By Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya
If you are psychically unsettled this week, choose meditation. It is time to release yourself from seeking connection only in the outside world. Do as the ancestors did. Travel inward for answers. Anytime is a good time to start.
Meditation is a powerful tool for taking the journey inward. Though property agents and retirement brokers will say otherwise, the main anchor and the only Real Estate you really own is… yourSelf. When we connect the soul to the mind and to the body so that our thoughts are reflected in our actions, an immense power unfolds.
The YogaSutras of Patañjali (circa 400 BCE), considered to be one of the oldest texts on the journey inward, introduced the concept of dhyana, true and focused meditative concentration. Yoga wisemen offered us deep awareness if we could learn to still our minds – yogaś-chitta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ – and simply listen to the unfathomable brilliant wisdom in the pervasive stillness beyond.
This philosophy is outright rejected by the West, preferring Descartes, Freud and Bohr and a concrete, material view of the Universe. Everything that is not supported by chemistry, math, and physics is rejected as magic and pseudoscience.
Stilling the mind is simple, but not easy for those who have grown up with no training of the functions of the mind. Claiming to be among the world’s best repositories of knowledge, most western universities offer no systematic training of the mind. They relegate studies to psychology, philosophy, religious studies, or neuroscience. They denigrate the control of mind as a deeply personal issue, fearful of the State controlling our minds. Freedom of expression and freedom of thought are sacred, yet the teachers do not teach us how to corral the power. Instead, professors police students through college papers that encourage students to parrot the bias of the professor.
When freedom of expression is considered sacred, the perennial issues of campus suicides, sexual violence, illicit drug abuse, alcoholism, vandalism, inappropriate teacher-student relations, embezzlement, and poor stress management plague campuses. These common errors of the uncontrolled mind are addressed as separate issues, but rarely utilize restorative justice and peaceful relations as the path to teaching reform. Graduates of these great universities are educated in material aspects of their discipline but are often morally weak or bankrupt and engage easily in violence and illegal activities when greed, desperation and insecurities take the place of youth.
The experts of yoga philosophy witnessed the spiral downwards in such academically learned people especially in times of crisis and created anchors for heavy brains housing unbridled minds. Daily meditation practice brings us the answers we need.
To begin, start by finding a place where you can be alone and still. A quiet place in nature is excellent as the ultimate calm is among the earth and her landscapes. Otherwise a cozy space at home or in a space created for meditation is fine. To assess yourself, close your eyes and see how long you can remain fully awake but with your eyes closed. When you start drifting away, where do you go? When you feel impatient and need to open your eyes, what compels you? What do you see when you close your eyes?These questions condition us to the ethereal land of uncertainty. They are important exercises in the pursuit of stillness.
After 11 days of this closed-eyes exercise, shift to a visualization training. Close your eyes and see yourself sitting in a theatre. Perceive the stage, the curtains, the décor, the walls, and the dimensions. See the colors of the seats and where you are sitting. Once this is established, watch the stage. From stage right, see a number 1 walk onto the stage. See its color, height, texture, movement and gait. Watch it walk to the center. See it hold still. Then watch it walk off at stage left. Breathe deeply. From stage right, see a number 2 walk onto the stage. Repeat the exercise until you see number 10 walk off the stage.
This exercise strengthens the dhi-dhrti-smrti, the buddhi (dhi) power of the intellect, the processing and understanding (dhrti), and the power to recall (smrti), which we know as memory.
Once you can visualize the numbers on the stage and do this visualization exercise for 11 days, shift to the candle focus, a modified form of trātaka, a training of the eyes and mind. Sit in front of a real flame for 11 minutes. Stare into the flame and keep the mind still as your eyes stare as long as it can. Blink only when needed. Keep the mind on the flame. Focus on the colors and the light. If any thoughts come to mind, see them pour out of your skull and into the flame. Trust that you will remember what you need to remember, and let it go. Light a flame each day and watch it quietly. Allow the mind to still.When you cross a threshold where the physical nature of candle and flame and the eyes disappears, you will know you have arrived. You must continue this candle meditation regularly thereafter, until the candle is no longer needed.
Meditation is a journey up the mountain. If you are a trekker, Mount Everest is an arduous climb, difficult and boastful for those who have achieved. If you call the climb Chomolungma or Sagarmatha, you climb enough that you need not boast. You simply do it because you can.
Let meditation be the connection to your inner mountain.