Difficulties with Meditation
Why do we meditate?
When I began practicing yoga, I did not have a meditation practice. The closest I came to meditation was laying in shavasana, and that’s it. Where I am from, it was rare to find a yoga studio that incorporated meditation into their classes. What exactly is meditation and how does one proceed? When the flow of concentration (dharna) is uninterrupted and you are connected with whatever thought you are concentrating on, or concentrating on thoughtlessness, we move towards meditation (dhyana). Before entering meditation, the mind must be focused or meditation will not occur. This is why many meditative techniques are techniques of effortless concentration that help one enter into the meditative state. There are 135 physical, psychological and spiritual benefits of meditation!
Meditation is a powerful tool but many people find it difficult. What may be some obstacles people encounter when they start meditation? At Paramanand Ashram, under the guidance of Dr. Omanand (Guruji), I made much progress overcoming such obstacles.
Personally, I couldn’t keep my mind focused on meditation! My thoughts just kept coming and coming, skipping from one thing to the next. I then learned that I should stop trying to control my mind and my thoughts, just observe them and let them come. The thoughts are part of meditation, and are a natural process of the mind. Although meditation is a way to experience inner silence, this comes not through trying to eliminate the thoughts but becoming the witness of your own mind and by doing so, observing the silence in between your thoughts. When we become accepting of what is naturally occurring in our minds and surrender to it, we can find inner peace and calmness.
Another common obstacle some may struggle with is restlessness; sitting still during meditation and not succumbing to the temptations of other activities that may arise while trying to meditate. I am generally a restless person, I’m always up and going, trying to figure out what I’m doing an hour from now, three hours, six hours or even tomorrow or the day after. What had helped me tame this restless mind of mine was, before meditation, practicing asana, pranayama or both. The physical activity of the asanas focus my mind on what is happening right now- keeping my movements in sync with my breath. After about an hour or so of my practice, my body and mind feel calm. Practicing pranayama, similar to asana, helps my focus on my breath. Both asana and pranayama help you to become present and slowly drift away from this restless feeling.
Sometimes during meditation uncomfortable feelings may arise that we may not be expecting- suppressed emotions or past experiences. As the mind becomes less involved with its outer directed focus and the busy day-to-day hustle and bustle, we may become aware of feelings that have been under the walls we’ve erected in our mind to keep these uncomfortable emotions at bay. Personally, this is something I’ve had to come to terms with. I’d come to terms to suppressed emotions I had been holding onto with my ex-partner and I learned to forgive . We are now back together and working on repairing our relationship and I could not be happier. Meditating really forced me to look within myself and face these uncomfortable emotions I had been ignoring. Originally, I did not like it and I wanted to stop meditating, but that was not an option so I started to resist the emotions. This made meditation really difficult for me, and now I understand the importance of being honest with oneself. So, what can one do? Allow these feelings to be present and do not push them away, also do not let the mind start telling stories about them either. I learned that if the emotion is really strong, let the mind focus on that particular emotion and notice where it takes you.
Lastly, there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” meditation experience- there is no right or wrong way to feel. Meditation is about letting go and trusting that the natural flow of our consciousness will lead us in the right direction. Each time we meditate, it will be a different experience. The day is not the same as the previous and it has its own struggles and moments of happiness. If no day is the same then why should your meditation experience be the same as the last one? It will vary depending on our ever changing emotional and physical state and life- circumstances. Each time will be different and we should try not to form expectations based on past experiences. The goal of meditation is not to have the same special experience as we did before but come to terms with whatever arises in our mind during each meditative session. When we dismiss all expectations from meditating, it will become easier and easier and will result in a greater sense of awareness and living.
What is the best way to meditate?
Place your yoga mat facing the northeast corner of your room. This should be done preferable 96 minutes before sunrise (nectar time). This is when the balance of the elements is the highest and gives one a better ability to become connected with the higher. If this is not possible then anytime during the day is fine.
Start with yogic warming up or you can do an asana sequence. This will remove any physical blockages and help calm the mind.
Any two pranayama for 2-3 minutes each.
Sit in easy pose and recite a mantra (Om, Om Nama shivaya, etc) with each breath and focus your awareness on your third eye (middle of the forehead).
Bring your awareness from object to subject. Start with focusing your awareness on the body, then as follows- pranayama, thoughts, and then the gaps between two thoughts. Eventually, effortlessness and total presence will arise and your awareness will be focused on doing nothing, let everything go and let whatever is happening, happen.
My name is Devanand (Dylan) and I am from New York. I have been practicing yoga for seven years now. I just recently graduated with my Bachelors in Nutrition. Before I start down that career path, I knew I wanted to become a yoga teacher and so I decided to venture to India in order to fulfill my dream of becoming one and I couldn’t have picked a better place than Paramanand Ashram. In regard to meditation, practicing by oneself is important but it is most helpful under the guidance of an experienced practitioner, such as Guruji Dr.Omanand.