What is meditation? For one who has never heard this word or never practiced it, it is not so simple to understand the real and deep meaning under it. It is all and nothing.
I had my first experiences of meditation in Paramanand Institute of Yoga Science and Research, under the guide of Guruji, Dr. Omanand. If you sit in a comfortable position, you close your eyes, and you breathe normally, what happens? You will start to know your own mind. When you calm down the body, remaining still and with a calm breath, you will know that inside you there’re still some movements: these are the movements of the mind, as thoughts, ideas, memories, feelings, imaginations. Everyone knows that we have that kind of capacities, but can they say that they are able to handle it? Most of the times we are even not able to recognize that, in a precise moment, we are thinking, processing information, remembering, imaging, and so one. Only when one start to analyze it, one can really start to know the games of the mind. Now a day, also in the psychology, there are some tools to understand these things, different techniques to reach the content of the mind. In yoga, these are ancient practices, easily found in the old ancient yoga books.
One definition for meditation is “a state where one’s beyond the movements of the mind, being the witness of the mind’s game, while doing nothing, only with full awareness and presence”. In almost all the meditative methods, there’s a first part called concentration, or focusing, that in yoga, as per ancient text, is Dharana: the phase of concentration help to focus the mind in only one point. This will reduce the movements of the mind, and at the same time gives us the possibilities to know all this waves, because while doing this focusing we become observer. Dharana, concentration, can be done in different points: in something outside, like an object (use a candle, pictures of Gods, statues, music, moon, …) or in something inside (the breath, heart- beat, third eye, mantras, …). When one tries to stop the mind, and fix it on one point at time, the content of the mind react more and more, showing us how much garbage there’s in our mind. The mind start to jump from one point to another: can be disturbed from sounds outside, from noises, animals (mosquitoes), persons near you, feeling in the body as cold, hot, or pain, or pressure for the position. These are the first sources of interference, at gross level, called gross body in the scriptures (in according to Taittiriya Upanishad, we have five bodies, or sheaths called “pancha koshas”, and the first one is Annamaya Kosha, or gross body – “foodstuff” sheath). “Body is governed by the senses. Mind is stronger than senses. Intellect is the governor of the mind. Soul is the boss of intellect.”, Bhagavad Gita III/42. So, in the beginning one is disturbed from the senses, but then one will be disturbed from inside, from the mind: memories come up, thoughts regarding next future (mind is always moving from the past to the future, without staying in the present), ideas, judgments, emotions, expectations. In all these situations one is talking in the mind.
Think of a familiar situation: if in one park one day a concert has been organized, the park will be full of people who sing, scream, jump, with a huge noise; if the day after you go in that park, no one is screaming or singing, there’s only the sound of the nature. Which of the two situation gives you peace? The second one. When we are in the daily life, we have a concert in the head, we keep on speaking in the mind, mixing memories, past experiences, future dreams, with judgments and expectations. There’s no peace at all. But we can reach it, we just need to practice it, with the wonderful tool that is meditation.
What yoga teaches us is that we cannot recover the mind by being at the same level: if we try to manage the mind or thoughts with other thoughts, a vortex starts, without an end, it is a vicious circle. To find the peace we need to step back, we need to watch it: if we are the seer, we can understand what is going on, without involving in it. When we start to watch it as an observer, without reacting, we start to separate our self from the mind. This is when we practice Dharana or concentration: for example, if you look firmly at one point in the wall, slowly all the environment around it starts to fade and disappears. You melt at that point. Similarly, for the mind: when you focus it on one point for example the breath, everything around slowly disappears, first the external perception and then the subtler one. Like if you are doing a certain job, totally engaged in it, with full concentration, it’s possible to not hear the calling of the person next to you, your partner/mom /friend, or the tiredness, the hunger, or you don’t notice the time passing. Similarly, it’s the process from Dharana to Dhyana, from concentration to meditation.
When the mind is focused on only one point, all the waves start to slow down, and finally dissolve. Experience this with total presence, total awareness, to observe what is happening. And this needs practice. One cannot expect to be able to do it in one time, neither in one week; long and continuous practice is needed, but then everybody can reach the goal. This is mentioned in Patanjali Yoga Sutra, in the first chapter: “Long term and continuous practice over an extended period carried out with full trust and faith, establishes sound ground of the success” (1/14). With total effort, one can pass in effortless phase and enter in the state of meditation. This means that the mind’s waves start to reduce: from Beta waves (13-40 Hz – normal waking state) to Alpha waves (7-13 Hz – relaxed state).
There are different techniques to start Dharana – concentration: one can start from the body, for example with asanas, total focusing the mind in the movements or in the posture maintained for a long period of time; or the starting point can be the breath, following the normal breathing or using a particular breathing pattern – called Pranayama; or again one can focus the mind by observing an object, with external eyes, like look firmly to a candle or the moon (it’s called trataka – steady gazing), or an image of a God. Another way can be to push oneself to do something where one can be totally involved in, as for example the laugh: one can start to laugh with effort, the laughter, as Guruji always says, it’s a natural Pranayama, and it cleans up a lot of stored emotions. It also helps to clean the mind, by stopping all the movements, because when one laughs, he cannot think. And then it happens: when you force it, try to force with all your force, all your power, laugh to yourself, it will become natural, effortless, and in that moment, you are totally involved in it. Same happens with Pranayama: if you force yourself to continue a particular breathing, without listen to your mind that wants to convince you that you are tired, to stop, you will enter and merge in it, again in a effortless state. These techniques are practiced in ChidShakt Meditation (CSM) consciousness awakening meditation, taught by Guruji. When one uses tools to move up the Shakti, inner energy, this requires effort at the beginning, but then the Shakti arising cleans up and stops the mind, and changes the state, entering in a calm and blissful state.
So, Dharana means to do some effort to fix the mind at one point, using external or internal tools, with awareness and total presence. It is the state when the mind is stronger and tries to control you. Don’t give this power to your mind, be at the level of intellect, understand and discern what you want and what your mind suggests you. Be smarter that the mind, be the boos of your own mind; you will win!
Ma Mangala Anand:
My name is Ma Mangla Anand, spiritual name that my Guru, Dr Omanand gave me. I’m from Italy and I work there in hospital, as physiotherapist. I completed 500 hrs Yoga teacher training at the Paramanand Institute of Yoga sciences and research, Indore, India, in 2015 under the guidance of Guruji. So in the last year I also taught traditional Yoga in Italy. I’m in the Ashram right now, for going deeper in Meditation under Guruji’s guidance.