Understanding Meditation Correctly

Anyone that is interested in understanding their mind and what meditation is, I have found, usually begins such inquiry with a controlling and aggressive nature without realizing it. Many of those who meditate probably do so with an aggressiveness while thinking that they are coming from love and openness. Let me explain.

We are all riddled with thoughts that can either benefit us or deter us. It is understandable and valuable to strive to not let the mind control us with negativity. In order to retrain the mind in the direction we want (i.e. positivity) we must learn to meditate properly. Proper meditation does not force the mind to be anything, but instead offers or suggests new ways for it to be. This distinction leads the way to deep engagement versus deep avoidance, and a proper understanding of this distinction is the key to happiness, success and greater wisdom.

Observance Is Meditation, With A Twist

I’m sure we have all heard this idea of observance and the idea that learning to just let our thoughts pass by without engaging them is the essence of meditation. Much of this is true, but I would contend that one very important difference is necessary. Yes, we must watch or observe our thoughts, let them pass by WHILE engaging with them. For it is in engaging with them that we can learn how we feel about them. It is how we feel about our thoughts that taps us into knowing the truth about our perception and our ability to love. Without this feeling element, we would simply be engaging or, as I like to say, masturbating with our mind without any connection to the heart. It is the heart (i.e. feelings) that truly allows us to know if we are coming from a place of love or fear.

“Words are creations of the mind. when you move from the conscious mind to superconscious awareness, you will find that there are no words for it. If you move to this level of awareness in meditation, during sacred dance or ritual, or by some other means, you will find in that place that there are only feelings (or vibrations). When most people feel something, they will immediately explore that feeling with their conscious mind and try to “put it into words.” This may or may not be useful. The master does not impulsively do this. The master simply feels the feeling, allows the feeling, and experiences the feeling fully. Then the master decides whether there will be any benefit in trying to put that feeling into words. Feelings are your first thought, your pure thought. A feeling is a wordless thought. It conveys a great deal without “saying” anything. Feelings are the language of the soul. Words are your second thought. They are your attempt to conceptualize your feelings by translating them into audible utterances, ” Home With God, page 209-210.

I so often see individuals, whether it be at my Yoga studio, with my Buddhist group or when I am around those who claim to meditate regularly, who espouse an ability to be present and free from their mind. They actually declare with great passion that what their minds are saying is not important and useless, which is the definition of avoidance and fear. During one of my Yoga classes, the instructor actually uttered the words, “keep working and you’ll reach that ‘Yoga Stoned” state. I ask you, is the goal of Yoga to reach a stoned like state?! I don’t think so, but this did actually happen. On some level the idea that what our minds are saying is useless and unimportant can be a valuable truth, but this notion alone does not fully explain meditation. It is true that when we are faced with a challenge of some kind and we doubt and fear our ability to overcome that challenge, it can be valuable to ignore those thoughts and feelings and go for it; especially when faced with life threatening circumstances. This must not be said to be the essence of meditation.

Meditation is observing your thoughts while feeling your feelings about those thoughts just like you would read a book and be moved by what was read. That is enough, if we can observe our thoughts, while feeling our feelings about those thoughts, we can begin to understand the underworkings of our mind. It is this process that allows us to retrain our minds towards positivity, which ultimately allows us to create whatever circumstances we want. By this I mean that we are able to create physical matter or at the very least draw to us the things (i.e. jobs, romantic partners, mortgages, etc.) that we choose. The idea that we can create or draw to us anything we want might sound like loads of fun, which it ultimately can be, but the process of feeling our deep seeded fears about our ability to get those things is not so fun. Just like exercising, as I said my last bit of writing, is not so much fun at first. Engaging with our fears and the process of healing them takes courage, strength, and true openness. An openness that says whatever I have to face to get from point A (no job) to point B (new job) I’ll do.

This newsletter was not meant to be a scare tactic, but an attempt to set the record straight regarding meditation. True meditation is not for the faint of heart and requires a passion that runs deep! This type of meditation will cause you pain and suffering, hence the saying, “life is suffering.” But the rewards are greater than you can imagine, greater than can even be explained with words. And when you bear the fruits of your labor, you will know it and jump with joy. A joy that has very little to do with feeling good and more to do with “BE-ing with your goodness.”

Meditation Techniques

I have listed a few types of meditation techniques and there are many more to choose from if do your research. Please keep in mind what I discussed above and find out if these techniques are engaging or avoiding. I believe many do advocate avoidance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t practice them, just keep in mind what you learned in this newsletter!

Concentrative Meditation

Concentration meditation focuses the attention on the breath, an image, or a sound (mantra), in order to still the mind and allow a greater awareness and clarity to emerge. This is like a zoom lens in a camera; we narrow our focus to a selected field. The simplest form of concentrative meditation is to sit quietly and focus the attention on the breath. Yoga and meditation practitioners believe that there is a direct correlation between one’s breath and one’s state of the mind. For example, when a person is anxious, frightened, agitated, or distracted, the breath will tend to be shallow, rapid, and uneven. On the other hand, when the mind is calm, focused, and composed, the breath will tend to be slow, deep, and regular. Focusing the mind on the continuous rhythm of inhalation and exhalation provides a natural object of meditation. As you focus your awareness on the breath, your mind becomes absorbed in the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation. As a result, your breathing will become slower and deeper, and the mind becomes more tranquil and aware.

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation, according to Dr. Borysenko, “involves opening the attention to become aware of the continuously passing parade of sensations and feelings, images, thoughts, sounds, smells, and so forth without becoming involved in thinking about them.” The person sits quietly and simply witnesses whatever goes through the mind, not reacting or becoming involved with thoughts, memories, worries, or images. This helps to gain a more calm, clear, and non-reactive state of mind. Mindfulness meditation can be likened to a wide-angle lens. Instead of narrowing your sight to a selected field as in concentrative meditation, here you will be aware of the entire field.

Mantra Meditation

A Mantra is a grouping of sound vibrations which have an effect on the mental and psychic consciousness. Although traditionally given by a Guru, in the absence of a Guru, the practitioner may choose his mantra. An important criterion for mantra selection is that it must appeal to the mind fully when spoken verbally. Mantra chanting creates powerful vibrations which are said to be directed to the right “chakras” to attract divine forces. This process is said to mysteriously heal the spiritual, physical & psychological body. It is important that when the mantra is chanted, the words and their rhythm must be enjoyed and one must surrender oneself to this experience. Mantras do not have any specific meaning. Their power lies not in the meaning of the word but through the vibratory effects of the sound that they produced when spoken verbally or mentally. In fact, a Mantra should not be confused with religion. Just because a mantra refers to a Hindu God, it does not mean that it cannot be said by a Christian. Also, a Mantra should not be translated as this has the effect of altering the sound vibrations wherein lies the strength of the Mantra. Repetition of a Mantra forms the basis of Mantra Meditation. Mantras for spiritual evolution should be practiced for a fixed amount of time each day. Repeating a mantra too much may not be right for sensitive or psychic people as it may affect them adversely. Generally, if you repeat a mantra for about 10 minutes every day, then, within a few days you will know whether the vibrations feel right for you.

Example: Chanting NAM MYOHO RENGE KYO is to chant the devotion to the mystic law. It literally means: NAM or Devotion, MYOHO or Mystic Law, RENGE Simultaneous Cause & Effect, KYO or vibration or sound. For more information go to http://www.sgi-usa.org. P.S. this is what I chant and I recommend it highly while participating within the SGI!

Yogic Gaze or Trataka

Trataka means steady gazing. It is a very simple and beautiful Meditation Technique. In this a regular candle is used, however any other object of choice can be used. The candle is set up at an arm’s distance, level with eyes, and steady gazing is first done with the eyes open. After some time, the eyes are closed, and the after image of the flame is ‘gazed at’ with eyes closed at the eye brow center. Try not to move through out the practice. Relax your breath , let it lengthen, deepen. This open gazing of the flame and then with the eyes closed is alternated a couple of times before concluding the practice. If using a candle for Trataka, the gaze should be fixed at the wick tip and not on the flame.

Caution: If practicing Trataka on a Candle flame, do not continue the practice for more than a month or two at a stretch as it may lead to damage of the retina.

Benefits: It improves the optic function, both external and internal, such as poor eyesight and visualization abilities. It helps develop concentration and mental resolve. Develops the ability to maintain one-pointedness in amongst the noise and distractions of daily life. Develops the psychic eye, that is the ability to “see” or understand what is inside and beyond the obvious. It develops the power of Intuition.

About Shawn Athanasios

A little bit about me. I received my BA from California State University, Northridge in Speech Communication and my MA in Culture and Communication from New York University (NYU). My Master’s degree was within the field of Interpersonal Communication and Conflict Management and my thesis topic was Meta-Cognition and Human Defensiveness. I wrote about the importance of individuals learning how to understand their defensiveness and negative thinking habits as a way to improve the overall cohesiveness within their human relationships. Curerently, I am an Adjunct Professor at SAE Institute, and my pasrt teaching experience includes several of the top Universities in the U.S. (NYU, LIM College, Pace University, Manhattan College & Georgia State University). My teaching experience includes the following courses: Interviewing Strategies, Intro to Human Communication and Culture, Interpersonal Communication, Small Group Communication, Principals and Theories of Communication, Public Speaking and Theories of Speech Communication I decided to create my own Coaching Business (JAAS Coaching) under the umbrella of Personal and Career Development for those looking to enhance their current profession, change careers, discover their deepest passions, communicate and manage conflict more effectively, achieve high levels of motivation, and find balance with their total self by offering a holistic approach to career and personal development. My eBook, "The Soul Search Before the Job Search," encompasses all of my work as a Personal and Executive Coach. My website/blog is www.JAAScoaching.comLinks to an external site. I have had many fulfilling experiences that include being raised in Laos, Ghana, India & Egypt by parents of the U.S. Foreign Service and Diplomatic community, teaching ESL in South Korea, serving as a Primary Counselor for kids out of Juvenile Hall, and mentoring grade school children through a Psychologist’s referred program. In addition, I am proud to have received a full scholarship for my Masters Degree at NYU, to have been the sole recipient of the Rosenberg scholarship and for graduating Magna Cum Laude upon completion of my graduate degree. I also presented two papers at the New York Speech Communication Association (NYSCA) conference while at Graduate School where I discussed the importance of taking full ownership of one’s shortcomings as essential to inducing change within oneself and one’s environment and how to be an effective interpersonal communicator. And finally, I was voted Faculty of The Year and Georgia State University after just one semester on the job! The article can be found on my website/blog. My volunteer work is reflected through participating in Buddhist Activities as a member of the Soka Gakkai International, the largest Buddhist lay organization in the world. Previously, I was the Young Men’s Division Leader for Houston District, I transcribed the World Tribune to audiotapes for the blind Buddhist members, I published an article in the Soka Gakkai’s Living Buddhism magazine and was a volunteer staff writer for the organization’s newspaper (The World Tribune). I continues to lead group discussions on Nichiren Buddhist Theory.
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