Meditation is not about doing but being. Thus all that is done in the name of meditation is not meditation at all! It is not something which can be handed over to you on a platter, it is not something that can be bestowed upon you. Meditation is an effortless effort. The effort is required only in the beginning to create the right inner milieu for meditation to happen effortlessly. Thus, you take effort to sit properly and practise the meditation-aiding technique properly which makes the mind calmer and calmer, creating the possibility of meditation to happen of its own accord. And once you have tasted the nectar of meditation, then it is very much possible to abide in this state 24x7: while sitting, standing, walking, eating, working, talking and even sleeping. Then you won’t need any technique to enter a meditative state!
Now, how should one sit? The body should be in a comfortable position such that you can sit down without moving for some time. If you can, sit in asanas like padmasana or siddhasana. If not, sit down cross legged. Head, neck, spine should be aligned well, making a 90 degree angle with the ground. Yogasanas are very important for a strong, stable and flexible body particularly if there is any weakness in the lumbar region, shoulders or cervical area. They help to strengthen your back and energise the entire body. Hands should be placed in the lap, with palms facing upwards or in gyana mudra wherein tips of the thumb and first finger are joined together, palm turned upwards and placed on the knees - this is to contain the bio-plasmic energy arising during meditation.
Finally, face muscles should be relaxed – don’t frown. Enjoy the process and keep a positive, relaxed attitude. After aligning the body, we come to a very important entity: breath. Be aware of your breath. Breath is life. Learn the proper way of breathing i.e. yogic breathing. Once you learn yogic breathing, the greatest benefit to your body will be that you will neverdevelop hypo or hypertension. If your diet and life style are good, and if you do asanas for half an hour to an hour every day, followed by nadi shodhan pranayama for at least 20 minutes, then in 4 to 5 weeks, your blood pressure levels will improve and you will be able to reduce the medication and possibly not need to take them anymore. Besides the positive effects on the body, breath is an important tool to reign in the mind. Slow, deep, long inhalations and exhalations calm the mind. That is why pranayama is such an important limb of the eight-fold path of Ashtanga yoga. If you are a beginner, start by sitting for short periods of time. And gradually increase the duration – say if you are able to sit for thirty minutes, after which you begin to feel pain in the back or legs, you may then, without any hesitation, stretch your legs.
Forcing yourself to sit for a fixed period of time while your entire focus is on bodily pains is not meditation! Use your will power. Man has strength and power of will. Therefore I ask you to pray, to awaken the inner power that each one of you has, the power which is inherent in you. Complement this with a firm resolve and regular practise of yoga. This will help your progress. Just like a bird needs two wings to fly, you too can soar with the wings of prayer and will power.
And then as per the eight limbed path of Ashtanga yoga, when yama and niyama are in place, asana and pranayama have been diligently practiced and pratyahara and dharana have been perfected, then the soil is ready for the flower of meditation to bloom in all glory and spread its divine fragrance.
Excerpted from new book 'Art of Meditation'