What is Meditation?
What is meditation? It has been described by many different people in many ways. Everyone has their own personal experience. Nevertheless, the yogic text Shvetashatara Upanishad says, “Those who are devoted to meditation and contemplation see the divine energy hidden in its own qualities. It is the One who rules over all causes from time to the soul.” This is the experience of the yogic sages. When they went deep inside in meditation, they experienced the power within. When you go inside, the same divine energy that exists within everyone is awakened. The yogic sages tell us if we only wander around the world outside we do not experience the awakened energy that lives within us. We simply stay on the surface of life and feel we’re not really in touch with ourself, there is something more, but we just can’t get to it. As we go within, we have the experience of our own inner Self. Then it is always there, always with us. Go inside and experience the power within. Everything contains this incredible power, this force. When you experience it you find joy in everything. You experience happiness in times of happiness, but you are also able to experience happiness in the midst of sorrow. This is the greatness of meditation!
Why meditate? A better question is, why not meditate? Meditation is good medicine for body, mind and soul. Countless studies have explored its therapeutic benefits and found meditation can lower both stress and your risk of heart disease, as well as treat many anxiety disorders. Meditation can help you temporarily shut the door to your outer life and explore what’s happening within you. (Svadyaya-self observation)
A simple definition of meditation is the practice of focusing your mind and observing yourself in the moment. As you relax inward via guided yogic practices leading to meditation, stress you didn’t realize was there drains away and you come to a place of blissful, restful awareness and expanded Consciousness. Meditation is one of the best things you can do to relax your body, calm your mind, and transform your soul all at the same time!
Meditation can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. In the same way that gently warming up for your deeper yoga poses and then being skillfully guided through them makes the rest of your class easier and more accessible, warming up for meditation and being gently guided along the way can do the same for your meditation class. And in the same way that your yoga classes get easier and more expansive over time with practice and repetition, so will your meditation classes.
When you quiet your mind, you can take your mental “temperature” and steady your energy, regardless of what thoughts arise. When you take an active role in observing your thoughts, rather than a passive one, you’ll notice a difference in the way you react to them and to the world around you. By becoming more aware of your energy, you are better able to stay balanced throughout your day, and less likely to overreact to situations. This is called “cultivating awareness” because it requires practice and attention.