Meditation is key to building health. Sleep is not sufficient. When you sleep, you lose contact with your body and mind. Sitting quietly with the mind relaxed, you can release tension and cultivate greater awareness of your physical and mental condition and needs. This allows your body-mind to accumulate energy in a way not possible when you are asleep, and the time spent in self-awareness and reflection will enable you to discover your needs and heart’s desires.
As the Stoic sage Epictetus wrote in I:9 of the Golden Sayings, a man can align himself with the body (senses and passions) which we share with the animals, or he can align himself with the higher powers of Reason and Thought which we share with the gods and God. Epictetus wrote:
"But God hath introduced Man to be a spectator of Himself and of His works; and not a spectator only, but also an interpreter of them. Wherefore it is a shame for man to begin and to leave off where the brutes do. Rather he should begin there, and leave off where Nature leaves off in us: and that is at contemplation, and understanding, and a manner of life that is in harmony with herself. See then that ye die not without being spectators of these things."
Proper meditation is practicing being a spectator or Witness of God, His creation, including your life, and especially your thoughts. You can't change what you are doing until you really know what you are doing, and what drives you, and you can't know until you watch yourself carefully.
So meditation, or better, Witnessing, gives you an opportunity to know thyself in depth. In particular, it will help you to discover your anger, and who you are angry at. Anger (or hatred) is a womanly weakness that robs you of vital energy. In fact, whatever anger you hold hurts you more than anyone else. Moreover, when angry you can't see or think clearly because your mind is enraged.
You become like the person for whom you hold the most anger. Generally speaking, most weak people are angry at one or both of their parents. To get free of this anger you must forgive the object of your anger – your mother, your father, or anyone else against whom you hold a grudge.
The purpose of meditation or Witnessing is yoga.
The word "yoga" is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj which means to bind, join, attach, to direct or concentrate upon, to use, to apply. Our English words "yoke" and "union" are derived from the same root.
Yoga is one of the six orthodox systems of ancient Indo-European philosophy.
The Katha Upanishad describes yoga thus:
"When the senses are stilled, when the mind is at rest, when the intellect wavers not–then, say the wise, is reached the highest stage. This steady control of the senses and mind has been defined as yoga. He who attains it is free from delusion."
Patanjali systematized yoga in his work, The Yoga Sutras. In the second aphorism of the first chapter of this classic, Patanjali describes yoga as "chitta vrtti nirodha" which translates as subsidence of the modifications of the mind.
In other words, the goal of yoga is stopping thought, which liberates you from bondage and self-destruction by ignorance, greed and anger.
You are on the battlefield of life. Your life and liberty are on the line. Wrong moves can lead you into suffering and slavery. Dwelling in the past or fantasizing about the future can cause you to lose the plot.
The price of your liberty is eternal vigilance. Vigilance is nothing but being Present and Aware to what is really going on both inside and outside of you. To navigate life successfully you need to be Present Now.
Meditation is a practice of being Present in the Now, practicing refusing to be seduced away from vigilance by random thoughts coming from nowhere.
Basic meditation consists of regulating your breath, posture, and attention to produce a state of deep relaxation and clear wakefulness. Basic meditation practice involves sitting quietly and managing your attention to allow your breath to become smooth and quiet.
Take a seat on a chair that enables you to sit with feet flat on the floor, back erect, and ears aligned with your shoulders; or if you can, you can sit cross-legged on the ground. Key points of posture are:
Let your eyes close about three quarters, and maintain a soft gaze on a point on the floor about 3 feet in front of you.
Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth.
Bring your attention to your breath. Let the inhalation fill your lower abdomen, and with the exhalation let the abdomen empty.
Mentally start counting your exhalations. Start with 1, 2, 3, etc. So you will inhale, then exhale and count 1; inhale, then exhale while counting 2, etc.. Once you reach 9, return to 1 and start over.
As you continue counting the exhalations, let all unnecessary tension drop from your head, face, arms, body, legs, etc. into the earth. If it helps you, think “1.....relaxing” (inhale) “2....relaxing” and so on.
If your attention wanders, and you find yourself caught up in thoughts, as soon as you notice, just bring your attention back to your breath.
Don't pay attention to the thoughts that tell you that you aren't doing it right, that you can't do it, or whatever. Just relax and treat the thoughts like clouds in your sky – let them pass, don't pay them attention.
You are practicing declaring your independence from thoughts. You are practicing connecting to Infinite Awareness.
Continue your focus on the exhalations, letting the mind do what it will without giving it attention, for about 5 minutes.
When you are ready to resume normal awareness, swish your tongue and saliva around your mouth and swallow, open your eyes, and gradually move your head, arms, and legs.
Just a short period of quietude like this can provide deep rest to your mind and body. Try it whenever you need a break.
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