“Meditation is the ‘cessation of mental activities.’ When your thoughs reduce by just 20 percent, you will experience relief and a self of self-control.” – Swami Sivananda
Meditation lies at the heart of any yoga practice. Once you feel comfortable practicing the asanas and breathing exercises, you will feel more relaxed in your body. Then, it will seem like a natural step to pay more attention to your mind by practicing meditation. This brings about greater mental and emotional balance and, eventually, inner peace.
During meditation, the distractions of the world around you disappear and the parasympathetic nervous system gently brings about a sense of relaxation and balance. Your heartbeat and respiratory rate slow and your internal organs are rested. Research shows that meditation stimulates the immune system, too, promoting health and protecting against illness. Adepts of yoga have long recognized that the vibrations generated by thoughts and emotions affect every cell in the body – and that negative thoughts can impede the cells capacity for regeneration and homeostasis. The focus in meditation on positive and harmonious thoughts, therefore, is thought to promote health and well-being at a cellular level.
Ancient yogis aptly compared an unfocussed mind to a crazy, drunken monkey, jumping from one thought to the next in a never-ending cycle. It is all but impossible to prevent the mind leaping from one thought to another. During meditation, you simply learn how to focus on the present. This prevents your mind from dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. As your mind becomes more focused, confusion gives way to clarity. You find that you can face the conflicts that disturb your mental peace and you discover creative, positive solutions to those conflicts. This brings about a greater feeling of self-control, inner satisfaction, and sense of purpose. What is more, you not only experience these benefits during meditation practice. They spill over into the rest of the day, helping you to concentrate better at work and play. By encouraging emotional balance and more patience and understanding, meditation also improves your relations with those around you. You will become less irritated by other people’s habits, more understanding, and better able to accept their limitations.
As your meditation practice deepens, you will gain glimpses of a state of being that you have probably never experiences before. You may feel as if life’s clouds have dissated and you can see more blue sky. You will have a sense of greater inner peace, well-being, positivity, and a real feeling of trust in the goodness of life. You will start to realize that beyond the familiar world of thoughts and emotions lies a whole new realm of consciousness. Your sense of yourself will expand beyond an awareness of your body and your mind and, ultimately, you will experience a feeling of unity with everything around you. Meditation is so powerful that its benefits extend far beyond the person who is meditating. Yogis believe that the powerful vibrations of peace that emanate from an experienced meditator have a positive effect on everyone that person comes into contact with – and that, in the end, they influence the whole world. And so making your mind peaceful through meditation is the most positive thing that you can do to contribute to world peace.
The ultimate goal of meditation
Ancient yogic scriptures describe the goal of meditation as samadhi, or cosmic consciousness. In this state of calm understanding, the illusion of ego (the feeling that you are separate from the world) vanishes. Everything dissolves into one consciousness, or Supreme Self. In this state, you might think, “I am not my body or my mind. My mind is only my story, and I am not my story. My body does not separate me from others. I an never alone, but always one with all.” All negative emotions and limitings ideas about your body and inner self vanish, setting you free from discontent. You become aware of the purpose of life and, ultimately, lose fear of death. Experienced yogis aim to be in this state and all times, living life as one unbroken meditation. As a beginner, start by shaking free the deep-rooted habit of identifying with everything in your mind. This takes practice, but as the saying goes, every journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.