|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 502 ]
The word 'meditation' is well-known today, yet it perhaps remains one of the most misused words in contemporary
So many people, for whatever reason, feel the desire to take up some form or another of meditation, yet the majority of those who do so have little understanding of what meditation even is.
Most have done little to prepare themselves for this task, many of them leading typically chaotic and undisciplined lives; toxic in body; deluded and agitated in mind. Yet they plunge right into a practice whose very success depends on first conquering these obstacles. Thus it is little wonder that most of these attempts yield few results.
The first five stages of ashtanga yoga help to systematically eliminate all of the external causes of mental distraction. The yamas and niyamas eliminate the disturbances cause by uncontrolled emotions and desires.
Asana and pranayama conquer the disturbances which arise from the physical body.
Once success has been attained in these preliminary measures, then the external world and its distractions are removed through the agency of pratyahara. Thus, the mind is completely isolated from the external world and the sadhaka is now in a position to begin to deal with it (the mind) alone.
Only under these conditions can the successful practice of dharana, dhyana and samadhi (samyama yoga) be possible.
"This samyama yoga is the culmination of the whole practice of 'yoga as a way of life'. One must be 'living yogically' for the samyama to occur. It is the fruit of the tree of yogic abhyasa.
Samyama is the flower of yoga discipline. It is the natural outgrowth of everything which has gone before, and not something which can be artificially implanted on top of infertile soil. The soil must be well-prepared with yama and niyama.
Healthy seeds must be planted with noble thoughts and habits. The young and tender sprout of spiritual yearning must be strengthened with asana and nourished with pranayama. Attraction to the world must be cut and the plant’s energy directed to upward growth..."
~ ICYER, "Traditional Views on Yoga Samyama"
Typical untidy attempts at a practice (meditation) which, by its very nature demands a great deal of preparation and an already highly disciplined mind in order to be successful, are bound for failure. As I.K. Taimni points out in The Science of Yoga:
"Theoretically is possible for the student to start right away with the mind and he/she may succeed in practicing meditation to a certain extent, but cannot go very far in this manner and his/her progress is bound to stop sooner or later."
What most people refer to as meditation is merely practices for improving concentration. Without concentration, the state of meditation cannot even be remotely approached.
The average person today has very little ability to concentrate, even for just a few moments. Thus, most meditation techniques being presented to the general public are really just techniques for improving concentration -- various simple practices for putting the attention upon the breath, basic visualizations, etc.
This can still provide much benefit to the average person today -- if nothing else, calming the nervous system, relaxing the mind and releasing stress. Do not, however, confuse these practices with the state of meditation, which is in effect, 'concentration taken to perfection' (dhyana), a subject we will explore soon...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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