You cannot practice Meditation.
Good Morning !
We have come to a situation, wherein the first thing you do when you wake up is to look for your phone. Check whatsapp , facebook, emails, messages. This is first input that is given to your brain after waking up from sleep. This has become such a habit that it is no longer a conscious action, it is automatic. The only choice is whether you start using the phone before going to the toilet or while on it.
Thoughts, Conversations, News, Updates – most of it unnecessary information is fed to your fresh mind before the start of your day. Most of it absorbed unfiltered as the mind is coming out of a deep state of relaxation. That is provided you had a good overnight sleep. But we will come to that later.
All this input is creating emotions resulting in a subsequent feeling; completely out of your control.
Your mind is processing this information while you brush your teeth, take a shower and get ready for the day. Your mind is engaged in processing without taking cognition of most the actions you are performing.
Getting to work...
You leave your house with a scattered mind and are ready to start the journey to work. You get onboard, find a place and your attention is back to the computer in your hand. Endless amount of information, bottomless feeds designed to keep you hooked to your device. Information designed to grab your most valuable and limited asset - your time, your attention, your awareness !
Loaded with information, designed specifically for you based upon your interest, hobbies and data stolen from you to make profit for somebody else, you now arrive for work. A place where you get paid for your time, attention, awareness. Where your knowledge is supposed to transform into a skillfull action. Where your progress is directly dependent upon your ability to think critically, creatively, to solve problems, to make decisions, to lead and to achieve. And your phone vibrates! For that one split moment it grabs your attention. The attention which you so effortfully gathered in order to achieve your own progress is now once again stolen for someone else to profit from.
It might seem innocent and harmless at the time.., just a quick hello from friend, a forwarded joke, a quick news flash on any other unplanned update or notification taking a fraction of your time, just when you are supposed to work for yourself. If you notice, it never stops there. There will always be interesting bits lurking around the edges of your screen. Now that harmless moment of distraction has become a fulltime occupation of the Mind and you have forgotten what you were doing before and how you ended up here.
A new, unnecessary thought has entered your mind and has taken multiple turns guided by the self-learning algorithms acting upon your virtual profile created by stealing your data, analysing your personal pictures, reading your emails, recording your conversations & tracking your every movement. All, with your due permission. It has taken your awareness where you never intended it to be.
Having lost Time - your most limited resource you now bring your attention back to where you started. Refocus on the task at hand. You complete the task with half the amount of focus you could have done it. It is not your best work and you know that.
Again your phone vibrates, and the process repeats.
The cumulative quality of your work is impacted by the lack of your attention towards it. But it is the output you will be judged upon and your progress, your future will be determined by it.
Now that there is less appreciation for your work, you don’t like your job and accumulate feelings of anger and resentment towards your Boss. Another negative factor which will impact your progress. Lack of focus accompanied by negative outlook has now started to become a part of your personality.
Nevertheless, you get through your day, meet up with your friends, have some drinks, eat, make memories and have an overall good time. Not only do you have great memories to remember but you ensure that these are not forgotten by sharing them online. People you know start liking them and you get an instant gratification as to how good things are.
By the time you reach home you are popular. It is a pleasurable feeling.
You settle down have some more screen time, get some more input and are now tired and want to sleep. You keep the phone next to your bed. It’s been a long day and sleep should just be around the corner. But you lie awake in bed as you mind wanders through the multiple inputs it has received… thought after thought cross your mind most of it unplanned, uncontrolled so much so that you are unaware that your eyes are open. Now you close your eyes memories come to the surface, some good some not so, some from today and some from past. After lying in a semi-conscious state for a while , your awareness is slowly getting withdrawn and your muscles become completely relaxed you have a sensation of falling – Falling into sleep.
All of a sudden your phone vibrates!
We become good at what we constantly do, and with the current influence of distractions on our mind, we have become extremely good at being distracted. Distracted at our own cost, for our own loss and for somebody else’s benefit. This is not a fair transaction, In fact it is not a transaction at all.
The Scattered, Distracted, Unconcentrated state of your mind has direct implications at multiple levels; Mental, Emotions, Physical, Causal and Resultant. They become barriers in the process of Concentration. Excessive sensory inputs causes your mind to become dull and confused. Mental Dullness which is translated into laziness at a physical level. Lack of energy, enthusiasm. Lack of will power, determination and consistency resulting into an inability to find your true purpose. Incorrect thought patterns resulting into Emotional Imbalance leading to Craving, addiction and disease. Incorrect state of being prohibiting progress and ensuring sadness.
Yoga is Concentration.
It is the Process of Concentration where you first learn to become aware of the influences that impact your mind. You are now able to identify and distinguish between the useful thoughts and the ones that bring you down. You can now choose the thoughts which will help you progress.
Having chosen the useful thought to think about, you now learn how to stay with it as long as possible without being disturbed by all the life happening to and around you. The ability to concentrate on one particular thought is the foundation of Understanding, Analyses, Application and Creativity.
One of the most complex system in Nature is our Brain. Brain Along with the spinal cord makes up our nervous system. All other system follow the orders of the nervous system. So if there is an equilibrium in the brain, it reflects on mind and the body.
Your brain is split up into 3 major layers – the Hindbrain, the Midbrain and the Forebrain or the frontal lobe.
Hindbrain is the lower level of the brain and performs the task of perception. All the information gathered through your senses is received and perceived by the hindbrain. It is responsible for the process of breathing. It controls the 600 + muscles in your body and is responsible for movement, balance, posture.
The Midbrain, the middle level located between the Forebrain and the Hindbrain is home to the limbic system. The seat of Human emotion.
This midbrain controls the lower brain. So if there is any imbalance in the emotional system it gives unwanted signals to the lower brain.
The top level, Forebrain, the Cerebral Cortex is the largest part of the brain and is the ultimate Control, Processing and Decision Centre. It is Intelligence – The Grey Matter - It is responsible for processing and projection. Processing memory, sensation, association, thought and Voluntary Physical Action. Anything you decide to do and do it out of your decision is voluntary action controlled by the Cortex.
This cortical – Upper level of the brain controls the Midbrain – the limbic system – the emotions.
But in most people the Midbrain is influencing the Top Level
Limbic system is influencing the Cortex.
Emotions influencing the Intellect.
And as a result your intelligence is not performing at its real potential.
To Change this you need the principle of Yoga. Yoga is nothing but the strengthening of the Cortex.
Attitudes and Techniques designed to control and discipline the Limbic System and the Lower Brain.
Through the practice of Yama and Niyama, you avoid internal and external conflicts creating a suitable condition to achieve an equilibrium in the brain.
Through the practice of Asana, when you control your posture, your Cortex is directly controlling the Lower brain bypassing the Emotional systems. The influence of the Emotions on the lower brain is minimised. As a result the disturbance caused by Emotional imbalance is reduced at a systemic level. And there is calmness in the body.
Your everyday breathing is influenced by your emotions and you feel the difference in your breathing when you are angry, scared or excited. This is your limbic brain controlling the lower brain. In Pranayama, when your breathing is intentional, deep and extended your cortex is directly controlling the lower brain and in the process bypassing the limbic system and reducing the influence of emotional disturbance.
In Pratyahara, when you withdraw the senses your Cortex is directly controlling your limbic brain your emotional system. Learning to control the senses, cravings, urges means exercising your cortex.
In Dharana, when you are practicing Concentration, directly controlling your thoughts and experiencing Focus with some Interruptions. Your Cortex is trying to control itself. It is Self-Control.
When we constantly exercise the Cortex, it becomes stronger and stronger and Now Concentration is Spontaneous – Dhyana or Meditation Happens.
What we repeatedly do becomes Automatic. Equilibrium established in the Brain is experienced throughout the body.
You’d say ‘Why do I need yoga to Concentrate? I did not need that as a Child. I got through just fine.
Our Limbic or Emotional System is extremely strong and it will use every reason in the book to prevent the cortex from developing. Just like Children prefer to concentrate on things that are easy and fun. Difficult boring things challenge their focus. You hardly have this choice in adult life.
Adults are most of the time involved in multitasking which reduces concentration and diminishes your performance. Not to mention the excessive interruptions of technology
Every aspect of adult life is geared towards exciting your emotions.
As a result limbic system grows stronger which disturbs and prevents the equilibrium from happening.
The only way to overcome this disturbance is Continous, unbroken Practice. Sitting down with your eyes closed for a few minutes or practicing Breathing or Asana for an hour in a day will help you make some progress. But if you are not vigilant about your thoughts and actions for the rest of day, you will lose whatever you have gained in that time. Yoga is 24 hours process. Every physical and Mental activity counts
One who is able to maintain focus has mastered his craft, he is hailed as a hero, a performer, an achiever while you pay to watch him.
Luckily the positive aspect of technology has also created a wave of awareness. More and More number of people are refusing to accept that they are operating at the optimum potential. They are acknowledging the fact that there is more to it than what meets the eye. They are willing to experiment, to explore & to seek.
Yoga and Cultural Appropriation
This in itself has given birth to huge industry of self-help, motivation, healing and what not. Authors, Speakers, Experts have successfully processed heaps of knowledge form the Indic Yogic tradition and have spun it as their own through dissociation with the source.
Concepts diluted to suit the beliefs of their audience and to sell them products. Concepts of Mindfulness, Meditation, Asana, Ayurveda directly picked up from Indian Traditions and spun into a well-being industrial complex.
The personal practice that was supposed to assist personal growth - now costs a fortune to learn. A spiritual practice aimed to weaken the Ego is now a means to strengthen it. Asana designed to prepare the practitioner’s mind for Concentration, now has become a Workout. The means have become an End. A paradox creating contradictions in the practitioner’s psyche further disturbing the equilibrium.
You cannot practice Meditation, All you can do is practice Concentration and Overcome the habits that prevent you from practicing it.
Meditation is what happens when you master Concentration
It is a spontaneous result of Concentration.