27 Dec Meditation: The Journey to Love & Inner Peace
When you are in love with somebody, you give it reality – you imagine your love to be all-powerful and everlasting. When it comes to an end, you say: ‘I thought it was real, but it wasn’t’. Impermanence is the best proof of unreality. What is limited in time and space, and applicable to one person only, is not real. The Real is for all and forever.” – Nisargadatta Maharaj, Advaita Master, author of the book ‘I AM’.
True love and inner peace can never be found in the impermanent. Yet we seek it through those things that are constantly changing, like the body, the mind, and relationships. The unreal cannot take you to the Real; it can only lead you to more unreality. All those things that are subject to time and space, like the body and the mind, are subject to constant change. Yet in our ignorance we empower them to lead us in the quest of the Unchangeable, of the Self.
The Self, the source of true love and inner peace, is the only permanent reality. It does not need to be found. It is there, always was and always will be. It is simply clouded by the illusion of impermanent concepts and beliefs created by our mind, all of which constantly dissolve to be replaced by new ones. It is by removing our belief and attachment to the unreal that the Self reveals itself, like a jewel under a mound of dust.
Meditation brings the mind to the inner silence so the opening to the Self can occur.
The thinking mind, in its permanent struggle to maintain a dominant presence, will become quiet as the True Self, the Sat Nam, is revealed.
Yogis discovered thousands of years ago that the mind can be quieted. Through practice and personal experience they developed a method to reach that state of inner silence which they called Samadhi. That is what today we may call meditation.
In the practice of meditation there are three changes that must occur in order for the mind to be silent: quieting the senses, focusing the mind, calming the thought waves.
They called the first step Pratyahar. By closing the eyes, sitting still, and by being in an environment where one can reduce the distractions of external sounds and smells, we begin to turn off from the stimuli-response mechanism which is dominant while we are awake. The sympathetic nervous system begins to slow down, giving way for the parasympathetic to become dominant. This will slow down your bodily rhythms and functions (heart and breath rate, digestion, muscle tone, etc.) and allow all the body’s energy to be directed towards the minds.
They called the next step Dharana, or concentration. During wakefulness the mind is constantly responding to all outer stimuli. Its attention wavers from one to the next, as it needs to respond to what is happening around it. Although there are moments in the day when we can be mostly focused on one activity, these moments have a short span. The mind will eventually redirect its attention to some other stimuli that distracts it.
Yogis discovered that if one can consciously keep the mind focused on one object during an extended period of time, its activity would begin to slow down. As the mind is trained to remain focused at will, it will begin to turn off its thinking activity.
Entering the third stage, which they called Dhyana, occurs when both Pratyahar and Dharana are combined which begins to slow down the thinking process. In this state the thought waves slow down and bring a state of calmness to the mind. Although there is still a slight presence of the thinking mind, the types of thoughts produced do not irritate or provoke the thinking mind to return to its dominant state.
As this sense of calmness and peace begins to reign, the parasympathetic system becomes dominant and the body enters a near-sleep state. And then, as in the case of falling asleep, without cognitive awareness the mind stops thinking. It enters Samadhi, or Shunnia, the state of inner silence.
In the tradition of Kundalini Yoga we have received a legacy of hundreds of meditation techniques to help one reach Samadhi. We use breath, mantra, mudra (hand postures) all synchronized to stimulate a specific aspect of the mind. This begins to clear out concepts and beliefs encrusted in one part of our brain/mind’s memory, allowing the state of calmness to happen.
One such meditation, which calms the mind and the emotional self, is called Meditation for a Calm Heart. It clears the negative thoughts and emotions that cloud our connection with love and compassion.
Sit in a comfortable meditation posture, slightly straightening the neck, and closing the eyes. Place the left hand on the center of the chest at the Heart Center. The palm is flat against the chest, and the fingers are parallel to the ground, pointing to the right. Make Gyan Mudra with the right hand (touch the tip of the index finger with the tip of the thumb). Raise the right hand up to the right side as if giving a pledge. The palm faces forward, the other three fingers point straight up. The elbow is relaxed near the side of the torso with the forearm perpendicular to the ground.
Begin by concentrating on the flow of the breath. Regulate and slow down each breath consciously. Inhale slowly and deeply through both nostrils.
Then inhale and suspend the breath in and raise the chest. Retain it as long as possible. Then exhale smoothly, gradually, and completely. When the breath is totally out, lock the breath out for as long as possible. Continue this pattern of long, deep breathing for 3 to 31 minutes. To end, inhale and exhale strongly 3 times. Relax.
Emotionally, this meditation adds clear perception to your relationships with yourself and others. If you are upset at work or in a personal relationship, sit in this meditation for 3 to 15 minutes before deciding how to act. Then act with your full heart.Physically, this meditation strengthens the lungs and heart.
This meditation is perfect for beginners. It opens awareness of the breath, and it conditions the lungs. When you hold the breath in or out for “as long as possible,” you should not gasp or be under strain when you let the breath move again.
Begin with 3 minutes on the first day and gradually increase the time as you practice it daily. Soon you will be entering that quiet and peaceful place where Love flows and the Self is revealed.
By: Guru Dass