Written by Pawan Kumar, our resident yoga and meditation expert at Soneva Jani. Delve into the benefits of regular meditation for our mind, body and soul.
For thousands of years, the science of meditation has been studied and practiced by those who have sought to make their lives more creative, peaceful, balanced and fulfilling. Meditation practice gives us the capacity to improve the quality of our mind, health and relationships.
As we go about our daily lives, our minds are almost continuously externalised. From childhood, we are taught to examine and regard things in the external world – nobody teaches us how to look inwards. But if we see and hear only what’s happening on the outside, we have little understanding of what’s taking place within and remain strangers to ourselves. As a result, our mental and emotional planes can suffer, relationships fail, and confusion and disappointment prevail.
The practice of meditation helps us to see the workings of our minds and understand our true inner world. Unlike looking outwards, meditation is a different, subtle and precise approach. It is about learning how to pay attention to and understand the different levels of ourselves that exist inside of us – our body, breath, mind and emotions. Over time, with continued practice, meditation can bring an array of positive results – from increased joy and clarity of mind and emotions, to an enhanced awareness of our daily lives. It also brings with it a certain physical relief, releasing the tension in our nerves and the symptoms of stress.
The meditation process begins with the practice of concentration. Concentration is the ability to hold our mind’s awareness on one point and one place without wavering. To master the art of concentration, it helps to choose an object – this could be your body, breath, a mantra, a particular thought or affirmation, or even an external object. Meditation occurs when we become in tune with the object, maintaining an uninterrupted flow of awareness. Through this process, we allow the mind to let go of its tendencies to think, analyse, remember, solve problems and focus on the events of the past or our expectations about the future. We allow our mind to slow down its rapid series of thoughts and feelings and replace that mental activity with inner awareness and attention.
To meditate, we have to learn to relax the body, and sit in a comfortable, steady position. From there, the breathing process becomes serene, and we can calmly witness the objects travelling through our consciousness. We must channel the quality of our thoughts and learn to promote those which are positive and helpful to our growth.
Meditation is not about mulling over our problems or analysing situations. It is not fantasising or daydreaming or letting the mind wander aimlessly. It is also not about having an internal conversation or argument with ourselves or intensifying our thinking processes. It is simply a quiet, effortless, one-pointed focus of our attention and awareness.
When we learn to sit still, we attain a kind of joy that cannot be explained. All the other joys in the world are momentary, but the joy of meditation is immense and everlasting. This truth is supported by a long line of great sages, coming from many yogic traditions.
To begin this path, we must understand clearly what meditation is, select a practice which is comfortable, and practice it consistently for some time – daily if possible, and at the same time each day. With continued, regular meditation practice, we become less disturbed by the trials and tribulations, the highs and lows of our day-to-day lives.
The simple approach
There are many ways to introduce meditation practice into your life. Start with five minutes, and slowly increase the time to 15 minutes.
- Sit comfortably with an erect spine. If possible, sit with your legs crossed, or use a chair if you can’t maintain that position.
- Keeping your hands relaxed on your lap your knees, gently close your eyes.
- Slowly settle into your breathing by counting the in and out movements of your breath 21 times. Focus very closely on the natural inhalation and exhalation process of your breath, observing the tiny natural gap that occurs between them.
- Maintain your awareness of the breathing process for some time without moving your body.
- If you notice that your mind has wandered away from its focal point, gently bring it back. You might notice that your mind is running around like a restless monkey — have patience and keep observing the entire process without become involved in the process.
- This practice can be quite challenging. Observe how long you can maintain the awareness of your breath and the entire process without your mind wandering. With regular practice, you’ll be able to extend the length of your meditation and reap the benefits.