Myths of Meditation
Many people in the West meditate to relax their mind. But, in India meditation requires one to relax first. Another common misconception is that one should have an empty mind while meditating. This article attempts to set right these common myths about meditation.
According to Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga, one cannot reach a state of meditation, without concentration. Therefore, the goal is not complete absence of thought, which can be impossible for most beginners. Rather, one should attempt to focus one’s mind on a particular object or mantra, and make it one-pointed.
The mind can be compared to a vast ocean, whose surface waves are tossed about by a turbulent hurricane. Thoughts come from all directions, much like waves in the ocean. Therefore, beginners find focusing their mind to be a great challenge. In the initial stages, they feel like a small boat tossed about in the vast ocean of stormy thoughts. So, attempting to harness such a mind can lead to extreme frustration.
Control Base Thoughts
So, the question is whether one should focus on eliminating thought completely, or attempt to streamline thoughts. One should attempt to restrain the mind from thinking about thoughts of a lower nature. This would automatically lead the mind to thinking thoughts of a better nature.
Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga advocate not just control of actions, but also control of thought. This would lead to the elimination of base thoughts. The beginner should aim to move his mind beyond the trammels of ego, and try to merge with the Brahman. The advanced meditation practitioner can bring thoughts to a standstill in his mind. But, this is almost impossible for the beginner.
Effect of Pranayama
The beginner can start his journey towards meditation by practising pranayama. The breathing techniques of pranayama can help control the mind. The ultimate goal should be controlled thought. Yogic philosophy says that the breath reflects the mind. So, controlled breath leads to a controlled mind. Once, this basic task is accomplished, the beginner can confidently strive towards meditation by chanting a suitable mantra.