Yoga and Meditation
Recently I was in a Facebook group on meditation that I follow, and a question had come up about Yoga and meditation. The question was about what the relationship was between the two. I was aghast when I saw the moderator’s response:
“Meditation is not Yoga”.
How has our understanding of Yoga gone so awry?
Especially in the community of meditation, you would think that we would understand this important detail of Yogic practice. The truth is that not only is meditation Yoga, but meditation is the most important part of Yoga.
I recently published an article about the basics of Yoga that outlined the full Yogic path. You may find it interesting if you are working to have a better understanding of the subject, (Click here to read What is Yoga?) but the basic gist of it is that there is a multi-step approach to the ultimate goal of Yoga, usually starting with observances and abstentions in character, thought, and action, moving on to purification of the physical body and the energetic system, on to postures and pranayama, and THEN to meditation. There are multiple phases of meditation, but it is through mastery of this that one achieves the ultimate goal of Yoga: Union With the Divine.
Not only is meditation a fundamental step in the pathway of Yoga,
but it has also been thoroughly dissected, broken down, and mapped out in this path. The Yogi does not just “sit down and meditate”. The Yogi moves through different stages of meditation that enable him to map out his/her progress, and advance through levels that become more and more subtle.
For example, the first phase of meditation in this practice is the withdrawal of one’s attention from the senses. In this stage, the sole focus of the meditative practice is to internalize their self-awareness. Through various practices, the Yogi turns all of his attention inwards, and releases his attachment to perceiving through the 5 senses. Only after this has been completed, does one effectively move on to the next step.
The next step is most commonly referred to as concentration. In this phase the Yogi picks one sole object to focus their attention on (often times it is the point between the eyebrows, or the pineal gland). Through total and uncompromising intention, the full attention of the mind is placed in one spot. At this point the inner dialogue is silenced, as the focus on it is completely cut off. The sensations of the body, even the sensations of the energy body fade away as the Yogi becomes completely identified with this one object of focus, in deep concentration.
It is good to understand that the two steps I’ve described above are usually just called “meditation” and are all lumped together as one process. Really, many people simply consider meditation to be closing your eyes and relaxing your body, and even just the attempt to still the mind, or focus one-pointedly is considered legitimate meditation.
But this is why Yoga is such an awesome thing
This practice has been scientifically broken down into measurable steps and advancements. You see, in this line of thinking, we haven’t even gotten to meditation yet.
The next step, which is finally called meditation, is when the identification with one’s self has completely merged with the object that is being concentrated upon. There is no “me” and “it”. There is no more thought of a separate self. Inner stillness and silence prevails, and the mind has broken free of the compulsion to attach itself to the inner dialogue.
At this stage the awareness is beyond emotions, beyond thought. It is beyond worry, fear, or concern. It is truly in touch with the greater self, the transcendental self.
Once one has achieved this state of meditation, the progression into the final stage, Samadhi, or Total Union with the Divine, happens spontaneously and naturally. (I share all on my experiences with Samadhi in my Power of Breath book (Complete Change Your Life System)
How Can an Ordinary Person Do This?
You might naturally read this and, especially if you are not a seasoned meditator, wonder how this is even possible. We all can relate to the struggle of detaching from the internal dialogue, or the difficulty in giving undivided attention to anything for long amounts of time.
This is where the beginning stages of Yoga come in. It is not just a matter of sitting down and starting at the phase of closing one’s eyes. There is much preparation that can be done with the physical body, and the energetic system before these states become attainable. When we look at Yoga from a modern perspective we see some practical ideas about how the physical can affect the mental.
Physical Purification and Detox
The beginning phases of Yoga, before one even learns the postures or breathing techniques, is about purification of the body, and the related energy channels. It is standard practice for a Yogi to master colon cleansing with water, nedi pot cleansing of the sinuses, mastery of the diet, etc.
From my personal experience detoxing and eating a mostly raw, vegetarian diet, is absolutely crucial to the quality of one’s meditation. It is said that phlegm, or mucous, not only clogs the physical body, but also blocks the flow of energy throughout the energetic system. The buildup of unnatural chemicals and calcium in the body can also occur in the major glands, including the pineal and pituitary, which are directly related to the higher chakras, and the ability to attain heightened states of consciousness in meditation.
In this day and age I would suppose that it may not even be enough to simply practice the Yogic practices of purification, but to also draw upon modern methods for clearing and avoiding toxins, as we are faced with much more of this than our ancient Yogic ancestors.
A Modern Shortcut
Just as it is helpful to draw upon modern knowledge for the sake of cleansing the body, there is also much that we can draw from modern technology when it comes to our meditative practice.
Since the discovery of the frequency following response several decades ago, technology has been available that can literally “lead” the brain into highly advanced meditative states, without any necessary effort, aside from listening to an audio with headphones and closing one’s eyes. A specific frequency is introduced to the brain in the form of a pulsing beat (usually played in the background with peaceful music or nature sounds) and the brain automatically begins to follow it.
This technology, known as brainwave entrainment, is the way of the future for modern mystics and spiritualists, as it opens the door to a whole new pace of meditative progress. If you are intrigued by the Yogic path of meditation, and wish to master this skill, I’d urge you to experiment with this technology, and see for yourself how powerful it can be. Feel free to check out what we have to offer on the site here, or visit our what is brainwave entrainment section to learn more.
A Technique That You Can Use
To master meditation the Yogic way, you must first start with internalization of the senses. This sounds quite difficult, but does not need to be. One of the most common methods for achieving this is the very basic practice of focusing on the breath. Here is a very simple technique that you can practice to master this stage:
1. Sit comfortably with your spine straight, close your eyes, and relax your entire body.
2. Begin to observe your breath. Place your focus on the physical sensation of the breath entering your nostrils at a cool temperature, and exiting your nostrils at a warm temperature.
3. Count “one” as you inhale, and “2” as you exhale.
4. Pay special attention to the pauses between the inhale and exhale, but do not attempt to shorten or elongate them at all. Do not try to control the breath at all. Instead focus on allowing yourself to fully observe the breathing mechanism without controlling it in any way. There is no wrong way to breathe in this exercise.
5. Continue to count your breaths with full awareness, until you notice that you are no longer expending energy on interpreting the 5 senses. At this point you may desire to move on to finding an object of focus, and holding your concentration on it.
You can also use brainwave entrainment in conjunction with this practice to achieve quick access into heightened states of awareness 🙂
In the next few weeks we will continue to explore Yoga and meditation from a modern perspective, while also paying tribute to it’s ancient origins and original tradition. Stay tuned!