Purpose, misconceptions, and basic concepts of meditation.
Most people jump into meditation without preparing for it.
They sit and try to quiet their inner monolog, avoid thinking, or have their mind control their body. While doing that the following thoughts might come to their mind:
“This is not for me.”
“This is boring.”
“My mind is too fast.”
“What’s wrong with me?”
“I can’t sit still.”
“I can’t wait for this to be over.”
“I have things to do.”
This is the wrong way to approach meditation.
What you need, is to understand its purpose, clarify misconceptions, understand important concepts, and have a technique before trying again.
Purpose Of Meditation
Meditation is not the goal, it’s a tool to train the different aspects of your being. Its purpose is to enable you to reach your center of consciousness or Atman, as it’s known in yogic tradition.
Once all aspects of your being are trained, tapping into your True-Self becomes instinctual. Then, in Taoist words, there are no illusions left in your mind and no resistance in your body. Don’t think about your actions; let them flow from the core of your being.
• Meditation Is Just Sitting Doing Nothing
Meditation equates to attention. It is about witnessing everything. You can meditate while sitting, standing, or practicing asanas. Sitting or lying in savasana is a great way to meditate because it minimizes distractions and facilitates the process of reaching the Center of Consciousness.
• Meditation Needs to Be Done in a Quiet Place
In the beginning, this will be the case. However, advanced meditators can do it anywhere. Not to say the environment isn’t important, it’s just not a deal breaker.
• You Only Have Five Senses
This is one of the biggest misconceptions of all and the one preventing most people from reaching their Atman. You have at least ten senses. An easy way to think about this is in terms of dyads: Before and after, black and white, night and day, male and female. You have five importer senses and five exporter senses.
• Breathing Is a Dyad
It’s not, it’s a triad. There are three phases of respiration: inhalation, suspension, and exhalation. All phases equally important. Most people disregard suspension and therefore kill their meditation before it even begins. Suspension is where you reorganize thoughts and refocus. It’s the space needed to zoom in on the subtleties of your being.
Breathing is the Key to Mastering the Conscious Mind
The majority of people sniff through their lives, they never learn how to breathe properly.
Breathing consciously starts with a slow and steady flow, and a profound sound similar to the waves of the ocean. Yogis call this, victorious breath or Ujjayi Pranayama. Focusing your attention on the breath calms the mind. After some minutes into meditation, the sound becomes barely noticeable but the flow remains steady.
Gross vs Subtle Concentration
Gross concentration is the ability to focus on big things. It’s useful in the first steps of meditation. As you start going inward, however, you must shift to subtle concentration. Detecting the subtleties is what ultimately allows you to reach your True-Self.
For example, on the gross level, you are able to tell the picture above represents a music festival happening on the coast. You can identify big objects such as the boats, rides, and stages. When you shift to subtle concentration you are able to detect the tiniest of things, like the man coming out of the duct on the boat on the left.
Indriyas, The Cognitive and Active Senses
You are familiar with the five importer senses, Jnanendriyas, smelling, tasting, seeing, touching, and hearing. You know the exporters, Karmendriyas, but you probably never thought about them in that way. They are: eliminating, creating, moving, grasping, and speaking.
Each sense also has an outer and an inner world aspect. For example, you can speak in the real world or you can imagine speaking in your mind.
Vāk, The Inner Monolog
Your inner monolog is actually a karmendriya, an active sense, but it is not your mind. For most people, this is the hardest aspect to train because they confuse it with their True-Self.
- Hold your index finger in front of you and move it from left to right, observe it.
- While doing that, repeat the word “stop” in your mind for five seconds.
You’ll notice that even though you were saying “stop” your finger didn’t stop moving. That is because vāk doesn’t control your body or life for that matter. It’s just the inner aspect of your ability to speak being activated by your mind.
Lower Mind, Higher Mind, Soul, and Strength
Suffering is the result of the entanglement between the seen and the seer. Understanding how the mind operates helps to avoid it. The mind has four functions: Manas, Buddhi, Chitta, and Ahamkara, their Christian equivalents would be Mind, Heart/Intellect, Soul, and Strength.
The process of gradually discriminating between the four aspects of the mind is one of the most profound self-awareness practices of the ancient Himalayan sages.
Manas, The Mind That Questions and Asks
Manas is in charge of perceiving and interacting with the world around you. Its nature is to question and doubt. It executes, but it doesn’t decide.
Chitta, The Soul
Chitta is the pool of countless memories created from experiences in your life or lives, depending on your take on reincarnation. Memories continually arise from Chitta based on new interactions with your surroundings.
Ahamkara, The I-am-ness
Ahamkara is your sense of identity and it determines the strength of the attraction or aversion you feel towards something.
Buddhi, The Doorway to Inner Wisdom
Buddhi is your heart and intellect. The word Buddhi itself comes from the root budh, which means one who has awakened. Buddhi has the capacity to decide, judge, and make cognitive discriminations and differentiations. It can determine the wiser of two courses of action.
In the gross aspect of life, you want buddhi to be the one to decide.
The “Mind” Doesn’t Reside In The Brain Only
The brain and heart work together to create your “mind”. Science is beginning to call it Heart-Brain Coherency.
Your heart and intellect make up your higher mind or Buddhi. Manas, or what people generally think of as mind, is the lower mind.
The Clouded Buddhi
This is the state of mind for most people. In it, Buddhi is clouded. What this means is that instructions on how to react to outer or inner stimuli are not sent back by Buddhi but rather by a combination of Chitta and Ahamkara.
This is how it works, a stimulus from the outside or inner worlds is perceived by Manas. Manas then, asks how to proceed. Since Buddhi is clouded, it continues to the next best thing. Chitta offers a memory that can help with the situation at hand. Ahamkara then wraps the memory with a sense of I-am-ness and gives it a degree of attraction or aversion. Finally, the wrapped memory is sent back to Manas and the reaction is seen in the world.
In this state of mind, people are trapped in a loop thinking that memories are their reality. Circumstances are then further aggravated by the degree of attraction or aversion which influences their karmic cycle.
The Unclouded Buddhi
A clear Buddhi can coordinate Manas, Chitta, and Ahamkara.
When Chitta offers a memory, Buddhi analyzes it and adapts it to the reality at hand. It knows that circumstances have changed.
When a memory is wrapped by Ahamkara, Buddhi understands that your being is no longer who is being presented in that memory. Instead, Buddhi observes, accepts, and understands it to further uncloud itself.
Atman, One With The Absolute
To know yourself is to know God and to become one with all. Your True-Self, or Atman, is the supreme truth. According to Vedanta, liberation can be achieved only through spiritual knowledge, which requires meditation.
Other factors, such as good works or rituals, are merely aids in the process. But such liberating knowledge is not any ordinary or conceptual knowledge. It is direct insight into one’s own nature of pure consciousness.
Atman transcends the mind.
Plants have been our teachers and healers for millennia. Different cultures around the world worship different plants. For example, Buddhists look to myrobalan, while Mazatecs look to San Isidro. Unfortunately, sacred plant medicine, like Ayahuasca, is becoming a “quick fix” and poorly understood. Most modern ceremonies lack the dedication, intention, and respect necessary.
Certain plants, used under proper guidance and care, can help break through the clouded Buddhi. They pause incorrect thinking and thought patterns in your mind, giving you direct access to your True-Self as to have an honest interior dialogue. Without a technique, however, the experience can result in a temporal fix rather than a long lasting cure.
There isn’t a “right way to meditate”. We all are universes within, each with our path and predilections. Choose a technique that resonates with you and build from that.
I created a separate post entitled “Basic Himalayan Meditation Framework”where I guide you through the process of meditation. I hope it helps you as much as it has helped me.