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What is Required to Meditate

The injunction "let your whole life be an act of meditation," is meaningless, first because it is impossible and, secondly because the value is diluted. Meditation, in order to be effective, should inspire a philosophy to guide one's life. That is why Patanjali's Raja Yoga begins with two sets of ethics and regulations, yama and niyama. Practical idealism is the first requirement in meditation, so as not to make it a hypocritical act but to support it by a philosophy guiding ones attitude, restraint, motivation, action and relationship.

The second requisite is a suitable place to meditate, clean and peaceful, wherein to create the right kind of atmosphere by keeping a symbol on a sort of an altar with flowers and when meditating, lighting a candle and mild incense, if desired.

The third is a kind of posture, whether sitting, cross-legged, if comfortable, or in a straight-back and firm chair, while keeping the neck, shoulders and back straight, without being rigid, so as to remain alert by breathing adequately (oxygen helps to maintain lucidity). For most of the people, even in India, the lotus posture (padmasana) is symbolic rather than practical, for one can meditate only when the mind is free from self-inflicted pain in the legs and hips, nor does it make any sense to let them go numb. The position of the arms should be relaxed by keeping the palms facing up in the lap, one over the other, or the hands should be on the knees with palm up or down but fingers loose and relaxed. If sitting in a chair, the feet should be together on the floor, with equal weight.

The fourth is cultivating a relaxed disposition before beginning the practice of meditation. There should be no fighting with thoughts or trying to stop the mind, as it were, or even a desire to achieve anything at all, for it is not an ego-trip or climbing the ladder of success, but an effortless feeling of a deep, inner poise and faith in, and love for, what one wishes to do, a quiet, absorbing predisposition to the ideal of the act.

With a relaxed mind one may begin with the awareness of an abiding, expanding relatedness to all that is around, to the whole universe, and then to the transcendent and immanent spiritual source, which is also the essence of ones inner being or soul. There should be a feeling of absorption and envelopment by a deep, inner peace. No doubt, thoughts will come and go, but not to be distracted by a thought means not identifying with it, because a thought is sustained by the selfs involvement with it. When a thought comes, one may gently tell oneself "I am not interested but detached and in peace." To begin meditation, it is necessary to compose oneself in this way for a few minutes.

The fifth requisite is called techniques that constitute the main practice of meditation. They are of several kinds depending on religious or monastic or Ashram traditions. For example, in some Catholic monasteries there are little books of meditation consisting of a thought for each day of the year, gleaned from the scriptures, which is memorized beforehand and contemplated upon in solitude, while mentally repeating the phrases from time to time. In the chapel, meditation is done differently, when a monk reads aloud passages from sacred writings and his brethren sit with heads bent, eyes closed and fingers crossed, deeply concentrating on what is read.

It will, however, be appropriate here to give some basic steps in an integral form of meditation, combining some practice in prathyahara, dharana and dhyana. The suitability of techniques varies from person to person and the choice should be individual, from what is available in books. However, it should be remembered that, just as the mark of good journalism is accuracy and the evidence of a serious research, so also the mark of a good teaching is clarity and precision.

 

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