Meditation 101, By Shiva Singh Khalsa
"Yoga is the control of thought-waves in the mind." Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 1
"Meditation is the art of breaking habits, purifying the mind, and taking care of day-to-day things. How do you meditate? It's a very simple process. Most of the people in the world do not know what meditation is."
“Meditation is not a thought process but an experience of awakening the self sensory system, to experience our inner peace. “- Shiva Singh
The Mind is always moving. The ancient sages say there are a “thousand thoughts per blink of an eye”. It is no wonder our minds feel can feel chaotic. They don’t always feel like our ally. The funny part is as the thoughts cycle one to the other to the other polarity, can - can’t, yes - no, etc. If we can wait enough it will shift. The only way to cease the push and pull is to develop a Meditative Mind.
For the purposes of understanding Meditation and to help make the Mind work for us, it is useful to understand the workings of the MIND.
According to Patanjali, the mind (chitta) is made up of three components, manas, buddhi, and ahamkara. Chitta, known as the Universal Mind, is the memory bank, which stores impressions and experiences - It is the source of all thoughts.
Manas is the day to day mind, that remembers red light means stop, green means go. It is the mind a computer is modeled after. It processes thinking, and which is the operator of the ten senses, the Karmendriyas and Jnanendriyas (more on these later...)
Buddhi - At a more basic level, Buddhi is the aspect of mind that knows, decides, judges, and discriminates and classifies these impressions of the thought waves and responds to them.
Ahamkara is the I-maker. It is the strong wave of awareness that declares, "I am!". It is the ability of the mind to take on identities, to make things “me” or “mine”.
Years ago I taught in a State prison. One of the inmates had apparently been doing some reading because with all sincerity he asked if I could teach him to “walk through walls”, a recognized Yogic power (siddhi). I replied “Sure, let’s start, Inhale.”
“Body follows the Mind, Mind follows the Breathe”
The first and simplest approach to Meditation is to practice what we call Natural Breathing or Yogic Breathing or Diaphragmatic Breathing.
This involves the very practical, but for many a completely different approach to how they breathe.
Typically at one point in many lives we were frightened. We sucked in the belly, to protect it, from then on we breathe drawing the abdomen in towards the spine on the inhale. Now consider, wouldn’t it make more sense to draw the abdomen in when pushing the breath up and out! Likewise, it is more practical to have the abdomen draw away from the spine to make room for the diaphragm to expand and draw the breath in. Inhale, expand the abdomen, allowing the diaphragm to flatten and expand that helps the breath come into the body while exhaling drawing belly in to help move the breath up and out.
Here is a LINK to our Long Deep Breath page to give more information on Natural Breathing.
A simple first step for practicing Meditation is to sit with a straight, relaxed spine and just breath. Slow your breathing to 5-6 count in and 5-6 counts out. Start with 3-5 minutes at a sitting and continue for 40 consecutive days. See what happens!
This simple breathing practice, that is managing the flow of the energy (Pranayama) is considered Pratyahara. Pratyahara is learning how to manage our responses to the senses. The general tendency of senses is to go outside and to develop likes and dislikes after coming into contact with worldly things. Get attached to things, Things with a capital “T”.
There are Ten Indriyas. Karmendriyas, indriya “the ten senses”, we describe them as “tentacles”, “the employees”, Indriyas relate to the Manas aspect of the mind. Karmendriyas are five means of expression, grabbing, moving, speaking, eliminating and procreating. Jnanendriyas are the five cognitive senses, sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.
An example how they might impact Meditation: While you are making an effort to Meditate you hear a noise. The Indriya of hearing, the tentacle, reaches out and starts processing responses to the noise with thoughts. It is a distraction and your functional minds kick in and your thoughts push and pull. In that example you could just breath, go back to the breath, and “withdraw the tentacle” thus ceasing the distracting thought process. This is Pratyahara.
A very simple, and excellent practice to learn Pratyahara, is called Meditation for a Calm Heart and that is what it does for you. Here is the LINK to learn how to practice it.
Now it is useful to understand there ups and downs during meditation. We get bored, or upset, and frustrated because we are not there immediately. These bumps in the road to inner peace are part of the process. Sometimes we can get annoyed because we are still dealing with tons of thoughts. It is all a process and practice makes perfect!
Here is a way to understand the mind’s functional side.
The Three Functional Minds
There are three functional minds. Negative, Positive and Neutral Minds. These are polarities, like the poles on a battery, they are not all bad (negative) or all good (positive), they are opposites.
The first functional mind to respond is the Negative Mind. It recognizes dangers, avoids risks. It is the one that helps you avoid situations that are not moving you forward in your life.
The Positive Mind seeks gratification, enjoyment, recognizes opportunity.
The Neutral Mind is what its name implies. It observes all aspects and makes decisions that are most beneficial.
The Negative and Positive Minds come with birth. Meditation helps develop the Neutral Mind.
How we respond to our thoughts is why we meditate.