Meditation is a natural and rewarding human activity. Paramhansa Yogananda defined meditation as “deep concentration on God or one of His aspects.” Practiced daily, it produces astonishing results on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our being. It connects us with our own inner powers of vitality, clarity, and love. When done deeply, it gives us an expanded sense of connection with all life, an experience of profound joy.
Meditation has three aspects: relaxation, interiorization, and expansion. First, relax completely, both physically and mentally; then interiorize your attention and concentrate one-pointedly, usually at the point between the eyebrows; and thirdly, focus your concentrated attention on an aspect of your own deeper self, or on God, love, joy, sound, or light. This will help you naturally expand your consciousness.
Although the process sounds simple, the attainment of deeper states requires faithful practice with dedication and discipline. Even a little practice of meditation gives immediate results. You will find that practicing even a few minutes a day increases your sense of well-being and brings increased joy.
There is an innate yearning in each of us to expand our awareness to what we really are, and to experience union with the endless love and bliss of God. At a certain stage in this eternal quest, we feel drawn to explore inner stillness through the practice of meditation.
Profound perceptions of reality come through intuition rather than logic, from the “superconscious” rather than the conscious mind. When the body is completely relaxed, the five senses become stilled, and the mind becomes deeply focused; a tremendous flow of energy becomes available. That intense energy can lift us into superconsciousness, where our inner powers of intuition are fully awakened.
Deep meditation helps us become aware of realities barely dreamed of. And even a little internalization of our consciousness lifts us toward that state and brings great peace.
Physiologically, meditation has been found to reduce stress, strengthen the immune system, and help regulate many of the body’s systems. During meditation, the breath slows, blood pressure and metabolic rates decrease, and circulation and detoxification of the blood increase.
In addition to its physical and mental benefits, meditation is first a spiritual art. Its purpose is to lead us to the realization that we are one with the Creator. We come from God and are made in His image, and our hearts are restless until we achieve unity (yoga) with Him. Meditation is the direct pathway to this unified state.
It is said that the greatness of a culture can be judged by its heroes. In the East, particularly in India, the greatest heroes have always been people of the highest spiritual attainment.
The West, however, has lacked a living tradition of meditation passed on from master to disciple. There have certainly been great Western saints, but usually they have been self-taught men and women who had to discover the pathway to mystical union with little or no outside help. Moreover, they often knew no techniques to channel the enormous inner energy awakened by their intense devotion. Without teachers to guide them, or techniques to help them, their inner energies often became obstructed, and many were beset with great physical suffering as a result. In a society that didn’t understand or encourage sanctity, many had to face opposition from their families and even their spiritual “superiors.” Heroes, in the West, have tended to be more warlike than godlike.
The practice of meditation has tremendous potential for enriching both our individual lives and our society.