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Meditation for Beginners

By Yogi Baba Prem, Yogacharya, Veda Visharada

Meditation continues to grow in popularity throughout the western world.  Meditation teaches us how to tap our unlimited potential.  But in reality, most people begin meditation in order to relax.  From a Hindu/Yogic perspective, you must be relaxed in order to meditate.  This illustrates the differences in the western and eastern view of meditation.  From the perspective of the original teachings, relaxation is a prerequisite for meditation.  In fact, there are numerous requisites for meditation, let’s examine a few:

 

First is proper position.  Ideally, one would sit straight with the legs crossed; this posture is called a half-lotus or lotus posture.  There can be physical limitations that limit one’s ability to sit in the traditional posture.  Simple modifications can be made to address this issue.  Sitting in a chair is acceptable.  What is important is that the back is straight, and if one is sitting in a chair it is important that the feet are flat on the floor.  The hands can rest atop the thighs with the palms turned up and possibly the index finger and thumb touching on each hand.  Often students want to recline or lay down for meditation, while there can be situations where this is performed, the general view in India that dead people meditate lying down.  It is not as beneficial and beginners need as many tools working for them as possible.

 

Next is deep-full-breathing.  Often called the complete breath, this technique is a powerful tool for creating relaxation and preparing the mind and body for meditation.  To practice the complete breath, place a hand on the navel.  Inhale filling the lungs from the bottom up.  As one inhales the navel should move out and away from the spine.  As one exhales, the navel should move inward toward the spine.  This may feel strange initially, as most people breathe with a shallow and rapid breath.  The breath needs to become a slow, deep and relaxed breath.  The goal should be for the breath to naturally take 15 seconds or longer for 1 breath cycle.

 

Once one has achieved proper posture and proper breath, the next step is concentration, called dharana.  Concentration is process of training the mind to focus on an object, subject or concept.  Dharana is an essential step in becoming a proficient meditator.  There are two primary forms of objects or subjects for practice with dharana.  Objects with form are called saguna dharana.  And abstract visualization or absence of form is  called nirguna dharana.  Most people start with saguna dharana, as it is easier.  The meditator will concentrate on an image; this image could be a religious symbol, flower or other object that has some type of elevating concept attached with it.  Initially the meditator will concentrate on the object with the eyes open.  Over time, one should then close the eyes and try to hold the image in the ‘mind’s eye’.  Hold the image as long as possible, once one can no longer hold the image, open the eyes and reaffirm the image.  Continue this process during one’s meditation period.  Once proficiency has been achieved and one can hold the image for longer periods of time, the mind will naturally move into a natural state of meditation.

 

Another useful technique for cultivating dharana is mantra.  Mantra is probably the easiest way to cultivate dharana but is the most unfamiliar to most westerners.  Performance of mantra for westerners requires a great deal of concentration.  Most cultures of the world have some form of mantra or chanting of some type.  We, westerners, are in the minority and should add this powerful tool to our meditative practice.  Mantras should be learned from someone that is familiar and trained in Sanskrit, as the proper pronunciation is important.

Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Yogi Baba Prem

  • Yogi Baba Prem has two books published in India, and has written numerous other books published by Universal Yoga. 

 

  • His articles have appeared in several traditional magazines and a variety of e-magazines.