Meditation is an intensely personal and spiritual experience. The desired purpose of each meditation technique is to channel our awareness into a more positive direction by totally transforming one's state of mind. To meditate is to turn inwards, to concentrate on the inner self.

The entire process of meditation usually entails the three stages of concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana) and enlightenment or absorption (samadhi). The individual preparing to meditate usually starts off by harnessing his awareness, such as focussing his mind onto a certain object. Once attention gets engaged, concentration turns into meditation or dhyana. And through continuous meditation, the meditator merges with the object of concentration, which might either be the present moment or the Divine Entity.

In some branches of Indian philosopohy, direct perception from the inner self (mana) together with perception that is filtered through the five senses (pancha indriya) form a part of their valid epistemology (pratyaksha jnana). And this self-realization or self-awareness (as popularized by Paramahansa Yogananda), is nothing but the knowledge of the "pure being"—the Self.

Humanity is increasingly turning towards various meditative techniques in order to cope with the increasing stress of modern-day lifestyles. Unable to locate stability in the outside world, people have directed their gaze inwards in a bid to attain peace of mind. Modern psychotherapists have begun to discover various therapeutic benefits of meditation practices. The state of relaxation and the altered state of consciousness—both induced by meditation—are especially effective in psychotherapy.

But more than anything else, meditation is being used as a personal growth device these days—for inculcating a more positive attitude towards life at large.

Meditation is not necessarily a religious practice, but because of its spiritual element it forms an integral part of most religions. And even though the basic objective of most meditation styles remain the same and are performed in a state of inner and outer stillness, they all vary according to the specific religious framework within which they are placed. Preparation, posture, length of period of meditation, particular verbal or visual elements—all contribute to the various forms of meditation. Some of the more popular methods are, Transcendental Meditation, yoga nidra, vipassana and mindfulness meditation.







The diagnosis and prescription of meditative practices for the prevention/cure of ailments (both physiological as well as psychological) is something, which has received far less attention than it deserves. The benefits, which vary according to individuals, since the very act of meditation is such an intensely personal experience, are usually realized slowly but surely. On the whole, the effects of meditation are wholly dependent on a person's mental makeup—on the extent to which one is at ease with oneself.


Benefits are cumulative with regular practice. More can be accomplished with less effort.




Drug Addiction

The Transcendental Meditation technique has proven to be a successful coping strategy in helping to deal with drug addiction," a useful tool in psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) by helping to control the immune system, and an effective manager of stress and pain.


Prolonging Life Expectancy

A strong link has also been established between the practice of Transcendental Meditation and longevity. Only two factors have been scientifically determined to actually extend life: caloric restriction and lowering of the body's core temperature. Meditation has been shown to lower core body temperature.


Stress Control

Most of the people who get on meditation do so because of its beneficial effects on stress. Stress refers to any or all the various pressures experienced in life. These can stem from work, family, illness, or environment and can contribute to such conditions as anxiety, hypertension, and heart disease. How an individual sees things and how he or she handles them makes a big difference in terms of how much stress he or she experiences.


Research has shown that hormones and other biochemical compounds in the blood indicative of stress tend to decrease during TM practice. These changes also stabilize over time, so that a person is actually less stressed biochemically during daily activity.



This reduction of stress translates directly into a reduction of anxiety and tension. Literally dozens of studies have shown this.


Pain Management

Chronic pain can systematically erode the quality of life. Although great strides are being made in traditional medicine to treat recurring pain, treatment is rarely as simple as prescribing medication or surgery.


Anxiety decreases the threshold for pain and pain causes anxiety. The result is a vicious cycle. Compared with people who feel relaxed, those under stress experience pain more intensely and become even more stressed, which aggravates their pain. Meditation breaks this cycle.


Childbirth preparation classes routinely teach pregnant women deep breathing exercises to minimize the pain and anxiety of labor. Few call it breath meditation, but that's what it is.


Meditative techniques are also a key element in the curing arthritis. Meditation may not eliminate pain, but it helps people cope more effectively.


Cancer and Other Chronic Illness

Meditation and other approaches to deep relaxation help center people so they can figure out how they'd like to handle the illness and proceed with life. An Australian psychiatrist who uses meditation with cancer patients, studied seventy-three patients who had attended at least twenty sessions of intensive meditation, and wrote: "Nearly all such patients can expect significant reduction of anxiety and depression, together with much less discomfort and pain. There is reason to expect a 10 percent chance of quite remarkable slowing of the rate of growth of the tumor, and a 50 percent chance of greatly improved quality of life.


Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure

Meditation is a key component of Ornish therapy, the only treatment scientifically proven to reverse heart disease, besides research has also proven TM to be very successful in treating various heart ailments and high blood pressure.



Couples dealing with infertility may become depressed, anxious and angry. When relaxation responses are taught to such stressed out, infertile couples, the meditators experience less distress and are more likely to get pregnant.


Respiratory Problems

Asthma, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) all restrict breathing and raise fears of suffocation, which in turn makes breathing even more difficult. Studies show that when people with these respiratory conditions learn breath meditation, they have fewer respiratory crises.


Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Meditation can ease physical complaints such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), tension headaches and other common health problems.


Meditation gives people a psychological buffer so that life's hectic pace doesn't knock them out. Practicing meditation is like taking a vacation once or twice a day. When you nurture yourself, you accrue tremendous spin-off benefits.


For example, when you are under high stress, it can worsen symptoms of PMS because stress can cause the muscle tension associated with PMS complaints such as fatigue, soreness and aching. On the other hand, when you meditate regularly, you dramatically reduce your body's response to stress, and that can ease the discomfort associated with PMS. The results may not be apparent for several months. You will probably need to meditate regularly for several months before your body responds positively.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcers, and Insomnia

Meditation can also improve irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and insomnia, among other stress-related conditions. Eighty percent of the people who use meditation to relieve insomnia are successful.


Meditation can help prevent or treat stress-related complaints such as anxiety, headaches and bone, muscle and joint problems. Meditation also provides an inner sense of clarity and calm, and that, in itself, may help ward off certain illnesses.




Meditation can help most people feel less anxious and more in control. The awareness that meditation brings can also be a source of personal insight and self-understanding.


Handling Repressed Memories

Meditation may lead to a breakdown of screen memories so that early childhood abuse episodes and other traumas suddenly flood the mind, making the patient temporarily more anxious until these traumas are healed. Many so-called meditation exercises are actually forms of imagery and visualization that are extraordinarily useful in healing old traumas, confronting death anxieties, finishing 'old business', learning to forgive, and enhancing self-esteem.


Meditation frees persons from tenacious preoccupation with the past and future and allows them to fully experience life's precious moments. Many men and women tend to live in a state of perpetual motion and expectation that prevents them from appreciating the gifts that each moment gives us.


Meditation is a process that returns us to the present moment of our lives and allows us to wake up and reevaluate the way that we live our lives.



Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and isolation are hallmarks of depression—the age's most prevalent mental health problem. Meditation increases self-confidence and feelings of connection to others. Many studies have shown that depressed people feel much better after eliciting the relaxation response.


Panic Attacks

Sometimes anxiety becomes paralyzing and people feel (wrongly) that they are about to suffer some horrible fate. Panic attacks are often treated with drugs, but studies show that if people who are prone to panic attacks begin focused, meditative breathing the instant they feel the first signs of an episode, they are less likely to have a full-blown panic attack.





The longer an individual practices meditation, the greater the likelihood that his or her goals and efforts will shift toward personal and spiritual growth. Many individuals who initially learn meditation for its self-regulatory aspects find that as their practice deepens they are drawn more and more into the realm of the "spiritual."


While working with many cancer and AIDS patients, physicians have observed that many are most interested in meditation as a way of becoming more attuned to the spiritual dimension of life. She reports that many die "healed," in a state of compassionate self-awareness and self-acceptance. 



It was not till the 20th century that a need for the creation of secular forms of popular meditative techniques began to be felt. But for the most part these New Age meditative systems were little more than rehashed versions of older techniques, which had been extracted from their religious contexts. Transcendental Meditation (TM), as propagated by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, is one such version, which grew out of the Hindu practice of 'naam japa' or 'yoga japa' during the 1960's.

Existent techniques of meditation can be categorized under two fairly broad sections—Zen-based forms, which are more "insight"-oriented and Hinduism-based forms, which are largely "concentration"-oriented. Most New Age techniques fall into either of these categories.


Concentrative 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.

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 tends to get shallow, rapid, and uneven. On the other hand, when the mind is calm, focused, and composed, the breath is 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.
Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental Meditation or yoga nidra (popularized by the Bihar School of Yoga), which owe its origin to ancient Hindu meditative techniques, aim towards a totally detached frame of mind. These forms encourage the practitioner to retreat within the inner-self, into the "real" world, away from the "illusions" (maya) of outside influences. Meditative practices like Mantra yoga, for example, induces the mind to concentrate on a sacred sound by ritualistic chanting, until it attains the trance-like state of samadhi (a state of mind, where it is only responsive to subjective impressions).



Mindfulness meditation 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 meditator 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.

Zen based Meditation

Zen-based forms like Thich Nhat Hanh's (the France-based Vietnamese Zen master) mindfulness meditation or vipassana, which was promoted by S.N. Goenka, concentrate more on the present, the here and now. This is accomplished by non-judgmentally observing the breath and the sensations in the body very keenly. The objective is to attain perfect concentration without blocking out outside distractions. To reach an ideal state of equanimity and objectivity.

But whether one adopts the method of the yogi, oblivious to the external world, or that of the Zen meditator, keenly attuned to his environment—the idea is to tap those vast resources of energy and enlightenment inherent in all of us. To effortlessly find within, what we had been unsuccessfully trying to discover without. That, in essence, is both the art and the science of meditation


Mind and Body


There's more to meditation than just closing ones eyes and an understanding of this technique demands an understanding of our mental realm. The subtle state of mind, which is the ultimate stage of meditation, requires a tremendous amount of energy to reach. An absolute harmony between our gross physical realm, sensual realm and our life energy is the prerequisite of a meditative state of mind.

Traditional perceptions of our mental make-up are uncommonly useful in understanding the workings of the mind. According to ayurveda and yoga, both the mind and the body are made up of the 'Five Great Elements' (Panchabhutas) of earth (prithvi), water (jal), fire (agni or tej), air (vayu) and ether or space (akash).

But in spite of such composition, they have absolutely opposite elemental structures. While the body is made up of the heavier elements of earth and water (the ayurvedic kapha or phlegmatic humoral type), it functions through the lighter elements of fire (pitta or heat humoral type) and air (vata or vital energy humor). The pitta, fire or heat of the body controls all digestive processes and the vata, air or vital energy lends its spark to the nervous system.

The mind, meanwhile, is composed of air and ether (vata humor)—the lighter elements, which lend mobility and pervasiveness to the mind. And our mental functions proceed through the heavier elements of fire, water and earth (pitta—heat and kapha—phlegm). The element of fire lends reason and perception to the mind, while water and earth lends it emotion and physical identification. But our mental functions proceed through the heavier elements of fire, water and earth. While fire lends reason and perception to the mind, water and earth lends it emotion and physical identification respectively.

Unlike the phlegmatic body, in substance our minds resemble ether—formless and all pervading. And in motion it resembles air—penetrating, constantly in flux, effervescent and unpredictable!

Mind and Spirit


The mind (mana) and the energy spirit (prana, chi or life force) have always had an affinity for each other, being merely the two sides of the same coin. Whatever the mind engages upon is soon infused with life energy, and conversely, whatever the soul hungers for instantly engages our attention. As a result, certain aspects of each are present in the other.

Out of the two, the mind is the finer and more sophisticated version of the cruder life force or prana—it has a storehouse of its own energy and vitality. Some aspects of it naturally spills over, flooding the spirit with thought and intelligence (buddhi). But it is the vital force, which is inherently a conscious power, finding its expression in the mind, which is inherently the active force.

Both prana and mana (mind) are vata (vital force) humoral types, composed of air and ether. But being composed more of the air element rather than the ether, the prana is more active and energetic—like the wind! On the other hand, since the degree of ether is more in the composition of the mind, its nature is receptive and passive—like the wide open spaces.




Meditation, especially passive meditation, brings us face to face with our subconscious. Not unlike opening up a Pandora's box full of mischief, if we are not ready to encounter our inner selves, it could end up being a disastrous experience instead of an enlightening one! And the most vulnerable seem to be-people with overwhelming anxiety, who are emotionally or psychologically disturbed, those who have problems accepting reality, people who suffer from acute paranoia and even those who develop delusions of grandeur from the altered states of consciousness that meditation tends to produce.

To avoid such psychosis or simply getting lost in our thoughts and ending up confused and disturbed, it is necessary to begin meditation sessions with formal practice. Different schools of thought prescribe different methods of such preparation, but they all agree on the absolute necessity of concentration exercises preceding meditation. These preparation techniques are as varied as praying, chanting mantras, performing pranayama or even visualizing. Once the mind becomes trained for concentration, actual formless or mindfulness meditation can proceed, such as sitting in silence, practicing self-inquiry or performing devotional meditation.

While Hinduism-based schools of thought insist on a proper sattvic (pure or ascetic) lifestyle as a primary condition to true meditation, Buddhist mindfulness meditation prescribes contemplation on the 'Four Protections' and the 'Nine Attributes' of the Buddha.

A helpful tip to keep in mind would be that ultimately meditation is all about being at peace with oneself. It cannot perform miracles out of thin air. It does not solve problems magically. It's simply a technique, which acquaints you with the person you really are. And having gained that timeless knowledge, it is you who will take that first step towards self-transformation. Remember always that the technique of meditation is nothing more than a tool in your hands!



Ways of harnessing the ever-changing, ever-shifting mind are as varied as the different techniques of meditation. But by and large, they all practice mental exercises, which aim at capturing the very nature of our minds. While the Buddhist Satipatthana Sutra advices the meditator to be mindful of: the body, feelings, the mind and mental objects—Patanjali's Yoga Sutra talks about the three techniques of: dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption or enlightenment).

Dharana, the sixth limb of the Yoga philosopher Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga, literally means 'immovable concentration of the mind'. The essential idea is to hold the concentration or focus of attention in one direction. This is not the forced concentration of, for example, solving a difficult mathematics problem; rather dharana is a form of closer to the state of mind, which could be called receptive concentration.

In practicing dharana, conditions are created for the mind to focus its attention in one direction instead of radiating out in a million different directions. Deep contemplation and reflection usually creates the right conditions, and the focus on a single chosen point becomes more intense. Concentrative meditative techniques encourage one particular activity of the mind, and the more intense it becomes the more the other preoccupation of the mind cease to exist.

The objective in dharana is to steady the mind by focusing its attention upon some stable entity. Before retracting his senses, on may practice focusing attention on a single inanimate object. After the mind becomes prepared for meditation, it is better able to focus efficiently on one subject or point of experience. Now if the yogi chooses to focus on the center (chakra) of inner energy flow, he/she can directly experience the physical and mental blocks and imbalances that remain in his or her system. This ability to concentrate depends on excellent psychological health and integration and is not an escape from reality, but rather a movement towards the perception of the true nature of the Self.



Dhyana, the seventh limb of Ashtanga Yoga, means worship, or profound and abstract religious meditation. It is perfect contemplation. It involves concentration upon a point of focus with the intention of knowing the truth about it.

During dhyana, combining clear insights into distinctions between objects and the subtle layers surrounding intuition further unifies the consciousness. We learn to differentiate between the mind of the perceiver, the means of perception, and the objects perceived—between words, their meanings and ideas, and even between all the levels of natural evolution. We realize that these are all fused in an undifferentiated continuum. One must apprehend both subject and object clearly in order to perceive their similarities. Thus dhyana is apprehension of real identity among apparent differences.

During dharana, the mind becomes unidirectional, while during dhyana, it becomes ostensibly identified and engaged with the object of focus or attention. That is why, dharana must precede dhyana, since the mind needs focusing on a particular object before a connection can be made. If dharana is the contact, then dhyana is the connection.

Obviously, to focus the attention to one point will not result in insight or realization. One must identify and become "one with" the object of contemplation, in order to know for certain the truth about it. In dharana the consciousness of the practitioner is fixed on one subject, but in dhyana it is in one flow.




The final step in Ashtanga Yoga is the attainment of samadhi.

When we succeed in becoming so absorbed in something that our mind becomes completely one with it, we are in a state of samadhi. Samadhi means "to bring together, to merge". In samadhi our personal identities completely disappear. At the moment of samadhi none of that exists anymore. We become one with the Divine Entity.

During samadhi, we realize what it is to be an identity without differences, and how a liberated soul enjoys a pure awareness of this pure identity. The conscious mind drops back into that unconscious oblivion from which it first emerged. The final stage terminates at the instant the soul is freed. The absolute and eternal freedom of an isolated soul is beyond all stages and beyond all time and place. Once freed, it does not return to bondage.

The perfection of samadhi embraces and glorifies all aspects of the self by subjecting them to the light of understanding. The person capable of samadhi retains his/her individuality and person, but is free of the emotional attachment to it.



Meditation as a Therapy

Meditation has not only been used as an important therapy for psychological and nervous disorders, from simple insomnia to severe emotional disturbances, but lately physicians have also prescribed it for curing various physical ailments as well. It is useful in chronic and debilitating diseases like allergies or arthritis, in which stress or hypersensitivity of the nervous system are involved. Regular meditation practices have also been known to help in dealing with pain and a number of painful diseases, whether chronic or acute. The act of meditation comes in useful because it helps the mind to detach itself from all material and physical attachments—and that is the ultimate cure for all diseases or at least the way to transcend them when we cannot avoid them.

Research has found meditation, especially Transcendental Meditation, to be extremely successful in treating physiological problems. Research on Transcendental Meditation has been conducted at more than 200 universities, hospitals, and research institutions in 27 countries. As a result, more than 500 research and review papers have been written covering a wide variety of physiological, psychological, and sociological effects.

Transcendental Meditation allows mental activity to settle down in a natural way while alertness is maintained and enhanced. Following Transcendental Meditation, individuals have reported feeling refreshed physically as well as mentally. The mind has become calmer and more alert, thinking clearer, and energy levels have increased. Those with busy schedules have noted that Transcendental Meditation brings increased efficiency in activity; time is used more effectively. When mental and physical well being are enhanced, personal relationships also improve, a commonly reported and valued benefit of Transcendental Meditation.

Physiological research has shown that Transcendental Meditation gives rise to a state of deep rest characterized by marked reductions in metabolic activity, increased orderliness and integration of brain functioning, increased cerebral blood flow and features directly opposite to the physiological and biochemical effects of stress. Taken together, these studies clearly distinguish the physiology of Transcendental Meditation from sleep or simple relaxation.

A review of research on behavioral therapy for hypertension concluded that Transcendental Meditation provides an optimal non-clinical treatment and preventive program for high blood pressure because the technique:
• produces rapid, clinically significant blood pressure reductions;
• is distinctly more effective than other meditation and relaxation procedures;
• is continued by a high proportion of subjects (in contrast to lower continuation rates for relaxation techniques and the frequent problem of poor compliance with anti-hypertensive drugs);
• has documented acceptability and effectiveness in a wide range of populations;
• is effective in reducing high blood pressure both when used as sole treatment and when used in concert with medication;
• reduces high blood pressure in 'real life' environments outside the clinic;
• is free from harmful side-effects or adverse reactions;
• reduces other cardiovascular risk factors and improves health in a general way.

However, all forms of meditation are not good for everyone, any more than all foods or herbs are. For this reason both yoga and ayurveda recommends a proper lifestyle and an integral approach to meditation that considers both our different faculties as well as our individual nature.



Meditation and Prayer

People in the West are more familiar with prayer than meditation. Prayer is a general term and many types of it exist, but the term usually refers to an active form of meditation in which we project an intention—calling on God to help us or our loved ones in some way. Both ayurveda and yoga use prayer (prarthana) along with mantra and meditation. Generally mantra is energized prayer, a prayer or yogic wish directed by special sound patterns or vibrations of the cosmic Word. Meditation is a silent or contemplative form of prayer in which there may not be any movement of thought or intention.

Devotional meditation is an intensely personal matter and is usually conditioned by one's religious background. Other than worshipping personal gods and deities who appeal to a particular person's consciousness, another important form of devotional worship is-the worship of planetary deities and cosmic powers behind the forces of time and karma.

Affirmation, and Visualization
The use of affirmations goes along with prayer and meditation. Affirmations can be employed to emphasize our relationship with the divine or our own inner healing powers. People suffering from negative thoughts about themselves, are often trapped in self-doubt. Affirmations can be very strengthening in such conditions.

Yet affirmations should lead to action and not substitute for it. To do anything in life requires a belief that one can do it and a positive intention to make the effort. In such cases one cannot use the affirmation as an excuse for inaction.

Visualization goes along with prayer and meditation. One may visualize healed and improved conditions that one wishes to achieve. One can also direct healing energy to those who are sicker or to the parts of ones own body that need improvement. Such visualizations usually employ certain colors and mantras to be directed along with the breath. Visualizations can also be of deities or beautiful natural scenes to clear the mental field.



Meditation in Transformation

"As a man wishes in his heart, so is he." We create our karma and ourselves through our intentions at a deep level. Motivation or will is the main mental action behind the creation of our beings, the deep-seated conditionings behind the mind and heart.

While yoga cultivates the will for self-realization, ayurveda cultivates the will of healing. A statement of intentions should precede whatever action one decides to undertake: "I intend to do the following action (in the following manner for a specific period of time) in order to produce the following result."

The path to self-transformation is like a plan or a strategy. No action is done without the seeking of some sort of result. This result depends upon the intention behind the action, not simply the superficiality of what we do. Higher or spiritual actions seek a result that is not ego-bound, like the development of consciousness and the alleviation of suffering for all beings. Lower actions reflect ego desires—to get what we want; to accomplish, achieve or gain for ourselves in some way or another. Spiritual motivations direct us within and help liberate the soul. Ego-based motivations direct us without and bind us further to the external world.

Self transformational motivation or will implies not only developing our own will but also allying our will with the forces that can help it achieve its aim. Therefore it involves a seeking of help, blessings or guidance. Such motivations are generally projected as various affirmations and vows during meditational practices.



There are many meditation techniques. Some of the techniques are quite simple and can be picked up with a little practice. Others require training by an experienced instructor. It is important to note that because of the effects of meditation on repressed memories and the resulting psychological impact, a first time meditator may go through some discomfort initially; hence it is always a good idea to be under the care of a qualified practitioner as one starts to meditate.

In Christian spiritual training, meditation means thinking with concentration about some topic. In the Eastern sense, meditation may be viewed as the opposite of thinking about a topic. Here the objective is to become detached from thoughts and images and opening up silent gaps between them. The result is a quietening of our mind and is sometimes called relaxation response. In Christian mystical practice, this practice is called 'contemplation'.

But whatever the technique of meditation, the following aspects are generally common to all of them:

The best environment for the practice of meditation is a quiet place with minimum distractions. It sometimes helps to set up a meditating room with special pictures, icons, holy books or even burning incense sticks and soothing music in order to infuse the atmosphere with spiritual energy. It is best to sit in a well ventilated room, which receives natural light.

The best attitude to follow while practicing meditation is that of a receptive observer. Try to observe either the mind or the immediate physical environment, without thinking anything in particular. Watch the mind slowly empty itself out.



Assuming a certain posture has been central to many meditation techniques. Classic postures, integral to Hatha Yoga, are given in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which codify ancient yogic healing practices. Other postures appear in the Kum Nye holistic healing system of Tibet, in Islamic prayer, and in Gurdjieff movements. Posture is considered very important in Zen Buddhist practice as well.

A major characteristic of prescribed meditation postures in many traditions is that the spine is kept straight. This is true in Hindu and Buddhist yogas, in the Christian attitude of kneeling prayer, in the Egyptian sitting position, and in the Taoist standing meditation of "embracing the pillar." People with misalignments may feel uncomfortable in the beginning when assuming these postures. The spine is put back into a structurally sound line, and the weight of the body distributed around it in a balanced pattern in which gravity, not muscular tension, is the primary influence. It is possible, although it has not been conclusively proven that this postural realignment affects the state of mind.

In the East, the cross-legged postures, with head and back in vertical line, are considered ideal for meditation. In the classic the Lotus posture, when the legs are crossed with the feet on the thighs, right feeling of poised sitting for meditation is imparted. These postures are difficult and even painful at first for those who are not familiar with them. For such inexperienced individuals, two other traditional Eastern postures—half lotus posture and the Burmese posture—are usually much easier to follow. For those who prefer to meditate while sitting on a chair, there is the Egyptian posture.



In Hindu meditative techniques, the object the attention dwells on is often a mantra, usually a Sanskrit word or syllable. Usually the meditator repeats an affirmation to increase positive spiritual energies. Alternately prayers or are often said for calming the mind. Various short rituals are also prescribed before meditation, such as making offerings of fragrant oils (for earth elements), holy water (element of water), lamps (fire), incense (air) and flowers or garlands (ether). These rituals help in cleansing the psychic energy and preparing the mind for meditation.

In Buddhism, the focus of attention is often the meditator's own breathing, a luminous sphere or a translucent Buddha Statue. Some traditional Buddhist meditations follow forty concentration devices or meditation subjects for tranquilizing the mind as prescribed by the Buddha These are the ten recollections (anussati), ten meditations on impurities (asubha) , ten complete objects (kasina), four immaterial absorption (arupajhana), four divine abiding (brahmavihara), one perception (ahare patikulasanna) or contemplation of the impurity of material food, and one defining contemplation (vavatthana) on the Four Elements (earth, water, fire, and air).

Whether one performs mantra meditation or Buddhist breath meditations, they both fulfill all the elements required for meditating for relaxation.



It is always recommended that meditation be practiced daily, twice a day for best results. Beginners are recommended to meditate for about half an hour daily. Later when one gets used to the practice, one hour is ideal.

Hindu methods of meditation prescribes about a quarter of an hour for performing pranayama, the same for mantras and the same for silent or devotional meditation. What is emphasized is the regularity of practice at all costs.



An Introduction to the techniques of Meditation


Meditation is an experience that cannot be described, just as colors cannot be described to a blind man. All ordinary experience is limited by Time, Space and Causation. Our normal awareness and understanding do not transcend these bounds.

Finite experience, which is measured in terms of past, present and future, cannot be transcendental. Concepts of time are illusory, for they have no permanence. The present, immeasurably small and fleeting, cannot be grasped. Past and future are non-existent in the present. We live in illusion.

The meditative state transcends all such limitations. In it there is neither past nor future, but only the consciousness of "I am" in the eternal NOW. It is only possible when all mental modifications are stilled.

The closest analogous state that we can experience is deep sleep, in which there is neither time, nor space, nor causation. Meditation, however, differs from deep sleep, for it works profound changes in the psyche. By curbing and stilling the oscillations of the mind, meditation brings mental peace.

On the physical level, meditation helps to prolong the body's anabolic process of growth and repair, and to reduce the catabolic or decaying process. Ordinarily the anabolic process predominates until the age of 18. From 18 to 35 there is balance between the two, and after 35 the catabolic process dominates. Meditation can significantly reduce the catabolic decline. This is because of the innate receptivity of the body cells.

Each of our body cells is governed by the instinctive subconscious mind. They have both an individual and a collective conciousness. When the thoughts and desires pour into the body, the cells are activated; the body always obeys the group demand. It has been scientifically proven that positive thoughts bring positive result to cells. As meditation brings about a prolonged positive state of mind, it rejuvenates body cells and retards decay.

One cannot learn to meditate, anymore than one can learn to sleep. one falls into both states. There are certain points to remember regarding the techniques and stages of meditation.

The 14 Points of Meditation

1.    Regularity of time, place and practice are important. Regularity conditions the mind to slow down its activities with a minimum of delay.

2.    The most effective times are early dawn and dusk, when the atmosphere is charged with special spiritual force. If it is not feasible to sit for meditation at these times, choose an hour when you are not involved with daily activities, and a time when the mind is apt to be calm.

3.    Try to have a separate room for meditation. As meditation is repeated, the powerful vibrations set up will be lodged in the area; an atmosphere of peace and purity will be felt.

4.    When sitting, face North or East in order to take advantage of favorable magnetic vibrations. Sit in a steady, comfortable, cross-legged position with spine and neck erect but not tense.

5.    Before beginning, command the mind to be quiet for a specific length of time. Forget the past, present and future.

6.    Consciously regulate the breath. Begin with five minutes of deep abdominal breathing to bring oxygen to the brain. Then slow it down to an imperceptible rate.

7.    Keep the breathing, rhythmic, inhale for three seconds and exhale for three seconds. Regulation of breath also regulates the flow of prana, the vital energy.

8.    Allow the mind to wander at first. It will jump around, but will eventually become concentrated, along with the concentration of prana.

9.    Don't force the mind to be still, as this will set in motion additional brain waves, hindering meditation.

10.                       Select a focal point on which the mind may rest. For people who are intellectual by nature, this may be the Ajna Chakra., the point between the eyebrows. For more emotional people, use the Anahata or Heart Chakra. Never change this focal point.

11.                       Focus on a neutral or uplifting object, holding the image in the place of concentration. If using a Mantra, repeat it mentally, and co-ordinate repetition with the breath. If you dont have a personalized Manta, use Om. Although mental repetition is stronger, the mantra may be repeted aloud if one becomes drowsy. Never change the Mantra.

12.                       Repetition will lead to pure thought, in which sound vibration merges with thought vibration, without awareness of meaning. Vocal repetition progresses through mental repetition to telepathic language, and from there to pure thought.

13.                       With practice, duality disappears and Samadhi, or the superconscious state, is reached. Do not become impatient, as this takes a long time.

14.                       In Samadhi one rests in the state of bliss in which the Knower, the Knowledge, and the Known become one. This is the superconcious state reached by mystics of all faiths and persuasions.

If you meditate for half an hour daily, you will be able to face life with peace and spiritual strength. Meditation is the most powerful mental and nerve tonic. Divine energy freely flows to the adept during meditation, and exerts a benign influence on the mind, nerves, sense organs and body. It opens the door to intuitive knowledge and realms of eternal bliss. The mind becomes calm and steady.



Meditation How it Works


Meditation is the art of focusing your mind, restraining your thoughts and looking deep into yourself. Practicing it can give you a better understanding of your purpose in life and of the divine, as well as provide you with certain physical and mental health benefits. But how exactly does Meditation work? Here you will find out more about the mechanics of Meditation and its effects on your mind and body.

First of all, you need to know that focusing your mind is a lot easier said than done. It may be simple enough to empty your mind of thoughts but to prevent them from coming in is a lot harder than you’d expect. Here are a few tips that might help you get started:

n      Practice in a clean, quiet place.

n      Make sure that you are comfortable, from the clothes you wear to the way you position yourself.

n      Warm up and stretch a little bit by doing some Asanas. Doing some Pranayama is also advisable.

n      Empty your mind of all thoughts.

n      Now here’s the hard part: prevent other thoughts from coming into your mind. To do this, it might help to concentrate on a single object such as a candle. Look at the candle and just focus on it. As some would say, be one with the flame. This will take a considerable amount of practice to master, so be patient.

Once your mind is finally clear of thought, you will feel calm yet aware; a feeling that most experts say cannot be described by words. Only experiencing it will give you a clear idea of how it feels.

As you go along with your Meditation, you will eventually experience a development in your physical and mental health. According to some studies, this is manifested by a generalized reduction in multiple physiological and biochemical markers, such as decreased heart rate, decreased respiration rate, decreased plasma cortisol which is a major stress hormone, decreased pulse rate, and increased EEG (electroencephalogram) alpha which is a brain wave associated with relaxation. During Meditation, one goes through a state of deep relaxation, while his mind’s awareness level is increased. This results in faster reactions, greater creativity, and broader comprehension.

One of the most remarkable findings on the effects of Meditation is a decrease in metabolism. This was shown by a drop in oxygen consumption, up to 20% below the normal level. Heartbeats per minute were also reduced. Blood pressure stayed at low levels.

Other benefits arising from Meditation are:

n      increased lung capacity

n      improved immune system

n      recharged nervous system

n      reduced stress

n      improved memory

n      aids in the treatment of some diseases like asthma

n      open-mindedness

n      amplified moral virtues such as patience and compassion

n      awareness towards sin, temptation and guilt

n      increased faith in one’s religion

Meditation requires discipline, determination and patience. You won’t get it on the first try, but constant practice will help you go a long way. All of your efforts will pay off someday when you attain the physical and mental health benefits mentioned above and even more.



Meditation - Twelve Principles



Learning to meditate is like learning how to bake your favorite cake. At first, you might have some difficulties and a lot of questions and even doubts. You might even end up with a cake that looks far too different from the one you expected. But as you continue to make more and more of the same cake, you will realize that there is a certain ease with the way you bake the cake. Later on, you would be baking your perfect cake without even realizing it because you are already used to it.

Meditation is basically the same thing. It might be difficult at the start and may even feel awkward but it gets easier and you will get the hang of it as you continue doing the practice.

Now, like baking, you need a recipe for Meditation. For that, we have Swami Vishnu-Devananda to thank for. He formulated the Twelve Principles of Meditation to help people understand the basic steps and stages of the practice.

Here are the Twelve Principles of Meditation:


1.    Set aside a special place for Meditation.

2.    Choose a time when your mind is free from everyday concerns.

3.    Using the same time and place each day, condition the mind to slow down more quickly.

4.    Sit with your back, neck, and head in a straight line, facing North or East.

5.    Instruct your mind to remain quiet for the duration of your session.

6.    Regulate your breathing – start with 5 minutes of deep breathing, then slow it down.

7.    Establish a rhythmic breathing pattern – inhaling then exhaling for about three seconds.

8.    At first, let your mind wander – it will only grow restless if you force it to concentrate.

9.    Now bring the mind to rest on the focal point of choice – either the Anja or the Anahata Chakra.

10.                       Applying your chosen technique, hold your object of concentration at this focal point throughout your session.

11.                       Meditation comes when you reach a state of pure thought, but still retain your awareness of duality.

12.                       After long practice, duality disappears and Samadhi, the superconscious state, is attained.

Meditation doesn’t take much from you and it definitely doesn’t cost much. In fact, it might not cost you anything at all.

The place where you Meditate doesn’t have to be anywhere fancy. Just make sure that you are comfortable in that place and that you could practice without so much distraction. It would be nice to find a quiet corner in your house because the area where you Meditate would help you quiet your mind.

Of course, don’t Meditate during the middle of the day when you would have to work and deal with your everyday concerns. The ideal time is during dawn or dusk when the atmosphere is charged with spiritual energy.

The important thing is to make Meditation a habit in your daily life. When you practice on a regular basis, your mind responds to what you ask of it once you sit down. After some time, your mind will start to ask for this quiet time and Meditating would become perfectly natural for you.




Meditation - The Different Types of Meditation



There is not just one way to meditate. You must find the way that is best for you personally. Meditating can be done in various ways and there is an indefinite number of Meditation techniques that you can use for an indefinite number of goals. It does not matter what Meditation technique you choose, the foundation of all techniques is focus and attention.

We are first going to work on Concentration Techniques. The goal of these exercises is to improve our concentration. We must learn how to focus in order to bring the endless stream of thoughts to a standstill and to limit our thoughts to only those that are relevant for this moment. Emptying our mind by means of focus and concentration is for most people the most difficult and the most important aspect of Meditation. Therefore it is not surprising that by far the greater part of all Meditation techniques is concentrated on this aspect. The better you can focus the easier it becomes to get into a deeply meditative situation. In some meditative schools the final goal of Meditation is to be 100 % focussed. In this state, according to many spiritual traditions, you reach a situation of Samadhi: you become one with the object of your Meditation. Zen-Meditations, mantra Meditations (TM) and object Meditations all belong to this category.
You want to go further than only emptying your mind the next step is learning how to become more aware of our thoughts, emotions, and sensory perception. As distinct from the exercises for clearing the mind, Insight Meditation allows us to welcome all our thoughts and physical sensations. We accept our sensations and thoughts as they are. Not judging, accepting, letting things go, being patient help us to minimise the impact of our thoughts on our actions. We become more the observers instead of the ones that undergo. Vipassana Meditation, concentration training and mindfulness Meditation belong to this category.
Our perspective becomes wider, we see our problems less as problems and we can start with the techniques from the third category for self-examination and contemplation. Through Contemplation and Self Research, we learn to understand the nature of our problems and the working of our mind. How does your mind work, how dependent are you on certainties, how do you involuntarily make your suffering worse…etcetera? Insight gives us a strong motivation to start working on our problems.

The fourth category, Meditation in Motion, consists of all forms of Meditating in which we are active. We strengthen our attention and our awareness by focussing on our motions. The most well-known forms of motion-Meditation are Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Chi Neng and walking Meditations.

Besides, the first four groups of Meditation exercises directed at concentration and self-awareness, Goal-oriented Meditation can help us to start working on certain goals right away. We can stimulate the curing of diseases or the achieving of our goals by means of, to give an example, visualisation exercises. We can open our hearts by practising Meditations which are aimed at forgiveness and sympathy. During our Meditation we can consult our intuition when we are faced with a dilemma or a difficult decision. We can use affirmations in our Meditations to enlarge our self-esteem. The possibilities of this category of Meditation are really unlimited. With the necessary creativity we can apply Meditation to all aspects of our life. What Meditation technique works best for you is purely individual and a matter of trying out. We do advise you to start with spending a lot of time on exercises that train your focus and your concentration. These abilities you will need with all forms of Meditating and will already have a marked positive effect on your life. If you discover that you like Meditating, then you can go on with the more advanced forms of Meditation aimed at self-examination. If you are only interested in using Meditation exercises for a certain problem, a question or the improving of certain achievements, then you should choose an exercise from the final category. After Meditating in the same way for a long period of time, do not hesitate to experiment with different techniques. In the course of time you may have made so much progress that in your present state of development it is better to start using techniques that are more fitting in your new situation.

If you are looking for specific exercises go to our website and visit the pages that deal with Meditation techniques. Here we have arranged a large number of exercises according to the categories mentioned above.

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Meditation - Tratak, Yantra and OM



Meditation is one of the five principles of yoga. It an important tool to achieve mental clarity and health. An overview of the different beginner and advanced meditation techniques will aid in choosing the right meditation exercise for you.

Tratak or steady gazing is an excellent concentration exercise. It involves alternately gazing at an object or point without blinking, then closing your eyes and visualizing the object in your mind's eye. The practice steadies the wandering mind and concentrates the attention, leading you to focus with pinpoint accuracy. Wherever the eyes go, the mind follows, so that when you fix your gaze on a single point, the mind too becomes one pointed.


The Practice of Tratak

The technique of tratak remains much the same, whatever the target of you gaze is, though naturally you will have to adapt it slightly when meditating outdoors.

1. Place the object at eye level, three feet (90 cm) away from you.
2. First regulate your breathing, then start to gaze at the object without blinking.
3. Don't stare or gaze vacantly - just look steadily without straining.
4. After about a minute, close your eyes, and keep your inner gaze steady, visualize the object.
5. When the after-image vanishes, open your eyes and repeat.


























Yantras are geometrically diagrams which serve to focus the mind. Like a mantra each yantra has a specific mystical meaning.


OM - A PowerOM A powerful Symbol


A commonly used symbol to focus on while practicing Tratak is the OM symbol. To a yogi no symbol is more powerful than the syllable OM, as witnessed by these words from the Mandukya Upanishad: "OM: this eternal word is all; what was, what is and what shall be." In the Snaskrit letter the longer lower curve represents the dream state, the upper curve stands for the waking state and the curve issuing from the center symbolized deep dreamless sleep. The crescent shape stands for "maya", the veil of illusion and the dot for the transcendental state. When the individual spirit in man passes through the veil and rests in the transcendental he is liberated from the three states and their qualities.


Candle Gazing


A candle flame is the most widely used object for Tratak, as it easy to hold an after-image of the bright flame when you close your eyes. You should place the candle at eye level in a darkened, draught-free room.

If you want more information on Meditation you can surf to our dedicated Meditation website On Why Meditate? The benefits of Meditation, you can read more in detail on the benefits of your meditation practice. is providing lots of information on meditation, meditating, meditation techniques, meditation postures, meditation courses, meditation products, the advantages of meditation and a meditation forum.

Meditation - Saguna Mantras and Nirguna Mantras

Meditation is one of the five principles of yoga. It is an important tool to achieve mental clarity and health. An overview of the different beginner and advanced meditation techniques will aid in choosing the right meditation exercise for you.


1. Nirguana Mantras


Nirguna Mantras are abstract and form-less Mantras that do not require the invocation of deities. Instead, the use of the abstract mantras is the way for the identification with the whole creation. Nirguna Mantras are said to be the oldest of the three other mantras, originating from the Vedic texts. Here are some Nirguna Mantras:

OM is the orginal mantra, the root of all sounds and letters, and thus of language and thought. The "O" is generated deep within the body, and slowly brought upward joining with the "M" which then resonates through the entire head. Repeating OM for twenty minutes relaxes every atom in your body.

Soham (soh-hum)
This mantra is unconsciously repeated each time we take breath - inhaling "So", exhaling "ham". It means "I am That" - beyond the limitations of mind and body, at one with the Absolute.

The main purpose of the Nirguna mantras is to unify with the Absolute, Primal Causation, or to identify with the Infinite Nature of the Universe. Nirguna Mantras focus on abstract mantras. These are intended for experienced Yogis. You may want to read on the other type of mantra called the Saguna Mantras which, compared to the Nirguna Mantras, has form.


2.Saguna Mantras


The Saguna Mantras or deity Mantras invoke specific deities or aspects of the Absolute. Through the invocation of a specific deity, one attains self-realization and God-realization. The Saguna Mantras, unlike the Nirguna mantras, are form producing. The following are Saguna Mantras:

Ram (rahm) The energy pattern for truth, righteousness and virtue in their male aspect, this mantra is made up of three seed sounds.

Sita (see-tah) This is the female aspect of the energy pattern of Ram. It stands for the descent of Prakriti or nature in the form of the mother. It can also be repeated with Ram or Sitaram: when joined together, the two mantras embody the energy existing in an ideal marriage or union.

Shyam (shyahm) Representing cosmic love and compassion in the male aspect, this mantra transmutes all emotions into unconditional love.

Radha (rad-duh) Radha is the female aspect of Shyam, symbolizing the cosmic love of the divine mother.

Om Namah Sivaya (ohm nuh-muh shivai-uh) This is a purifying energy pattern that destroys our negative qualities, chosen especially by those of an ascetic nature. The dance of Siva represents the movement inherent in matter. When Siva stops dancing, the illusion of matter is destroyed.

Om Nam Narayanaya (ohm nuh-mo nah-rai nai-uh) The energy pattern of harmony and balance in their male aspect, this mantra is used especially by people in times of trouble, to bring them the strength to retain harmony in their lives.

Om Aim Saraswatyai Namah (ohm aym suh-ruhswht-yai-nuh-muh-huh) The female aspects of the pattern of creative energy and wisdom, this mantra is often chosen by artists and musicians.

The Saguna Mantras aide in the process of conceptualizing and visualizing. These direct the person as a representation of the deity until the constant recitation gives rise to the actual form of the deity. There are various mantras, so it will be recommended that you ask the guidance of a guru. Through constant practice and repetition, you’ll eventually discover which mantra is comfortable to use in your spiritual journey.


3.Meditation - Mala


A Meditation Mala is a string of one hundred and eight beads plus the large "meru" bead. It is a tool to keep you focused and concentrated in your Meditation practice. Malas literally mean "Rose" or "Garland", or "garland from above," or "heavenly garland” in Sanskrit. It is also called the “power beads” in today’s pop culture. Malas are used by any religion and in any spiritual prayer. The Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus utilize this spiritual tool in counting their mantras or prayers.

Since we are often distracted by little noises in our surroundings, a Mala will be a very helpful device. It aims to follow the breath rhythm and mantra, resulting to an attentive mind that will neither fall asleep nor wander off.

Here’s how to use your mala:

1. Hold it in your right hand. Start at the meru and roll the beads along one by one between your thumb and middle finger while repeating your mantra. The index finger is never used to touch the mala.

2. When you reach the meru, roll the Mala in the opposite direction. Don't cross over the meru bead. When repeating the process, the Mala is turned so you can go in the reverse direction.

There are different materials that Malas are made out of, and each of these has its own special characteristics and properties which may affect ones meditation process. Its electrical properties as minerals give positive energy and other benefits depending on its composition and how it is used. The following are some of the malas available in the market:

• Bodhiseed Mala – or “enlightenment”. This is often associated with the Buddha, where he attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree.

• Crystal Mala – is a great healing and protecting mala. It reenergizes the mind and drives away the negative energies.

• Ebony Mala – has a black color, and is very durable. This is known to be a favorite among Indian royalties.

• Lotus Mala – is believed to reduce imbalance and has cooling effects. Lotus malas are also said to improve focus and one’s speech.

• “Nine-planet” Astrological (Navgraha) Mala – is made out of nine semi-precious stones representing the nine planets in the solar system. It helps in one’s destiny based on the astrological chart.

• Rosewood Mala – helps in keeping the aura positive and in driving away the negative energy. This is also said to be good for the skin.

• Rudraksh Mala – or the “eye of lord Shiva” is usually used for Shiva mantra. This is very effective for use in other mantras as well because of its ability to open the Heart Mantra. The Rudraksh mala help stabilize the body and lower the blood pressure.

• Sandalwood Mala – has a nice, smooth texture, and natural fragrant smell. It has healing and cooling effects, giving you peace of mind, calmness, and tranquility during your Meditation practice.

• Tulsi Mala – or the “sacred basil”,which is said to be very suitable in Meditation for being a divine and sacred wood in Indian worship. It develops your spiritual growth and helps you attain balance and a clear mind.

There are so many materials used in making Malas. Read more on these, and decide which will be the best for your Meditation practice.

The malas are sacred beads used in prayers and spiritual practices. Therefore, there are rules in using and taking care of these powerful prayer beads.

1. Malas are not accessories or jewelries. Treat these spiritual tools with respect and care, as these are associated with the Creator.

2. Malas should not be placed on the floor or on the ground. If you accidentally dropped your Mala, clean it and say a little prayer or mantra with your mala on the crown of your head.

3. Malas are not meant to be held by other people just for the heck of it. This excludes having it blessed by a holy person or priest, and when used as a tool for healing or blessing.

4. Malas should be stored in a safe place. Putting your mala in your pocket may lead to the breakage of its cord. Use a mala bag to keep your prayer beads safe and protected.

5. Malas should not be worn while bathing. Getting your malas wet may damage the cord and break them.

Malas as tools of prayer and meditation are sacred and should be given special care. These have special powers that work like magic by just wearing them. We strengthen and activate the malas by using them in prayers and meditation. Mala is an instrument to keep you guided and makes you feel closer to the Lord. Moreover, if used properly and treated with respect, it can lead to a healthy and positive life of prayer and oneness with the Creator, bringing peace, love, and happiness in your life.







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Meditation - The Different Meditation Exercises

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