What is ‘meditation’ in yoga? The Yoga Sutras defines yoga as ‘the cessation(nirodha) of the fluctuations(vritti) of the mind(chitta)’ and the experience of this is the ‘meditation’ in yoga. The last three limbs in Patanjali’s 8-limbed system, which are ‘Dharana’, ‘Dhyana’ and ‘Samadhi’, have to do with meditation. These three practices give instructions on how to meditate. The Yoga Sutras describes the 4 steps of meditation as below:
Step 1 (The stage of controlling the senses – Pratyahara)
This stage is related to ‘Pratyahara’ in Patanjali’s 8 limbs. It directs your attention to your internal mind by being away from external stimulation through the 5 senses and, in the end, enables you to attain control over the senses and feel free from external distractions. Of course, you should be ‘grounded physically and ethically first’ because ‘this sensual withdrawal arises out of the first four limbs’(Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama)
Step 2 (The stage of concentration – Dharana)
This is the practice of focusing one’s mind on one point in order to exclude all the thoughts that distract your mind, which is called ‘Dharana’. For this practice, you can concentrate on either an external object like a lighted candle or an internal image or idea like the ocean, a flower and chakra. This stage also comes from the first step, ‘Pratyahara’.
Step 3 (Meditation – Dhyana)
When your concentration on an observed object is not interrupted by any other distraction, you will experience the complete union with the object on which you are meditating.
This is what we call Dhyana, meditation. At some point, this merging will happen through the continuous practices of Pratyahara and Dharana
Step 4 (The Super-conscious state – Samadhi)
Samadhi is a state such that the meditator, the object being meditated on and the process of meditation are absorbed into one and into nature, wherein the only thing remaining is the object, ‘the pure unbound consciousness’. This is the last stage of Patanjali’s 8 limbs, which presents the meditator who attains Samadhi in meditation with unlimited peace, joy and bliss.
Then, how can we meditate as a beginner? There are many tips on how to meditate for a beginner based on the 4 steps above. Among them, I would like to introduce one (from www.yogajournal.com).
1. Find a quiet place to be alone for some time. Make sure that you meditate at the same time and same place every day.
2. Sit on the floor or on a chair with a sitting pose like Sukhasana or Pasmasana. (Besides sitting, there are also walking, standing and reclining postures. Choose a position that you prefer.)
3. Decide on your point of focus. Choose one of the methods below that appeal to you.
>The use of sound – silently or audibly repeating a word or phrase that soothes you, such as ‘peace’, ‘love’ or ‘joy’
>The use of image – visualizing a natural object such as a flower or the ocean or meditating on the chakras in your body
>Gazing – gazing at the third eye or at the tip of the nose with your eyes opened fully or partially
>Breathing – observing or feeling the air coming in and out through the nostrils
4. Stick with the method and the posture that you choose while meditating (you will be distracted easily by many thoughts popping up, which is natural in the beginning. Just observe the thought rising and falling, and then simply return to the object that you are meditating.)
After meditation, just try to observe some changes in your body, your attention and your real life. You can tell whether the meditation is working.
The other day, I’ve read an article about a meditator. She talked briefly about the benefits of meditation and how it affects your life. According to her, keeping a consistent meditation makes you feel happier than before and helps you to overcome your cynicism with explosive increases in new experiences. Also, through regular practices, you can feel that you are in absolute existence. In the end, if you get to the ultimate stage, like Samadhi that the Yoga Sutra says, you will experience ‘ecstasy’. Now, it is time to make our own meditation practices. Shall we take the journey together?
200hr Yoga Teacher Training Manual Book
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAS3sfXPpsw ( Q&As about ‘meditation and chakra in the Yoga Sutras’)