Journeying back to self

Yoga is leading me on the journey back to self. In this personal blog post, I will share about my journey through meditation.

“Meditation is a natural distillation of spirituality into something applicable yet powerful. There is nothing more spiritual thing you can do, than to just tether to the present moment, and just be. Be present in the moment and know that you’re right where you need to be right now, be you, be there, just be. Let go. Being you is to realize the limited self, beyond the inflated concept of identity. Harness the awareness through meditation. “- Claudia

Dhyana, the 7th limb of yoga, what we call meditation – is building upon asana (physical posture), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (control of the senses, moving the focus to the inside), and dharana (concentration). Dhyana involves concentration and meditation on a point of focus with the intention of knowing the truth about it. This deeper concentration of the mind is the instrument of self-knowledge where one can separate illusion from reality, and eventually, reach the ultimate goal of yoga: samadhi (bliss, or union with the source).

My meditative journey had shown me that we can create space within ourselves, just in quietness. We do not even need to sit to meditate – It is not about postures, not even a set of mental exercises. We create space within ourselves by stopping and blocking incessant and (mostly unnecessary) thoughts. Most thoughts in our head isn’t ours anyways, but what our world want us to think. With meditation, the space allows us to empty our mind, like hitting a reset button. Thoughts are just thoughts. We are not our thoughts. We need not identify with our thoughts.

Through meditation and an enhanced awareness of self and existence, I am learning that I am not my thoughts, neither am I the body. I enjoy meditation very much, it grounds me back to the awareness of The Moment I am in. When I’m at that state of awareness, I remember how we are all traveling through space on the same planet, we all are part of the same life. I am so much more at peace with the individual that I am now through regular meditation practice. I observed that my mind, body and spirit takes a shift towards seeking internal happiness, instead of consistently looking for external stimuli to “awaken my sense”. While there is nothing negative about garnering positive feelings from external avenues, I realized they no longer hold as much weight and significance as they once did. I feel happiness, a profound sense of gratitude, from within through meditation.

We no longer need something external to make us happy; we can just be, just be who we are.

I don’t have the knowledge nor experience to teach anybody meditation and I believe each individual’s meditation practice/experience is unique. However I find it useful to share with my fellow readers and practitioners on my meditation routine, should there be anyone who wants to give it a try and havent done so:
Upon awakening from sleep, before checking phone for notifications, sit on floor with crossed legs (as long as you’re comfortable), place both palms facing up in Gyan Mudra, breathe deeply. Dilute your mind for 10-15mins before starting the day!

Some infomation on Gyan Mudra –

It is a sacred hand gesture or ‘seal’ used to direct energy and maintain focus. Gyan mudra is one of the most important and well known mudras, found across Buddhist, Hindu and Yoga traditions alike. Gyan is Sanskrit for ‘knowledge’ or ‘wisdom,’ and so this gesture is sometimes referred to as the Mudra of Knowledge.

Gyan mudra is traditionally practiced whilst in seated meditation, although some modern day practitioners are known to use it whilst holding standing asana (postures), such as utthita parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose). To perform this mudra, bring the tip of the thumb and index finger together on both hands, forming a circle. Keep the remaining three fingers outstretched with the palm facing upward.

Gyan mudra is also referred to as chin mudra, cin mudra, and gyana mudra. It is primarily used to promote and maintain stability during meditation practices. As a practitioner holds seated meditation postures, such as padmasana (Lotus Pose) or sukhasana (Easy Pose), their hands form gyan mudra whilst resting on their knees. This creates an energetic seal, encouraging a healthy flow of prana (vital life force) and a balanced internal energy throughout the practice. Gyan mudra can be combined with pranayama breathing techniques. Practicing this Mudra helps us to focus on attaining true knowledge and wisdom. Particularly when held during meditation, this mudra can help to increase mental strength, sharpen concentration and improve focus.

Specific benefits of Gyan Mudra include:
Stimulates the Root Chakra (Svadhisthana) and is therefore very grounding
• Beneficial for those suffering with insomnia and mental disorders like depression, anxiety and excessive anger
• Helps energize the neurons in the brain for instant action
• Stimulates the centers of the pituitary and endocrine glands

Other than these information, I also want to add on that my personal fave is this Mudra as it immediately focuses my mind into the meditative state.

A little science behind Meditation…..

Needless to say, meditation does have scientifically backed up benefits to the physical body: Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar gives an introduction to how meditation affects the brain. She explains how four regions of meditators’ brains associated with healthy brain function become more substantial, while one of the areas associated with undesirable behavior actually shrinks. They are:

  1. Left Hippocampus – This is the area in the brain that helps us learn. The tools that we use for cognitive ability and memory are found here, as are emotional regulators associated with self-awareness and empathy. Research confirms that as the cortical thickness of the hippocampus grows in volume through meditation, gray-matter density increases and all of these important functions are nurtured.
  2. Posterior Cingulate – The posterior cingulate is connected with wandering thoughts and self-relevance – that is, the degree of subjectivity and referral to oneself when processing information. It seems that the larger and stronger the posterior cingulate, the less the mind wanders and the more realistic the sense of self can be. Two of the vitally important effects that meditation has on the mind are the ability to remain attuned to the present moment without judgment, regret or anticipation; and the ability to observe sensations and emotions that arise in the mindstream without necessarily identifying with them. Meditation seems to increase the density of the posterior cingulate.

  3. Pons – This is a very busy and important part of the brain where many of the neurotransmitters that help regulate brain activity are produced. Located in the middle of the brain stem, its name, pons, comes from the Latin for “bridge.” The pons is involved in a great number of essential functions, including sleep, facial expressions, processing sensory input, and basic physical functioning. Meditation strengthens the pons.

  4. The Temporo Parietal Junction (TPJ) – We like to think that we’re good people – empathetic, humane and just. Empathy and compassion are associated with the temporoparietal junction of the brain, or TPJ, as is our sense of perspective. The TPJ becomes more active when we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, for example. A stronger TPJ—combined with other benefits of meditation like lower stress and present moment awareness—can help us be the good people we aspire to become.

  5. Amygdala – There is another area of the brain that is changed through meditation: the amygdala. But it doesn’t get larger; it shrinks. The amygdala—that pesky corner of the brain that produces feelings of anxiety, fear and general stress—is physically smaller in the brains of expert meditators. The smaller it is, the less apt it is to dictate our emotional responses, especially those of the “fight-or-flight” genre.

No wonder we feel so great when a daily meditation regimen is incorporated into our lives!