Yogic Meditation: Theory and Practice

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Yogic Meditation: Theory and Practice

Postby seekinghga » Fri Mar 15, 2019 3:44 pm

Yogic Meditational Practice: Posture
Commercial yoga classes, if they're really good ones, can lead you to the water to drink of the refreshment. Yogic Meditation results in you being the water.

Today's class is about posture. Asana is the word in Sanskrit. In a yoga class it is common groundwork to switch and cycle between various asanas. This stems from the Hindu doctrine of Hatha Yoga which implies that the body can be utilized to silence the mind. Pranayama, which seeks to control not only the breath, but the "energy" of the body as well, is used to this effect. The Hatha Yogis correlate the breath to the mind and have realized that if you can cease (nirodha in Pali) the breath then the mind will focus on its source and stop. I've never seen it, so I won't decry it. Paid for yoga classes superficially utilize these methods of asana and pranayama to bring about a good feeling. Placebo. *ahem*. It's not?

Today's class is about posture. Asana is the word in Sanskrit. Yoga is 5% mental activity, .001% physical activity, and 94.999% letting go. To reach this delicate state of balance it is imperative that one is able to eliminate the irritating signals that the body sends to the mind. "I itch." "I feel a desire to move." Etc. It is required that one trains their body to remain still and, more importantly, to not send signals to the awareness while meditation is going on. To conquer the body you must do the following.

Find a position that has the spine erect. The perfect posture for this is to sit cross-legged. Simple and effective. Spine, neck, and head must be aligned to a straight line. This has nothing to do with Kundalini or Chakras, or any crap like that. It's all about sustainability.

Now you just want to sit in the posture and not move. The ideal state of mind to have is that you are aware of the positioning of the body. You want to be prone but not tense, with an all-encompassing awareness about it. It is advisable to take up this practice twice daily, for 30 minutes at a go. Practice sitting in a perfectly still posture without moving for 30 minutes. The body will react to this unconventional "activity" by sending all kinds of annoying and agonizing sensations to make you want to stop. Ignore it. The body is a peon in its essence. It is subservient to the mind. This is so hard, and this is a fantastic gauge for determining the temerity of your willpower. Sit still for 30 minutes, without moving (yes, redundancy aids precision in explanation), and do this twice a day. The key is to keep your mind in the activity of doing this, you don't want to be daydreaming as that will lead to the body not being still. You want to focus on the aspect of keeping the body still. When the body says to move you tell it "no." Misery. Misery. Promise. Misery. Misery. Misery. Misery. Misery. Success.

When you can sit for sixty minutes without the body giving you the slightest degree of annoyance while focusing the mind you are ready to move on.

The body will say to you "oh, I need to move just a tiny bit, and THEN I'll be comfortable." It will say this over and over. Ignore it. You are not the body. The body is a (valuable and precious!) tool. Ignore it, because the complaints are not from the body. That is the Ego talking. The body is just the body. Master it by training it to sit without it sending signals of its actions/awareness to the mind.

I want to add that is highly advisable to keep a record of your efforts. You should enter things such as the location and intensity of discomfort, the mood, the tenacity of maintaining focus on the body, how often the mind wanted to wander and revel in daydream, for how long it did so, etc. The content of any daydreams, as well as your own opinions of the whole process, should be kept in a separate journal if so wished. The point of the record is not to keep a diary but to both gauge your progress and get into the practice of observing the things going on from an objective standpoint. The ability to do so is vital. It is very important, if not more important than the meditation itself, that you are able to view the physical (and mental) processes objectively. The ideal mindset is to see the body and the mind as grade school science projects and not as sources of self-identification. Mr. or Mrs. Ego will be most displeased. <hint, hint>

Second, it should have been mentioned that the outcome of success in conquering an asana, which is characterized by the body not sending any more signals to the mind while in that asana, is that there will be an accompanying perception of the bodily senses departing at the onset of this state of triumph. I both call it and describe it as "the melting away of proprioception and sensation." The body goes bye-bye to the awareness. This will be experienced as a "wave" and subsequent feeling of utter physical relaxation, seemingly spontaneous in nature. The contrast of comfort between this feeling (or lack thereof!) and the body's normal state is tremendous. Its wonderful peace must be felt in order to fully grasp. The armchairers will completely miss out... ;)

The utterly blissful physical relaxation of success in this .001% of Yogic Meditation is only an insignificant foreshadowing of what is to come. Indeed, the body thus silenced and stilled, we can next move onto the mind. Yoga means Union.

Renunciation - Practice
Renunciation is a word that carries a lot of unfortunate baggage. I will attempt to set the record straight, so far as Yogic meditation (sans any religious connotation) is concerned. It is to be remembered that renunciation owes nothing to morality or giving things up. It is all about removing sources of excitement of the mind. Effecting renunciation is not something that one actively participates in. It is more akin to a side effect of one's meditation efforts.

Continuous attention to meditation throughout the day is what causes renunciation to occur. Whenever the mind becomes enamored of some activity precluded by meditation, it must be brought back to the task at hand of meditation. Gradually as the practice develops one will find this reasserting of their attention happening quite often and automatically. (The student is most welcome to supplant the word "meditation" in this paragraph for "God" or anything else that helps.)

The essential factor to all of this is that the mind is to be kept to an ever-diminishing field of activity so that it can not prance about undisciplined as it pleases. The closer to one-pointedness that you can get the mind in these preliminary stages, the easier concentration and meditation will be. Also, just because these are "preliminaries" does not mean that one will no longer need them beyond a certain point, they will be useful for the entirety of the student's meditational career. It is perhaps useful to think of meditation as dieting. These "preliminary" practices are to be done as often as possible during the day. Then after one has mastered an asana and is ready to sit down and begin concentrating the mind in earnest, they will by doing so be able to measure the fruits of their day-to-day labor. Just like dieting, only replace food intake and exercise for mindfulness of meditation and replace standing on the scales with sitting in one's asana to actively meditate.

Lending as much of your day as possible to the remembrance and facilitation of your meditation practice is the secret to success. 24/7 is a good minimum to strive for. In the beginning periods it is almost impossible to remember to maintain any significant degree of mindfulness. Do not get discouraged. Perseverance is like currency here, trust me. My Psalms of an Aeon #1 is all about this. I will quote it in full. (Do not forget that the word "God" therein is merely an open variable.):

In my quest for Thee, O my God, I did make my passage unto a tiny ocean fixed upon the old grey land and fed of the river Lethe. I set sail at once thereon towards the glint of ineffable Gold I spied on its distant shore. By short chance, over and over again its petulant waters did overcome my vessel and my way, the muddling gales that kissed the surface of that sea obscured all direction; near-constantly I was consumed in and I consumed its Water of Sleep. Yea, the demons of Five had me in their spell for those times. And for many days of my voyage, long and hard-practiced came even the intention to stay afloat and breathe in one; drowning in those shallow depths had become there my hobby: like a strange indulgence taking hold of the mind. I lost sight of Thee then. But oh so grandly we basked Together in the rapture of those moments few where I fair weathered the storms, my dear, my God! I was renewed to nothing in Thy body therein. Utter utmost mine bliss! Thy secrets entered me then there that by dint of perseverance I shall reach yon shore. There is no more fear or doubt. Love, love, onwards. Amen.

Renunciation - Theory
While playing the board game Monopoly the money of that game is of primary importance. The entire purpose of the endeavor is to accrue all of the assets of everyone else who is playing. However, when the game is over the money specific to the game loses its worth. One does not become numbed to the game's money, nor does one suddenly forget the meaning of it. Instead it is understood that the real, non-game world requires real, non-game world money, the currency particular to that system. Likewise, the real world money is worthless in the game.

Such is my minimalistic masterpiece on the psychological methodology of renunciation, as well as a commentary on the oft-repeated mystics' error of "mixing the planes."

Niyama, Yama, Pranayama, and Mantra - Practice
All four of these practices are as tools in the aspirant's belt, to be used as necessary, which will probably be quite a bit, especially at first.

Niyama and Yama are the "do's and don'ts" of Yogic Meditation. When they are properly divested of their worthless husk of religious morality, they can be seen as perfectly practical instruments for meditation. Basically find what helps you to herd the mind towards quiet and stick with that. Things which have a tendency to excite the mind are to be avoided. It's as simple as that.

Pranayama I will only mention in passing. This is due to it being a conscious manipulation of the pattern of breathing and as such it carries the possibility of health risks to the practitioner. If you are interested, there are many resources to avail yourself of, and to such goes the burden of responsibility. It will be said that pranayama can aid in calming the mind when done prior to sitting down to concentrate and meditate. Caution: If you find that you would like to buy into the theoretical aspects of prana spirit energy and whatnot... have fun! There are books of such New Age nonsense readily available on the web, at your disposal, for free. The maze of Daedalus will have a run for its money, that's for sure! :)

Mantra has much the same result as pranayama in that it helps calm down the inner dialogue and thoughts of the mind. The practice of it is simple. Pick a word or phrase and simply repeat it...over and over and over again. *yech* I poke fun, but this is actually a most potent tool for keeping meditation on the mind throughout the day. Every time the thoughts wander, bring it back to the mantra. The vocal/sub-vocal component makes it much easier to keep alert as to when the mind has strayed. In addition to the mindfulness that it affords, there is also its function of keeping the mind quiet, as mentioned at the onset of this paragraph. Experimentation is recommended. Do not underestimate this practice!

It can be added to this brief synopsis of mantra that it works by concentration. With the mind focused on the mantra and its repetition, other thoughts can not have a voice. Much like when you are intently watching a Saturday morning children's cartoon on television. You are so focused on the plot that all other thoughts go unheeded. Mantra is effective by virtue of the exact same principle. There, I used cartoons to explain how a Yogic technique works. Don't I get an award for that or something?

Concentration - Practice Part 1: Trudging The Foothills Ere The Mountain
Do not let the shortness of this instruction be misleading. Success in this exercise will require a daily regimen of tedious practice. Expect a minimum of six months' serious effort. The more often throughout the day that this routine can be done, the faster good results will manifest. Niyama, Yama, Mantra, and any other technique specifically adopted towards stilling the mind will provide a tremendous benefit to this process.

In the beginning one can practice this concurrent to mastering the asana. Later on though if the body is not entirely stilled and silenced from sending its signals to the mind then it will absolutely ruin any attempt at mental concentration via its interruptions--frequent or not. It may be prudent to conquer one's asana first before beginning this exercise. Whatever the case, the aspirant is urged to experiment for themselves and find what works the best.

The method of the practice is thus. Find a place that is as quiet as possible and where you won't otherwise be disturbed. Seat yourself in your chosen asana and close your eyes. Now stop the mind from: having any thoughts, making any observations, noticing any bodily sensations,¹ going over any of the day's events, heeding any outside distraction, pondering any of its own doings, making any plans for future time, or remarking at all on its own state. (The overlap of these conditions is intentional.) Do this for 10 seconds. Completely clear the mind of all substance and activity for 10 seconds.

Be aware that immediate success in this endeavor might not be success at all. It might be (and likely is) that one's attention is so poor that it totally fails to notice the mind's indiscretions. The mind could be saying "I'm being so still and hushed." Or "I hear the ticking of the clock." Or some such dialogue. Ann Wilson is allowed to hear the clock ticking. The mind, however, is not allowed that luxury and if it does partake during this exercise, and/or speaks of its observation, then there is a breach in its mental quiescence. In fact, this brings up another point. Timing this procedure will probably be difficult. Using a stop watch or other timed alarm for this may be a bad idea as the anticipation of it going off will be dreadfully distracting. One should have a silent timer in front of them and just start on the minute and keep the mind quiet for as long as possible. The 10 second suggestion earlier is just a rough goal for the beginning. The longer that one can keep the mind quiet, the easier it will make for one-pointed concentration later. Be vigilant, don't let the mind be sneaky! "My mind is really quiet now." So it says! ;)

Eventually when the student can do this for 5 minutes or more they can then try practicing in noisier environments. Ramping up the difficulty of this gradually is recommended. This should be done in addition to continuing to aim for longer periods of stopping the thoughts in the quiet area designated for this.

If one can keep the mind empty of thoughts for two hours in the hubbub of a busy city then they are doing fairly well for themselves. For the rest of us mere mortals, being able to stop the incessant chattering of the thoughts for a reasonable amount of time, without letting everyday sounds (outside traffic, low volume TV/radio in another room, etc.) distract the attention, will suffice. Remember, the longer the better. Keeping a journal of one's progress is, as always, highly desirable.

Getting up to a few minutes will be the hardest part of this entire exercise. When one gets to that point they will notice that an automatic inhibiting aspect at the perimeter of their attention will prevent most thoughts from entering the awareness. Kind of like an electric fence around the yard of the mind, the thoughts get zapped before they can even step onto the lawn.

It will be noted that any regular ritual done of habit, be it checking the phone for texts/messages, social media, etc., will really stand out here. As one progresses, even subtler patterns of conduct will become apparent. Such behaviors will make meditation impossible. No exceptions. I encourage the aspirant to see for themselves if they do not wish to take my word for it. Recall the section on Yama in the previous post. For many this will be their first taste of renunciation. Giving these things up is not renunciation. It is the destruction of the mind's unalloyed craving for them which is needed. Unfortunately that will in 99.9999% of instances require giving them up...

It is only after the darkest of nights when the brightest dawn shall shine.

A Brief Interlude
One of my main objectives with this thread was to skin to the bare bones the Practice of Yogic Meditation, to completely disrobe it of religion (though we do owe the Hindus for their techniques!!!!!!), pseudoscience, superstition, dogma, New Age bunk, etc. Indeed, the essential method is to train the body to sit still and not interrupt the mind, then learn to gain a degree of competency at keeping unwanted thoughts from invading one's attention, and finally to simply keep the mind focused on a single Object until one obtains their Result. Renunciation is nothing more than a side effect of slowly but constantly redirecting one's desires from the mundane and sensory in deference to the Yogic. Mantra is merely a hamster wheel for the mind to keep it occupied, with the added bonus of increasing mindfulness of Yoga. Hopefully I have succeeded to meet everyone's criteria in my aim of removing the inessential elements. Let me know what you think.

That said, the practical instructions given here in this thread are enough to begin with and succeed. It may, however, be advantageous for the aspirant to supplement what is here with some of the more traditional literature on this topic. I can but exhort the student who goes to other sources to stay far away from the deep end and only take what is needed in so far as PRACTICE is concerned. The theory stuff is often highly counterproductive to practical results.

It can also be suggested to not read too much about such subjects as dhyana, samadhi, samyama, moksha, as doing so might create an unfortunate effect that I've taken to calling "spiritual hypochondria." That is, for example, one may read about samadhi and get some false idea in their head about it. Then there may come some experience during their meditation, whereby the practitioner will attempt to tenuously link the characteristics thereof to those that they've read about samadhi in order to identify their experience with that state. I will share the advice which has helped me in this regard tremendously:

"By doing certain things certain results will follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them."

Traditionally it has been supposed that Yogic Meditation can only be practiced in a monastery, ashram, or secluded cave in the woods. It has been my firsthand experience that this is not the case. We all have obligations to our loved ones, jobs, financial situations, etc. One who gives those things up without everyone else's consent for them to go into isolation and practice meditation is not a Yogi. They are a scumbag. Yogic Meditation can absolutely be pursued alongside performance of one's duties. The goal of the practicable side of Yoga is to still the mind and prevent the thoughts from going outward from the focus on the chosen Object. After I figured this out it was through the experimentation of trial and error that I discovered the way to make these techniques work towards the end proposed while balancing the accountabilities of ordinary life. Anyone else can do the same, I am certainly not special. Let there be no doubt that the average person can practice Yogic Meditation. Success depends on one's tenacity. It is certainly more difficult doing it in the midst of worldly concerns, but patience and ingenuity can see one through. To any questions on this topic I would be glad to offer my opinions on the matter.

Concentration - Practice Part 2: Dharana
As one climbs the mountain it gets smaller and smaller until one reaches the Singular Point at the top. There one may begin to feel the crisp air slowly penetrate even that silent unity...

The greater the success that one has achieved in keeping unwanted (read: all) thoughts from interfering, which includes distractions from sensory sources and the body, the easier that concentration will be.

It will be noted that I have twice already used the term "Object" with a capital "o". This was so as to designate it as part of the so-called Subject/Object dichotomy of perception, instead of the word meaning a simple material object such as a key or a mayo and coffee ground sandwich. The Object that one chooses for their meditation is largely a matter of personal preference. Different types of Yoga adopt more specific Objects. In Karma Yoga it is "non-doing" or the surrender of one's actions. In Bhakti Yoga it is the personal deity, up until the stage of para-Bhakti or "ecstatic pantheism." In Jnana Yoga the Object is the Subject. I digress.

To begin training one's powers of concentration it might be useful to work on gradually attenuating the scope of the mind's stomping grounds. Color is a good theme to start with. For one hour only allow the mind to think of red (or whatever color) objects. This is helpful because it allows one to cut one's teeth on the tedium of concentration while still having some limited degree of variety. In addition to colors one could also employ flowers, birds, shapes, etc.

Ultimately one will need to choose a suitable Object and stick with it. No Object will be any easier than any other past the initial period of practice. The Object can be something physical or something perceived mentally. Physical Objects include drawings, sounds, the breath, candle flames, stones, etc. (Be aware that physical Objects of a visual nature may be more difficult to use, especially in the beginning, because the eyes must be open, and that adds distractions of a sight-feeding component to the list of other distractions.) Mental Objects are even more numerous in possibility, though may require some practice at visualization before they become steady enough. Things visualized mentally MUST NOT move around or change their appearance. They will do this in the beginning which is fine. It just takes practice.

Whatever the Object chosen, it is important that it is not something which stirs the thoughts. Also, after a few sessions the chosen Object may become utterly repulsive due to the sheer boredom of focusing on it so long and often. This is just a phase. Changing to a new Object will make concentration seem easy again, but invariably that will fade after the initial enamor has worn off. Don't switch around!

The objective of concentration is to be able to hold the mind on the chosen Object without it veering from that focus in the slightest bit. Other thoughts may be present but not the slightest regard can be paid them. Think of arriving late to a busy, unfamiliar airport to catch a flight. There are hundreds of people all around, but the focus is unwaveringly concentrated on finding one's gate. "Unheeded background noise" might be suggestive to this. The mind's focus on the Object must be absolute.

Some of the obstacles to concentration that one can expect to encounter are: daydream/reverie (the worst because it can be minutes before one realizes that they're doing it), thoughts/worries about the day, excitations of the mind caused by recent events, and external/bodily interruptions (an itch, traffic sounds, etc.). Another particularly bad one is mental narration on the progress/state of one's meditation (e.g. "my concentration has gotten deeper!" or "I could focus better if I try later."); this one also can go on quite a while before it is noticed, shut it up when it is finally is. Any visions or sounds that appear while concentrating on one's Object are to be ignored as well. One may experience feelings of elation and happiness during their meditation. These are counterfeits and distractions. Ignore them.

There are no analogs which the mind can conceive of to express the conditions of success in meditation. All descriptions of it pertaining to ratiocination can only be suggestive. (Big clue there.) Hence why psychological attachment to doctrine and theory is so destructive. Those things are only tools that can take one so far, nothing else. Beyond that threshold all that is needed is to be silent and concentrate. Anything else is distraction.

When starting out in this endeavor of concentration it is imperative that one does not overwork the brain. Slowly increasing the duration of practice is the correct way to proceed. Failure to adhere to this suggestion will amount to a straining of the brain. This same phenomenon is experienced when one focuses for too long on school or office work or some such, though it occurs much quicker with Yogic Meditation. This is likely due to the vast amount of mental energy required. Concentration will be impossible to perform in any beneficial capacity until the brain recovers, which is a huge setback because regular, consistent practice is needed.

5-30 minutes twice a day is a good place to start out from, adjusting the time as necessitated by the appearance of the first signs of mental fatigue. This fatigue will usually manifest as the feeling of a headache coming on. If this is felt then stop. I started at 30 minutes twice a day without ill effect, though some days required adjustment. One must play it by ear and just keep alert for the symptoms of fatigue. Again, regularity and consistency are to be striven for before longevity. With practice the mind will be able to go much longer without fatigue setting in, just like one's muscles at the gym. When one can get up to 60+ minutes twice a day then they are doing fantastic. For thee: *pat on the back.*

A further note of caution. When I say "hold the mind on the chosen Object" it is important not to force this focus, as this can exacerbate the onset of mental weariness. A simile might be useful to explain the proper attitude. One does not want to grasp the Object with the hand (i.e. the mind's attention) so as to clench it in one's fist. Rather the Object should be made to rest gently but firmly on the upraised palm.

Practicing concentration on one's Object during any spare time throughout the day (no need to be in asana) will be extremely beneficial.

So that's it. That's the end of the practical instruction, so far as the major points are concerned. Slowly but surely increase the amount of time that you can concentrate. Throughout the day keep the mind under control as much as possible. (See the PRELIMINARIES TO MENTAL CONCENTRATION above.) Just keep making the periods of concentration longer and longer. And longer. And longer. Until one day it happens. You will be sitting and concentrating as you have been for months and months now. Suddenly you will forget for a moment what you were doing, even where and who you are. It may seem as if you had dozed off. Yet you know that that is not the case as such issues with drowsiness will have been overcome long before this point, and also there was no break in your awareness. No, when this occurs it is a sure sign that you are approaching the stage of concentration called dhyana, or meditation proper. That startling "forgetfulness" is caused by the fact that the mind had become completely silenced for one very brief moment, and for that slight instant you had awakened from the dream of being an Ego living in the world of the thoughts and possessed of a body. With continued practice of concentration that mental silence will last longer and longer... The goal is then near. Awake.

1. Victory over one's asana will alleviate this one.
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Re: Yogic Meditation: Theory and Practice

Postby Corvinae » Sat Mar 16, 2019 4:03 am

Thank you for sharing this.

It is a very well written gem and I espicially like how your humanity and candor slip in among the lotus. Your style is not at all dry or ridged or seemingly unattainable as many tomes on the subject are.

Its a refreshing modern perspective and exploration on valid ancient work.

Its something that the world needs.
I know I needed to hear a new perspective on it.
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Re: Yogic Meditation: Theory and Practice

Postby seekinghga » Mon Apr 22, 2019 8:03 am

You are welcome, Corvinae. :)

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