In order to understand how to meditate it is important to first understand that meditation is not the same as prayer. And anyone can learn to meditate and with practice, he can rise spiritually. Saints and sages, carrying in their subconscious, accumulated imprints of piety of past lives, are easily drawn to meditation.
History is replete with examples of men and women, who from an early age were interested only in contemplating God’s name. Mirabai, the princess and Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism are two examples.
So, how does meditation differ from prayers? When we pray, we present ourselves at the feet of our chosen deity in supplication. Prayers often involve desire. We may remember God in a temple, church, or in the praying area at home. It may involve reciting portions from religious scriptures or a mantra.
Meditation, on the other hand, involves contemplation on the name of God. Seekers meditate on the name of attribute of God. A meditative state is one of thoughtlessness. Here, no new impressions are created.
The mind is silent and is emptied of thought. When such a state of emptiness is achieved, the mind is then filled with pure thoughts of god. It is the state in which in an individual rises to meet God and God comes down to help him rise.
The time before sunrise and the period of dusk are best suited for contemplation. Concentration leads to meditation, which leads to the state of Samadhi or superconsciousness.
What are the steps involved in meditation?
Beginners can strengthen their focus by concentrating on the flame of a candle or a lamp. 12 seconds of unblinking focus constitutes dharana or one episode of concentration. Twelve episodes of dharana give one instance of dhyana or meditation. Essentially, if you can maintain focus for 144 seconds, then you have meditated once! All it takes is 12 short episodes of dharana.
If you can maintain focus for twelve episodes of meditation, then you enter the state of Samadhi, the state of intense single-pointed concentration on the divine. This means that to enter the state of samadhi, you need to be in a state of meditation for at least 28 minutes and 48 seconds.
For meditation, one should sit on a mat or a piece of folded cloth. This will ensure that the body’s energy does not get earthed and lost. It is imperative that the practitioner or sadhak sit straight, the backbone should be straight. Try this experiment, sit in siddhasan or padmasan. These two seating postures lock the lower spine, keep the back and erect and help focus. When we slouch, the mind wanders. Posture is crucial for dhyana.
Success in any endeavor requires regular effort and so too with meditation. Meditate regularly everyday at the same spot.
The purity bestowed upon the place because of the presence of images of your deity, incense, flowers and your own efforts will aid you in your meditation. Advanced practitioners reach a stage where they lose count of the minutes and hours for which they have been meditating.
In the first stage of concentration or dharana, focus on gathering all senses inwards. This practice of concentration where one is aware of the senses and tries to sublimate their impact takes one to the meditative stage, which is beyond the senses.
When the meditative stage is achieved, one experiences blissful union with God, where the duality of us and Him ceases and we become one with Him.