One of the ways in which we can sustain and maintain a healthy body is to adopt the practice of yoga. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra explains this as an eight-fold guide for meaningful and purposeful life. This eight-fold path is called ‘ashtanga’ which literally means eight limbs.3
The first two, Yama and Niyama are about the good doctrines of life, and how to have a disciplined mind that does not hurt the self or others.
The third is exercise or Asana, which is also known as the postures, practiced in yoga.
Pranayama, the fourth limb meaning breath control, are intrinsic breathing techniques to connect the body with the mind which eventually leads to the process of understanding the mind.
Pratyahara, the fifth limb means withdrawal. Conscious effort is made to draw our awareness away from the external world and go within ourselve
We learn how to slow down the thinking process and concentrate on a single mental object. At this stage, we focus and concentrate on a single point.
The seventh stage, which is Dhyana, is when one achieves the ability to meditate with an uninterrupted flow of concentration. The mind is quietened and we watch, observe and understand its qualities, producing a curious sense of happiness within. One develops internal stillness, while being keenly aware of the external world.
At this level, one is able to identify and see the spark of Divinity in everyone thereby producing and releasing positive vibes towards mankind.
The final stage, Samadhi, is transcending the self. Enlightenment is the ultimate state of yoga.
WHERE DOES THE PRACTICE OF MEDITATION FIT INTO ALL THIS?
Meditation is a practice developed first and foremost through yoga techniques. It is the ability to be aware of the complete nature of the mind, resulting in peace of the mind. As I understand it, meditation has nothing to do with any form of religion. It is a technique employed to control your mind to achieve self-restraint, and self-discipline to manage or govern your life with success.
A harnessed mind will not give in to wayward desires which can be detrimental to your personal growth. The natural quality of the mind, in actuality, is being in peace and meditation helps in re- establishing this. Meditation is not about artificial control of thought processes. Instead, it is an organic meaningful process of channelling thought processes.
Meditation can also be perceived as completing one’s duties with total honesty, integrity, dedication with joy and love, thereby subsequently creating a sense of inward peace within. Reading and acquiring knowledge, can also be meditation because it can bring peace and stillness within one’s self. As Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “Be ever Present. And give your all to whatever you are doing, while constantly thinking of Me.”
More often than not, there is religious or spiritual slant attached to the word ‘meditation’. Nonetheless, terms such as mindfulness, focusing the mind or breathing techniques have now become synonymous with meditation. Frankly, any activity that connects you with faith and joy that invariably gives you peace of mind and brings stillness within you is meditation.
When you experience such joy within you, your body is in a state of balance. In balance, the body functions in optimal condition, thereby, avoiding all disease. You are, quite simply, in total control of your mind and body.