The conscious mind is usually flooded with random thoughts during wakeful states. The mind also stays busy engaging with the outside world. After a while mind sleeps, and the unconscious state is activated. Scientists still are somewhat clueless as to why the mind needs to sleep. But the meditator knows better through personal experiences which although are subjective can provide a coherent picture when reported repeatedly. So when asked to be still and left alone to our thoughts, for the beginners it can feel overwhelming with countless streams of thoughts pouring in from all different angles.
Thousands of years ago when the ancient fathers of meditation in India looked within themselves, they noticed these myriads of thoughts and distractions which caused anxiety, stress and seemed to serve no practical purpose. They realized when they stopped feeding the thoughts, the thoughts got quieter and quieter. Ancient mystics called it “Vipassana” or ‘Clear Thinking’. Today this is comparable to what is generally considered as meditation. However, of course, Vipassana is only one stage of meditation, a very important one at that. Vipassana showed these thoughts are nothing more than stories in the head. And as one observes, it stops multiplying.
Beginning Meditation Practice
The first stage of ‘Meditation’ is to attain the state of simply ‘being’, of just pure experiencing only consciousness, with no interference from the body or mind. Thoughts can arise and disappear, and settle, as the mud settles and water clears. Initially, in this state where the brain experiences nothingness, by ridding thoughts yet remaining aware gradually self-inquiry takes place, reckoning and realization dawns upon the mind, towards achieving enlightenment.
The Meditative state allows the aware/conscious mind to experience the inner reality within and access potentials of the unconscious. This ability opens up a whole new world of self-discovery and self-empowerment; Meditation, thus, is a ‘Way’ to access the inner-faculties of the unconscious mind, to access its wealth or reprogram to positively impact the conscious mind.
Yogis in India intuitive knew bodily posture had a profound impact on a person’s state. Western science says sitting up straight more likely to remember positive memories that narrative ones, also reinforces confidence. Standing up straight to increase testosterone level and decrease cortisol, affected by asanas in a positive way.
A meditation posture (asana) should be comfortable and pleasant posture of the body. It should include three main qualities: ALIGNMENT, RELAXATION and STILLNESS. It is preferable that your spine is erect, sitting in chair, bed, floor, in any comfortable postures. It does not matter if you sit in a chair, on a cushion, on a bench or lie down. (*Lying down is NOT recommended if you’re sleepy as it’s too easy to fall asleep, which disrupts your meditation. You may experiment lying down as well.)
If sitting on ground makes you uncomfortable you can sit on a chair. If sitting on a chair, make sure to adopt proper posture. See diagram.
- Relax Muscles: Relax muscles, particularly of the neck, shoulders and face. The arms should hang effortlessly, with the hands resting in the lap or lightly on the knees. The legs should be comfortable and relaxed and if your knees do not touch the ground you can support them with extra cushions to ease any pain in hips. Be firmly grounded and balanced. Full lotus posture is best for this but isn’t necessary.
- Eyes: Close them if it is comfortable; If that promotes drowsiness or excessive mental activity, then allow your eyelids to relax and remain half close.
- Ears: Your ears are over your shoulders when your head, neck and spine are aligned properly.
- Mouth: Keep closed and relaxed (breathing naturally through your nose). Teeth touching but not clenched. Tongue touching roof of mouth.
- Back and spine: Good spinal alignment prevents back pain and supports
full, deep breathing. As you practice good posture, it becomes more natural and
it tones your core muscles. Good posture consists of keeping the natural s-shaped
curve in your spine and keeping your head level while aligning ears, shoulders
and hips. Avoid slouching.
- Spine should be
erect, but muscles relaxed. Your spine should retain its natural curve, not
stooped over, or in an exaggerated “S” position.
- Do not hunch, do not lean neck forward, simply sit up straight’ with the chin slightly lowered.
- To help with alignment imagine a string attached from the centre of the crown and you are being drawn upward. Also try and raise the chest slightly to prevent slumping.
- In classic Buddhist texts the explanation to keep a great posture is to imagine your spine is a stack of coins. It gives a nice sense of balance and stability to imagine the stack of coins and if you lean too far forward or back or too far left or right you can easily imagine the coins tumbling over.
- Spine should be erect, but muscles relaxed. Your spine should retain its natural curve, not stooped over, or in an exaggerated “S” position.
- Belly: Your belly should be relaxed and move in and out as you breathe
- Position your hands: Place hands on your thighs, either palms up or down, at the bend between hips and thighs. Or, rest your hands, palms up on top of each other in your lap. You may also rest your hands inside the bottom of your rolled up shirt. Relax your shoulders and commit to your hand position. Part of quieting the mind means keeping your body still during the seated meditation.
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