It can possibly be said that meditation was introduced to the West when the Beatles went to Rishikesh, the so-called “Yoga capital of the world,” in the late 1960s to practice Transcendental Meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Before that, meditation was relatively unknown outside of monasteries, ashrams, and the cave dwellings of ascetic yogis. Today meditation has become a household word and a concept widely integrated into the spiritual landscape of all major cities worldwide. But what has survived in the mainstream?
Maverick-style early adopters are usually the ones who shape new trends, and it was no different with meditation. What is widespread now may appeal to the masses but is hardly representative of the original roots and philosophy from which meditation was derived – the genuine Yoga tradition. Devoid of its true heritage and lineage, the fruits of this practice and its potential to enable great mental and spiritual transformation are no longer guaranteed. However, you can find the real deal if you know how to look for it.
Unfortunately, when unenlightened human beings raised within a materialistic society set about to modify a proven ancient (and spiritually coherent) system, there are repercussions. And usually the consequences involve a loss of original power.
When Yoga was exported to the West, in the process it was stripped of its energetic and holistic teachings and efficiency, with the result that practitioners lost a true understanding of how Yoga works. They came to view it as a merely physical system of fitness, stretching, or calisthenics – nothing resembling its original place as a spiritual science. Likewise, what has arrived in Western cities as meditation is a poor imitation of the authentic practice, which likely has a fraction of the natural potency of meditation practiced correctly. In an ironic twist, while studios offering Yoga and meditation have truly exploded in recent decades, meditation is a path even less traveled, with what is offered bearing little resemblance to the traditional practices.
Our mind is our most potent tool for achieving spiritual, emotional, physical, and financial successes in life.
Have you heard the age-old platitude that equates your mind with a drunken monkey that has been bitten by a scorpion? Despite the dramatic metaphor, the truth of the matter is that the mind is a terrible master and it needs to be tamed. More than that, our mind is our most potent tool for achieving spiritual, emotional, physical, and financial successes in life. If it is too undisciplined and running amok then one cannot possibly harness the unfathomable power that lies within a well-trained mind.
In the Yogic tradition there are eight stages or steps to enlightenment, according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Meditation is designated as the seventh stage, coming in just one level below enlightenment. How can this be? The present-day era deems meditation as appropriate for anybody and everybody. Yet the ancient tradition prescribed six preceding stages before one was ready for meditation.
According to the masters, one of the more relevant skills one should attain prior to meditation is concentration of the mind. One-pointed focus and authority over the mind’s activity are vital to the success of your meditation practice.
Because we are often clueless as to the extent of disorderly conduct in our mind, concentration can feel uncomfortable and nearly impossible in the beginning. The truth of the matter is that we have always been “mindless” and relentlessly distracted. It is only when we attempt to become mindful that we realize the hyperactive state of affairs that has unconsciously consumed our mindscape throughout our whole lives.
Rest assured that there are solutions. If it is your aspiration to embark on a true path toward evolution and to use meditation as a means to civilize your mind then here are the ABCs and 123s of ensuring that your path is authentically authentic.
A few practical aspects or rules of meditation should be observed in order to achieve actual results:
An erect posture or sitting position. The universe is comprised of a polarity of energies – the negative aspect (-) and the positive aspect (+). Earth is harmonized with telluric energies or the (-) pole of energy while the cosmos is attuned with cosmic energies or the (+) pole of energy.
When in the vertical position, the spine is a perfect receptor for receiving and absorbing these energies as we are simultaneously bathed in the upward and downward flows. We have a direct connection to the divine in our very own bodies and a means to achieve energetic neutrality which serves as a great advantage when approaching our meditation practice. In addition, when the spine is straight it serves as the best conduit for the kundalini energy, normally latent at the base of the spine, to unite the root and crown chakras through the body’s primary energetic channel.
Be consistent. Remember, practice makes perfect! Consistency is key in reaching competency in most things we do in life and meditation is no exception. Couple that with persistence and you have yourself THE magical formula for spiritual success and advancement.
Meditation is not a one-hit wonder or an overnight success. It takes time, commitment, and trust. To obtain the fruits of this practice you have to be willing to accept that this is a lifelong devotion toward a higher meaning and greater good…or God.
Choose wisely. It is important to choose a technique or practice that is authentic, thus with a long and verifiable history of generating tangible results. Tantra, Yoga, and Buddhism are a few examples of ancient spiritual sciences that offer such techniques and practices. Equally as imperative in choosing an authentic technique is choosing an authentic teacher that can impart the wisdom as well as the hidden and latent potential that is inherent within the technique.
An authentic technique will have the following three components:
1. Concentration of the mind. Your mind will likely rebel and throw a small temper tantrum at the likes of this key ingredient. However, this is the one factor that discriminates meditation from that which is not meditation. It’s normal to experience obstacles when you begin a concerted practice in concentration techniques; you may even feel that your mental control is becoming worse.
However, this is a sign of progress – you have confronted your mental passivity and are restructuring the mind into a domain of skillfulness and mindfulness.
An authentic meditation technique will require the mind to be engaged in a certain way. Through the use of a mantra (a sound of high energetic resonance), a yantra (a mystical diagram), a specific chakra, or other mundane or esoteric objects of focus, or through pranayama (the control of your prana or breath), you focus the mind in a precise way. This trains and disciplines the mind and weakens its erratic and erroneous predisposition.
2. Authentic roots. This cannot be stressed enough. In order to obtain authentic results the technique must originate from an authentic source such as ancient and sacred texts, enlightened masters, or a bona fide and unadulterated tradition such as Yoga, Tantra, or Buddhism. Ensure that the teachings have not been modernized in any way and instead maintain the fundamental principles and practices as intended.
3. Verifiable results. Time is precious and your efforts should yield measurable results when practicing authentic meditation techniques. This concept can feel a bit ironic and incongruous. Through meditation we are ideally transcending the mind, time, and space, surpassing our gross form to a more subtle form and moving from the manifested to the unmanifested. However, verification and measure are both notions of the lower mind, not the higher mind.
Additionally, progress is very individualized when it comes to meditation. The triumphs and tribulations of each person’s spiritual journey are indeed unique, which makes it challenging to compare your results to a universal standard.
Nonetheless, if evolution is your goal then it is vital to assess your progress and affirm you are cultivating a higher spiritual resonance.
You are essentially shining a bright light into a dark corner.
Finally, you have found an authentic technique that resonates with your spirit! How do you know you are making progress? Here are some common indicators of advancement:
When first employing authentic meditation techniques our excessive mental activity often times seems to get worse before it gets better. In actuality it is not that the activity has increased but that our awareness has improved – we are now more observant about the state of our mind. When we force the mind to concentrate, our mental fluctuations and inability to focus for more than a few seconds at a time become painstakingly apparent. You are essentially shining a bright light into a dark corner.
Previously the monkey mind had full jurisdiction and authority over your mental enterprises. It was on automatic pilot in many regards. Now, perhaps for the first time, you are staring that monkey between the eyes and the revelations are not always obvious. Be persistent and understand that meditation is a bit like doing laundry for the subconscious. You have to clean up the dirt and create a harmonious and pure mindscape before you can advance to the next level.
Once there is purification of the mind you will gradually begin to notice stability in the mental sphere. Increased concentration in your meditation practice as well as in other facets of your life can be observed. Additionally, you will become aware of and gain control over your mental tendencies and thought forms.
In awareness exists consciousness and the aptitude to transform anger into compassion, pessimism into optimism, fear into trust, worry into faith, restlessness into serenity, and apathy into hope. Our mental dynamic becomes refined and our inner monk is no longer a slave to the monkey madness.
When the mind becomes still it is able to conceive and perceive beyond its conditioned makeup, revealing an opportunity to realize your infinite nature. You experience the sophistication of your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual essence and your motivations and aspirations become more clearly defined and refined. Your true self is no longer overshadowed by mental mayhem and now has a tranquil space in which to emerge and expand.
Through an authentic meditation practice your mind becomes your heaven, not your hell, and you become the embodiment of its hidden potential – omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.
Founder and Head Teacher
Spiritual yogi, lecturer, teacher and author, Somananda is the founder and head teacher of Somananda Tantra School.
Master your mind now!