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Essential Guide for Yoga & Meditation

by Swami Krishnananda

Often times, I am asked how to meditate, how to do yoga, where to start etc. I was just reading a little book and came across pretty good outline for starting those practices. I think Swami has done much better job than I would, to answer all those questions. I simply do. He does and can write about it! So I am sharing here few tips for starting the practice from a little book of The Divine Life Society.

‘Those are practical techniques for starting yoga & meditation from Swami Krishnananda:

1 - You must be harmonious in your relationship with other people in the world. You should not take from the world more than what you have given to it by your service.

2 - You must be harmonious within your own personality. The human individual is often out of balance with himself. You should take care of the minimal needs of the body; e.g. cleanliness, a bath regularly, eat only when you are hungry... Treat your body as your friend. Live in ventilated places; breath fresh air. Adopt simple living and high thinking.

3 - You must have harmony of the muscles and the nervous system. we are generally in a state of restless activity and agitation. So we are asked to practice asanas, or physical postures, for the stability of the body. Though for the health of the body you may practice many asanas, you should sit in one asana alone for meditation. By staying in one single, steady, comfortable posture, you bring about a harmony in the nervous system and the muscles.

Why is this posture prescribe? Because some energy, we may call it electric power, is generated in the body when the mind is concentrated in meditation. If the extremities of the body are left open, the electricity that is produced in meditation will leak out. So, the purpose of posture is to lock up the fingers and the toes so that there is a circulation of energy throughout the body and there is no leakage of energy outside. Also, to prevent leakage, you are asked to sit on some nonconductor of electricity, e.g. a mat, not an iron seat. Sit there, locking the fingers and toes, and keeping the spine, neck and head erect, in one straight line. If you can not sit straight in the beginning, sit straight leaning your back against a wall.

4 - Bring the breathing process, prana, into harmony. Pranayama is a normal state of breathing. Usually we are not in a normal state of breathing. And we are not happy when we breathe disharmoniously. The pranas are disturb because we long for objects in the world, and to desire an object is to be out of tune with the law of the universe. This is because the object is not outside the law of the universe; the object is an integral, vital part of the cosmos. So, when you imagine anything is outside, consciousness is disturbed, agitated, unhappy. Thus, this harmony is achieved not merely by control of breathing through the nose, but by reduction of desires...

In the beginning, do not practice technical methods (like alternate breathing); just practise normal inhalation and exhalation. Take a slow, full, deep breath and exhale slowly. Generally, you do not take a slow deep breath; you take a fast, shallow breath.

The purpose of pranayama is to reduce the rate of breathing. And, when prana becomes calm by this process of slow breathing, the mind also becomes calm. The prana is connected to the mind. When the prana is reduced in its activity, the mind is also reduced in its activity. Between the prana and the mind are the senses. The senses are the meeting point between the prana and the mind. The senses become active, whether the prana works or the mind works.

5 - The fifth harmony is the control of the activity of the senses. The senses cannot be controlled as long as you live in the midst of attractive objects. So, in the beginning stages of yoga practice, you should try to live for at least some time in a year in such places where objects are not tempting to the senses. This is the reason why seekers of Truth try to live in ashrams, monasteries or secluded places. When you try to gradually abstain from sense indulgence by living in such atmospheres, the senses become subdued automatically. As the senses are in contact with the mind, control of the senses also involves a little control of the mind.

When the mind is accustomed to a life of seclusion and solitariness, and the senses do not ask for tempting objects, you are ready for concentration and meditation. This is the real field of yoga. All the stages earlier are only preparatory.

6 - Now, concentration is of three forms:

A - CONCENTRATION ON EXTERNAL POINTS:

The mind is accustomed to think of external objects only; it would be dangerous to suddenly cut off the mind from external objects. You should not try to concentrate on internal centers in the beginning of your practice.

You must pick up an external object that you have an interest in, that you have a love for. Believers in God usually try to concentrate on an external picture or symbol of God. You may keep a portrait of Lord Krishna or Jesus Christ in front of you, and gaze at the picture with open eyes. Where the eyes are, there the mind also is. You are not looking merely at a painted picture, but at a symbol of a living personality. So when you gaze at a picture of Christ or Krishna, you immediately feel in your mind the qualities that these personalities were endowed with.

After three or four minutes of gazing at the picture, close your eyes and mentally imagine the picture. Concentrate on the form you saw. Continue this internal concentration as long as your mind is not disturbed. If, after a few minutes of closed-eyes meditation you feel that the mind is wandering, then open the eyes again and look at the picture. Again gaze at the picture for a few minutes, then again close the eyes to habituate the mind to internal meditation.

Practise this process for a few months until you can concentrate without a picture. When you can concentrate, merely by closing the eyes, on the form of the portrait, without the external support of a painted picture, you have achieved the first success in meditation.

Feel that this internal picture is not merely in one place, but is on every place. When you begin to feel a uniform presence in all places, the mind ceases from all distraction. The other method to bring about this harmony of mental perception is to think of the vast space. Inasmuch as space is everywhere, try to concentrate on all directions at one time. You can also concentrate on the light of the sun pervading the whole space. Or you can concentrate on the vast ocean which is everywhere. You can gaze at the flame of a candle or a dot on the wall.

When you gain success in this, you can change your object of concentration; you will have such mastery of mind that you can concentrate on any object. The purpose of this concentration is to make the mind think only of one thing, and not think of anything else. So ultimately, it matters little what object you choose for concentration if the purpose is served.

When you are accustomed to this external meditation, you can turn to internal meditation.

B - CONCENTRATION ON INTERNAL POINTS:

Internal meditation means concentration on certain centers (chakras) of the body. The most important and most favorable chakras for beginners in meditation are the chakra between the eyebrows and the chakra in the heart.

In the waking state the mind functions in the brain, in the dream state it works near the throat, and in the deep sleep it goes to the heart. The mind also goes to the heart in deep, objectless meditation. So, the ultimate purpose of internal meditation is to bring the mind to the heart. This is done in three stages; the mind comes from the external object to the head (i.e. the center between the eyebrows), then the mind comes to the heart. Meditation on the point between the eyebrows is in two stages; - external gaze at the centre of eyebrows, and - to close the eyes and think of the spot alone (as a spot of light). Slowly, you begin to feel that the mind descends from the head through the throat to the heart. When you do this, you will fall asleep if you are careless. You must do this with caution and alertness; otherwise you will sleep and mistake it for meditation.

The other method of internal meditation is to directly meditate on the hear. You can imagine a blossoming lotus in the heart, or the light of the rising sun in the heart. The best form of meditation on the heart is to feel consciousness seated there. From this internal point of meditation on consciousness in the heart, you can slowly proceed to the universal.

C - CONCENTRATION ON THE UNIVERSAL:

Just as consciousness is in your heart, it is in the hart of everybody. Try to meditate on this consciousness as present everywhere, in everything, outside and inside uniformly. This is the absolute form of meditation, the Supreme State.

To help achieve this Universal State of Meditation, you can chant OM (Pranava) in a methodical manner. There are three types of OM chanting:

1-Short - about one second, i.e. 30 in 30 seconds;

2-Middle - each chant for five seconds; 6 chants in 30 seconds;

3-Long - each chant for fifteen seconds; 2 chants in 30 seconds.

The elongated process is the best form of chanting. It makes the cells of the body subside in their activities, and the nervous system becomes calm. You need not take any tranquillizers. If you disturbed, chant this elongated way for 15 minutes. The whole system will become calm and quiet. When you chant like this, also feel that you are expanding slowly into the Cosmos.

OM is not merely a sound that we make, but a symbol of a Universal Vibration. This is really the Vibration that was made at the beginning of the creation of the world. This Universal Vibration (of Creation) is the controlling force behind everything in the world. So, when you chant OM and create this Vibration in your system, you set yourself in tune with the Vibration of the Cosmos. The Forces of the Universe begin to enter into your body; you will feel strong and energetic; your hunger and thirst will decrease; you will feel absolute happiness even if you have nothing and you are absolutely alone, unknown and unseen by people. You will have no desire for anything in the world, because you have become one with all things.

When you become the friend of the Universal Forces, then the world will take care of you in times of difficulty, and you will have no fear from anywhere. In the state of Ecstasy or Bliss, great Saints sing and dance because they possess everything in the world.

This is almost a complete outline of the essentials of the practice of yoga. But, when you actually begin to pracitse it, you will find it is very difficult. So, you have to be very honest in your pursuit. Swami Sivananda taught us that sadhana (spiritual practice) has three prongs, like a trisula:

1 - A Daily Routine of Practice -

Have a fixed procedure of practice every day. One must keep fixed hours and discipline his personality. In daily routing, three items should be very important:

a - JAPA - chanting some mantra over and over to maintain the same consciousness. This is often useful when meditation is difficult;

b - STUDY - reading scriptures or texts on yoga;

c - MEDITATION - should be performed at a fixed time and in a fixed place every day.

2 - An Annual Resolve -

Vow to give up bad habits such as harming or hurting others, telling lies.

3 - A Spiritual Diary -

When you go to bed every night, you should review what you have done since morning. This diary may consist of questions you may ask yourself.’

I trust, you would get ‘into’ yoga & meditation so much, that you will be able to enjoy them fully. If that’s you path, enjoy:)

With Love and Light - Ula