What is meditation?
The first thing to remember about meditation is that it's simple. I didn't say it's easy. But simplicity is a key to meditation because it involves surrender. Meditation seems hard because when we're first learning to meditate we don't know what to do, or I should say we don't know what not to do. There are lots of techniques out there to help us move toward meditation. And techniques can be very helpful. But because we have those techniques we sometimes loose sight of our goal and we let things become too complex. Techniques have their place, but remember: techniques aren't meditation, and meditation is not a technique. We use certain techniques, or practices, to create or cultivate the ideal conditions for meditation to occur, but we can't make it happen. Meditation is an experience, an experience in and of our pure awareness or consciousness, which is the Soul. And because our Soul is one with God, when we experience our selves as Soul, we ultimately become immersed in an unbroken experience of and commune with God. Therefore meditation is a state of grace.
Although concentration is a key to meditation, I don't even like to use the word concentration because in our day–to–day lives the word concentration has a connotation of "hardness" or striving. When we're meditating we have to learn to cultivate what I call "soft concentration". It's more like we're allowing ourselves to become immersed in the object of meditation, or in the state of meditation. The Sanskrit word for concentration is dharana, which means to fix our attention on one thing. But it doesn't mean to strain or struggle. The Sanskrit word for meditation is dhyana, which can be interpreted as an unbroken awareness where we stack one moment of dharana (concentration) on top of another, and another, and another until we become immersed in an unbroken flow of pure awareness. I have written specifically and in more depth about dharana and dhyana. My goal here is to discuss the basic and fundamental ideas of meditation. So some of the key words that we've discussed thus far are: simplicity, surrender, and allow.
No one can teach you meditation, just like no one can teach you to play music. A teacher can guide you to learn to play an instrument. But the day that your facility on the instrument becomes a conduit for your heart to be expressed through you and the instrument as music, is something that you can only do for yourself, and it takes lots of time and practice. Similarly a teacher can help you learn and guide you in the practices that will ultimately result in meditation. And with regular, steady, dedicated practice, over time, you will eventually arrive at the point where one day you will find that you have slipped into Dhyana or meditation. Into a state of very still and quiet awareness where you are absolutely liberated from distractions and are immersed in an unbroken experience of the flow of your pure consciousness. That pure consciousness which is your true nature, your true self or real identity, is your Heart or Soul. The Sanskrit words for that pure consciousness are: Purusha, Svrupa, Atman, and Satchitananda. Your Soul is pure, infinite, eternal and boundless, and its nature is joy, love, truth, light, peace, compassion and goodness.
So what are we trying to do?In meditation we’re trying to be still and quiet enough, and to allow the room within us, for our pure consciousness to be manifested or reflected in our conscious awareness. And then to surrender into that experience and become established in an unbroken awareness or experience (dhyana) of that pure consciousness of our being which is our Heart or Soul.
Sometimes when you first start to feel or perceive the joy, love or stillness of your Heart, you will be so excited about it and want to experience it so much, that you will try to grasp it and it will disappear because that causes you to move out of the stillness that you’ve cultivated. When you begin to feel or experience the qualities of your Heart, instead of trying to grasp at it, allow yourself to become immersed in it. Try to become even more still and quiet and surrender into the experience.
Another thing to be aware of is that all of your meditations are beneficial. Remember our discussion about samskaras? Whether your meditation is deeply peaceful, joyful and calm, or restless, turbulent, distracted and filled with "vrttis", it’s a part of the process of growing and evolving with your practice and in your path in life. Vrtti is the Sanskrit word for restlessness, ripples, or turbulence in our field of consciousness. The Sanskrit word for our field of consciousness is chitta. See yoga sutra I.2.
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