In the current era, meditation has grown in popularity. As science continues to uncover a wide range of benefits of meditation, including increased longevity, improved cognitive health, improved performance, decreased stress and anxiety, cultivation of inner peace, wellbeing, and more, increasing number of people are attempting to incorporate meditation into their daily lives in some capacity. Nowadays, meditation is not limited to being an esoteric practise only for those in search of "Moksha" or "spiritual enlightenment."
People today use meditation for a variety of reasons, therefore meditation techniques have also evolved. There are many different types of meditation, including dancing, contemplative arts, strolling, body scan, sound, guided, meditations to attract love, money, health, and healthy relationships, to name a few. These days, meditation is synonymous with any activity that directs one's attention inward. Yes, with all of the distractions in today's fast-paced, multitasking world, simply bringing our attention inwards is a significant accomplishment.
I've experimented with various contemporary "meditations" and experienced a variety of experiences. I also include a lot of these kinds of "meditations" in my daily activities. (For some of the activities listed above, I prefer to use the words "processes" or "experience" instead of meditation). While such practices can certainly feel wonderful, have many therapeutic effects , and can even lead to meditative experiences, still, I personally believe we need to have some clarity about the understanding the essence of meditation lest we mistake these activities as meditation. The idea is not to restrict the meditative states into the boundaries of language and logic but to give a practitioner a sense of direction leading to meditation.
Let us look at how meditation is described in the ancient Patanjali Sutras.
Patanjali defines meditation as “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff". In other words, the goal of meditation is to quiet the mind and still the constant chatter and fluctuations of our thoughts and emotions.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is an ancient text that outlines the philosophy and practice of yoga, including meditation. Patanjali describe eight limbs, or steps, to meditation: ethical behavior, self-discipline, physical postures, breath control, withdrawal of senses, concentration, meditation, and absorption. Through these steps, one can cultivate a deeper awareness of the self and access a state of inner peace and stillness.
Over time, the practice of meditation has evolved to include a range of techniques and approaches, from mindfulness and visualization to movement and sound meditation. However, at its core, meditation remains a practice of stilling the mind and cultivating a deeper awareness of the self.
In the context of developing right attitude towards meditation which still carry the essence of its traditional understanding I have come across many good teachers, and one such teacher is Adyashanti.
I've been following his teachings for a long time and recently came across one of his meditations in which he discusses the proper approach to meditation. He talks about the three commitments in meditation, let’s tale a look:-
1. Commitment to stillness: This means that when you sit down to meditate, you commit to being still and silent. You allow yourself to settle into a state of calmness and tranquility. This doesn't mean that you have to be completely motionless or that your mind has to be completely quiet. But it does mean that you are committed to creating a space of stillness and quiet within yourself.
2. Commitment to allowing everything the way it is: This means that we allow our experience to be exactly as it is, without trying to change or control it. We allow our thoughts, feelings, and sensations to come and go without getting caught up in them. We don't analyze or judge them, but instead, we observe them as they arise and pass away. This approach can be challenging at first, as we are conditioned to react to our thoughts and feelings in a certain way. However, with practice, we can learn to cultivate a sense of spacious awareness that allows us to be present with whatever arises.
3. Commitment to resting 'AS' awareness: Resting as awareness involves letting go of our attachment to our experiences in meditation and instead, focusing on the awareness that underlies them. This awareness is not something that we create or generate, but rather it is always present, like a background or foundation to our experience. We are that awareness in which all the thoughts, feelings, sensations even movements are arising. This practice can be challenging, especially at first, as we may be used to identifying with our thoughts and feelings. But with practice, we can develop the ability to rest more and more deeply as this awareness, and we can experience a deep sense of peace, stillness, and spaciousness.
Yes the third commitment is resting as awareness not resting in awareness. There is a significant difference. When I first heard the concept of resting as awareness in one of his lectures way back in 2011 and it internally shook me up for days. I was familiar with the concept of resting in awareness but resting as awareness was something I never knew was even possible. Of course now I can say it is possible. This is the video I am referring to Adyashanti - Rest As Awareness
As a yoga and meditation teacher, I am constantly on the lookout for novel and innovative ways to integrate meditative practices into people's everyday lives, to enable them to reap various benefits for their body and mind. At the same time, I aim to impart the essence of meditation - the art of calming the mind and reaching a profound level of awareness.
By making these three commitments to meditation, we can approach our practice with a sense of openness, curiosity, and non-judgment, allowing ourselves to be present with whatever arises. And simultaneously also experience the many benefits that come with a regular meditation practice.
So,take some time to explore these teachings and commit to a regular meditation practice - you may be surprised at what you discover about yourself and the world around you.