"Meditation applies the brakes to the mind." – Ramana Maharshi
Meditation is a part of yoga. According to sage Patanjali, the father of modern yoga, the complete stillness of mental tendencies is yoga.
Meditation (dhyana in Sanskrit) denotes the seventh of the eight limbs of yoga in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. The eight limbs of yoga are yama, niyama, aasana, pranayama, pratyahar, dharana, dhyana (meditation), and samadhi.
Commonly translated as meditation, the word "dhyāna" cannot be translated into English. The English word "meditation" is derived from the Latin verb meditari, meaning "to think, contemplate, devise, ponder, to exercise the mind." Anything within the realm of the mind is not dhyana.
Peace lies within. Everyone’s sleep proves it. Just as in sleep one finds new freshness, vigor, and peace, so also one finds even greater peace called divine bliss in meditation. Actually, meditation is an elder brother of sleep. No effort is ever needed for either sleep or meditation. To sleep or meditate, one must turn the mind within, though.
What is meditation?
Meditation is very easy to understand. Right now, you are experiencing a waking state. What is the peculiarity of this waking state? You are aware but not thoughtless. Right? What happens during your deep sleep state? You are thoughtless but not aware. When you are both aware and thoughtless, you are truly in meditation.
The quality of thoughtless in the state of deep sleep -- in the realm of the mind -- is not the same as in the realm of Spirit — beyond the mind. Beyond the mind - the mind’s three states of waking, dreaming, and sleeping — is the last fourth state called turiya in Sanskrit. The fourth is not a state really – that is pure awareness of the Self, true Self, innermost being, Spirit, true nature, supreme consciousness, eternal Truth, or "no-mind." The goal of meditation practice is to experience this turiya, the highest level of consciousness.
All of the mind’s three states - waking, dreaming, and deep sleep - become illusory when you enter the fourth – turiya. Turiya – the ultimate reality – is the permanent background that underlies and transcends the said three temporary states of the mind. Just like clouds come and go in the sky, the said three states of your mind come and go in the fourth.
Just as you drift into sleep, you can glide into the fourth, turiya – true meditation – naturally. In true meditation, your mind becomes as silent as in a deep sleep, with only one difference — it is also fully alert/aware as in your waking state. The bliss enjoyed unconsciously in deep sleep is enjoyed consciously in turiya.
Remember, meditation has nothing to do with the mind. Meditation is not a doing; it is a state of being -- not swimming but floating. You just are in meditation. If you make an effort to meditate, you will end up creating tension in your mind.
What should you meditate on?
Absorb yourself in the pure "I am," called inner Self, the object of meditation. You may be wondering: what exactly is the inner Self? Swami Muktananda (1908–1982), regarded as the Guru’s Guru (param siddha), said: “Through meditation, you can know your own inner Self. That one who understands the most secret things inside you is the Self. For example, when you are in sleep there is someone who watches everything, who witnesses everything, who understands everything even though you are asleep. And then when you wake up, that being tells you what you have seen in your dream. That being is the Self, so meditate on the Self.”
You can reach your innermost Self through meditation. This innermost Self is always pure. Your body and mind can be impure, but your innermost Self can never become impure.
Congratulate yourself first because you already have that pure Self! However, you are unaware of it. The dirt of your mind -- such as anger, lust, greed, attachment, hatred, jealousy, and pride -- keeps you away from experiencing the Self. In his book, Raja Yoga, Swami Vivekananda illustrated this clearly: “The bottom of a lake we cannot see, because its surface is covered with ripples. It is only possible for us to catch a glimpse of the bottom when the ripples have subsided, and the water is calm. If the water is muddy, or is agitated all the time, the bottom will not be seen. If it is clear, and there are no waves, we shall see the bottom. The bottom of the lake is our own true Self; the lake is the chitta [mind], the waves are the vrittis [tendencies].”
How to meditate?
Salute all sages to receive their grace as you begin to meditate. Close your eyes. Relax your body. Keep your spine straight. If you can, sit comfortably in the lotus posture. Do not move. Turn your mind inward to perceive your own divinity.
If any thought arises during meditation, just watch your thought. One who watches a thought is entirely different from the thought. For example, if you're watching a rose, you are not the rose. If you're watching your hand, you are not your hand. If you're watching your mind's activities, you are not the mind. The real You is the watcher/observer/knower/Seer. Watching isn't doing.
The innermost I-awareness is the witness of your mind -- thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Do not meditate on your mind. Instead, meditate on the witness of your mind. You have nothing to do with any thoughts. So do not react to any of your thoughts during meditation.
Meditation is witnessing. Witnessing means not judging, not evaluating, always remaining neutral. This witnessing/watching is the key to meditation. You are like the sky and thoughts are like clouds that come and go. The sky remains the same whether or not there are clouds. Therefore, switch your awareness to the seer/witness/watcher of those thoughts.
As you go on watching, your thoughts gradually go away. This is how you get out of your mind and get into absolute silence.
Remember: the goal of meditation is to go beyond your mind to experience your true nature. Identify yourself with the I-awareness within, not with your physical body or mind. Focus your attention on your breathing. Meditation is a thoughtless state that exists in the gap between your in-breath and out-breath. There are four steps involved in your breathing: breathing in, a gap, breathing out, and a gap. The gap or retention of breath is most significant. It is a state of total stillness (thoughtless), the goal of meditation. In meditation, your mind merges in its source, turiya, the core of your being, the heart.
If you are still not able to meditate, ask yourself: Are you aware of your physical body (“I am a man” or “I am a woman”), or are you aware of the innermost pure “I” within you? Through meditation, you should be able to get to the pure I-awareness within you. Know that this pure "I" is always there within you, regulating your breathing. All you need is to become aware of the pure "I" and maintain this awareness.
During meditation, you don't fall asleep; you become more alert; you go beyond your mind. When you experience that naturally calm — absolute bliss — state of "no-mind," you're experiencing true meditation.
The meditation state can't be understood intellectually, but you can definitely experience it. Once you've experienced meditation, you'll start seeing yourself as a pure Spirit that's ever blissful and divine.
Every religion has meditation as its base. For example, if you are a Christian, you are meditating on your own innermost Spirit, not on any religion. No belief/ritual/dogma is involved in meditation. Meditation is pure science.
Swami Muktananda (1908-1982) said, "I receive so many letters from people who were reading and received shaktipat from the book. They put the book against their hearts and began to meditate."
I would suggest a book that I wrote myself, called . In the book, I give an insight into spirituality, meditation, yoga, and true Guru. In it, you will find my own experience of Kundalini awakening: transcending one's physical body and mind and experiencing absolute reality. I also answer questions about body, mind, and Spirit as well as the fundamental truth we all share.
Meditation gives you the power to be happy even when you are unhappy. "Meditation can transform a person's character, conduct, and behavior. Through the practice of meditation, lost energy is replenished, memory is improved, intellect is sharpened, and intuition is developed. Meditation removes all worries and tensions of the mind." (Source: Building a Noble World)
May you delight in your own being!