributor. Karen freed herself from law and the corporate world to help people heal themselves, mentally and physically, through yoga. Karen is completing her first work, a memoir, detailing her struggle to get out of law, find herself and fulfill her destiny. On a spiritual quest, Karen encounters a mysterious 10-year-old Indian boy, who introduced himself as “Goldie Hawn’s son.” The boy teaches Karen lessons of the heart through his pure, honest, uncalculated actions. He affirms to her what is already in her heart, and helps to free her from her worst enemy, her mind. Follow Karen on Facebook and Twitter.
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Assistant Ed: Jessica Wallin/Ed: Bryonie Wise