The History of Meditation in The West
Swami Vivekananda was the first Yogi to come to the west to share knowledge of Yoga. He was invited to the Parliment of World Religions in 1893. He brought the teachings of transcendental meditation. The next great Yogi to bless the United States was Paramahansa Yogananda in 1920. He founded the Self Realization Fellowship in California and is responsible for introducing millions of Indians and Americans into meditation and Kriya Yoga. He is also the author of the masterpiece “Autobiography of a Yogi.” Later in the 1960’s the Beatles had a major influence after their trip to India meeting the great Guru Maharishi. Many celebrities began practicing transcendental meditation after their visit. Other notable names are Iyengar, Yogi Bajan, Baba Hari Das, Swami Kripalu, Swami Kriyananda, K. Pattabhi Jois and many many more.
What is Meditation?
Yoga as defined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras: “yogas chitta vritti nirodhah” Yoga is the the cessation of thought waves in the mind. Meditation then is the vehicle that one uses to perceive the Atman (Self). The Self cannot be perceived through the senses, thoughts, or by any quality. Meditation begins as a practice of concentration usually on the breath or point between the eye brows. Over time the Yogi witnesses his/her own passing thoughts without identifying as them. Like the peeling of an onion, false identification of self with personal qualities and limitations begin to dissolve. Neti Neti, not this, not that. Imagine that your Self is the light of the moon and your mind is a lake reflecting it. False identification is believing you are the reflection rather than the source of light itself. Additionally thoughts ripple the water and distort the reflection. Calm water provides a clear reflection. Most of us have a tumultuous lake AND we believe we are the reflection rather than the source. Through meditation the lake becomes still and one realizes the authenticity of their origin.
How to Practice Meditation
Begin by finding a quiet place in your home. If you are unable to sit on the ground, begin by sitting up nice and tall in your seat. If you are sitting on the ground find some pillows/blankets and a wall to rest your back against. Make yourself as comfortable as possible sitting in a cross leg erect position. Close your eyes and begin to watch the natural in and out flow of your breath. You may notice the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation of air on the tip of your nose. If you are unable to feel these sensations place one hand on the the heart and notice the rise and fall of the chest. Sit completely still, allowing the body to soften, with the spine erect. Each time your awareness attaches to a thought, come back to the observation of the breath. We are looking for a deep relaxation with full awareness of breath. Thoughts will come and go. Like sitting on the edge of a stream observing a stone in the water, allow the thoughts to flow by as you remain focused on your breath. This basic technique will get you started. Meditation music or guided meditations can be helpful.
It is far more fruitful to practice meditation everyday for 5 minutes than twice a week for two hours. The continuity of practice will produce more fruitful experiences than starting and stopping. It is best to meditate in the morning, at noon, or in the evening. If you are new start with a 5 minute practice everyday for 40 days. This also insures on the days when you do not feel like practicing that you are no overwhelmed with a large chunk of time. Some Master Yogi’s Meditate over 18 hours a day. Plenty of room for improvement and life times to practice. Baba Hari Dass once said “Daily practice is like a plane ride, you only feel it during take off and landing” if you feel like your practice is going no where, be patient, follow through, and keep watching your breath.
Healing Within and Meditation
Both David and Shannon lead guided meditations for the groups that they teach. There are currently no weekly meditation groups in Westport. All training’s and destination events include guided meditations. For private or group meditations contact us here.