Dhyana is your flow of awareness in the present moment – and the present moment is the only piece of life which gives you the possibility to uplift your consciousness.
The basis of your life is dhyana – it is the flow of your life; and whenever you are attentive to this flow, you are in a state of peace and happiness in each moment – then you will notice that the time flies; but when you are not with the flow of life – you are just passing time – then you don’t get that sense of clarity and equanimity.
In modern times, mental health issues are one of the biggest challenges for our society. This is due to the overload of information for the mind, constant lack of self-discipline, and inability to separate oneself from the constant chain of thoughts. There has been a great deal of scientific research conducted on meditation, which has found its amazing benefits on the physical, mental, and psychological aspects of the human being over the course of time, but only once people have gone through a systematic practice of mindfulness.
The in Sanskrit word for meditation is dhyana, which literally means a state of attentiveness; and in practical terms it is a state when your focus is flowing in one direction – like when oil is flowing in a stream from a vessel. This is a gradual process – and it is important to understand that we all have to start from where we are right now. Everyone will struggle with their own thought processes, because everyone’s mind is dissipated in different directions. This happens because from the moment you open your eyes in the morning, your attention has never been disciplined, and is constantly drawn to the many different chains of thoughts, with which you identify. Your awareness is forever intermingled with these thoughts, and you are not able to bring your mind back to the moment.
There are many negative thoughts which distract you on this path, but there are also positive thoughts which encourage you to awaken your determination and will-power by gradually experiencing the process of dhyana. The way you start your day – by adopting the habit of discipline, by training and grounding your awareness – is the same way that you should end your day, so that you can help your awareness to be separated from the thoughts and impressions of the day, leading you to the experience of equanimity which encourages you to continue walking on this journey. All of the external distractions in your life are an examination of how you can maintain that attentive awareness so that you can overcome all of these different imbalances in your physical, mental, emotional and psychological health.
In this age of advanced technology there is a great deal of information available about meditation, so we find that practitioners are often switching from one technique to another, but each one only works for a short period of time, so people eventually give up. This is because when you start something new the mind can easily focus on it, but once you start to practice over a longer period your mind begins to distract you, so you lose interest.
At this point it is important for the practitioner to understand the very nature of this process – which is that you are trying to discipline your conscious mind; and the moment you do this, all your subconscious and unconscious mind comes forward. When this happens you feel distracted, especially when facing unpleasant thoughts – when you have pleasant thoughts you say you have had a great meditation; but the point is that you must learn not to identify with either the pleasant or the unpleasant thoughts.
The very nature of the human mind is to relate to things, or identify with them; but on your inner journey – when you are redirecting your mind within – identification is an obstacle. Unfortunately, it is part of our deep-rooted habits. In this inner journey we learn to not identify with our positive or negative thought processes, but just learn to see them as they are. This is difficult for the practitioner because although we can understand this, it is so deeply and firmly rooted in our subconscious and unconscious mind, that we are unable to be aware of it.
The moment your mind identifies with a positive thought, you are creating a battle with the opposite thought – this is an endless process. It will never lead you to go beyond the thoughts; so, you have to learn to just see this, to become the seer of everything within you – whatever it is: positive or negative, do not identify with any of your experiences. Remember that the ability to see things within you as they are is determined by the state of your equanimity – or balance.
Most people’s energy is dissipated in many different areas of their life; but the different yogic techniques help to bring your mind away from these things and focus it on one point – this could be on a mantra, on your breath, on your Third Eye – there are different options. Essentially, the focus creates alignment between your physical, mental and energy bodies, which is a preparation for the stillness that you need for dhyana.
The technique of Vedic dhyana gives you a systematic way to do this: firstly, it helps you withdraw the senses from the external world (pratyahara) so that you can develop deeper concentration (dharana); and as your focus becomes more one-pointed, you can gradually experience the state of meditation (dhyana). When your consciousness eventually starts to flow within, it is like a river: when it flows uninterrupted, it is considered to be concentration (dharana); and as this dharana expands, it spontaneously evolves into the state of dhyana where you are just being with that flow of awareness, no longer trying to be with it – it becomes effortless effort.
The fundamental principle of Vedic dhyana is learning to accept your physical state as it is in this moment. Only from there can you start to train yourself, and form the habit of experiencing the delight of stillness. The journey of dhyana starts with stillness. There is a saying of the sages, that when you want to experience something in your external world you have to move; but when you want to experience something in your inner world you have to learn to be still.
Every human being is aware that they have a body, they have a mind, and they can breathe. So, the journey of dhyana requires that you learn how to discipline these three aspects and align them so that you can redirect the flow of your awareness from the external world to your inner world – the source of your awareness, which is the very base of your existence.
It is very useful to understand all of this information, but in order to transform your life you have to start practicing regularly, at the one fixed time each day, without any expectations; and above all, have a determination to be consistent.
PRACTICE – STAGE 1
The process of meditation starts by learning to discipline your body. You can do this by developing a regular asana practice so that your muscles and joints can be prepared for sitting in meditation.
After you have established a regular asana practice, sit in one meditative posture with your back and neck straight (any crossed-legged pose such as siddhasana will do), or if you are unable to sit on the floor, you can sit in a chair (or use any other equipment available). Your hands should be resting on your knees, in chin or gyana mudra (tips of the thumb and index finger together, palms facing either up or down). The important thing is that you form a habit of sitting in the same position every day – and in the beginning, not closing your eyes. Learn to just see the body with open eyes, from the toes to the crown of the head. In this process you are also watching the breath – with eyes still open – deep, slow, abdomen breathing, focusing your awareness at the entrance of the nostrils.
The duration at the beginning of your sitting practice should be a maximum of 10-15 minutes (or according to your capacity). It’s a time to determine that you will keep your body motionless – that is the first step of disciplining the body.
Once you have learned to be aware of the body, then you can gradually start becoming aware of the mind; but in all events, keep the body still.
In the first two weeks you may experience that your body wants to move – for many different reasons. At this point you need to have patience with yourself, and understand that this restlessness will pass if you don’t give into it, and if you persist in maintaining your stillness. At the same time, remember that your body should not be tense – it needs to be relaxed.
As time passes and you are able to scan your whole body to see that it’s motionless, you will start to experience the stillness, as well as the delight of experiencing the meaning of “steady and comfortable” – which is the first step on your journey within. This is the stage when your eyes will naturally want to close – in this stage you are not forcing this – you have brought your body, mind and energy to a state where the eyes will naturally want to close by themselves.
This is the end of Stage 1 for your practice. In this Stage you have trained your body to be still; in the next stage you will learn how to integrate your awareness to your breath with the actual process of breathing.