Meditating is fashionable. Meditation music, meditation pillows and guided meditations seem to be available on every corner. It is often overlooked what meditation really is, far from materialism and the distorted image in the media.
The roots of meditation
Meditation is a spiritual practice which is used in many religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Christian traditions of the Middle Ages (‘meditatio’ as object-free intuition). However, you do not have to belong to any religion to meditate. Meditating is not a simple technique to learn. It is not something that is ‘added’. Meditating is a growth or a blossoming that runs through your whole being.
Meditation as part of yoga
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras ‘Yoga’ is defined with the words ‘Yogas chitta vritti nirodha’.
- Yoga = Yoga, Supreme Consciousness
- chitta = mind
- vritti = thought waves, mental movements; also imprints, prejudices, impulses
- nirodhah = to rest, to stop, to control
“Yoga is the stopping of the thought-waves in the mind.”
Meditation is a part of yoga which follows exactly this aim: stopping the thoughts.There are countless methods to achieve that.
The Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga
Patanjali explains the path to Samadhi (enlightenment) in the ‘Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga’ (also Ashtanga). The 8th limb is Enlightenment or merging with the supreme soul. The seven limbs below can be climbed stepwise or parallel to each other. Level six is concentration (Sanskrit: Dharana) and the seventh is meditation (Sanskrit: Dhyana). Today’s forms of meditation can be assigned to these two limbs. For example, drawing a mandala or staring into a flame is a concentration exercise, not as falsely assumed meditation. Concentration, so to speak, represents a preliminary stage of meditation and can lead to meditation.
In our yoga teacher training, we always practice concentration with our students before venturing into the field of Meditation.
Some forms of meditation and concentration
Reciting a word or phrase (SoHam, Aum, I am lovable) to calm the mind.
Buddhist Metta Meditation
‘Metta’ means (selfless) love. Sitting with your eyes closed, you first send loving kindness to yourself, then to close people, then you send kindness to your enemies or people of foreign cultures and countries. The aim is to send love to all beings in all worlds.
Zazen of Zen Buddhism
This is a sitting meditation with half-open or open eyes, without active looking. One observes the body and the mind, but does not react to any movements. Zazen can also be called mindfulness meditation.
This form is practiced to overcome emotions such as anger or envy and to heal the effects of those emotions. There are different forms of it, active and passive ones.
Dynamic Meditation according to Osho
This very active form is divided into several phases: 1. Deep and fast breathing (10 minutes), 2. Cathartic phase to free yourself by screaming, crying, laughing (10 minutes), 3. Hopping (10 minutes ) and 4. Standing still and wait (15 minutes). Finally, dancing freely for 15 minutes. This form often takes place in groups.
Nataraj Meditation according to Osho
This form is based on the image of the dancing Shiva. He has drunk poison to protect humanity from it and then begins to dance wildly. The inner division is dissolved through free and playful dancing. It is divided into three phases: 1. Liberating dancing (40 minutes), 2. Silent lying with eyes closed (20 minutes), 3. Enjoying free dance (5 minutes).
Read here what Chakras are. This sitting meditation focuses on one or more chakras. You close your eyes, calm your breath, and then focus on the area of the chakra and watch. Deeply immersed, you can then see colors, hear sounds or feel stuck emotions in the chakra.
Originally this is a traditional Indian meditationform, but today it is mostly practiced in seminars (e.g. 10 days silence retreat). It is an advanced way and should only be done by experienced practitioners.
How do I find the right method for me?
There is only one way: try it out, try it out, try it out.
You have to find the form which suits you and your current situation best. Once you have found one, it does not mean that this form serves you forever. As you change, your requirements towards a meditation form changes. So one form can take you to a certain level and then you move on to another form.
I wish you a lot of joy on this adventurous journey!