What is Meditation?

by | Aug 9, 2022 | Mindfulness & Meditation | 1 comment

what is meditation

In almost every culture or spiritual tradition, we find a form of meditation. In every case, meditation is an essential tool for self-discovery, something vital to one’s understanding of the universe and our human place in the cosmos.

The precise meaning of the word ‘meditation’ is “deep thinking, serious thought or study, giving your attention to only one thing…”

The paths to truth are endless. However, whatever the tools or the teachings are, the truth is one. There are hundreds of techniques out there called “meditation” but what are the similarities and differences between them?

The oneness which encloses all beings in the universe, the consciousness of oneness in yoga, can only be embodied through meditation. 

The Yoga path has eight distinct limbs which lead to this embodiment. The last four of them are related to meditation.

The fifth limb, Pratyahara means detaching & collecting your attention from external objects (distractions). The purpose of the sixth limb, Dharana, is to direct the attention on one single point – to focus. 

Usually, whenever we say “Meditation” in daily language we usually mean the practices of Pratyahara & Dharana, a.k.a Mindfulness. 

The mind is a scattered place. It is your mind’s nature to produce thoughts. So it’s constantly bringing up random inputs from your memory or subconscious. This is called the “default mode” of the brain. So if you think that you are too distracted, don’t worry. Buddhists call this “the monkey mind”. If you let that monkey take the wheel, it will whisk you around forever. 

Accepting the nature of the mind – as it is – is the first step to self-transformation.

Without this acceptance, you will only create resistance by wanting it to be otherwise, constantly adding even more tension to your system which will only produce more thoughts. 

Thoughts usually come from the survival instinct. The mind is shaped by evolutionary information, childhood conditioning, and collective consciousness. All of this information is written in our cells! If you live day by day following your thoughts and taking your monkey mind seriously, you will keep realizing old patterns and manifesting an older consciousness into your life. 

There is another path to choose everyday, one with the power to give birth to a new pattern and a new reality: the path of not following your thoughts!

The human body is one of the more adaptive systems present on this Earth. Your body’s chemistry is shaped through habits. Mindfulness practices build new neural pathways. So, when you use the mind instead of the mind using you, you start to discover and meet the creator within you. If you break the habit of being ruled by the monkey mind, you start to create your own reality.

To do this, you will need to give the monkey mind a toy to play with, so it can sit still. This is usually done by focusing on your breath, a sound, an object, or your own body.  Whenever you realize that your thoughts are wandering, bring your attention to the object of focus. Do this again and again. Observation of one’s breath, as well as counting practices, are fundamental meditation techniques, because they help achieve this focus.

Once all your attention is directed internally and focused on a single object, the next task is to keep that focus constant.

That is the seventh limb of yoga: Dhyana. The goal of this effort is to remain present uninterruptedly in a state of mind-less-ness, emptiness, and timelessness; a state which also encloses everything in a continuous flow of cognition.

We mention effort, but it should actually be effortless. It is our natural state to be connected to the consciousness of everything. We just forgot how to exist there, and we are now on the journey of remembering this natural state. This remembering is the actual “meditation”.

The last limb, Samadhi, is oneness with everything. It means transcending the Self and existing in a state of total bliss, a state known as “Nirvana” or the “Moksha”. It is difficult to speculate or describe anything about Samadhi. Words are not sufficient, and it’s not something you practice. Samadhi is rather the result of everything which you practiced before. It’s an experience. 

We don’t need to know what the ultimate (enlightenment) feels like to start working on ourselves everyday, using simple practices to train the mind.

Thanks to science and ancient knowledge we know that increased awareness connects us all. It makes us more empathetic and collaborative.

Meditation reinforces the parts of the brain which support communication, social connection and love. We practice yoga to experience union – oneness. If these changes in the brain – the fruit of meditation – aren’t examples of “becoming and creating as one,” what else could they be?

If the intersection of yoga and neuroscience interests you, keep an eye on this blog. A new series is coming your way. Written by a neuroscientist who’s also a certified yoga teacher and HelloYogaWorld founder, these upcoming articles will describe how scientists are confirming the positive effects of yoga and meditation practices on the human nervous system.

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1 Comment

  1. Tad

    “Thanks to science and ancient knowledge we know that increased awareness connects us all. It makes us more empathetic and collaborative.” This is exactly what the world needs now. Thank you for pointing out that meditation is about more than self-care or personal peace. Together we can employ these principles for collective “action” – even if the main action appears passive from the outside. We now begin every daily team meeting with a group meditation – absolutely necessary!


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