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A Short Paper on Meditation - The Novice Guide by Jeremy Sinclair / Janice Kumar
For the last ten years or so, I have tried various meditation techniques, researched the topic and found time to practice some of them. Although I cannot be counted as an ‘expert’, I may make the claim (albeit humbly), that I do have some experience. There is no expert in this esoteric subject and I may make the sweeping statement that all those who claim so, are wasting your and my time. The true ‘expert’ or Guru is so humble, that it is difficult to make him talk on the subject under discussion. He is not to be found easily.
I may broadly categorize two classes of people, who practice the various techniques of meditation.
The first class looks for increased focus, increased memory, lower stress levels, relaxation, more energy and increased intuitive and cognitive abilities.
The second class looks for a way to tap the divinity around us, seeks spiritual solace, and seeks an alternative to the increasingly materialistic life and is categorized as a ‘loser’ in this modern Western world. He seeks joy as an alternative to happiness and bliss as an alternative to money.
My understanding is that in the broad picture, there is no difference in the two classes of people. Both seek through meditation, goals, which are achieved through activating various unused portions of the brain and spinal cord. They may not actively, consciously seek to do so, but to get what they seek; they are going to have to activate currently unused parts of the human body, primarily the brain. Medical research on brain waves, patterns and the nervous system, accepts lack of knowledge on the functioning of the major parts of the brain and also accepts that a very small portion of the human brain is actually active and in use.
As I talk about the various ‘Meditation techniques, Yoga gurus, God men, I will avoid mentioning names for obvious reasons.
A well known meditation technique taught by an Indian master settled in the West talks of chanting a ‘Mantra’ or sound while focusing on ones breathing. As various thoughts move in and out of the mind, they are ignored and not encouraged. Slowly, the mind gets focused on the ‘Mantra’ and the focus turns inwards, towards the breath. As the mind focuses on the breath, one experiences lower stress levels and a slower pulse rate. The human blood pressure falls and stabilizes at a lower level. The human mind learns to focus better on objects of interest and this leads to better memory and cognitive abilities.
Another technique, calls for the practitioner to lift his/her focus to the ‘point between the eyebrows ‘and at the same time focus on ones breathing. As the focus shifts to the breath, one chants a certain sound to keep focus on the in and out action of the breath. The practitioner finds his breath at various parts of the body. Some ‘experience’ the breath at the nose (nostrils), some in the lungs and a few may ‘feel’ the breath move at the ‘heart’ region. The technique calls for constantly asking the Divine power (the super consciousness) to manifest within the body and increase awareness and energy levels in the body. This technique does not find favor with the first class of people, who do not seek God through meditation but seek only to lower bodily stress, increase focus and seek better cognitive abilities. They feel asking God for all this is useless, as they themselves have the abilities required to get what they want. How deliciously wrong and right they are at the same time. I will explain later.
Some techniques talk of focusing on the nose tip. This may make you squint eyed! But certain schools of thought in Tibet and Burma seem to feel that the centre of consciousness lies at the nose tip. What they are actually focusing on is the ‘centre of the forehead’ and only using the focus on nose tips as a go between to increase focus. The technique calls for life in isolation and withdrawing the sensations from worldly objects and attractions. As you may guess, this is a life for monks in serious spiritual quest who feel the materialistic world is ‘bad’.
There are meditation techniques which ask the aspirant to focus on the ‘candle flame’. As the person focuses on the light, he/she is supposed to visualize the light spreading within his/her body. After a while, the person feels he/she is within the light and finally experiences the light and the body as one. This technique is an advance meditation technique and develops the minds and brains ability to visualize and focus on objects. It increase memory and reduces stress levels too. A certain joy is felt by the advanced practitioner and they recommend it highly as 'The Meditation technique’.
There are meditation techniques which are primarily breathing exercises and these breathing exercises help in reducing stress levels and increasing focus. They are touted as ‘Meditation’ but are actually only techniques to be used to prepare for meditation. They are popular because they partly meet the need for people to de stress and relax.
Some techniques , teach a person to relax with music or some other visualization aid. These techniques may be useful in inducing a sense of peace and relaxation but may not necessarily be categorized as meditation in the true sense. However a novice seeking quick relief from modern tensions may find these techniques useful.
There are meditation techniques which use advanced sounds – ‘Mantras’ and seek to activate parts of the spinal cord and brain through direct action. These techniques are used by aspirants seeking something beyond the ordinary and if done wrong can lead to brain damage and the aspirant can lose focus on the ‘present reality’. Such a person may be termed as mad by society as large.
Meditation techniques can also use the element of devotion to the Lord in different degrees. Some techniques ask the aspirant to call upon the Lord for help, spreading love and peace and healing. The technique asks the person to keep eyes closed and ask the Lord to do well to them, the world and the universe. As they visualize love, peace and happiness, they feel these emotions reflect in themselves and they feel good.
Some techniques use advanced postures or asana‘s to activate the spinal cord and through the spinal cord, parts of the unused brain. These techniques are guided by a guru and if done without supervision, they will most probably led to some disability.
There are meditation techniques specially targeted only towards healing. They talk of energy centers in the body and use the flow of energy to heal.
Some meditation schools advocate dancing with joy and singing and fulfillment of all desires as they way to go forward, but this is the realm of philosophy, which we shall not discuss.
I have broadly discussed meditation techniques as they are offered by various schools and training institutes and ashrams. Now I will take the liberty of talking about the whole basis and premise on which these meditation techniques exist and work.
Whether, the technique explicitly talks about these concepts or not, is not the issue. Most techniques will implicitly accept these and take them forward.
All meditation techniques and schools accept that there is a Super Consciousness and it is all around us. They may or may not call this super consciousness ‘God’ but they all want to tap this Energy source or ‘Power source’. In order to appeal to a broader section of the society, they may call this primary energy source by different names or terms.
All techniques will use focus on breath or breathing as a means of connecting the human body with this energy around us.
All meditation techniques want to activate parts of the human spinal cord and unused brain.
Meditation techniques will always stress that the spine has to be kept straight while practicing. This may be achieved by either sitting straight on the floor or on a straight back chair.
All meditation techniques use the human breath and the power of visualization to try and achieve the goals they want.
The meditation techniques and schools will always stress the role of the Guide or Guru. Supervision is a must in most schools.
All meditation schools will stress that without the Guide or Guru, goals will not be reached.
The meditation techniques and classes will always insist that ‘monetary gain’ is never a goal for them, but will always charge some money.
Meditation will always draw upon a higher power, (God or Super consciousness) to raise a person’s energy level. As the individual grows, he/she shall always experience changes in lifestyle or temperament.
I may mention here, some pitfalls for novices, as follows:
Instead of meditation, where a person is supposed to raise his/her consciousness, one may go into the sub consciousness and go to sleep!
One may select the wrong technique, on hearing praises from some disciple of that technique or school.
The person may not be regular or committed enough, to enjoy the benefits of meditation.
The person may get the wrong school, where the object is to make money for the school.
The guidance may be provided by a wrong person or Guru, ill suited to his job, without the practical experience to nourish and teach a novice.
In case of too rapid a progress, a novice may feel scared and over awed by the whole experience.
Some suggestions I could make for a person interested in guided meditation classes is as follows:
Read up thoroughly on the subject. Grab the chance to read up on meditation.
Please get ideas about the philosophy guiding that particular school of thought to understand the underlying principle at the meditation school. This will enable you to decide if the meditation style will suit your temperament.
Try some basic meditation steps at home. In case you feel the need for guidance, go as per your instincts. Avoid advanced practices which may harm your body.
Remember; all meditation efforts are directed towards a higher super consciousness or God. The objectives of lower stress levels, relaxation, higher energy levels, better memory, better intuitive understanding and better cognitive abilities are only by-products in this journey. If you are happy with the by-products and do not wish to go forward, please do still try some meditation techniques. You may realize that the goal is worth the effort and finally decide to go all the way!
Bless you all…
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