Meditation is something we discuss and talk about a lot in yoga, but what does it mean? Meditation has unfortunately taken a bad rap in modern day American culture as institutions confuse it with religious practices. As a yoga teacher, I assure you that meditation is not a religious practice, although in many instances it may enhance that practice for people who believe in a certain mainstream religion. Meditation and yoga are not religious practices, even though religions have developed out of these practices.
The modern, basic, definition of meditate is: “to engage in contemplation or reflection, or to engage in mental exercise (as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. .
While this definition is correct in many respects, meditation can simply mean becoming aware of one’s body and mind. Many times in my yoga classes, I ask my students to close their eyes and do a “mental scan.” This is very helpful, especially after a difficult pose or flow, as people become more aware and self-correct any alignment issues or simply allow their muscles to release. Thus we ask, what were yoga poses designed for? That is a topic for another day.
Pantajali begins his discussion of meditation in sutra 1.33, where he states “In relationships, the mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil.”
The discussion continues through Sutra 1.40 however, for purposes of an introduction to meditation, Sutra 1.33 contains virtually all we need. In our current society, we are pressured to succeed financially and conform to the standard. When was the last time you took moment, whether a second or five minutes, to just be? If you have not, I recommend that you start by sitting still and comfortable for a few seconds or minutes each day and contemplate. You will be grateful, and that itself is a meditation.
If you need more of a guide, you can refer to Sutra 1.33, start by closing your eyes and focusing on the breath. Deepen the inhale and exhale allowing oxygen to penetrate every cell of your body. Allow your mind to think about you, what is making you happy right now?, what is stressing you out? You cannot move forward until you acknowledge that you are good, you are loved and you should be loved. A suggested mantra can be “I am loved, I am, I am and and that is all that matters.” Once you have established this, you can move to the next thought, and mantra.
Pantajali suggests compassion for the suffering, goodwill toward the virtuous, and indifference toward the wicked. I say that once you establish self love in your meditation, something that may take days, years or a lifetime, you can establish feelings of positivity, and light toward those around us. I am not keen on feeling indifference for anyone, even those that are evil in our minds. Instead, once you have found self love, send some of that love to those who we perceive to be enemies.
If we all take a few moments to meditate on self love and then love for others, wouldn’t the world be a better place? Rather than schools, governments and institutions saying “don’t meditate,” they should embrace the practice. Imagine a world where all people devoted to live for each other and not at one another. it is a long shot, maybe, but I encourage you to take a few moments a day, make them your own. The universe will thank you .
Peace, Light, Namaste