Meditation: The 7th Limb of Yoga

Meditation is translated from the Sanskrit Dhyana (dhyai, which means "to think of") is a fundamental practice of the path of Yoga, which at deeper level will prepare us for Samadhi, enlightenment, complete Union with all beings.

I have previously written about the 2 limbs of Yoga most used in our physical practice, Asana and Pranayama. Asana (Body postures), teaches us how to strengthen our body while calming the mind, while Pranayama, teaches us to breath in a way that will energise us and facilitate meditative practices.

While not all of us have a regular yoga practice or the ultimate goal of reaching enlightenment and get detached from body, Mindfulness Meditation is still a powerful tool accessible to anyone who is looking for more clarity and calmness in their lives.

A simple practice in itself, meditation is not easy but it doesn't involve any mystical theories either.

You can meditate anywhere, anytime, and all you need is a quiet space where you can find a comfortable seated position seated on a chair or a cushion on the floor, maintaining a tall spine and placing the palms lightly in your lap, with the palms facing up. Eyes are closed. The starting point is to focus all your attention on the breath coming in and out of your nostrils. Not controlling the breath or breathe in any particular way, just observe the reality of that moment, noticing the breath coming in and acknowledge it, and when the breath goes out, just be aware of that. And when you lose your focus and your mind starts wandering bringing back memories or starting to anticipate, just notice, now my mind has drifted away from the breath. So then you return to noticing "here's the breath coming in, now the breath is going out". That's all you have to do, as the thoughts arise, acknowledge them, then let them go and return your awareness to the breath. After a few breaths, naturally, the mind will wander again, it's only normal and then we go back to the breath.

One of the first things you'll learn when you start meditating and observing your breath is that you have so little control over your Mind.

As you become aware of the thoughts you're thinking you have the opportunity to pause ask questions like, “where is this thought coming from?”, and “does this thought serve me?”. You will recognise that the majority of your thoughts are actually not serving you and only a few of them are beneficial. Through meditation, you'll be able to let go of the thoughts that are disturbing you, not fighting with them or trying to change them, but just the recognition in itself will cause them to diminish their power over you. You will learn not to identify with your mind and thoughts.

Like any spiritual practice, meditation requires dedication, determination and consistency. Try to establishing a routine, even starting with only 5 minutes every day and have no expectations. There will be days you'll find it easy and days you'll find it hard to focus for 5 seconds, but those are the days you need it most.

While mindful meditation is the most accessible type of meditation and can be done anywhere, there are other ways to meditate:

1. Loving kindness meditation: also called "Metta’ meditation is an ultimate form of generous and selfless love towards ourselves and others.

2. Spiritual Meditation: incorporates components of silence, prayers, and self-control, and aims to develop a deeper connection with your God or Universe. Essential oils are commonly used to heighten the spiritual experience.

3.Focused Meditation: This meditation style consists in paying undivided attention to an object (counting mala beads, staring at a candle or lit incense), sound (listening to a gong), or sensation, having a specific focal point.

4. Mantra meditation: uses a repetitive sound to clear the mind. It can be a word, phrase, or sound, such as the popular “Om.”

5. Transcendental meditation: taught one-on-one by instructors trained and licensed by Maharishi Foundation in a personalised and individual manner, using a mantra or series of words that are specific to each practitioner.

A regular meditation practice comes with multiple benefits on both the body and the mind:

❍ Reduces stress

❍ Reduces anxiety

❍ Promotes emotional health

❍ Improves focus and decreases mind-wandering

❍ Enhanced self-awareness

❍ Lengthens attention spam

❍ Improves sleep

❍ Helps control pain

Even though meditating on your own is a fundamental part of a complete practice, the guidance of an experienced teacher can be very helpful, especially if you're only at the start. Our minds drift away easily, and the clear instructions of a teacher can help bring us back to the present moment. There are multiple online resources to help you start or deepen your meditation practice. My favourites are Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer.

I have also recorded for you a 10 min Guided Meditation available here.

Enjoy your meditation!

... Breathe In, Breathe Out...


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