Thursday, April 7, 2011
Meditations, Mantras and Yoga
Kiirtan Kiirtan is the singing of a mantra aloud while ideating on the Supreme Being. It inculcates the feeling of bliss and prepares the mind for meditation, because in performing it all the motor and sensory organs are engaged and directed towards the Supreme. It can be done anywhere, any time, but the best time is just before meditation. The mantra used for kiirtan is: Baba Nam Kevalam Baba means "my most beloved One", Nam means "name of" or "to identify with", and Kevalam means "only". So the meaning of the mantra is "My most Beloved is the only One." The ideation is: "Everywhere I look, in everything I hear, feel, see, taste and smell, I perceive that one Supreme Consciousness which pervades all things." Kiirtan has many benefits. It purifies the mind and prepares it for meditation, accelerating the speed of movement toward the Supreme. Because of the mental clarity achieved, one easily finds solutions to problems while performing it, as well as relief from physical and psychic ailments. Meditation The practices of Ananda Marga encompass a wide range of techniques for physical, mental and spiritual development, the central practice being meditation. Meditation means to look within your mind to feel the bliss that is the essence of your existence. That bliss is within you, just as it is within everybody and everything. Meditation is an essential tool for self-transformation and spiritual development. One of the goals of Ananda Marga is to make meditation available to all people free of charge throughout the world. Specially trained teachers give personal instruction in the process of mantra meditation, but you can try a simple technique for yourself now: Find a comfortable place on the floor and sit with your legs crossed. Place your hands one on top of the other in your lap, keep your back straight, eyes closed and tongue on the roof of the mouth. Your breathing should be calm and relaxed, through the nose. Now imagine that you are sitting in the most peaceful place that you can think of. Feel that you are sitting there in complete peace, and imagine infinite happiness is surrounding you in every direction. Feel that you are completely surrounded by that infinite peace and happiness, and start to repeat within your mind the following mantra: Baba Nam Kevalam Baba means "beloved". It refers to your deepest self: the Supreme Self, the source of infinite peace and happiness. Nam means "name" or "to identify with", and Kevalam means "only". So the mantra means "Only my Beloved". Think of the meaning as you're repeating it, and feel the infinite peace and happiness all around you and within you. Continue for as long as you like, then open your eyes. "You are never alone or helpless. The force that guides the starsguides you too." ~ Shrii Shrii Anandamurti Guidelines for meditation: • Don't worry if you have trouble concentrating – it's normal. It takes some time and practice to be able to focus on the one thought. Every time you realize your mind has wandered away from the mantra, concentrate on it again – it will get easier the more you do it. The main thing is to keep practicing, and really try to tap into the flow of the ideation. • Don't meditate sitting on a chair or on your bed – you are likely to get too relaxed to concentrate. Instead, sit cross-legged on the floor in a peaceful place where nobody will disturb you. Sit on a blanket or mat, and keep it only for your meditation. If you have trouble sitting cross-legged, put some cushions under you so your backside is higher off the ground. That will take some of the pressure off your legs, and help keep your back straight. Avoid resting your back against the wall. • Refresh yourself with cool water before you start. • Meditate twice a day – in the morning before breakfast, and in the evening before dinner. Each time is important, to get your mind and body used to it. • Singing the mantra aloud before you meditate calms the mind and prepares it for meditation. You can sing to any tune you like, with or without instruments. • Repeat the mantra throughout the rest of the day, singing it if you like. That will give you a continual feeling of lightness and happiness, and make it easier to meditate. Asanas (yoga postures) In the West we have come to equate the term "yoga" with yoga postures, but in fact they form only a small – albeit important – part of the whole system. The term "yoga" in fact implies a whole way of life which includes yoga postures as one of its many facets. In Sanskrit, yoga postures are called asanas. Asana means "a posture giving physical comfort and mental composure." Asanas affect the glands, nerves, muscles and all the organs of the body. There are many physical benefits, but the most important effect is on the mind. The practice of asanas places pressure on the endocrine glands, and this results in the regulation of hormones secreted from those glands. The hormones affect the emotions, and the resultant emotional balance facilitates concentration and meditation. So asanas help prepare the mind for meditation. Benefits of asanas: • Balance the hormone secretions from the glands. • Give flexibility to the body. • Improve respiration, as well as blood and lymph circulation. • Massage the internal organs. • Detoxify the joints. • Relax the nerves and muscles. • Cure diseases. While practicing asanas the body should be cool and calm. The stomach should not be full. The room should be clean and warm, and there should be no smoke in the air. Except for the meditation postures, asanas should not be practiced during menstruation or pregnancy. In general, asanas should only be practiced on the advice of a proper teacher. Spread a blanket or mat on the floor and try these simple and effective asanas: Yogamudra: Sit cross-legged. Hold your left wrist with your right hand behind your back. Slowly lowering your chin, then your neck, bend down as far as you can go (as in the photo at the top of this page), breathing out as you go down. Stay there for 8 seconds with your breath held out, then rise up breathing in. Practice eight times. Cobra: Lie on your stomach. Place your hands facing down on the floor beside your ears. Supporting your weight on your palms, push up and raise the chest, looking up towards the ceiling. Breathe in while rising, and hold your breath in that position for 8 seconds. Come down to the original position while breathing out. Practice eight times. Long Salutation: Kneel down with your buttocks resting on your heels and your toes pointing forward. With your palms together, extend your arms up vertically next to your ears. Slowly bring your arms and head down as one, first bending your neck, then the whole upper body, until your fingers hit the floor, keeping your buttocks on your heels all the time. Now stretch out with your forehead and nose resting on the floor. Breathe out as you go down, and stay there with your breath held out for 8 seconds. Then rise up breathing in. Practice eight times. After practicing asanas, you should do a skin massage and then lie down in deep relaxation for at least two minutes. The skin massage helps in the absorption of sebaceous oils which are naturally secreted onto the skin surface. Deep relaxation gives the body a chance to assimilate the positive energy gained from the asanas. Skin Massage: • Increases the lustre and suppleness of the skin. • Relaxes and revitalizes the nerves. • Increases the blood and lymph circulation. • Harmonizes the vital energy (pranah) of the body. The skin massage is not a deep muscle massage. It is a light going-over of the skin, as well as some extra attention given to the lymph glands. First rub your palms together a few times to warm them up. Start at the head and face and work down, rubbing the entire surface area of the skin. This is one of the reasons why it’s best not to wear any clothes except your underwear during asanas – the skin massage should be done in direct contact with the skin. Pay particular attention to the throat, under the chin, the armpits, groin, and behind the knees. In these regions there are collections of lymph glands which also benefit from the massage. Deep Relaxation: • Induces the "relaxation response," similar to hibernation. • Relieves stress. • Lowers the blood pressure. • Strengthens the heart. • Relaxes the nerves and muscles. • Decreases the need for sleep. Using the same blanket as for asanas, lie on your back with your arms by your side, making sure that your breathing is calm and relaxed. Now go through your whole body, starting at your feet, consciously making sure that each part is completely relaxed – with no muscular tension at all. Go from the feet up the legs, consciously checking each part, into the groin area, into the abdomen (also feeling that your internal organs are relaxed), into the chest and shoulders, from the fingers and hands up the arms, then into the neck and up into the face, relaxing the facial muscles, including the eyes, and finally to the top of the head, feeling that your brain is also relaxed. Check once more that you are breathing calmly, and stay like that – fully relaxed – for a few more minutes. Deep relaxation is especially important for those who do a lot of mental work. Do it as often as you like throughout the day. Whenever you feel mentally fatigued, even just a couple of minutes can be enough to rejuvenate and revive you.