Thoughts come from the minute we wake up until the minute we fall asleep, and even after that they are in our dreams. We undeniably need voluntary thinking, but how to silence involuntary thoughts – thoughts that brings down efficiency, is the cause of stress, anxiety and depression!
One key meaning of the term Yoga itself is Meditation! Meditation is the art of ‘seeing’ one’s mind with one’s own mind. There are different ways to prepare for Meditation. These include several variants of breath awareness, concentration on various centers inside or outside the body, non-dual awareness, chanting, imagination and visualization, contemplation through each of the senses etc. With consistent practice of any of these techniques, the attention gets so fixed that mind starts to get insulated from any external as well as internal stimuli.
The progression into Meditation practice undergoes three stages:
- ‘Dharana’, or Concentration – the effort to repeatedly bring the attention to one point of focus while learning to remain undisturbed by any external stimuli i.e. the mind is interned, within the limited mental territory and has to be brought back if it strays out.
- ‘Dhyana’, or Meditation – when the attention remains on that one point of focus for a sustained period of time. To understand this and the next stage, let’s take an example – when a scientist focuses his microscope on a drop of dirty water, the field of vision is defined and limited within a circle. Now, he cannot see anything outside it, but within that circular patch of light there are still constant movements of all kinds.
- ‘Samadhi’, or complete absorption –With concentration and meditation, there are three things;
- Process of observing
- Object of Observation
With deep absorption it is as if the three merges into one, unbroken experience i.e. there is no longer an observer and a process of observing; only the ‘OBJECT’ of observation remains.
It should be understood that these three stages are just different phases of the same mental process, each succeeding stage differing from the preceding in the depth of concentration and the more complete isolation of the object of meditation from distractions. The complete process beginning with ‘Dharna’ and ending in ‘Samadhi’ is called ‘Samyama’ in Yogic terminology and the practical mastery of its technique opens the door not only to knowledge of all kinds but also to powers and super-physical accomplishments.
Practically, it is possible for a student to start practicing meditation right away. In order to control the mind we have to get to know it. As a preliminary exercise it is good to spend some time every day simply watching our minds. The mind finding itself watched, gradually grow calmer. It becomes embarrassed by its own greed and silliness, for no amount of criticism is so effective and as penetrating as our own simple self-inspection.
If one were to resort to this practice for even some length of time regularly, one could find it very helpful in clearing overloading of information of the hectic life. Therapists from various fields often use meditation as one of most important tools for holistic-treatment for its numerous benefits. Researches depict that Meditation;
- Is specifically beneficial in minimizing stress related disorders. Enhances the immune system, Increases activity of ‘natural-killer’ cells, which kill bacteria and cancer cells.
- Increases serotonin production which influences mood and behavior (low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, obesity, insomnia etc.)
- Helps in chronic diseases like allergies, arthritis, high blood pressure, asthma, heart disease, migraine, managing chronic pains, aches etc.
- Most importantly it helps in – minimizing negative emotions, concentrating on the present, attaining new perspective on the situations, increasing self-awareness!