Both yoga and Ayurveda consider the functioning of the human brain the reason for all our suffering. And what does the brain do? It thinks. It takes in impressions from the outside world and compares them with whatever is stored as memory, personal convictions or beliefs, and then decides “This is right, this is wrong, I like this, I do not like that.”
We are intelligent and we keep hold of much of what pass through our conscious mind, as well as the subconscious. This is only our conditioning as human beings. Adding past conditioning from previous lives to the mix we get the “samskaras”. In yogistic knowledge as well as in Ayurveda it’s believed samskaras is the reason for our wrong judgment, thoughts, behaviors and consequently ill health.
What is “true” meditation?
Yoga masters say we cannot really “do” meditation as it appears spontaneously when awareness is not controlled or manipulated. If you have tried to meditate, you know that your mind is constantly drawn away from “what is” - thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, memories, sounds, smells...There are so many things that emerge in the midfield when you decide to sit down and do nothing.
That is absolutely normal. The mind is conditioned to chase after the objects of the senses since it is through the senses that we communicate with the outer world.
The point of true meditation or dhyana is to let all objects be it feelings, memories or fears, be as they are. There is no manipulation, no controlling, no suppressing of whatever comes up. We can say that pure awareness is the process, the goal and the result of meditating.
What is the connection between yoga and meditation?
But then, why do they say that hatha yoga is only a preparation for meditation? What does physical exercise have to do with pure awareness?
Physical exercise especially practiced in a mindful way as in hatha yoga, disciplines the body to be steady, yet receptive. Focusing on proper form and breath we train the mind to be more steadfast and one-pointed. We also prepare our senses to be more disciplined and non-reactive.
Of course, you can start meditating without the preparation of hatha yoga, but people are with different levels of awareness and readiness for mindfulness that for many, jumping into meditation may not work as advertised. Without proper preparation and guidance, you may get confused, disappointed or become even more enmeshed in your own arrogance and ego. Which is not what meditation is about.
Hatha yoga trains you, most importantly, to be grounded as without proper grounding you can get easily lose balance. It also teaches you to be still even in the face of great challenge. Once you can be still on a more profound level, awareness becomes free of the mind’s conditioning and control.
Does it mean, then, that all that is offered as meditation today has no value?
Certainly not! Our minds and senses today are so bombarded with information that it would be very difficult to still them without an intense yoga practice or other techniques like guided meditations or visualizations. But any true seeker should keep in mind that it is only a preparation for dhyana. If true self-realization is your goal, then sooner or later you will have to let go of all that and just sit still with what is.
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