Updated: Apr 6, 2020
Meditation and yoga were the first proactive decisions I made at the beginning of my spiritual journey which further opened my heart up to the light I had been blind to. Yoga was my first fascination given my gymnastics background; the spirit of it called to me in the midst of my internal battle, as I was duking it out with the demons I had collected throughout 19 years of living. I craved an escape, and yearned for peace of mind.
Although yoga is a form of meditation, it brings to you an entire lifestyle of meditation. I now find myself always wanting to sit, clear my mind, and simply feel. Meditating once started off as an arduous task, but is now the highlight of my day. The idea of this practice might make sense to you, but you will not be able to feel it’s energy and light until you have experienced it yourself. As a rule of thumb, nothing will ever fully resonate with you until you have lived it. Therefore to see the supreme bliss of meditation, you must have endured it with constant, dedicated practice. I say this as a forewarning and truth, yet I will still explain meditation with the hopes to convey a sense of understanding at the surface level, perhaps as a seed in which you may take the practice upon yourself.
Why do we meditate?
We meditate because we will never be able to see the full extent of the world with a mind full of clouds, which are your thoughts. In a binding paradox, your thoughts separate you from your feelings, yet they are also the creator of feelings. Your mind is always producing thoughts and inevitably, those thoughts are attached with emotions. If you focus your energy on the thoughts themselves, you are more focussed on the words and their meaning instead of where you feel the energy reside in your body. In this mindset, you are separating yourself from your body, and you are creating stories, and placing judgement. This leads to feelings of guilt or shame, taking you down an even deeper emotional spiral. If you are able to simply label the emotion for being what it is, sit and truly feel it in the absence of judgment, the emotion should pass within 90 seconds. To do this, focus on where the feeling resides in the body, what sensation it brings, as well as honoring it, because all emotions are important. While doing this, simply notice thoughts that may arise and recognize them as just thoughts. Remember that you are merely the observer here
The Science of Meditation
When we do anything in life, such as playing a sport, interacting in social environments, or learning any new skill, we are constantly being conditioned by the universe itself through our personal action, the action’s specified result, and it’s link to a biochemical response. This is how neuron pathways in the brain are formed. We repeat or cease specific action based on the punishment or reward the action receives. We are likely to repeat an action that results in a positive outcome. The action is more likely to repeat depending on the nature of the outcome or the intensity of chemical release in the brain. This repetition then becomes a pattern, which then becomes a habit. Addiction, for example, starts by some behavior that creates a severe pleasure/reward response by releasing dopamine. Addiction becomes addiction when these neuron pathways are reinforced. We break addiction by traveling these pathways less and less. It takes about 30 days to create a habit, and 30 days to break one. Our brain is like a muscle we train. So of course when you first start to meditate, you will find it very difficult, your thoughts will wonder, and that is ok. It is important to not judge your thoughts or the fact that you are having thoughts. The whole point of meditation is recognize them, and bring your attention back to the breath and the now. You will find that the more you meditate, the easier it becomes. You are slowly strengthening your brain. You are building this “meditative muscle” by realizing more and more how meditation works. You are subconsciously figuring it out, and finding what methods are working for you. The reward you receive which is peace of mind and dopamine release, is allowing you to keep practicing in the same way, while you also explore new methods. You are building new and stronger neuron pathways. Meditation is quite literally addicting like a drug, except it’s healthy for you.
Remember that everyone experiences meditation differently. Some people feel out of their body, and some people become fully grounded in their physicality. You decide whether to leave or stay.
The end goal of meditation is to become fully enlightened or to experience “samadhi” which is a Hindi/yoga sutra referred to by a famous yogi, Patanjali. Although there are several ways to get to samadhi, Patanjali describes it as a contemplation or a very deep form of meditation that involves four stages of focus. The first stage is called Savirarka samadhi which involves directing your focus on a physical object. (You must be already highly enlightened and clear minded to do this.) When you focus completely on the atomic structure and build of the object at hand, and have a complete understanding of the physical form, you then move to the second stage of focus and contemplate the tanmatras, or subtle elements. This is the focus of not the object itself, but more of what it represents abstractly. It could be feelings or color, such as red, love, or beauty. Once you fully understand what the object represents, you move to the stage of reflection which is called savicara. This is when you have the capacity to see the object vibrationally, past it’s physical form. This is when you have an understanding that allows you to rise above time and space. The last stage of focus is sa-asmita samadhi which is the awareness of the I, the egoic perspective of you just being and nothing else. You have then reached the stage of ultimate bliss, contemplation, which is samadhi. You harness the understanding and power of the universe, but you must realize that with power comes responsibility, and to use the power for good only. For it is easy to use such power for greed.