Dhyana (Meditation) – 8 Limbs of Yoga

Dhyana, or yoga meditation, is the 7th stage of the 8 limb’s of Ashtanga Yoga. What most people today refer to as ‘meditation’ are generally varieties of techniques for stress relief and relaxation, and for enhancing and refining the faculty of ‘concentration’ (or dharana).
However, Swami Gitananda explains that meditation is a most misunderstood word. It has come to mean for many, simply sitting with the eyes closed, or the repetition of a mantra sound over and over. It must be something much more profound, much more elevated.
 
From the 6th stage of Dharana, the mind is put through various rigors of trainings to restrain its waywardness and to refine its awareness to the ultimate degree of ‘one-pointedness’. Achieving this state is an ‘active process’ that requires much effort. But it is precisely when this ‘one-pointedness’ of mind ceases to be an ‘active effort’ and then just ‘happens naturally’, without any effort, that we have achieved the state of meditation.
Hence, meditation is a ‘state’ (of being, or of mind), and not a techinique that we ‘practice’.  It is an unbroken stream of raw observation whereby very little ‘sense of self’ remains. Without the dualistic nature of thought inherent in thinking present, one can say that at such moments, the observer and the observed become one.
At this level, it becomes increasingly more difficult to use words and the reasoning, conscious mind to describe the experiences of yoga. After all, the state of meditation, by its very nature transcends our material human experience and everything that is related to it.
The 6th (Dharana) and 7th (Dhyana) stage of yoga often seem to overlap each other by definition. However, we could say that meditation (dhyana), is concentration (dharana) taken to ‘perfection’ — In other words, a meditative state is the natural result of ‘perfect concentration’.
So it is prolonged concentration, then, that leads us into this ‘spontaneous’ and ‘free-flowing’ meditative state, whereby nothing but the object of concentration fills the mental space; and whereby the observer and the observed become one.
So this begs the question “How often are we in a meditative state?”. Unless you are a very dedicated and highly disciplined practitioner, the answer is “probably not often”.
While this word ‘meditation’ has taken on a whole range of meanings today, from the very mundane exercises for calming the mind, to more structured practices for refining and improving concentration, these things, although some of them may be valuable tools on the ‘road to meditation’, are not themselves meditation, and in most cases, alone will not be able to take one to a state of meditation.
This is so because much preparation is needed before one is capable of experiencing this powerful, yet very subtle state of meditation. As Swami Gitananda explains:
“Meditation is an exalted state of being which is produced by a moral and ethical, pure lifestyle; control of the body and breath through Asana and Pranayama; transcendence of and freedom from the imprisonment of the senses in Pratyahara. Practices of Dharana, exercises in concentrating and focusing the mind must be perfected. Only then is one able to even speak of meditation, let alone experience it.”
In my own experience in meditation, I believe I have encountered fragmented moments of meditative states. However, I say they are fragmented states because while in those states, it does not take long before my discursive mind intervenes to try and dissect and understand what has just happened. I suppose the “ … moral and ethical, pure lifestyle; control of the body and breath through Asana and Pranayama” spoken of by Swami Gitananda refers to the ultimate process of making the ego extinct, thereby allowing a meditative state to be sustainable. This is not an easy task from my own experience.

Bliss is Being Choicelessness

All our choice, all our decisions, end in dilemma.  Continously moving from 1 extreme to the other.  Continuously thinking, continuous thoughts. Continously not accepting the present moment.  Whatever you think and what you can’t think.  Whatever you experience and whatever you can’t experience.  The root of the mind is dilemma. All our choices end in suffering. Bliss is choicelessness.  Bliss is something that it the way it is.  Postponing the bliss, the esctacy gives continuous misery.
The moment you choose, you have started to suffer.  You will be visualising what you are missing.  Material life is the x-axis and spiritual life is the Y-axis.  Meditation is being in this moment.  You will explode and express yourself in the present moment.

Reconciling painting with my meditation practice

When we talked during TTC about the Patanjali sutra 1:28 “Tajjapah Tadartha Bavanam” (“Say Om / Do things with feelings and full dedication”), I thought about a painting that I did few years ago (below).

When I paint, I try to paint with my heart. I dig deep into myself, into my inner feelings and I just think about colors, composition, emotions. Everything floats and is slowly falling into place by itself. There is no right or wrong in this moment, only bliss and energy, feelings.
 
Sometimes I can feel the ego and mind coming back: “why not showing more technique?”, “why not choosing a more trendy style?”, “why not be more shocking?”, “did I do it well?”, “will it please the audience’ eyes?” By then, I know that I need to re-connect with myself and not let the mind interfere with these funny questions and come back to my feelings.
 
This is how it came up, the feeling I had while painting it. The face is like floating and disagregates, skull and teeth appearing, merging with space, in a closed-eyes moment of bliss, without fear or doubt. For me, this could be the feeling of impermanence and the joy that it can give. I feel that the theme of this painting is about meditation. But I was not in a meditative state at all, fighting thoughts, reconnecting with feelings, emotions and ideas jumping… my head was in a rollercoaster mode! How ironic.
 
When I paint, the emotions are quite strong and I feel that I am painting with “my guts”. At that stage, it is very hard for me to “calm down” and meditate right after painting. Painting does not bring me into a meditative state at all. I am quite agitated and it takes many hours after painting to find back “my mind”. I was discussing that matter with a painter who was also into meditation. I told him that painting was defeating the purpose of meditation. They seem so opposite! When you are into your feelings (passion, anger, inspiration), you are so far away from meditation, which is supposed to be detached from emotions and feelings! He told me he thought  the same, and that painting in a meditative state would only create dull paintings, naïve or whatever, that I had to paint with all my emotions … to eventually fight and silence them to practice meditation! For the last few months I was dwelling in that thought, thinking that I may have to choose between meditation and painting (basically I stopped painting all that time).
 
Then during the TTC , I heard the above-mentioned Sutra saying that when you do things with your heart and feelings, at that moment, there is no mind … which is good! When I look back at this painting, I kind of saw it, I was perhaps in a state of no-mind, so focused, so dedicated to painting. No mind is close to meditation I guess, so why not?
This is how I may reconcile painting and meditation: even if painting triggers emotions and all, it is at least a moment of  no-mind … or maybe even active meditation ? If I cannot sit still and meditate for the rest of the day, it is ok, I could just let go, the hours immersed in the joy of painting are enough. There are many ways of meditating… and painting may be one of them?
Huy
 

Dhyana (Meditation) and Your Brain

Probably like many before me, my foray into meditation was motivated by a need to calm my mind, ease the overwhelming torrents of anger in my chest, etc, etc…you get the picture…
Well, after having meditated regularly for about 2 months..something has changed. it is subtle. There were no fireworks or grand realisation. There is no light around my head, and i still can’t sit in a lotus position. But there is a constant fuzzy feeling that surrounds me, which either helps me disconnect or connect to my environment. Am i imagining this? After all, the mind creates what the mind creates..no? NO! According to this article in Science Daily, mediation can actually change your brain structure. A team led by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers conducted a study group where they looked at the brains of participants before and after they started on an 8-week meditation programme. If you don’t fee like reading the looong article…here are the highlights of differences found in the participants:

  • increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory
  • increased grey-matter density in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection
  • decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress.
And all of the above by just meditating 27 mins per day for 8 weeks…..pretty awesome huh?

Source: Massachusetts General Hospital. “Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in eight weeks.” ScienceDaily, 21 Jan. 2011. Web. 16 May 2011.

Meditation; Physical and mental benefits

Meditation is a state of consciousness that can be understood only on a direct, intuitive level. Ordinary experiences are limited by time, space, the laws of causality, but the meditative state transcends all the boundaries. while a person meditate, past and future cease to exist. There is only the consciousness of I AM in the infinite, eternal, NOW.

Here are states of Consciousness

* Waking State
This is the normal everyday state of awareness. The conscious mind is functioning. You know that you are awake. The intellect is working. You are thinking and reasoning, and you are aware of your physical environment. Time, space, and causality are in full control in the waking state.

* Dream State
Contrary to popular belief, this intermediate state between waking and deep sleep is not restful state, as mental energy is being expended. The intellect is not functioning, but there remains some awareness of the physical world. Regular asana practice will help you to relax at night and enter deep sleep.

* Deep Sleep

When the mind is relaxed it will goninto the state known as deep sleep. The mind is blank; there is no awareness of yourself as a separate entity. The ego identity does not exist. There is no awareness of “I am doing…” nor of your physcal environment, nor even an awareness of your own being.

* Meditation

As in deep sleep, neither body consciousness nor awareness of an external physical reality exists. Nor do time, space or causality, but in meditation the awareness is transcendental. It is the continuous flow of one thought of the Supreme, and identification of the indiidual with the divine.

PHYSICAL BENEFITS OF MEDITATION

Meditation provides a long lasting spiritual rest, which must be experienced to be understood. Once you can meditate, the time you normally devoted to sleep can gradually be reduced to as little as three hours per night, and you will still feel more rested and peaceful than before. By reducing heart rate and consumption of the oxygen, meditation greatly reduces stress levels. It seems that each part of the body even down to the individual cells, is taught to relax and rejuvenate. Meditation helps to prolong the body’s period of growth and cell production, and reduces the decaying process. After the age of 35, our brain cells die off at a rate of 100,000 per day, and they are not replaced, but meditation can reduce this decline, as it changes the vibratory make-up of both the body and the mind. In this way, meditation can prevent or minimize senility.

MENTAL BENEFITS OF MEDITATE

We each possess vast inner resources of power and knowledge, much of it brought with us from the past. In the meditation, new patterns of thinking come to the surface and develop as we experience a new view of the ecperience a new view of the universe, a vision of unity, happyiness, harmony, and inner peace. Negative tendencies vanis, andthe mindbecomes steady. Meditation brings freedom from fear of death, which is seen as a doorway to a new name and form. People who meditate regularly tend to develop magnetic and dynamic personalities, cheerfulness, powerful speech, lustrous eyes, physical health, and boundless energy. Others draw strengh from such people and feel elevated in their presence. Meditation is only possible when all mental modifications have been stilled, and with this comes mental peace.

Well, knowing all those benefits of Meditate..don’t we all want to have it too?? </p
Namaste

Meditation and Medicine!! Which is more effective?

Meditation More Effective than Morphine for Pain

Blog by Granny Med
(10 Hours Ago) in HealthAlternative Medicine
There has long been anecdotal evidence that relaxation techniques such as meditation are effective in coping with and managing various difficult health problems, including pain. But new evidence to be published in the “Journal of Neuroscience,” links meditation with brain scancs showing that brain activity is altered in people who meditate while exposed to pain.

Scientists scanned the brains of 15 health volunteers naive to meditation using arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging (ASL MRI). During the scan, a heat device was placed on the right legs of subjects that warmed the area to 120 degrees Fahrenheit over 5 minutes. Most people experience this stimulus as painful.
The scans were conducted prior to meditation and after four 20 minute classes in a technique known as focused attention. In focused attention people pay attention to their breath while letting go of distracting thoughts or emotions.
Amazingly, after meditation training, pain intensity was reported to be 40% less on average, while pain unpleasantness was rated 57% lower. Every participant rated their pain lower after meditation from an 11% reduction up to a 93% reduction. Most opiate painkillers reduce pain by 25%.
The scientists reported that brain activity was reduced in the primary somatosensory cortex while increased in the anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula, and orbiot-frontal cortex after meditation. These areas of the brain are involved in feeling the location and intensity of pain as well as creating the experience of the pain. It appears that meditation works on multiple areas of the brain responsible for multiple pathways that process the experience of pain.
Although the results of this study are limited by the small number of participants, the implications of this information is intriguing. Meditation produced dramatic pain-reducing effects after only 1 hour 20 minutes of instruction. The potential to reduce pain was greater than traditional pain medications.
You can read the abstract of this study at: http://www.jneurosci.org/content/31/14/5540.abstract

 

Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodhah: reaching an inner peace

Yoga citta vritti nirodhah means to reach an inner peace in the mind and to stabilize thoughts and disturbing emotions. Given that yoga is a combination of physical movements which at the same time combine controlled breathing, practicing yoga citta vritti nirodhah allows a syncronized flow to occur during the movements. It provides a more meditative approach to yoga to be realized and for the student a much more relaxing and peaceful feeling can be obtained.

Meditation

It was only when I looked further into what Yoga was before I found
out asana’s were only one of the eight parts of what yoga really is.
Something I was very happy to experience during YTT was the exposure I
got to meditation. From a young age meditation was always an area of
confusion for me. Questions would always surface. What are you
supposed to do? What’s the point? Am I supposed to think about
something? How do you do it?
Based on what I understand about meditation now, is that it is a way
for us to achieve a certain state of mind. To achieve this state of
mind we are to dettatch ourselves from the complicated thoughts of
daily life and concentrate on something simple such as the sound of
breath. It is through the simplicity of maintaining a simple humming
noise or a the sound of an “ohm” that allows us to focus. Making
things simple for our minds allows us to reach a state where we can
experience a near unconscious state. While maintaining this near
unconscious state we can allow prana to cleanse, and even align our
chakras.
This ideally would emulate a certain phase of sleep whereby we would
be allowing our brain to reguvinate.
Although I have learned some meditation methods I still think that
this near subconscious state of mind is somewhat beyond my immediate
grasp. I do feel however that with enough time and regular practice
the benefits of meditation are atainable. An aspect of my life I
personally struggle with is focus. An overactive mind is something I
have been living to deal with for a long time, and during my first few
attempts at meditation became extremely obvious to me.
Not only during the meditation itself, but also during my asana
practice I realized how much my own mind was interfering with the
quality and effort of what my body was doing.
In my eyes, meditation is a reflexion of another part of you, a very
honest one. While asana’s really should only be about you, because
there is the element of the physical world it’s very easy to let your
ego get involved in your asana practice. How difficult or easy an
asana is for you, or how much better or worse you are than someone
else doing an asana, are all things that are born from our ego. Why is
meditation more honest? It’s because no matter how good or bad you are
at it, how enlightened you become, how long you spend in a near
subconscious state, can only be realized by you and can’t be proven to
anyone else in any way. You are the only one experiencing your own
meditation.