There are so many, many definitions of what Meditation is, and of course there are many systems of teaching Meditation technique. The Yoga approach is one of the most well known and structured ways to learn. The Zen way, of sitting zazen, is one of the least structured meditation practices.
And this is J. Krishnamurti’s definition: “Meditation is not the means to an end, it is both the means and the end.”
What is common, as far as I can tell as a teacher, is that the benefits of regular practice are profound. And the healing is sometimes simply astonishing! Healing which can be mental, emotional, physical, spiritual as the bodymind of a human being responds to regular practice. Meditation can be a maturing and transformational process as the meditator ceases to see her/himself as separate from everything and begins to experience harmony, balance and inner peace.
Meditation was the final journey, a journey of discovery through Yoga, of the ancient Vedic Yogis of India. They had learned to master and control the body with Asanas, the physical postures of Yoga. Then they mastered and controlled the emotions with Pranayama, the breathing techniques. And finally, they mastered and controlled the mind with Meditation . . . but more than that, they spent their time then in meditation exploring the quality of “man’s” relationship with god or the Divine.
And they did this for hundreds of years, thousands of years ago. So the legacy of their knowledge and experience was passed down to us, that we are born with the seeds of Divinity within us – or, as my interpretation goes . . . we are all potential creative geniuses just waiting to be transformed!
What is astonishing to me as a teacher is that the Yogis intuitively knew what to do for healing.
They tapped into a natural inner wisdom deep within the human experience of “Self” and they were able to understand this, interpret it and teach it by turning this wellspring of inner power into a codified system which could be passed down through generations.
In our Zen sangha (the group that comes together to sit zazen meditation) we often talk about healing and Meditation. And one of our group, David, is an artist and Master Potter, a retired art lecturer with experience in Jungian psychology and brain physiology (what makes brains work!) David’s insight into the Yogi’s experiences and knowledge was that they probably could “see” light. Much more sensitive than we are nowadays, after centuries of closing ourselves down energetically, the ancient Vedic Yogis could probably see energy, see the light in the breath, Prana, see blocks in the chakras, and knew the healing power of self-mastery and unification with the Divine. And this sensitivity meant they could probably see and commonly feel Bliss.
My own Meditation teacher, Sam Singh, had a traditional Indian training in Vedanta (Liberation is Oneness) himself and he taught the esoteric healing principles of Yoga. A fabulous education that I will always be grateful for.
And this is what the teaching is: Meditation is a state of higher consciousness in which we find ourselves after much practice of inwardness and awareness. It takes you to the state where you can dwell in the essence of yourSelf, the Bliss state. In Yoga, each soul is potentially Divine, and you carry within you the Seeds of Divinity.
In Meditation practice you are actively realising your Divine Self . . . as in materialising your own true creative nature.
As for systems and styles or forms of practice, this is what my teacher said to me: stick with one thing.
As a teacher myself, I have always interpreted that as meaning: find the way that suits you, learn and stay with it. You’re already on the journey . . . and there is no goal, only being and being well.
And my approach to pain and the journey to healing with Meditation is “Jiva is Shiva” – each of our individual souls is,ultimately, Divinity itself, the teaching of Ramakrishna which Swami Vivekananda carried on in his Raja-yoga (Meditation) teachings and writings.
We are far more powerful than we think we are, this is my understanding, because of our soul’s power, and far stronger as human beings, because of our spirits: we just need self-understanding and self-mastery and healing will happen (and this is my teaching).
Physically, one of the ways Meditation heals is with the deep breathing practices of Pranayama which prepare us for Meditation. Breath floods the brain with oxygen . . . and starving the body of oxygen by the brain, because of conflicts and tension, results in pain. In Meditation, deep breathing floods the body with extra energy that it needs, life force energy, together with the oxygen surplus which helps to calm the mind. The brain can be physically trained to direct this healing energy and oxygen to any part of the bodymind system.
One astonishingly powerful way to heal in this way is to focus the light we sense in the Divine, or the Ultimate Mind, in our mind and then direct it to the bodymind. The sensation of the light in the brain, positively affects glands, physically in the mindbody’s systems, and a healing process is set in motion.
By focusing awareness on the higher parts of our human nature, we change our self-image from dis -ease (“sick”) to healthy. We learn self-control, thereby changing awareness and personal power. We find our own inner wisdom. . . one of the most powerful reasons to meditate as far as I’m concerned because this builds so much inner confidence. We connect with “The Guru” within. Experience of inner peace is the natural effect, a homecoming if you like. And this, indeed, was my own personal journey through pain to healing.
Of course, there are other healing processes associated with Meditation: emotional and hormonal, as well as mental and spiritual. And, of course, many people turn to Yoga for wellbeing and this is because we have a deeper spiritual need. What we all seek ultimately is freedom, acceptance to be ourselves, and to be loved for who we are.
Quite often the healing in the bodymind is activated by the unconditional acceptance that the meditator experiences, both from the teacher and of course, the Universe. It is this acceptance which is so healing to us as human beings.
The path of Yoga Meditation is a path leading towards Self-Realization – to YOUR “self” . . . . your true nature, and you “train” your Soul in your practice.
The power of Meditation to heal and transform comes from the fact that it is working on a holistic (whole person) principle of harmony and unification. We harmonise the body and the mind with the breath, the emotions, and the spirit. And of course our unification with the whole, the whole of humanity, the cosmos, our Universe and Universal life force is so important for our wellbeing, as a human being.
As a teacher of many years experience now, I know very deeply that if you teach a person self-understanding and self-control, give them positive guidance, and let them feel the amazing benefits of wellbeing resulting from Meditation you give a person health and vitality for life – to enjoy life as we’re supposed to, to our full potential, our shining self.
I thought I would leave you with this quote from Swami Vivekananda (Raja Yoga, 1913) as it is one of my favourites:
“Man wants truth, wants to experience truth for himself. When he has grasped it, when he has felt it, realised it, felt it within his heart of hearts, then alone, declare the Vedas, will all doubts vanish, all darkness be scattered, and all crookedness be made straight.”
Susan Ni Rahilly has reached an interesting point in her life now that she’s in her mid-sixties: as an author/publisher and Zen, Yoga and Meditation teacher she considers herself “trans-genre”—a multi-dimensional teacher inspired by Ancient roots of both Zen and Yoga. These roots reach back to Divine Feminine practices and inspire her ongoing research into our innate abilities for deep listening and intuitive practice: awakening and accelerating our Spiritual Vision as change-agents for Humanity’s future. She is also the Spoken Word Artist SuZen.