is the state achieved from intense concentration on a single
object until all other thoughts vanish and all that is left
is an intense awareness of the object.
some traditions, that's all there is to it. In yoga, however,
the ultimate goal is a bit more ambitious. Meditation is
one of the Eight Limbs of yoga outlined in Patanjali's Yoga
Sutras. Called dhyana, meditation is considered the
highest practice and is the final step before bliss. James
Hewitt, in The Complete
Book of Yoga defines the goal of yoga meditation
like this: "…meditation means sense withdrawl (pratyahara)
and concentration (dharana), sustained into contemplation
(dhyana), with the aim of triggering a super-conscious state
(samadhi), which is one of intuitive realization of the
identity of the individual soul or spirit and the cosmic
soul or spirit."
samadhi may be a long time coming. Frankly, it doesn't matter
because there are lots of other benefits to be had along
the way. For example, meditation helps reduce stress and
anxiety, lower blood pressure, and improve concentration,
clarity and creativity. Or, to paraphrase Patanjali's classic
comment about yoga, yogaschittavrittinirodhah --
meditation calms the fluctuations of the mind.
meditation is not always easy. The "fluctuations of the
mind" do not like to be calmed. It's amazing how many thoughts,
how many stories, how many little movies can run through
your head in the space between two breaths -- especially
when you're trying to meditate. Anne Cushman, a writer for
Yoga Journal, once described meditation as being
locked in a closet with a lunatic with a megaphone. Fortunately,
it's usually not that bad. Usually.
your goal is enlightenment, revelation, relaxation, simple
clarity or low blood pressure, the process of mediation puts
you in touch with something good and quietly profound.
in a comfortable position, either in a chair or on the floor,
with your back and head straight.
can "warm up" with a couple of deep breaths, ujjayi pranayama
or nadi shodhana.
your eyes. Breathe through your nose. Focus on your breath
-- cool air in, warm air out. If the mind wanders, gently
bring it back to the breath. That's it. Start with a 5-10
minute meditation and work your way up to 15, 20, 30 minutes
variation that may make things a little easier at the beginning
is to count your breaths. Count up to four and then repeat,
over and over. You can add an "and" between counts to fill
up the space between breaths. It goes like this: inhale (1)
- exhale (and) - inhale (2) - exhale (and)…and so on up to