Surrounded by mysticism, religion, beliefs, and superstitions, meditation is a pure body state like any other, such as arousal or sleep. In the state of meditation, you can obtain the benefits of this body state which include relaxation, energy, and perspective on your life. Health researchers take meditation seriously in the process of stress reduction and methods to improve overall health. So, how to meditate for brain health and energy?
According to yogic tradition, there are four states of human consciousness.
- The very basic and exoteric is the state of awakens or Jagriti.
- Then comes the state of dreams, (or Svapna) when there is no awareness of the outside world, but the mind is not at rest. The “worlds” of the subconscious and the super conscious are active.
- The third state is that of deep, dreamless sleep, (or Sushupti) when the mind is apparently at rest, but the seed of all mental activities lies dormant. As soon as the individual awakens, and the mind goes into the waking state, the dormant seed sprouts again into the many manifestations of the mind.
- The fourth state of Turiya is not an ordinary one. It is the state when the mind has gone, and there is no longer a sense of “I-ness.”
Tantra and Yoga offer a variety of practices (sadhana) that lead to absorption of the individual mind into the universal mind.
Breath Meditation (Soham Sadhana)
Breathing, both physical and subtle, is made up of two acts: inhalation, in which the air is taken into the lungs; and exhalation, in which the inspired air is driven out of the lungs. The air pushed out of the lungs makes the sound HAM, and the inhaled air produces the sound SAH. The two sounds together make the Sanskrit word HAMSAH (literally “goose”), which is a synonym for the Supreme Spirit. In Indian mythology, the goose is a bird that can separate milk from water, an impossible task. This unique ability of the mythical goose has made it a symbol of discrimination (Viveka) between what is real (the spirit) and what is merely transient (the world of names and forms). Moreover, the goose is pure white and spotless and therefore said to represent the soul.
Having understood and gone beyond the disturbing emotions of passion (Rajas = red) and negativity (Tamas = black), meditate upon white, the color of inner peace and harmony. White is the symbol of Lord Vishnu, the cosmic principle of order and balance. White also represents light and wisdom and stands for purity (Sattva).
Practicing Color Meditation
The method of color meditation is simple.
- Sit in a comfortable posture. We recommend Padmasana or Sukhasana, but any posture will do.
- Then take a large piece of cloth or paper of the required color. Stare at the colored fabric or paper and allow the color to become part of you. Let your entire body take on the color upon you are meditating.
- When you feel that the color has covered you completely with its nature, close your eyes and visualize the color inside you. When you can successfully visualize the color with your eyes closed, you have perfected color meditation. The various physical and psychic benefits will come automatically to you.
Meditation on the Five Elements
Meditation on the five elements (Pancha Mahabhutas) frees the mind from the usual narrow concerns and gives it a sense of its vast potential powers. The human mind is capable of enormous creativity, but unfortunately, most of us are so engrossed in petty, everyday concerns that we have no time to comprehend our hidden potential. Meditation on the natural elements shows us how we are a part of this universe and how we share all the powers of the cosmos.
Practicing the Meditation on the Five Elements
The Laya yoga method of meditation on the elements begins with sitting in a comfortable posture and then imagining that the body and mind are becoming one with the elements. Usually, the most simple element is taken first, and the mind is gradually allowed to move to the more subtle elements until finally it is absorbed into the most subtle element of all: space. As the element meditation moves upward through the body, each element is associated with a color, shape, and divinity, which reveal their universal dimensions.
The first element is earth (Prithvi). This is the primary material from which our bodies are made, and we live in its most visible and solid form. Symbolically the earth represents stability and volume and is therefore shown as a yellow square and is ruled by the lord of cosmic evolution, Brahma. In our bodies, the influence of earth extends from the feet to the knees.
- To meditate on the earth element, sit motionlessly and try to visualize the entire planet Earth as being a part of your body.
- Gradually identify the different parts of the body with the various features of Earth. The streams and rivers are the blood vessels; the forest trees are the hairs on the body, and so on.
- When you feel that your body has lost its individuality and has become this entire planet Earth, then move on to the next element.
The second element for meditation is water (Ap). It is not just the water we see in lakes, rivers, and the sea, but all flowing things. All that is capable of change and can flow has the spirit of water in it. Water is symbolized as a white circle: white because all colors are contained in it; and circular because it represents flow, a return to the source, and rhythm. Water rules the human body from the knees to the navel, and its ruling god is Lord Narayana, the power of perpetual life. The word Narayana also means “moving on water,” and this may be a symbolic reference to the fact that life originated in water, and it still begins in the amniotic fluid that surrounds the embryo. Let your mind and body dwell upon the flow of water, and gradually they will lose their exact shapes and melt away into the rhythms of the universe.
When the mind and body have become liquid, change to the next element, fire (Agni). The rule of fire extends from the navel to the heart and is represented by a red triangle pointing upward to signify its vertical movement. Meditation on fire just after meditating on water brings balance. The cool and liquid nature of the mind is now transformed into heat and activity. The Lord of tears and death, Rudra, rules this element.
- To meditate on fire allow your mind and body to feel the heat rising from the navel to the heart center.
- As you progress in the identification of your body and mind with fire, the body temperature will rise.
- When the body becomes too hot for comfort, change your meditation to the next element, air (Vayu).
Air governs the body from the heart to the area between the eyebrows. It is symbolized as a black or blue crescent and is ruled by Ishvara, the lord of the cosmos. The first three elements have form, but the air is formless and therefore more subtle. Meditation on air brings the mind closer to the formless reality, which is the goal of all spiritual life.
- At first, let your body be fanned by the refreshing air.
- Then imagine that your mind has become very very subtle.
- Allow your body to lose its gross form and become as light as air. You will feel that you are levitating. Air is also the vehicle of the vital energies, so meditation on it will quickly lead you to the final stage of meditation on the elements: the stage of the most subtle, space (Akasha).
Space – Akasha
The space element rules the area above the eyebrows and extends beyond the limits of the human body into space. As space is beyond all human senses, it has no characteristic shape or color. Sometimes, however, it is represented as a point (Bindu) to stress the idea that it stands on the threshold of the manifest and the unmanifest, the seen and the unseen, the unsophisticated and the subtle, and all other such dualities. When the mind is completely identified with the space element in meditation, it is “no more.” This is enlightenment, the final goal of spiritual sadhana. The space element is traditionally ruled by Sadashiva (always auspicious), an aspect of Shiva.
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