Meditation / Yoga Therapy

General description of meditation

 

Meditation is sustained and uninterrupted concentration that leads to a highly focused mind. Meditation begins with concentration, which helps make our mind steady. When prolonged concentration leads to the continuous flow of the mind towards one object, this becomes meditation. To maintain and deepen meditation, the mind must have something to focus on. These objects of concentration not only focus the mind but also have the inherent ability to lead the student to more expanded states of awareness. The objects typically used are sounds (mantras), visual images (yantras or chakras), light, breath, or specific types of prayer.

 

There are several specific goals of meditation. The first is to liberate the mind from disturbing and distracting emotions, thoughts, and desires. The mind is transformed from a state of unrest and disharmony to a state of calmness and equilibrium. Another important goal of meditation is to bring the unconscious mind into conscious awareness in order to gain greater control over thought processes and emotions. The ultimate goal is to attain expanded states of consciousness in which we not only have in- creased awareness of previously unconscious thoughts and feelings, but also awareness of more subtle and universal principles, and comprehension of the world in a more complex and integrated way. In this state, we can experience great joy and inner peace.

 

Neutral and nonjudgmental observation of the content and experiences of the mind should accompany the process of meditation. It is important to avoid being attached to the contents of the mind during meditation because the desire to attain something or to have certain types of experiences distracts the mind from its focus and will interfere with continued concentration. This can lead to losing the calmness and contentment that normally characterize the steady mind.

 

As the power of concentration develops through the practice of meditation, our physical and mental abilities may also increase. It is important not to use these abilities for selfish purposes because this would interfere with the development of compassion and humility, which are very important qualities that arise from deep meditative practices. Self-indulgence and the need for self-gratification limit us to the narrow confines of our own individual mind and inhibit the experience of expanded states of awareness.

 

The technique of meditation is actually quite simple and systematic. When practicing meditation, we sit on a chair or on the floor with a straight spine and with hands placed comfortably on the lap, thighs, or knees. The eyes are closed gently. Using our mind, we relax each body part, beginning at the head and ending at the feet. We then regulate breathing by using the abdomen and diaphragm to move air in and out of the lungs. During inhalation the upper part of the abdomen moves out, away from the body, and on exhalation the abdomen moves back towards the body. Next, we adjust our breathing rhythm to become efficient, smooth, deep, and without pauses or hesitations. We then withdraw our senses from the outside world and direct all attention inwards. We follow this by concentrating on a sound (mantra) and also on specific energy centers within the body (chakras)..

 

During meditation, when thoughts, emotions, or desires arise, we observe the nature and content of these mental phenomena. We do not force our thinking to stop but instead we allow our thoughts to cease on their own. We simply return our focus to the object of concentration, such as our mantra. As thoughts arise, they are allowed to gently come into the mind and then to pass effortlessly out. We calmly bring our focus back to the object of concentration. Slowly, the process of letting go and refocusing becomes easier and is accomplished more quickly and meditation deepens naturally. With persistent practice, the mind gradually becomes identified with the object of concentration. This allows the individual to experience deeper and more highly refined states of consciousness.

 

Meditation has three key components: the person who is meditating, the technique of meditation, and the object of concentration during meditation. As the practice deepens, aware- ness of the technique is gradually eliminated. This occurs because as focus on the object of concentration becomes steady and automatic, awareness of the process diminishes until finally we cease to be conscious of it at all. Next, we lose awareness of ourselves as the mind identifies completely with the object of concentration. Finally, the object of concentration itself disappears as the mind becomes completely permeated with the object by its constant association with it. After all three components have disappeared, there is no awareness of our separateness and we experience a state of expanded consciousness.

 

Note: This information is adapted from my book, How to Meditate Using Chakras, Mantras, and Breath.

 

The path of meditation / raja yoga

 

The raja yoga path of meditation is an exact science. It is an inward journey that uses a detailed map as a guide that has been developed over thousands of years. The techniques and benefits gained from this meditative tradition can be verified by anyone who accepts the prescribed methods as a hypothesis and then tests them by his or her own experience. The practices of raja yoga and meditation are systematic disciplines that do not impose unquestioning faith but encourage healthy personal decision-making and discrimination. 

When we prepare for and practice the form of meditation in this book, we follow the systematic steps of raja yoga along with the related paths of kundalini, mantra, and tantric yoga. The eight rungs on the ladder of the raja yoga path of meditation are described below.

Eight Steps of Raja Yoga

  1. Yamas – Regulation
  2. Niyamas – Observances
  3. Asanas – Postures and cleansings
  4. Pranayama – Breathing exercises
  5. Pratyahara – Sense withdrawal
  6. Dharana – Concentration
  7. Dhyana – Meditation
  8. Samadhi – Absorption, Enlightenment

1. Yamas are regulations of our relationships with others. These regulations all lead to modification of behavior, replacing negative habits with ethical values. When these restraints are practiced, the student remains free of guilt and remorse and experiences a greater sense of self-confidence, fulfillment, and peace of mind. Regulation of attitudes helps to conserve and direct our energy to higher spiritual practices. The five yamas are presented below.

Non-violence in thought, action, and speech is the first regulation. In San- skrit, the word for non-violence is ahimsa. When we practice non-harming we purposefully avoid hurting another person physically or emotionally, we do not talk behind another person’s back, and we are not even too hard on ourselves. It is a similar concept to the Hippocratic Oath when a physician pledges to “first, do no harm.” Even if we cannot help another per- son or our community, we must not cause more pain or suffering in another’s life.

Truthfulness to ourselves and to others is the second yama. Being truthful allows for the development of trust, inner strength, and courage.

Yamas: Restraints

  • Non-violence of thought, action, and speech
  • Truthfulness to oneself and others
  • Non-stealing
  • Control of sexual and sensual desires
  • Non-possessiveness and non-attachment

Non-stealing is the third regulation. Both lying and stealing inevitably lead to more deception to cover up the original lie or theft. A great amount of time and energy is wasted in these attempts to cover up misappropriations. Our conscience will often be affected leading to preoccupation with troublesome thoughts.

Control of sensual and sexual desires is the fourth yama. Preoccupation with satisfying sexual urges can be very distracting to the spiritual path. Being moderate with our desires, not mani- pulating another for sexual control, and directing our affection to a mutually agreeable loved one all represent control of the sensual desires.

Non-possessiveness is the fifth regulation. There is a great amount of time wasted in accumulating possessions that are useless or unnecessary in daily life. Attachment to material wealth leads to discontentment because we either worry about what we do not have or fear we will lose what we already do have.

 

2. Niyamas are observances of body and mind and in- clude the following five major principles. These observances enable us to develop self-awareness and self-control and prepare us for more adv- anced practices.

Cleanliness and purity of body and mind are the first observances. Being clean physically is an easy task to accomplish, but purity of the mind involves attempting to be discriminating and mindful at all times.

Contentment is the second niyama and involves creating a state of mind that encourages feelings of tranquility and equilibrium in all circumstances. Learning to be content in life regardless of wealth or personal status is the goal of this observance. Eliminating the desire to accumulate more possessions than is necessary for healthy and comfortable living helps cultivate contentment.

Practices that bring about health of body and mind are the third observance. This includes using preventive approaches to health care such as good nutrition and exercise.

Study of spiritual readings constitutes the fourth niyama. Reading books of philosophy and religion and studying the writings of inspirational spiritual leaders are examples of this observance.

Surrender to the higher self and ultimate reality is the fifth niyama. This involves devoting our body, mind, ego, and intellect to the pursuit of knowledge, truth, and wisdom.

 

3. Asanas are postures that include hatha yoga poses to ensure physical well-being, strength, and flexibility. While hatha yoga postures have many positive health benefits, such as helping back pain, lowering blood pressure, and stimulating under-active glands, the ultimate goal is to help develop a steady, strong spine for meditative practices. Hatha yoga practices also include practicing specific body washes and cleansings (kriyas), placing the hands and fingers in certain positions to direct internal energy flow (mudras), and the application of physical locks (bandhas). These physical locks involve compressing and stimulating various glands, nerves, and energy centers (chakras). There are also specific sitting postures that allow for effortless, steady, and more lengthy meditation practices.

 

4. Pranayama, which means control of prana or energy, are breathing exercises that are essential for integrating body, emotions, and mind. They are useful in treating many physical illnesses such as asthma, sinus conditions, digestive problems, and thyroid disorders. They are also helpful for controlling stressful situations and treating emotional problems including anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. The ability of breathing exercises to affect the mind and emotions can be explained by the fact that there are direct nerve connections from the nose and lungs to the brain with important relays to the nervous and endocrine (hormone) systems. Pranayama techniques are also essential to enhance meditation.

 

5. Pratyahara is sense withdrawal and control of the five senses (taste, smell, sight, touch, and hearing). We learn to voluntarily draw the senses inward and thus do not allow ourselves to be distracted by the world. Sense withdrawal from external desires and objects is an essential preliminary to deeper concentration and meditative techniques.

 

6. Dharana means concentration and includes practices where the distracted thoughts of the mind are gathered together and directed inwards towards an object of concentration through continual voluntary attention. In Tantric forms of meditation, the objects of concentration are inner sounds and vibrations (mantras), visual images and geometric forms (yantras), energy centers in the body (chakras), breath, and light.

 

7. Dhyana is meditation, which is sustained and unbroken concentration. While concentration techniques make the mind steady and one-pointed, meditation expands the one-pointed mind to a higher state of intuition and awareness by piercing through the conscious and unconscious mind.

 

8. Samadhi is absorption with the object of concentration and meditation (mantras, yantras, or chakras) through intense and prolonged effort. As the focus of concentration deepens, associated sounds and visual images fade. A conscious and calm state ensues, devoid of thought. The sense of self dissolves, replaced by a sense of universal consciousness. This state is free of the limitations of time and space. As the state of samadhi deepens, all experiences of duality and separation are lost, and union with the underlying forces of the universe is experienced. At the deepest levels of meditation, there is absorption into universal consciousness. While it is impossible to adequately verbalize such an experiential state, it has been described as having ultimate wisdom and knowledge, waves of tranquility, a sense of beauty, boundless and transporting joy, and feelings of bliss. A person reaching the state of samadhi has continual access to these experiences and at the same time lives simply in the world to help others.[i]

 

Note: This information is adapted from my book, How to Meditate Using Chakras, Mantras, and Breath.

 

 

Koshas: Meditation, the Five Levels of Consciousness and Holistic Medicine

 

Unlike the Western conception of the human as an amalgam of body and mind, meditation theory recognizes five levels of consciousness that span a much larger spectrum of human experience. The five levels of consciousness are conceptualized as existing from gross external levels to more subtle internal ones, the outer being more dense and obscuring the finer, less material inner layers. Associated with each level is a specific type of awareness. These five levels of consciousness are called sheaths (koshas) because of their concentric arrangement, although they all inter- penetrate each other. The five major sheaths of consciousness are the body or physical sheath, the energy or breath sheath, the mind sheath, the intellectual or unconscious sheath, and the blissful or transcendental sheath. Within the last sheath lies the Center of Consciousness, the source of all the other levels.

 

The Center of Consciousness is often compared to light and the different sheaths as lampshades that cover it. Each concentrically placed sheath obscures and conceals the clarity and brilliance of the underlying light source. The shades reflect the light to different degrees and are made of different materials, shapes, and colors. The outermost sheaths are the densest, allowing the least amount of light to penetrate. Those who identify only with the most external sheaths, such as the body, remain oblivious to the more inner levels of consciousness and the Center of Consciousness. They experience life only on a mundane physical level and cannot feel the deeper, more spiritual aspects of their existence. On the other hand, meditation teaches the student to penetrate the sheaths so that he/she can experience the complexity and subtleness of life and more clearly see the source of the inner light.

 

These sheaths form a continuum, and all levels are inter- dependent, connected, and coordinated closely. Humans exist simultaneously on all these levels. The connections between the levels are maintained by the chakras, as these centers integrate the physical, electromagnetic, mental, and spiritual energies from the various sheaths of consciousness. In this way, body affects mind, breathing affects the unconscious, and the deeper spiritual levels affect all the other levels. Thus, each kosha and chakra center offers a particular frame of reference through which the individual relates to and experiences the world.

 

The theoretical construct of the sheaths of consciousness helps explain how the body, mind, and emotions interact in both health and disease. The paradigm of the koshas is a very useful medical model because it says that humans exist on several levels, including the physical, energy, conscious mind, unconscious mind, and super conscious mind. If humans exist on these levels, it follows that disease also occurs on these levels and that diagnosis and treatment can be focused at the appropriate level. Thus, the philosophy of the sheaths represents a model of preventive and holistic medicine which offers both conceptual theory and pragmatic treatment approaches into which various conventional and alternative therapeutic systems of health care can be organized and integrated.

 

The body sheath is the first and outermost layer and is called the annamaya kosha. Anna means “food” and maya means “illusion.” Thus, annamaya kosha refers to the physical body (which is made of food) and represents the densest level of illusion that obscures consciousness. This kosha includes the anatomical and physical structure of the human body. Traditional methods used to treat people who have problems on this level are diet, vitamins, minerals, drugs, physical therapy, and surgery. Complementary and alternative approaches include more broad-based nutrition and supplementation, herbal medicine, and body therapies such as massage, hatha yoga, martial arts, and tai chi. People involved with meditation often simplify their diets, moving towards eating less meat, fat, and refined sugar, all of which help to decrease the risk of heart disease, cancer, and hypertension. They learn to be observant as to what foods create clarity of mind, energize the body, create mental dullness, or cause irritability, stuffiness, or gas. Yoga, martial arts, and other forms of exercise are often practiced because of their positive effects on mind-body awareness and integration.

 

The energy sheath is the second layer and is called the pranayama kosha. This kosha consists of the subtle forces of prana, which means “energy,” and is sustained and nourished by the breath. There are really no approaches in traditional allopathic medicine that either diagnose or treat a patient on this level, mainly because conventional perspectives do not really recognize the existence of this level. Holistic approaches that treat the energy sheath are biofeedback, acupuncture, pranayama (breathing) exercises, and homeopathy. With respect to the human organism, energy has various names and forms. Chinese call energy chi and homeopathic physicians call it the vital force. In all traditions, it is considered the life force that animates the human organism. The major transmitter of energy from the external world to the individual is through breathing and, to a lesser extent, food.

 

Meditation theory suggests that because energy (second sheath) links body (first and outermost sheath) and mind (third sheath), imbalances on the energy level often reflect or predate physical disorders or emotional problems. Before mental disease can produce physiologic changes, the disharmony first may pass through the intermediary energy level. Conversely, suppressed physical illnesses may show manifestations in energy patterns be- fore affecting the mind or emotions.

 

Acupuncture works on the energy level by needles or finger pressure being applied to pathways that transmit energy flow. These pathways are called meridians and have no real correlation with nerve pathways. They are similar to the nadis of meditation theory. By stimulating certain points, a balancing of energy flow is facilitated in distant organs. Pain reduction and anesthesia are also possible through acupuncture therapy.

 

When there are uneven patterns of breathing, the flow of energy through the body is also affected. Physiologically, irregular breathing influences every cell of the body by its effect on oxy- genation and blood flow, on the central nervous system, and the autonomic nervous system. By consciously controlling the breath, we learn to modulate and direct the amount and quality of energy entering the body. Through slow and deliberate practice of simple breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing, we learn to discern which irregularities of the breath flow reflect particular illnesses, how certain states of mind adversely affect breathing patterns, and also how to redirect and guide the breath to create harmony between the mind and body.

 

Homeopathy is an interesting form of medicine that acts directly on the energy level, which is called the vital force. Through the process of dilution and vigorous shaking, which is also called attenuation or potentization, the medicines are prepared and refined in such a way that they work on an energy level. The medicine, which is called a remedy in homeopathy, is offered to the patient when it matches the energy level of the illness. This has the effect of catalyzing a healing response of the body and mind.

 

The mental sheath is the third layer and is called the manomaya kosha. Mano means “mind” and this level corresponds to the conscious mind. This sheath helps make up our personalities and is sustained through active thought. Treatment modalities that act on this level include various Western psychotherapies, especially those approaches that are behavioral in orientation. Through careful observation and analysis, the patient learns to identify his problems and then forms strategies to solve them. Various medications to control depression, anxiety, or bipolar disease also directly affect mental functioning. Relaxation and concentration techniques associated with the meditative traditions also directly affect conscious mental activity. By emphasizing non- attached observation of the flow of thoughts, we learn to clear the conscious mind by letting go of distracting and habitual thoughts and emotions. By mentally sending messages to our body and by observing the breath and energy flow, we can learn to relax muscular tension and help better regulate tension-related diseases such as high blood pressure and migraine headaches.

 

The intuitive sheath is the fourth layer and is called the vijnanamaya kosha. Vijnana refers to the intuitive knowledge of consciousness and this level corresponds to some degree with the Western idea of the unconscious mind. Areas of mental health care associated with this sheath are the techniques of free association in Freudian psychoanalysis, dream analysis of Jungian psychology, and certain meditative practices. All therapies directed to this level help us become aware of unconscious motivations and emotions as well as refine our intuitive, nonverbal faculties. This allows for integration of deeper, unexplored levels of the human psyche within us.

 

Meditation helps problems that arise from the intuitive sheath by teaching us to witness troublesome thought and emotional patterns. Through meditation we begin to realize the fleeting, ever-changing character of the mind. Acknowledging the impermanence of thought brings awareness that there is an element of unreality associated with patterns of the mind. We come to know a quiet, calm, and centered part of ourselves that lies beyond the mind. We can then observe the mind and use it as a tool, yet not become identified with it. When practicing meditation we learn to let go of transient desires and vacillating emotions. We become less attached to meaningless mental events, freeing mental energy for more creative purposes and expanded awareness.

 

The blissful sheath is the fifth layer and is called the anandamaya kosha. Ananda means “bliss” and this sheath corresponds with higher states of consciousness. The only approaches that can apply to this level are more advanced meditation techniques that help create a state of inner peace, harmony, deep understanding, compassion, love, and feelings of bliss. With sustained concentration on a single object, especially a sound (mantra), the practitioner can become absorbed with the sound, and is led inwards towards the Source/Center of Consciousness.

 

The Center of Consciousness lies within the fifth and innermost sheath and is considered to be the source of all the other sheaths of consciousness. It is that part of the individual (self) that is most intimately connected with the universal (Self). When meditation leads a person to the Center of Consciousness, the narrow confining ego (sense of self) is cast off, and one merges with the source of all consciousness, which is within all humans and is nonchanging and eternal. It is described as a place of complete knowledge, absolute peace, indescribable joy, and ultimate bliss. The meditative process finally culminates with the elimination of mundane distractions and absorption with the source of consciousness. We become fully awake and live beyond the bondage of time, space, and causation. This state has many names, including Samadhi, nirvana, the Tao, God consciousness, Christ consciousness, enlightenment, or self-realization.[ii]

 

Note: This information is adapted from my book, How to Meditate Using Chakras, Mantras, and Breath.

 

 

Meditation and Chakras

 

Meditation involves focusing the mind on a thought or object. There are some objects of concentration that not only center and calm the mind but also are intrinsically connected to higher states of consciousness and therefore have inherent power to lead the practitioner of meditation to experience these states. These objects of concentration include the chakras, mantras, and yantras.

 

Chakras are subtle centers within the body where physical, psychological, and spiritual forces interact and intersect. A chakra, which means wheel or circle, is seen in a deep meditative state and is experienced as an energy field. As the movement of spokes emanating from a central motionless hub characterizes the wheel, the chakras represent an area of energy surrounding a central point from which motion and energy originate. Each subtle energy wheel represents a force field that transforms energy from its source (consciousness) into various physical, mental, and spiritual qualities.

 

While these centers are described as being inside the spinal cord and correspond to major nerve plexuses and are associated with anatomical organs and endocrine glands, the chakras cannot be found by dissecting the human body. They can only be experienced and seen by adjusting our internal perception to a higher and subtler frequency. Meditation theory teaches that the symbols associated with the chakras are not simply abstract representations. Just as iron filings form certain patterns reflecting the electromagnetic field of a nearby magnet, the energy that flows from the transforming stations (chakras) of the body also forms particular patterns, reflecting the energy field of that chakra. Thus, the symbolism of the heart chakra as two intersecting triangles (similar to the Star of David) surrounded by twelve lotus petals actually mirrors the energy formation particular to that area. (See the illustration on the front cover of this book for a pictorial representation of the chakras.) As the energy of the chakra continues to send pulsations and vibrations outwards, not only are geometric shapes formed, but specific sounds (mantras), colors, senses (smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing), elements (earth, water, fire, air, and space), and personality characteristics are also manifested.

The chakras are interconnected by the energy channels (nadis) located within and parallel to the spinal column. In the ordinary person, the chakras are functioning at a minimum level and are not harmonized with each other. Meditation theory com- pares this to a drooping, closed lotus flower. Through intense concentration and inner meditative practices on these energy centers, the chakras become more active, like lotus flowers opening to the sun in full bloom. In meditation, the chakras are increasingly harmonized with each other until they vibrate in unison. When this occurs, the body, emotions, and mind are balanced and higher states of awareness are experienced. The goals of meditating on the seven major chakras are to activate the centers through intense concentration and to stimulate the physical and psycho-spiritual qualities associated with each chakra as well as to raise the latent energies from the lower, more physical, chakras to the higher, more spiritually-evolved ones.

 

Kundalini-shakti is the primal force of the seen and unseen universe and is manifested and expressed within the human through the chakras. As a result of this phenomenon, the individual experiences the world through the particular frame of reference of the individual chakras. Not only do the chakras govern and vitalize the physical functioning of certain areas of the body, but they also correspond to and influence the emotional, psychological, and spiritual qualities associated with the specific region. For example, when the mind and kundalini are expressed through the fifth chakra, we become creative and communicate effectively. If our mind and energy are primarily expressed through the third chakra, then we might experience the world and other people in terms of power and control.

 

Meditation on the chakras is of fundamental importance in the Tantric systems of meditation. The seven major chakras and three of the most important minor chakras are described below.

 

Muladhara, which means “foundation,” is the first chakra and is located at the base of the spine. It is associated with the sacral and pelvic nerve plexuses of the physical body. Associated with the first chakra are the physical concerns of bowel functioning as well as the psychological issues of emotional security.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Physical problems that are associated with this area are chronic  diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome. Psycho- logical issues associated with the first chakra relate to the issues of survival and self-preservation. When we are overly focused on this center, we overly identify with physical existence. We might experience life as an intense need to survive at all costs. We may be subject to fear of others and feel separate and alone. A lack of energy in the first chakra is associated with feelings of insecurity. Integration at the first chakra leads to feelings of security and stability and forms a strong foundation for managing the complexities of life.

 

This chakra also is the resting-place of great amounts of latent energy (kundalini-shakti). When this energy is activated by yoga practices, breathing exercises, and meditation, the kundalini force is directed upward to the higher, more spiritually-evolved centers. See chapter 22, Kundalini, for more information on this subject.

 

Muladhara is visually described as being surrounded by four red lotus petals on a circle. Inside the circle is a yellow square and inside this is an inverted red triangle. Within the triangle is the coiled kundalini energy. This resembles a serpent wrapped around itself three and one half times with its head facing upwards into the central canal (sushumna). The sound (bija mantra) associated with this chakra is LAM (rhymes with rum and numb as do all the other chakra associated bija mantras). The significance of mantras will be presented in the next chapter, Mantras. The element of the first chakra is earth and the associated sense is smell.

 

Svadisthana, which means “her abode,” is the second chakra and is located within the spinal column across from and slightly above the genital area. It has a correspondence with the plexus of nerves and glands associated with the sexual organs (ovaries and testes). Issues of urinary function, sexuality, and sensuality are associated with this center. When we are not integrated or are overly focused at this center, we may suffer from genital-urinary problems, lower back pain, or be overly involved with seeking sensual pleasures, especially sexual gratification. While desiring pleasure, we will often find the experiences fleeting and insufficient. Other people, especially the opposite sex, are experienced as being simultaneously alluring and to be feared. When there is a lack of energy at this center, we may experience inhibition of sexual expression or have an absence of desire. Integration at the second chakra is associated with having the capacity to express both masculine and feminine traits and to have and enjoy healthy, honest, and appropriately directed adult sexual relationships.

 

Svadisthana is visually described as being surrounded by six dark red (vermilion) lotus petals resting upon a circle. Inside the circle is the color white with a silver crescent moon resting near the bottom. The sound (bija mantra) associated with this chakra is VAM. The element of the second chakra is water and the associated sense is taste.

 

Manipura, which means “filled with jewels,” is the third chakra and is located across from the navel within the spinal cord. It is associated with the celiac plexus of nerves, the adrenal glands, and the pancreas. This area is also often referred to as the solar plexus. This is the center where energy from the two lower chakras is transformed and stored. Asian martial arts describe this center as being the storehouse of power. Anyone who has ever been punched in the center of the abdomen can testify how it knocks the energy and breath out of them. On a physical level, a lack of energy here can lead to stomach and digestive illnesses. Psychologically, this is the center of ego and competitiveness. There are issues of power over other people, of dominance and submissiveness, and of a need to expand our sphere of influence. The need to prove oneself and gain financial wealth and power are predominant. Anorexia and bulimia are two emotional disorders associated with problems of the third chakra. Healthy integration associated with this chakra allows for striking a balance between being active and assertive when necessary and being receptive or passive if indicated. There is a desire for success as well as an acceptance of failure.

 

Those of us who experience life through the third chakra tend to be motivated by the desire for external recognition, fame, power, and material wealth. We experience pride and ambition and physical strength and beauty are important to us. We may be demanding of other people’s attention and may try to control their actions and beliefs. We often have fiery and powerful personalities.

 

Manipura is visually described as being surrounded by ten dark blue lotus petals resting on a circle. Inside the circle is a red triangle that is pointed down but which inverts to point up- wards during meditation. The sound associated with this chakra is RAM. The element of the third chakra is fire and the associated sense is sight.

 

Anahata, which means “unheard sound,” is the fourth chakra and is located across from the heart within the spine and is associated with the cardiac plexus of nerves. Just as the blood from the heart and the oxygen from the lungs sustain the body and a mother’s breast milk nurtures her infant, the heart chakra, also located in the center of the chest, is associated with the capacity for us to emotionally and spiritually nurture others. On a physical level, imbalances here are associated with lung and heart diseases. A lack of integration at the heart center is psychologically associated with apathy or an inability to offer love to others. Feelings of love and compassion are experienced at this center and giving to others, compassion, selfless love, and empathy are characteristics of a healthy concentration of energy at this center.

 

Those of us who are able to experience life through the fourth chakra practice loving kindness and develop a deeper capacity for expressing love, generosity, forgiveness, and com- passion. We become a greater source of inspiration to others and people feel at peace in our presence. We learn to have a greater faith in life and become more optimistic, friendly, patient, and secure. We live life with grace and dignity and are generally respected by our community.

 

Anahata is visually described as being surrounded by twelve deep red lotus petals resting on a circle. Inside the circle are two blue-green triangles that intersect, one pointed down and the other pointed up. Some people refer to this shape as the Star of David. Inside the six-pointed star is a dark area, often described as a black cave. Inside the cave is a lit candle with a flame that does not flicker. This flame is often described as a reflection of the soul. The soul can be thought of as the eternal and nonchanging Center of Consciousness which channels the energy and creative forces of the universe through the individual. (More information on the Center of Consciousness can be found in chapter 18, Koshas: The Five Levels of Consciousness and Holistic Medicine.) The sound (bija mantra) associated with this chakra is YAM. The element of the fourth chakra is air and the associated sense is touch.

 

Hrit is a lesser-known chakra closely associated with, connected to, and located slightly below the anahata chakra. Great depths of emotion and feelings of devotion are associated with this center. It is described as being surrounded by eight gold lotus petals resting on a circle. Inside the circle is another circle red in color and inside this is an orange circle.

 

Vishuddha, which means “purified,” is the fifth chakra and is located across from the throat within the cervical portion of the spinal cord. It is associated with the cervical nerve plexus as well as the nerves of the voice box and with the thyroid gland. Creativity, receptivity to others, and the ability to be nurtured and guided by an inner higher consciousness are qualities associated with the fifth chakra.  Poor metabolism and thyroid diseases stem from problems with integration at this center and respiratory and throat problems can also occur. Psychologically, we may have difficulty communicating verbally with others, and creative people such as artists may be unable to produce quality work. An integrated focus of energy at this center is associated with being able to trust others, devotion, creativity, and with the capacity to evolve. The ideas of being receptive to and surrendering to our own higher creative instincts are spiritual qualities of this center. The element of the fifth chakra is space and the associated sense is hearing.

 

Those of us who experience life through the fifth chakra develop a melodious voice, a good command of speech, the ability to write well, the capacity to understand spiritual writings, and the ability to interpret the deeper significance of dreams.

 

Vishuddha is described as being surrounded by sixteen dark purple lotus petals resting on a circle. Inside the circle is dark blue in color and in the center is a white circle resting within a white triangle. This is described as the full moon seen against a blue sky. The sound (bija mantra) associated with this center is HAM. The element of the fifth chakra is space and the associated sense is hearing.

 

Ajna, which means “command,” is the sixth chakra and is located across from the area between the two eyebrows. It is located near the pineal and pituitary glands deep within the brain. There are also interconnections with the nasociliary plexus of the physical nervous system. The center is associated with the psychological and spiritual qualities of intuition, wisdom, and clarity of vision. It is also called the third eye and the eye of insight because it sees inwards into the conscious and unconscious mind. Disorders of integration at this center lead to confusion and potentially serious mental illness. When the kundalini energy rises to this level and resides there permanently, a person experiences the highest states of consciousness.

 

Ajna is described as being surrounded by two light blue lotus petals resting upon a white circle. This has an appearance of an eye. Inside the circle is a small white triangle pointed down. The sound associated with this center is the universal mantra OM (rhymes with home). The element of the sixth chakra is pure mind and it is beyond any sense association.

 

Indu (also called soma) is a minor chakra located above the ajna chakra. It is said to be the source of a sweet nectar (soma) that drips down with the cerebral spinal fluid from the third ventricle of the brain into the spinal cord. When we experience higher states of consciousness, the nectar is tasted in the throat. This chakra is visually described as being surrounded by sixteen light blue lotus petals resting on a circle. Inside the circle is a silver-white crescent moon.

 

Guru is another lesser-known but very important chakra located above the ajna and indu chakras and below the sahasrara chakra (see the description below). It is located at the back of the cerebral cortex part of the brain. It is associated with finely heard mantras and sublime images of great luminosity. Meditating on this chakra and establishing consciousness here is associated with attainment of great spiritual knowledge and feelings of bliss. This chakra is visually described as being surrounded by twelve red lotus petals resting on a circle. Inside the circle is a red inverted triangle.   

 

Sahasrara, which means “thousand petals,” is the seventh and highest chakra and is associated with the cerebral cortex of the brain. When kundalini reaches this level, the individual self merges and is absorbed into universal consciousness. Here there is no distinction between the knower and the known, and there is only perfect knowing.

 

Sahasrara is described as appearing like one thousand lotus petals of pure light emanating like an umbrella or crown from the top of the head. At times during meditation the crown chakra can be visualized as though it is arranged in the variegated colors of the rainbow. All sounds, elements, and senses are absorbed and integrated into the seventh chakra.[iii]

 

 

 

 

 

The Seven Major and Three Minor Chakras

 

Note: This information is adapted from my book, How to Meditate Using Chakras, Mantras, and Breath


 

 

 

Meditation and Hatha Yoga

 

The word hatha is composed of two smaller words. Ha means “sun” and tha means “moon.” The word yoga means “to unite.” Thus, hatha yoga means “to unite the sun and moon.” The goal of practicing hatha yoga for men and women is to unite the qualities associated with the sun, such as the right side, warmth, activity, and masculinity, with the qualities associated with the moon, such as the left side, coolness, passivity, and feminine. This merging of the two polar opposites results in the birth of higher consciousness.

 

The exercises and practices of hatha yoga are part of the third step on the path of raja yoga. Hatha yoga practices include a series of physical movements and postures (asanas), body cleansings (kriyas), and certain anatomical locks (bandhas). While the ultimate purpose of hatha yoga is to create a strong and stable body so the practitioner can sit for longer and more comfortable meditation sessions, there are also important health benefits associated with the various techniques.

 

On a physical level, hatha yoga techniques offer a systematic method of purifying and strengthening the body through the practice of various stretching postures that enable a person to become graceful, relaxed, and supple. Hatha yoga postures also work to enhance balance and symmetry of the left and right sides of our body and to promote equilibrium between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. This is accomplished by alternating standing postures with inverted postures and forward bending asanas with backward bending poses, as well as practicing twisting postures first on one side and then switching to the other side. Because the poses cause gentle compression of the internal organs, digestive functioning often improves and under-active endocrine glands are stimulated. Large and small muscles relax as a result of practicing hatha yoga asanas and this can be of benefit for illnesses that are associated with abnormal muscular contraction such as high blood pressure, headaches, and asthma.

 

To understand how the practices of hatha yoga help the body and mind and prepare the student for meditation, it is important to describe the interconnection between the brain and the muscular-skeletal system. The areas of the brain responsible for maintaining muscle tone are located deep within the brain. These areas, which are referred to as the lower primitive brain centers, were the first to develop as the brain evolved and are controlled without our conscious direction. These reflexes are modified by input from the conscious part of our brain, the cerebral cortex. The cortex is the latest part of our brain to evolve and is considered to be the higher brain center.

 

In the most natural state, the more primitive lower brain center helps maintain a relaxed supple body. As we age, however, our conscious concerns and desires begin to interfere with the normal maintenance of relaxed muscle tone.

 

The proper practice of hatha yoga allows the primitive unconscious lower brain centers to adjust muscle tone unimpeded by inhibiting thoughts. This is done by assuming different asanas, which leads to activation of certain reflexes that are integrated in the lower brain centers and normally function without conscious awareness. It is through these reflexes that normal tone is reestablished. The postures used are, in a sense, also primitive in that they mimic the positions of animals, as is reflected in their names, including the butterfly, dog, peacock, cobra, or locust. Perhaps these postures facilitate a regression to the evolutionary roots of human beings, where posture is not distorted by conflicts of the conscious mind. To ensure that the lower brain centers are free from conscious cerebral inhibitory control, the mind is focused on the breath. Free from the conscious influence, the lower centers can reestablish proper muscle tone through the natural adjusting reflexes initiated by the hatha yoga postures.

 

To gain the maximum benefit from the hatha yoga asanas, it is best to relax deeply while doing the postures, to breathe evenly and slowly, and to focus on the area of stretch. The postures should be held with little movement and when coming out of the postures, it should be done slowly and gently. When hatha yoga postures are done for health purposes or in preparation for meditation, the following sequence is recommended: stretching exercises, standing postures, backward-bending postures, forward-bending poses, twisting postures, inverted postures, relaxation techniques, and breathing exercises.

 

When beginning the asanas, we should be receptive, patient, and calm. It is generally best to practice regularly, at the same time daily. Two excellent times to practice are early mornings after going to the bathroom and taking a warm shower. This will help us feel calm before meeting the challenges of our daily life. Doing yoga at night will help reduce the tension accumulated during the day and help allow for a restful sleep. When practicing asanas, pranayama, or meditation, it is best to wear loose fitting clothes and practice in a quiet, draft free room. We should wait two to four hours after eating to begin and should always relieve the bladder and bowels before commencing the postures. It is generally recommended that women who are menstruating refrain from doing the more strenuous postures, but meditation can always be practiced. While some mild discomfort may occur when we stretch tense muscles, we should maintain awareness not to stretch beyond our capacity to avoid injury. We should ease up on the poses if we feel burning pains or have involuntary shaking.

 

The manner in which we practice hatha yoga determines the quality of the benefits we will experience. A systematic program should be followed, allowing for gradual perfecting of the postures and incorporating the progressive development of the following qualities: flexibility, balance, strength, and stillness. In general, the beginner should endeavor to develop each of these qualities in this order, achieving a certain level of proficiency in each one before attempting the next. For example, if we are just starting to practice the asanas, we should initially practice gentle stretching exercises, which are designed to increase flexibility and mobility of the body, thus laying the foundation for the develop- ment of balance. A stretch in one direction is balanced by a stretch in the opposite direction. Only after we have attained a certain degree of flexibility and balance should we attempt postures that involve greater strength and power. As we work to enhance flexibility, balance, and strength, it is essential to establish a smooth and even rhythm to the flow of the breath and to coordinate the breath with the movements. As muscle tension is released, the flow of energy and prana are also unblocked. With continued practice of regulation of breathing coordinated with the postures, there is a balancing of the two branches of the autonomic nervous system, leading to state of relaxation, calmness, and inner stillness.

 

Because of these relaxing effects, hatha yoga is also helpful on an emotional level. While doing the physical postures, the re-lease of muscle tension not only results in increased flexibility but also helps to liberate pent-up emotions and conflicts that created or underlies the original body tension. Working through or letting go of physical resistance can trigger a concomitant response on the emotional level, liberating the person from the subjective feeling of restriction.

 

Hatha yoga also has important benefits on the mental and spiritual levels. As we increase our capacity to hold a posture for extended periods of time, not only is our physical strength enhanced but also our psychological endurance and will power are strengthened. Through the cultivation of self-discipline and will power, we are able to assume a posture effortlessly and to hold it without discomfort. This leads to the quality of stillness, when all movement of the body and mind is quieted. As the depth and degree of concentration and relaxation are increased, the breath becomes very subtle. As a result, we can learn to let go of body consciousness and become aware of energy flowing within us. At this point, the mind can be allowed to flow with the breath and a mantra can be repeated, with the result that the body, breath, mind, and mantra become one. This coordinated effort leads to deeper levels of concentration and meditation.

 

There are also six cleansings (kriyas) that are part of hatha yoga practices. These cleansings prepare the body for the postures and like the asanas, these kriyas have important therapeutic benefits. Some of the kriyas also help meditation by enhancing the power of concentration.

 

Neti (nasal wash) is a simple and frequently used technique where warm salt water is poured into one nostril and allowed to pass out through the other nostril or out the mouth. This cleans out the nose, back of the throat, and sinus cavities and helps in sinu- sitis, allergies, and upper respiratory infections.

 

Trataka (gazing) involves focusing the open eyes on an external object such as a candle flame.

Kriyas: Cleansings **

  • Neti - nasal wash
  • Trataka - gazing at candle or between eyes
  • Kapalabhati - breathing technique
  • Nauli - separation of abdominal muscles
  • Dhauti - swallowing a cloth
  • Basti - lower bowel wash
  • ** Practice only under teacher supervision

The eyes can also be directed upwards to stare at the ajna chakra (third eye) or downwards at the tip of the nose. This has the effect of improving both eyesight and mental concentration.

Kapalabhati is a vigorous breathing technique that flushes out the respiratory system. It can be used for people who have asthma, sinusitis, and digestive problems.

Nauli is a technique in which the two central abdominal muscles are separated and rolled in a wave-like manner. This promotes better digestion and bowel function. The third chakra area is also stimulated and activated by this kriya.

Dhauti is an unusual technique practiced only by advanced hatha yoga practitioners. A strip of cloth is carefully swallowed and then gently pulled back out to aid in cleansing the throat, esophagus, and stomach.

Basti is another complicated procedure that is used to cleanse the lower colon. The upper wash is yet another type of cleansing that involves swallowing salty or lemon flavored water and then quickly regurgitating the contents of the stomach. This has great therapeutic benefit for stomach problems and asthma.

 

 

Meditation, pranayama and the breath

 

As previously mentioned, pranayama is the fourth step in raja yoga. In Sanskrit, the word is derived from prana, which means “energy” and either yama, meaning “control” or ayama, which means “expansion.” Therefore, the word literally means “a practice in which the flow of energy is expanded and brought under control.” Prana is further derived from pra, which means “first unit” and na, meaning “energy.” Prana refers to the first and the subtlest form of energy, which animates the body and mind as well as the entire universe. All inanimate objects, life forms, and all human sensations, thoughts, feelings, ideas, desires, and knowledge are possible because of prana.

While prana underlies and sustains all aspects of human functioning, the main vehicle that allows for its control within the body and exchange with the outside world is the breath. This is the reason that breathing techniques are most closely associated with pranayama. Although eating also represents a vehicle for exchange of prana with the outside world, it occurs only a few times daily, while breathing occurs many times per minute.

The vital importance of breathing is exemplified by the fact that breathing is the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing we do when we die. Even the word for breathing in, inspiration, also means to be motivated or stimulated, while the word for breathing out, exhalation, also means to die. Yogis well disciplined in the science of breath often refer to their age not by the number of years they have been alive but by the number and quality of breaths they have taken.

Breathing is considered to be the link between the conscious and unconscious mind. Unlike heart, kidney, or gastro- intestinal functioning, breathing is the only physiologic function that can either be voluntarily controlled by the mind or, if we choose not to pay attention to the flow of the breath, the body can involuntarily and automatically control breathing. Therefore, in the conscious act of doing certain types of breathing exercises, we gain greater awareness and control of involuntary physical functions, as well as the unconscious mind. A more detailed discussion of the close interaction between breathing, the nose, the chest, the autonomic nervous system, the brain, and the mind can be found in chapter 9, Meditation and Its Effects on the Stress Response.

Disruptions in concentration are often associated with pauses and hesitations in breathing. Practicing simple techniques to regulate breathing rhythms brings about greater mental clarity and continuity of thought. Emotional states are often accompanied by altered breathing patterns. Examples of such alterations are the sobbing sounds of grief, the sighs of disappointment, and the trem- bling breath of anger. Breathing exercises can help regulate these altered patterns of breathing. This results in greater calm and control of emotions.

Breathing exercises can also help quiet and focus the mind to deepen meditation. Meditation can use awareness of the breath flowing in and out of the nose as a focus of concentration. This can be further amplified by simultaneous and silent repetition of certain sounds (mantras).

While it usually seems as though we are thinking many things simultaneously, we are in reality instantaneously and rapidly moving from thought to thought. By mentally following the inflow and outflow of the breath, the mind becomes highly focused, does not wander or change, and as a result becomes a more potent tool to appreciate and experience our inner and outer worlds.

The science of breath (swarodaya) describes the theory of prana and how breathing techniques control the flow and distribution of prana. There are several aspects of pranayama that are important, including each specific breathing exercise, breath retention (kumbhaka), and physical locks (bandhas) that are practiced as the student advances. These are all very important exercises for preparing for meditation because they help regulate energy transmission, flow, and distribution of prana through the energy pathways (nadis) and the main energy centers (chakras). Breathing is an invaluable tool in activating the latent spiritual force (kundalini) in its ascent to the higher centers of consciousness.

The techniques described below are the most important pranayama exercises. Each of these pranayama techniques can be practiced using the physical locks and breath retention. This should only be done, however, under the guidance of a teacher who is skilled in the science of breath and who knows the student’s general health and formal meditation practice. Except for a few techniques, pranayama exercises involve sitting with a straight spine, breathing only through the nose, and allowing the abdomen to move away from the body on inhalation and towards the body on exhalation (diaphragmatic breathing). The rhythm and rate may vary but is generally deep, though not overly forced, and smooth without pauses or jerkiness. If breath retention is not practiced, there should be no hesitation after exhalation or inhalation.

The complete yoga breath involves exaggerating the three phases of breathing in a slow and deep manner. The abdomen slowly moves out on inhalation, followed by rising of the chest, and finishing with the collarbones moving upwards towards the neck. Exhalation follows in the reverse order. This technique is especially helpful when we are tired and want to practice meditation because it brings a great deal of oxygen to the body and feels quite energizing. The complete yoga breath is medically quite helpful for asthma and chronic bronchial conditions, as well as for gastritis and irritable bowel syndrome because of its stimulation of the abdominal muscles and organs.

Nadi shodhanam (alternate nostril breathing) involves alternately breathing through the right and left nostril. After a full and relaxed inhalation through both nostrils, the practitioner uses the tip of the right thumb to block off airflow to the right nostril, and exhales through the left side. This is followed by an inhalation through the left nostril. After slowly taking a full breath, the left nostril is blocked off with the tip of the ring finger and air is eliminated through the right side. After completely exhaling through the right nostril, the breath is drawn in again through the right side. This completes one cycle. The process then repeats itself and three to seven cycles are generally practiced. This technique is generally done before beginning meditation because of its effects on purifying the energy channels (nadis) and for the clarity of mind this exercise brings. Alternate nostril breathing has also been shown to be very useful in treating psychological problems such as anxiety, obsessive thought disorders, and depression.

Breathing and Pranayama Techniques

  • The complete yoga breath - abdomen, chest, and collarbones
  • Nadi shodhanam - alternate nostril breathing
  • Ujjayi - sobbing breath
  • Kapalabhati - shining skull breath
  • Bhastrika - bellows breath
  • Bhramari - the bee breath
  • Sitali - hissing breath
  • Sitkari - cooling breath
  • Surya bheda kumbhaka - alternate nostril breathing with retention

Ujjayi (sobbing breath) is a pranayama technique practiced by breathing in slowly through both nostrils with the inspired air being felt on the roof of the soft palate. A soft, continuous sobbing sound is made because the glottis remains partially closed. Mental repetition of the mantra SO can accompany inhalation. Without any pause, exhal- ation begins with the out flowing air also being felt on the roof of the mouth. Mentally, the mantra HAM (rhythms with the word “rum” and “numb”) can be repeated. Seven to twenty-one repetitions can be practiced. Ujjayi helps to calm the mind and helps physical conditions such as sore throats, nasal congestion, and sinusitis.

Kapalabhati (shining skull breath) consists of a rapid, vigorous, and forceful expulsion of air using the abdominal muscles and diaphragm. This is followed by a relaxation of the abdominal muscles and a passive, gentle, spontaneous inhalation. Seven to twenty-one repetitions can be done, followed by a brief rest. Three to seven cycles can be practiced. Kapalabhati is both a breathing exercise and a kriya (cleansing) and is helpful for sinus infections, nasal obstruction, for stimulating the digestive organs, and for exercising the abdominal muscles.

Bhastrika (bellows breath) involves forcefully moving the abdominal muscles in and out so that exhalation and inhalation are vigorous and rapid. One in-and-out breath is one cycle. Between seven and twenty-one cycles are generally practiced and then repeated three to seven times. Alternatively, the practitioner can close off one nostril and do both inhalation and exhalation out of the same side for several repetitions and then switch sides. The benefits of bhastrika are similar to kapalabhati.

Bhramari (bee breath) is a technique that involves partially closing off the throat and glottis and bringing air in through the nose. A sound is produced on both inhalation and exhalation that resembles the sound of bees in flight. When many people practice this exercise simultaneously it makes a beautiful, melodious sound. This pranayama technique can be practiced from seven to twenty-one times. Bhramari can be used for thyroid conditions, throat problems, and sinus congestion. It also helps bring about mental clarity before meditation.

Sitali (hissing breath) is practiced by breathing in through the mouth and out through the nose. Two methods of inhalation are possible. The student can turn the tongue backwards so that the tip is resting on the soft palate. Breath is then taken in through the pressure of the combined resistance of the tongue and soft palate. The other, more common approach is to roll the tongue lengthwise into a tube-like structure and protrude the tongue a little beyond the lips. Exhalation in both instances is slowly out through the nose. This pranayama technique is useful for cooling the body, which is helpful for conditions that involve excess body heat including fever, menopausal hot flashes, or being overheated from exercise or hot weather.

Sitkari (cooling breath) involves breathing in through the mouth and out through the nose. The teeth are closed and the tongue is placed so that it does not touch the teeth, palate, or bottom of the mouth. Air is drawn in making a loud nose. The breath is deep and slow. Exhalation is done quietly. This can be practiced from seven to twenty-one times. Benefits include cooling the body, helping insomnia, and controlling the appetite.

 

Note: This information is adapted from my book, How to Meditate Using Chakras, Mantras, and Breath.

 

 

 

Meditation and the benefits on the mind and emotions

 

While practicing meditation we learn to slow the rapid movements of thoughts across the conscious mind. Meditation then trains our mind to become more focused, proficient, and creative and less scattered, chaotic, and disorganized. Through meditation, we learn to use our will and the decision-making component of our mind to direct our thoughts. (For a more detailed description of the five components of the mind, refer to chapter 12, The Mind.) We learn to think in different ways, gaining newer and richer inner mental experiences. The mind becomes more like the concentrated and powerful light coming from a laser beam and less like the weak light emanating from a light bulb.

Meditation enhances our awareness of how our body, breath, senses, conscious mind, and unconscious mind interact. This expanded awareness helps us see clearly, discriminate wisely, and make good decisions about our physical and emotional health. A physician who practices holistic medicine may use meditative techniques as part of his/her therapy to treat various medical and emotional concerns and illnesses.

During meditation feelings and thoughts that were previously hidden and unconscious rise into conscious awareness. Generally, unpleasant feelings and thoughts do not simply go away if they are avoided. Instead they get buried in the subconscious or unconscious like dust buried under a rug. When this occurs, we rarely have control over these thoughts, yet the train of associations arising from them affects our behavior.

The Benefits of Meditation

  • Slows the thinking process
  • Enhances awareness of body and mind
  • Brings to conscious awareness feelings that are unconscious
  • Helps us experience each moment more fully
  • Helps us observe our feelings without judgment
  • Helps us stay in the present
  • Releases unpleasant memories and anxiety
  • Eliminates dependency on other people and objects
  • Helps us become aware of shared experiences with others
  • Increases compassion for others
  • Helps us practice loving kindness and generosity
  • Teaches us to accept ourselves
  • Explores the four levels of consciousness
  • Helps us experience higher states of consciousness

Meditation can act in ways similar to psychotherapy because it allows for these unconscious thoughts and emotions to rise to the surface. Here they are observed and impartially scrutinized and we can make a decision whether to take action on our concerns or to simply let them go. We learn to think what we want to think, when we want to think it, and how we want to think it. We learn to be in control of the moment and in stressful situations resist the emotional and psychological pressures from the unconscious. As practitioners of meditation we learn to be in control, directing our will to do what we want to do and to not do what we do not want to do. Advanced teachers of meditation describe this ability as self-mastery.

When we meditate regularly we experience each moment with heightened awareness and greater clarity. For ex- ample, when viewing a beautiful sunset, we might be somewhat distracted by thoughts of work, feeling hungry, or worries of being late for some future obligation. Our attention does not stay completely focused on the sunset scene. As a consequence, we might not experience the smells in the air, the sounds of birds singing, or the intensity of the colors of the sky. Thus, we would not be fully present. Alternately, as students of meditation we use learned skills of concentration to turn off mental interference and concentrate totally on the whole sensory experience. At the end of meditation, we may notice that colors become more vivid and sounds more melodious. There are no more extraneous images placed between the experience of the sunset and us. In a sense, we become one with the total experience. As a result, we become more aware of subtle phenomena that are otherwise not apparent to us, and our world becomes deeper and richer.

 

During meditation we watch feelings arise with a quiet, nonjudging awareness. This allows us to carefully observe the contents of our mind. We also learn to trace our emotions to their source. Meditation helps us let go of distracting emotions that bind us. We learn to experience the totality of feelings, yet not be enslaved by them. By following the path of meditation, we learn to feel the wide range of human feelings in an intense and direct way, including the unpleasant emotions of anger, jealousy, fear, and sad- ness. At the same time, meditation teaches us not to overly indulge these feelings and to avoid hanging on to or surrendering to them. Ultimately, meditation leads to liberation from disturbing and distracting emotions, thoughts, and desires, and replaces these disturbances with a sense of inner quiet, freedom, and joy.

In meditation we learn to stay in the present, to let go of troublesome memories, and to release anxiety of the future. Meditation is not about acquiring new experiences or getting to any different place, but rather involves accepting what we already have and being where we already are. We learn to be here now. Meditation then helps expand the moment--we experience the fullness of the moment and realize its full potentiality. In the philosophy of Zen Buddhism, this is called beginner’s mind. As we practice meditation, we become willing to begin each moment as a new and life-enhancing experience. Each time we sit for meditation, the experience is fresh and alive.[i]

 

When we meditate we do not withdraw from the world but from dependence on objects and people as sources of gratification. The process of meditation teaches us that we often seek happiness through desiring external objects. Turbulence of the mind is based upon the type of desire we have, especially when we want more than what is necessary for healthy and comfortable living. When a desire arises, we often become dissatisfied because we find ourselves separated from the source of satisfaction. We suffer because we are worried we will not attain what we want or are afraid we will lose what we already have. Through meditation we realize that the true source of happiness does not reside in attained objects and goals but in a state of mind that is independent of these objects. When we practice meditation we realize that we are truly content when we are free from desires.[ii]

 

In meditation we begin to understand that all human beings are part of the same underlying universal consciousness, just as all drops of water in the ocean share all the qualities of the ocean. Meditation helps relationships because the student realizes that all people share similar types of feelings, experiences, and qualities. We begin to see the reflection of ourselves in others and begin to relate to others as we relate to ourselves. Other people are seen not as objects to get something from but as fellow travelers on the same path of life.

 

This experience of inner relatedness results in our being able to feel compassion and empathy for others. We learn to practice loving kindness, express generosity, and have gentle speech in our relationships. As meditation progresses, we learn to let go of the pain and sorrows of past losses and betrayals. The heart releases its disappointments and expands and we learn to direct loving kindness even to people we may dislike or who have hurt or threatened us. Patience, tolerance, and forgiveness are mature qualities that develop as a result of practicing loving kindness.

 

We learn to accept ourselves when we practice meditation regularly. As we sit quietly in meditation, we become aware of unpleasant emotions, physical pain, or fears of death, disease, poverty, or injustice. During the process of meditation, we learn to have an accepting attitude towards each of these negative feelings and experiences. Because we develop a tolerant attitude towards our own fears and unease, and at the same time realize that all humans have similar anxieties and apprehensions, we learn to feel compassion for other people’s suffering as well. Seen in this light, compassion is an intense and sincere feeling that rises spontaneously in our own heart to help relieve the pain of others.

 

Meditation helps us explore the four levels of conscious- ness, which are waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and sleepless sleep (turiya). This last level is a highly conscious state similar to deep sleep except we remain totally awake and aware. Every human has potential access to this highly aware and peaceful state of consciousness because it is constantly and permanently available to experience, but most individuals are too distracted and preoccupied by their thoughts and desires. Meditation can provide the necessary techniques to consciously experience sleepless sleep.

 

While the ultimate goal of meditation is not to experience altered states of consciousness, there are some experiences that result from meditation that are quite interesting and life trans- forming. Some people develop panscopic vision, which involves the ability to perceive an object from all sides at once. There are descriptions of being able to visualize with the mind’s eye more than the three dimensions that our physical eyes normally see. Barriers between the senses are lowered and people sometimes describe being able to see sounds and fragrances or to hear colors. Extrasensory perception including clairvoyance and telepathy, can also be an outcome of intense concentration practices.[iii] Advanced teachers of meditation always warn their students to view these phenomena with simple curiosity, with neutrality and dispassion, and never to use these abilities to impress, manipulate, or harm another person.

 

The benefits of meditation can be understood by the following analogy. The human mind is like the ocean, the conscious mind representing the surface of the sea and the innumerable fluctuations of thought and emotion representing the ocean waves. Lying beneath the surface is the unconscious mind, analogous to the deep and submerged ocean expanse. The turbulence of the thought waves obscures the depths of knowledge underneath the conscious mind in a similar way that ocean waves make it impossible to see beneath the ocean surface. The process of meditation calms the tumultuous ebb and flow of the mind’s outer layer of wave activity like a calm day quiets the ocean surface. Unconscious repression and habits deep within the mind are allowed to rise to the surface to be observed, in a similar way that bubbles and currents rise and dissipate on the ocean surface. Since no energy is supplied to suppress them, the bubbles gently burst and dissipate. This dispassion averts the creation in the unconscious of further increased psychological pressure that can produce exaggerated emotional reactions, like tidal waves in the ocean. The conscious mind becomes quiet and still, and the deeper mysterious layers of the unconscious can be observed and experienced, similar to the way the ocean depths become visible on a calm, wind-free day. Finally, the individual, separate self merges with universal consciousness, like a wave that merges with the great ocean expanse. True knowledge and tranquility result and the individual experiences the peace and bliss of universal conscious- ness.

 

While practicing meditation we learn to slow the rapid movements of thoughts across the conscious mind. Meditation then trains our mind to become more focused, proficient, and creative and less scattered, chaotic, and disorganized. Through meditation, we learn to use our will and the decision-making component of our mind to direct our thoughts. (For a more detailed description of the five components of the mind, refer to chapter 12, The Mind.) We learn to think in different ways, gaining newer and richer inner mental experiences. The mind becomes more like the concentrated and powerful light coming from a laser beam and less like the weak light emanating from a light bulb.

 

Meditation enhances our awareness of how our body, breath, senses, conscious mind, and unconscious mind interact. This expanded awareness helps us see clearly, discriminate wisely, and make good decisions about our physical and emotional health. A physician who practices holistic medicine may use meditative techniques as part of his/her therapy to treat various medical and emotional concerns and illnesses.

 

During meditation feelings and thoughts that were previously hidden and unconscious rise into conscious awareness. Generally, unpleasant feelings and thoughts do not simply go away if they are avoided. Instead they get buried in the subconscious or unconscious like dust buried under a rug. When this occurs, we rarely have control over these thoughts, yet the train of associations arising from them affects our behavior. Meditation can act in ways similar to psychotherapy because it allows for these unconscious thoughts and emotions to rise to the surface. Here they are observed and impartially scrutinized and we can make a decision whether to take action on our concerns or to simply let them go. We learn to think what we want to think, when we want to think it, and how we want to think it. We learn to be in control of the moment and in stressful situations resist the emotional and psychological pressures from the unconscious. As practitioners of meditation we learn to be in control, directing our will to do what we want to do and to not do what we do not want to do. Advanced teachers of meditation describe this ability as self-mastery.

The Benefits of Meditation

  • Slows the thinking process
  • Enhances awareness of body and mind
  • Brings to conscious awareness feelings that are unconscious
  • Helps us experience each moment more fully
  • Helps us observe our feelings without judgment
  • Helps us stay in the present
  • Releases unpleasant memories and anxiety
  • Eliminates dependency on other people and objects
  • Helps us become aware of shared experiences with others
  • Increases compassion for others
  • Helps us practice loving kindness and generosity
  • Teaches us to accept ourselves
  • Explores the four levels of consciousness
  • Helps us experience higher states of consciousness

When we meditate regularly we experience each moment with heightened awareness and greater clarity. For ex- ample, when viewing a beautiful sunset, we might be somewhat distracted by thoughts of work, feeling hungry, or worries of being late for some future obligation. Our attention does not stay completely focused on the sunset scene. As a consequence, we might not experience the smells in the air, the sounds of birds singing, or the intensity of the colors of the sky. Thus, we would not be fully present. Alternately, as students of meditation we use learned skills of concentration to turn off mental interference and concentrate totally on the whole sensory experience. At the end of meditation, we may notice that colors become more vivid and sounds more melodious. There are no more extraneous images placed between the experience of the sunset and us. In a sense, we become one with the total experience. As a result, we become more aware of subtle phenomena that are otherwise not apparent to us, and our world becomes deeper and richer.

During meditation we watch feelings arise with a quiet, nonjudging awareness. This allows us to carefully observe the contents of our mind. We also learn to trace our emotions to their source. Meditation helps us let go of distracting emotions that bind us. We learn to experience the totality of feelings, yet not be enslaved by them. By following the path of meditation, we learn to feel the wide range of human feelings in an intense and direct way, including the unpleasant emotions of anger, jealousy, fear, and sadness. At the same time, meditation teaches us not to overly indulge these feelings and to avoid hanging on to or surrendering to them. Ultimately, meditation leads to liberation from disturbing and distracting emotions, thoughts, and desires, and replaces these disturbances with a sense of inner quiet, freedom, and joy.

In meditation we learn to stay in the present, to let go of troublesome memories, and to release anxiety of the future. Meditation is not about acquiring new experiences or getting to any different place, but rather involves accepting what we already have and being where we already are. We learn to be here now. Meditation then helps expand the moment--we experience the fullness of the moment and realize its full potentiality. In the philosophy of Zen Buddhism, this is called beginner’s mind. As we practice meditation, we become willing to begin each moment as a new and life-enhancing experience. Each time we sit for meditation, the experience is fresh and alive.[iv]

 

When we meditate we do not withdraw from the world but from dependence on objects and people as sources of gratification. The process of meditation teaches us that we often seek happiness through desiring external objects. Turbulence of the mind is based upon the type of desire we have, especially when we want more than what is necessary for healthy and comfortable living. When a desire arises, we often become dissatisfied because we find ourselves separated from the source of satisfaction. We suffer because we are worried we will not attain what we want or are afraid we will lose what we already have. Through meditation we realize that the true source of happiness does not reside in attained objects and goals but in a state of mind that is independent of these objects. When we practice meditation we realize that we are truly content when we are free from desires.[v]

 

In meditation we begin to understand that all human beings are part of the same underlying universal consciousness, just as all drops of water in the ocean share all the qualities of the ocean. Meditation helps relationships because the student realizes that all people share similar types of feelings, experiences, and qualities. We begin to see the reflection of ourselves in others and begin to relate to others as we relate to ourselves. Other people are seen not as objects to get something from but as fellow travelers on the same path of life.

 

This experience of inner relatedness results in our being able to feel compassion and empathy for others. We learn to practice loving kindness, express generosity, and have gentle speech in our relationships. As meditation progresses, we learn to let go of the pain and sorrows of past losses and betrayals. The heart releases its disappointments and expands and we learn to direct loving kindness even to people we may dislike or who have hurt or threatened us. Patience, tolerance, and forgiveness are mature qualities that develop as a result of practicing loving kindness.

 

We learn to accept ourselves when we practice meditation regularly. As we sit quietly in meditation, we become aware of unpleasant emotions, physical pain, or fears of death, disease, poverty, or injustice. During the process of meditation, we learn to have an accepting attitude towards each of these negative feelings and experiences. Because we develop a tolerant attitude towards our own fears and unease, and at the same time realize that all humans have similar anxieties and apprehensions, we learn to feel compassion for other people’s suffering as well. Seen in this light, compassion is an intense and sincere feeling that rises spontaneously in our own heart to help relieve the pain of others.

 

Meditation helps us explore the four levels of conscious- ness, which are waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and sleepless sleep (turiya). This last level is a highly conscious state similar to deep sleep except we remain totally awake and aware. Every human has potential access to this highly aware and peaceful state of consciousness because it is constantly and permanently available to experience, but most individuals are too distracted and preoccupied by their thoughts and desires. Meditation can provide the necessary techniques to consciously experience sleepless sleep.

 

While the ultimate goal of meditation is not to experience altered states of consciousness, there are some experiences that result from meditation that are quite interesting and life trans- forming. Some people develop panscopic vision, which involves the ability to perceive an object from all sides at once. There are descriptions of being able to visualize with the mind’s eye more than the three dimensions that our physical eyes normally see. Barriers between the senses are lowered and people sometimes describe being able to see sounds and fragrances or to hear colors. Extrasensory perception including clairvoyance and telepathy, can also be an outcome of intense concentration practices.[vi] Advanced teachers of meditation always warn their students to view these phenomena with simple curiosity, with neutrality and dispassion, and never to use these abilities to impress, manipulate, or harm another person.

 

The benefits of meditation can be understood by the following analogy. The human mind is like the ocean, the conscious mind representing the surface of the sea and the innumerable fluctuations of thought and emotion representing the ocean waves. Lying beneath the surface is the unconscious mind, analogous to the deep and submerged ocean expanse. The turbulence of the thought waves obscures the depths of knowledge underneath the conscious mind in a similar way that ocean waves make it impossible to see beneath the ocean surface. The process of meditation calms the tumultuous ebb and flow of the mind’s outer layer of wave activity like a calm day quiets the ocean surface. Unconscious repression and habits deep within the mind are allowed to rise to the surface to be observed, in a similar way that bubbles and currents rise and dissipate on the ocean surface. Since no energy is supplied to suppress them, the bubbles gently burst and dissipate. This dispassion averts the creation in the unconscious of further increased psychological pressure that can produce exaggerated emotional reactions, like tidal waves in the ocean. The conscious mind becomes quiet and still, and the deeper mysterious layers of the unconscious can be observed and experienced, similar to the way the ocean depths become visible on a calm, wind-free day. Finally, the individual, separate self merges with universal consciousness, like a wave that merges with the great ocean expanse. True knowledge and tranquility result and the individual experiences the peace and bliss of universal conscious ness.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

My spiritual journey on the path of meditation began without conscious awareness. While in elementary school, I had incapacitating dizzy spells. At night, alone in my room, I desperately sought ways to make the world stop spinning. Automatically and somewhat inexplicably, I found myself regulating the inflow and outflow of my breath. As I focused on my breathing, I felt calmer, less anxious, and to my great relief, the dreaded vertigo would slowly stop. Intuitively, I sensed that there was great power in this type of concentration, but it would be several years before I would really understand why.

Like many people in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I was introduced to the practice and theory of meditation through the books written by Alan Watts on Zen Buddhism and Eastern philosophy and the book Autobiography of a Yogi written by Paramahansa Yogananda. The ongoing traumas of the Vietnam War and a changing spiritual milieu in the United States also led many of us to look for higher meaning and truth. During college at Northwestern University in the late ‘60s and in medical school at the University of Michigan in the early ‘70s, I explored several different approaches to meditation, including Zen and Tibetan Buddhism as well as Taoism and tai chi. Being Jewish, I also explored meditative approaches and more spiritually based practices of Judaism.

I found that the great philosophies and traditions of India particularly inspired me intellectually and pragmatically. There, the techniques of meditation were presented in a concise, systematic, and thorough way. During my psychiatry residency at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, I studied with Swami Ajaya, a Western-born psychologist who wrote a clear and practical guide for meditation called Yoga Psychology. Later, in 1976, I met his teacher, Swami Rama, who was the spiritual guide of the Himalayan Institute. I was particularly interested in his scientific approach to meditation and how he had learned to exert great control over normally involuntary mental and physical functions.

I intensively studied meditation (as well as alternative and holistic medicine) with Swami Rama for several years near Chicago, Illinois. Swami Rama, who died in 1996, was an enigmatic and charismatic man who had great depth of knowledge and personal experience with meditation, which he readily shared with his students. Through my association with the Himalayan Institute, I learned that the knowledge gained from meditation and the power and influence derived from being a teacher of meditation need to be harnessed and directed carefully. I also learned that it is essential to trust one’s own inner meditation practice and not depend too heavily on the teacher as the most important guide to spiritual growth.

The techniques that Swami Rama imparted to me are the same practices that form the basis of my meditation today. This meditative tradition is based on the Eastern philosophies of Vedanta, Samkhya, and Tantra and has been continuously handed down from teacher to student for thousands of years. I have personally practiced all the techniques presented in these pages and have thoroughly studied the theory behind them. Zen and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and psychology have also influenced my meditation practice, especially in the application of mindfulness, compassion, and simplicity to everyday life. While in my own practice I often incorporate several Jewish meditation techniques, I have not discussed these in much depth in this book because they are associated with a specific religious tradition. The techniques associated with the above-mentioned Eastern traditions are universal and anyone can practice them, whether or not they follow a specific religion.

 

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Meditation has been a source of inspiration and comfort for me over the years. I have experienced the wonders of the birth and growth of my children, Abe, Ethan, and Ari and meditation has helped me stay focused and present, always trying to provide them with love and moral guidance. After the death of our son Nathaniel in 1981 to SIDS, meditation gave me moments of refuge and peace during those sad, dark early days. I have experienced periods when my meditation seemed stagnant and also have had moments of great inspiration and creative insight. I have had experiences when my body would spontaneously assume different yoga postures and other times when I would automatically do advanced breathing exercises, indicating the activation and release of inner, latent energy within my body. I have also had visual and auditory experiences that I can only describe as inspiring, joyful, and at times blissful. I have also had to face conscious and unconscious anxieties and fears that sometimes arise during meditation. I have been consistent with my practice at times and have gotten discouraged or lazy and avoided meditation on occasion. Through it all, meditation has provided me with strength and courage to understand my past, enjoy the present, and prepare for the future.

There are several important people in my life who have closely shared my journey on the path of meditation. My wife, Jan, consistently encourages me and, at the same time, perceptively reminds me to check my ego at the door. Our children, Abe, Ethan, and Ari, are wonderful people whom I love dearly and who inspire me to be the best man I can be. My father, Jack, and his wife, Jackie, have always supported me even when our earlier ashram life seemed a bit strange to them. Rosanne Emanuele has been a close and valued friend and we have shared many hours discussing the intricacies and obstacles in our practices. My childhood friend, Rick Frires, M.D., continues to be a close and important confidant and we always enjoy comparing notes on our long and intersecting spiritual paths. Justin O’Brien has for many years been like a spiritual big brother, and in 1998 Jan and I joined him on a trip to India. There we taught meditation and holistic approaches to health care at a new medical school located in the foothills of the Himalayas, called the Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust. This was our first time in India and we found the experience inspiring and exhilarating.

I would also like to acknowledge several people who assisted me in writing this book. I greatly appreciate the editorial help of Mary Gillis. Her careful, thoughtful, and critical perspectives were very important, especially in the areas of organization, style, and grammar. Jim Horton did a wonderful job on the illustrations. We spent many hours trying to get the chakra colors and geometric shapes precise. Pat Young, fellow soccer and baseball coach, was very helpful in solving some technical problems with the computer graphics. My lawyer and Qi Gong healer-colleague, Marty Kriegel, and I have shared many books, laughs, and abstract late-night discussions on the theory and practice of meditation. Marty helped me with several ideas especially the organizational structure of chapter 24, The Technique of Meditation. I also appreciate the help and support of my sister, Donna Chernin Kurit, a long-time professional journalist, who gave me several good suggestions in writing style and also provided some needed editorial insight.  I would also like to thank my good friend, Greg Manteuffel, M.D. who encouraged me to adapt and use several ideas we developed and documented in our book written in 1984 called Health: A Holistic Approach.

 

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I actually began writing this book by chance. While doing research for a meditation class I was teaching in the fall of 2000, I found there was quite a lot of information on meditation. I discovered, however, that the books written were often incomplete, used too much Sanskrit in their descriptions, or were not systematic enough in the practices of meditation. Often the actual techniques of meditation were not described in enough detail, leaving the reader with some theory but without the practical tools to establish a practice. For these reasons, I decided to write this book, detailing the meditation I use in my own practice, as well as teach to my students. I hope readers find this information useful in helping to understand the theory and principles of meditation and as a systematic guide to establishing a consistent and deep meditation practice.

Ajaya, Swami. Yoga Psychology: A Practical Guide to Meditation. Honesdale, Penn.: Himalayan Institute Press, 1976.

 

---. Psychotherapy East and West. Honesdale, Penn.: Himalayan Institute Press, 1983.

 

Austin, James. Zen and the Brain: Towards an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 1998.

 

Avalon, Arthur. The Serpent Power: The Secret of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga. New York: Dover Publications, 1974.

 

Chernin, Dennis, and Greg Manteuffel. Health: A Holistic Approach. Wheaton, Ill.: Quest Books, 1984.

 

Digambayi, Swami. Hathapradipika. Dehli, India: Kaivalyadhama, 1970.

 

Eliade, Mircea. Yoga: Immortality and Freedom. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1969.

 

Feurerstein, Greg. Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy. Boston, Mass.: Shambhala, 1998.

 

Freeman, L., and G.F. Lawlis. Complementary & Alternative Medicine. St. Louis, Mo.: Mosby,  2001.

 

Goldstein, J., and Jack Kornfield. Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation. Boston, Mass.: Shambhala, 1987.

 

Goswami, S. Layayoga: The Definitive Guide to the Chakras and Kundalini. Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 1999.

 

Govinda, Lama. Foundations of Tibetian Mysticism. York Beach, Me.: Samuel Weiser, 1969.

 

Iyengar, B. K. S. Light on Yoga. New York: Schocken Books, 1975.

 

Johari, Harish. Chakras. Rochester, Vt.: Destiny Books, 1987.

 

Judith, Anadea. Eastern Body Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System. Berkeley, Calif.: Celestial Arts, 1996.

 

Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Wherever You Go There You Are. New York: Hyperion, 1994.

 

Kaplan, Aryeh. Jewish Meditation. New York: Schoken Books, 1985.

 

Khalsa, D., et al. Randomized Controlled Trial of Yogic Meditation Techniques for Patients with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. CNS Spectrums 4.4 (1999): 34-47.

 

Khanna, Madhu. Yantra: The Tantric Symbol of Cosmic Unity. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994.

 

Kornfield, Jack. After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books, 2000.

 

LeShan, Lawrence. How to Meditate. Boston, Mass.: Back Bay Books, 1999.

 

Mookerjee, Ajit. Kundalini. Rochester, Vt: Destiny Books, 1986.

 

Pandit, M. P. Kundalini Yoga. Pomona, Calif.: Auromere Publications, 1979.

 

Prabhavananda, S., and C. Isherwood. How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. New York: Mentor Books, 1969.

 

Rama, Swami. Choosing a Path. Honesdale, Penn.: Himalayan Institute Press, 1988.

 

---. Lectures on Yoga. Honesdale, Penn.: Himalayan Institute Press, 1976.

 

---. Path of Fire and Light: Advanced Practices of Yoga. Honesdale, Penn.: Himalayan Institute Press, 1986.

 

Rama, S., R. Ballentine., and S. Ajaya. Yoga and Psychotherapy. Glenview, Ill.: Himalayan Institute Press, 1976.

 

Rama, S., R. Ballentine., and A. Hymes. The Science of Breath. Honesdale, Penn.: Himalayan Institute Press, 1998.

 

Saraswati, Swami. Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. Bihar, India: Bihar School of Yoga, 1977.

 

Sivananda, Swami. The Science of Pranayama. Garhwal, India: The Divine Life Society, 1971.

 

Suzuki, Shunryu. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. New York: Weatherhill, 1974.

 

Tigunat, Rajmani. The Path of Mantra and the Mystery of Initiation. Honesdale, Penn.: Himalayan Institute Press, 1996.

 

Tirtha, Swami Vishnu. Devatma Shakti. Delhi, India: Swami Shivan Tirth Publications, 1962.

 

Van Lysbeth, A. Pranayama. London, England: Mandala Books, 1979.

 

White, John. The Highest State of Consciousness. New York: Doubleday, 1972