On Meditation

 

Asato Ma Satgamaya
Tamaso Ma Jyotirgamaya
Mrityor Ma Amritamgamaya
from untruth lead us to truth
from darkness lead us to enlightenment
from death lead us to immortality

Why this essay

I have been asked many times that being a Hindu, if I meditate and if I do, then how. Though not regularly, I do meditate and it seems like a good idea to share my thoughts on it with people. This article is part of my attempt to share and hence understand the meaning of being Hindu.

Introduction

We take in the physical elements of the environment into our body in two ways.

One way is in the form of food. We eat to nourish ourselves. The food we eat, the time which we eat our food at and the quantity we eat out food directly affects our body. The act of eating is a conscious effort and its effects are very much apparent. One can say that this intake belongs to the conscious realm. That this intake belongs to the physical realm. That this intake belongs to the materialistic realm.

The second way is in the form of breath. Unlike eating, breathing is not a conscious effort. We breathe even when we are sleeping or working diligently on something that has our mind and body engrossed. One can say that this intake belongs to the unconscious realm. That this intake belongs to the mental realm. That this intake belongs to the spiritual realm.

To understand breathing is the first step in understanding meditation.

Just like understanding food products and habits is a way to good eating habits so we stay physically fit, understand breathing is the way to proper meditation so we stay mentally and spiritual fit.

Places, Postures and Period

Now we realise the importance of breathing in meditation, we can move to the next set of issues. First is where to meditate, the second is, what posture to meditate in and the third is, for how long to meditate.

Broadly speaking, you can meditate anywhere. Once you have understood the philosophy and method of meditation you want to follow, the places where you won’t be able to meditate will be clear to you. It would be hard to meditate in a smoke filled room, noisy environments, etc. (Though once you have had a lot of practice, all this may not really matter.)

Broadly speaking, you can meditate any posture. Choose one that is comfortable and one that facilitates breathing with ease. A straight spine helps keep rib cage free of any undue pressure and hence facilitate breathing.

Broadly speaking, you can meditate as long as you want. You should try to meditate till you feel relaxed. After meditating a number of times, you will recognize that point in your state of mind where you would feel yourself to be in a meditative state. Try to get there often and if possible, stay there as long as possible.

Also, it is a very good idea to follow the tradition. The sages who gave us concepts of meditation also gave us suggestions on postures and places.

A well ventilated place, a religious place or an open place if good for meditation. Also, places close to nature like a park, lakeside or a forest are a good idea. Sit cross-legged, keeping your spine straight and with hands in your lap or on your knees. Palms can be facing up or down as whatever you feel comfortable then.

Or you can strictly follow some Yoga Aasan recommended for meditation.

So Hum

‘So Hum’ is a chant from the Vedas. Translating from Sanskrit, ‘That is me’, ‘So Hum’ is supposed to be the simplest chant that all living being chant. The sound of incoming breath is that of ‘So’ and the sound of outgoing breath is ‘Hum’.

Meditating

Close your eyes.

Pay attention to you breathing. Watch it and follow it. Monitor it as you breathe in and breathe out. Do not force a breathing pattern. You breathing pattern will keep changing. Throughout, keep paying attention to your breathing. The intake, the pause, the outgo and the pause. Just be a witness to this unconscious activity.

Hear and feel your breath make gentle sounds. Watch your breath with a ‘So Hum’ in your mind. ‘Soooo’ as you breath in and ‘Hummmm’ as you breathe out.

Do not force or control thoughts that come to you. If any of them grab your attention, the moment you realize this, move you attention back to breathing. Thought will keep coming to you. Don’t resist them. Just keep going back to ‘So Hum’ and pay attention to the breathing.

A Beginning

There are as many ways to meditate, as there are people willing to meditate. Once you understand the philosophy and disciple behind this concept, your own self can be your guru.

Meditation is relaxing. It is way to understand yourself, the world around you and beyond. It is a simple beginning to a long journey.