Don’t get me wrong, I meditate every day and sincerely love my practice. But for me, meditating has often been more mundane than magical.
More often I’m meditating for the sake of meditating, unaware if I’m actually accomplishing anything at all, doing it every day in the way someone brushes their teeth in the morning.
But sometimes, when I come to sit, I’m met with this chilling magnetism–a feeling of intense stillness almost buzzing around me, requiring effort to physically move out of my practice. I’ve had days where my practice gave me chills, or unearthed an unexplainable visceral spiral of sensation from the pit of my belly to buzzing at the crown of my head.
In my silence, I’ve received ideas, symbols, and even heard songs providing me with answers to questions. I’ve heard words and phrases clear as day, challenging me with inconvenient truths and calling for me to make a change. The magic is working!
And the next time I am right back to emerging thoughts and a painful desire to look at the clock and check how many minutes I have left.
Practice Correct Effort
It’s easy to chase the “spiritual high” of meditation and miss the point of the practice all together. If we measure our meditation by our ability to drop into deep transcendental states of consciousness, we’re going to find ourselves disappointed and bored.
Perhaps it’s important to remember that meditation serves different purposes like “checking-in” with oneself and tuning the body and mind for the day. The Bhagavad Gita, invites us to practice correct effort and not be attached to our results. Our meditation practice is a perfect example of this and the best way to soften our expectations and sustain a meaningful practice is by understanding how meditation works.
Meditation and Patanjali
For so long I thought being a good yogi meant focusing intently to clear my mind. While at other times, in order to appease the intuitive in me I’ve allowed my practice to be more passive, intuitively following the sensations in my body in hopes of finding intuitive guidance or “information.” I have found pros and cons to both.
It wasn’t until I studied the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali that I was able to unify these seemingly polar opposite approaches, and begin to make peace with my practice and emergent mind.
Yogic sage Patanjali offers us a road map in the yoga Sutras, one of the only living works that codified the disparate teachings of yoga and meditation and breaks the process down into tangible steps and outcomes. Patanjali is clear.
Meditation consists of three separate, but interconnected parts: Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.
- In Dharana, you are concentrating on a single point of focus. This state of meditation is done to soften compulsive thinking or the “monkey mind” as many know it. This is when you actively begin to witness your thoughts and feelings and redirect back onto your point of focus. Maybe if you’re meditating on the moon, you start to feel or embody the moon within your being.
- In the state of Dhyana, you aren’t trying as actively to meditate. Rather you passively catch glimpses of uninterrupted focus on meditative absorption. Going back to the moon, rather than focusing intently on the moon, you just think and see “moon.”
- Samadhi is a state of meditative bliss. In Samadhi, you link with the object and the meaning that it represents for you. Here, you are linked to the moon.
Flow Like the Water
Holistocrats Yoga & Wellness studio owner Juliana Bottini describes these three phases of meditation with an example given to her by her philosophy teacher, Edwin F. Bryant.
She passes down the analogy of meditation being like a water faucet. Dharana is when you turn the handle ever so slightly and the faucet begins to drip water. Dhyana, is when water starts to flow more steadily and freely into the sink. Samadhi is when the handle is turned all the way to the side and the water runs completely unobstructed.
This blueprint is here to guide our meditation practices. Our actual meditation processes aren’t so linear. A sign of a mature practice is being able to come back to your meditation practice frequently and with a good attitude. Our meditation practices should give us the tools to self regulate, learn about ourselves, and misidentify with false narratives.
Other days the practice will naturally have to be “softer” allowing whatever memories and feelings that need to show up, show up and process through our beings so that we work through them, instead of bypassing them.
I’ve been meditating regularly for six years, but more regularly the past three years. I’ve meditated on unexceptionally neutral days, happy days (and struggled), and I’ve meditated through chapters characterized by ongoing abuse. I did this to keep myself calm and safe, to tune in to myself.
We need to use meditation to help us with what we need that day, and our practice should be just as dynamic as our lives. As Jeff Brown says in his book Grounded Spirituality, “non attachment is a tool not a lifestyle.”
About the Author
Derek Vaughn is a 500+ hour registered yoga teacher with close to a decade of dedicated experience practicing yoga as well as a professional intuitive. He uses yoga and spiritual techniques to offer his students a tool kit for deep introspection, self regulation, clarity and personal growth. Derek’s unique voice is also shaped by his Masters degree in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, where his research focused on “sex and the sacred” and yoga’s ability to heal trauma. His work aims to help his students engage with spirituality and mindfulness in an applicable, healthy, and therapeutic way. His one-on-one intuitive sessions and academic interests often intersect, balancing themes of sex positivity, sexuality, and seeing the body and intuition as an extension of the sacred. You can currently reach him via Instagam @derekvaughn_intuitive or on his blog Confessions of a Frazzled Yogi.