Category Archives: Meditation

What is the relationship between cosmic energy and pranayama (breathing practices)?

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Satsang with Swami Satyananda Saraswati

In yoga cosmic energy is known as prana. There is life energy in the whole atmosphere, but in addition to this there is an infinite quantity of cosmic energy. This energy is predominantly present in the five elements. Just as we say the source of protein is meat, eggs, nuts and soya beans, in the same way the five sources of prana are earth, water, fire, air and ether. But the best source of prana is the air, and that is why pranayama is such a powerful practice.

The breath which you take inside is not pure prana; it is air with prana. Ultimately it is purified and separated into positive and negative ions, into ordinary air and prana. This separation occurs during kumbhaka, and at the time of meditation these pranas are assimilated. Therefore, a hatha yogi who practises pranayama must also practise meditation in order to assimilate the separated prana. So this cosmic prana becomes a part of individual prana through pranayama and meditation.

Is concentration on the breath considered an essential part of the tantric practices?

Concentration on the breath is one of the most powerful methods of introverting the restless mind. The practice of meditation is divided into 4 stages: pratyahara or introversion; dharana or concentration; dhyana or meditation; and samadhi or transcendence.

Concentration on breath comes in the first category. As you concentrate on the breath, the mind automatically becomes withdrawn. When this stage has been accomplished you must then try to fix your mind on one chosen point. If you continue to withdraw and introvert the mind without bringing it to one point it will be absolutely hypnotised. Therefore when you are able to introvert the mind to a certain point and when psychic experiences suddenly begin, immediately start the practice of dharana.

Regardless of which system you follow, practices of introversion alone cannot lead you to awakening. They are only intended to create passivity and tranquillity. The restless tendencies of the mind must be pacified. This is the first stage. The next stage, dharana, means fixing the mind on one point and reducing the area of space. When the mind is fixed on one point and is concentrating itself it will lead to dhyana and samadhi.

What is a correct and systematic method of preparing for meditation?

Concentration and meditation come under raja yoga, and before you practise raja yoga, you must purify the physical body by the techniques of hatha yoga. In yoga, we believe that as far as possible, the causes of thought processes should be cleared up first through the physical medium. For example, sometimes a thought can be the outcome of a bad stomach or the effect of a thyroid malfunction. Therefore we recommend the purifying techniques of hatha yoga. There are six hatha yoga cleansing techniques: neti, dhauti, basti, nauli, trataka and kapalbhati. They are called the shatkarmas. With the guidance of an experienced teacher, you do these practices according to your requirements and capacity.

After you have practised the shatkarmas for one to two years, harmony is attained within the nervous system, the parasympathetic and sympathetic, in ida and pingala nadis. They are responsible for manas shakti (mental energy) and prana shakti (pranic or vital energy) respectively. If either of these nadis are disturbed, then you have diseases born of manas or prana shakti.

By hatha yoga, therefore, we are actually purifying all the flows so that they are homogeneous and uninterrupted. When this has been accomplished you should then start concentration for which a strong nervous system is imperative. When the flows in ida and pingala are correctly energised and balanced with respect to each other, the third flow, sushumna, is automatically activated. When this happens, meditation becomes spontaneous. However, this doesn’t mean that you should not practise japa or that you should not do anything else now. You must continue with these things also, but if you are going to enter into meditation practice seriously, then you must do it systematically.

Apart from the relaxation and health benefits is there a deeper purpose for practising meditation?

The purpose of meditation is to develop super-awareness which should take charge of all the affairs of life, replacing the mind just as in presidential rule the governor takes charge of all the affairs of the state when the cabinet does not function. In the same way, when we know that this mind is not able to conduct the affairs of life properly, when it is creating torture, agony and suffering we say, “No, the mind is not a good director”. The limited mind must be replaced by a superpower, super awareness, but the problem is that there is no super awareness. Therefore we practise meditation to develop it.

During meditation, is the position of the hands important? If so, what is the best position?

If both nostrils are not flowing freely the position of the hands should be as follows. Place the right hand under the left armpit and the left hand under the right armpit and press. The arms should be relaxed. This is called swara yoga mudra. At the time of meditation both nostrils must flow freely, if they do not, then one part of the brain remains inactive and you cannot meditate properly. When both the nostrils flow freely, both hemispheres of the brain are equally active and meditation can be accomplished without any difficulty.

If, however, both nostrils are flowing freely when you sit for meditation, you can place your hands in the lap. This is called yoni mudra. Or you may adopt chin mudra, with the thumb and the index finger joined and the remaining three fingers separated, symbolising the separation of yourself (index finger) from the three gunas of rajas, tamas and sattva, and the joining of yourself to the supreme consciousness (thumb).

In meditation it is very important that both nostrils are free. If for example only the right nostril is flowing and the left is blocked, the mind will run terribly hither and thither like a monkey. If only the left is flowing you will start dreaming after some time or depression may set in. When both nostrils are flowing, the right and left hemispheres of the brain are harmonised and begin to function in a greater dimension. In this way meditation can be accomplished.

During meditation something starts jumping in my body, then the body starts shaking. What is this?

It is perfectly all right but don’t dwell on these happenings. Try to remain aware of the point of your concentration. With concentration many things can happen. If the mind is swayed by these psychic experiences and physical symptoms, it is a distraction from the main centre. However, sometimes, in a state of meditation these disturbances become so powerful that it is useless to fight with them. It is better to find out the reason for their presence. Maybe you have not fulfilled some of the preliminary conditions of yoga or have not stabilised your nervous system or emotional structure.

Sometimes in meditation there is an experience when the breath stops automatically.

There is a certain moment when prana and the mind interact and move together. When the mind is controlled the pranic forces also stop and when the pranas are controlled the mind automatically stops. In yoga this is known as kevala kumbhaka, automatic, spontaneous retention. The moment your mind ceases to function or is consumed in the point of concentration, automatically the breath must stop because in the brain these two activities are interconnected. The raja yogis first control the mind then stop the breath. Hatha yogis control the breath and thereby control the fluctuations of the mind. When kevala kumbhaka takes place allow it to happen without resisting because it culminates in the awakening.

science of breathprana

SAMYAMA

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SAMYAMA is the term Patanjali uses in the Yoga Sutras for the last three of the eight stages of classical yoga: concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and enlightenment (samadhi). A necessary prerequisite to this is the fifth step – withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara). These constitute the “inner” part of yoga, dealing with the mind and consciousness itself. Samyama means integration. Practice alone is incomplete without integrating the work we do into our daily lives.

We build the foundation for samyama through practice of yoga postures and pranayama, as well as observing the ten guidelines for living (yamas and niyamas) such as nonviolence. Three of these are discussed under Kriya Yoga.

PRATYAHARA

Until we learn to turn our attention inward there is little chance to observe our own minds and consciousness. And there is an endless array of distractions in the outer world calling out for our attention. So much so, that few people realize there is also an “inner world”. The mind (“monkey mind”) dominates our usual awareness and is easily distracted by sense objects and especially by our attachments and aversions. That is, we want to pursue and hold onto pleasure and prevent or retreat from pain. Who wouldn’t? This is quite normal but it’s not how the world works. The Buddha said that life is suffering and we can put an end to suffering by releasing our attachments.

It is through contacting this inner world that the intelligence of the universe expresses itself through us. It is necessary to have a regular practice of inner stillness in order to live more in this awareness and channel it into our actions. Pratyahara is a precursor to meditation and ultimately to samadhi. Eventually we learn to maintain an inner and outer awareness at the same time.

DHARANA

Once the senses are directed inward, the next step is to sustain unbroken focus of the mind on one object. Asana is a good object. So is breath or mantra. We have all experienced unbroken concentration when watching a movie or reading a book that is engaging. When we see extraordinary athletes or performers, they’ve got it. But we need to be able to apply this to all our endeavors. One to one relationship is a good place to practice.   When we loose our concentration we simply take a breath and come back to the object of our attention. The technique is the same as the goal. Slowly improvement comes. And it takes practice. It also takes patience, clear intention, and a strong will to overcome the endless parade of sense objects competing for our attention. As we build energy through asana and other practices, the energy itself sustains our attention. This benefits every aspect of our lives from driving a car to relationships. We need to love the dharma (our path) more than we love the endless thoughts in our mind.

DHYANA

Meditation is observing the process (thinking) or the contents (thoughts) of the mind. It can not be understood by words alone – only through  practice. Quite simply, we practice quieting the mind through any number of methods. We quickly realize the impossibility of this task and thereby become aware of the process (or contents) of the mind. At all other times we are totally engaged with these thoughts and thereby unable to be objective as thinking takes place. In fact we are virtually under a state of hypnosis engaged in thought for our entire lives. Thoughts become a trance in which we identify completely with our fantasies, emotions, and illusions. Of course thinking is necessary as well for our very survival. It is interesting that when our survival is threatened, we shift into a state of heightened awareness, very different from our ordinary state of mind. Why do we practice meditation? Only by this process do we come more into the present moment – into reality. The past and future are just intellectual concepts, however powerful (and useful) they may be. Body and mind come more into harmony creating a receptive place for the spirit to evolve. The practice of meditation is humbling because it takes us out of our illusions about ourselves. We come face to face with our shadow.These illusions we maintain for most of our lives because of our fear of reality. Yet meditation is empowering because it connects us with the river of life.

SAMADHI

Samadhi refers to those moments when we experience a transcendence or a merging with all of creation. There are no words to describe this adequately, only the experience itself. We have all felt this in a beautiful nature setting for example, or with a small baby or puppy. Perhaps all of art is trying to give voice to this experience, in different ways. It is what yoga is for and what the word “yoga” means. It is when we merge with the Creator and are momentarily released from the seperation between Creator and creation (parusha and prakriti). However brief these moments are, they have a lasting effect and begin to change us at the deepest levels. Our understanding of spirit shifts from an intellectual concept to an experience that has (and needs) no words. The change in our world view and especially in our presence and actions is the fruit of the experience of samadhi, and of our practice in general. This doesn’t automatically make life easier but it does direct us into the flow of life, into the Tao. And we become more authentic. This is part of the appeal of many gurus and yoga masters whose presence is so transformed by their state of mind.

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“Concentration is single pointed attention.

It modifies into meditation by being sustained in time, becoming all-pointed (or no-pointed)  – equally diffused but with no drop in attentiveness.

Enlightenment is total absorption.

Prolonging these three aspects of yoga is samyama. Concentration brings stability in the mind, meditation develops maturity in intelligence, and enlightenment diffuses the consciousness.”

                          ….B.K.S. Iyengar

Understanding Meditation

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By:  Dr Swami Shankardevananda Saraswati

There are many ways of understanding meditation. It may be called focusing the mind, stilling the mind, experiencing the mind in its raw state, being at one with ourselves, being closer to our centre, or being present in the moment. According to Patanjali, it is self-knowledge, becoming grounded in the self by disentangling the mind from sense objects.

Patanjali defines meditation as: Yogaschitta vritti nirodhah – the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind (chitta). Then the seer is established back in his or her own true nature – Tada drastuh svarupe avasthanam. Yoga defines meditation as an unbroken flow of awareness. Tantra defines meditation as a process of activation of energy through movement, breath and sound in order to awaken the deeper forces. Mantra sadhana is a process of feeling the deeper unconscious with different forms of vibration.

Embodying meditation

There are two levels of understanding meditation that we need to develop. The first is to learn a practice thoroughly so that we embody it and become one with it. The second is to develop our knowledge and deepen our understanding of the process of meditation. Therefore, it is most important that we practise meditation diligently, and at the same time look at our lives and see how we can increase our awareness there in a practical way.

As part of the attainment of yoga, the development of memory, smriti, is essential. The smriti that Patanjali talks about is the integration of the chitta so that it can hold a vast array of experience and the sense of self at the same time, at one moment. This is achieved through meditation. We have to develop a tissue memory of the meditation experience and hold that in every moment. Meditation should be so ingrained in us that there is not a moment when we are not practising meditation.

When we sit for meditation we disengage from the outer world and go deep into ourselves. As we continue our practice, over time the thinking starts to calm down and all the emotional entanglements start to go away, and then we can feel ourselves back in a beautiful inner space. While we are meditating we move into a different sense of who we are. But when we end the practice, we re-emerge into the world and we take on the personality ‘shape’ again, this egoic shape which contains the learned patterns that are in the nervous system. These are patterns of behaviour, patterns of thinking and ideas about who we are and what we can and cannot achieve.

We try to be fully conscious at the same time of both the negative pattern with its fears and worries and of that higher part of ourselves, the higher nature. In the higher part is the stillness and in the lower part is the turbulence – the two should come together and relate with each other. This is the relationship between you and your self, that part of you that remembers that you are not the diminished or contracted state, but that you are the higher awareness. It is the relationship between consciousness and mind.

Meditation is mind management. It is remembering who we are and observing the relationship with the mind and its activities and finding a way to manage and integrate that.

Overcoming desire

Patanjali says that regular practice, abhyasa, and nonattachment, vairagya, are necessary for meditation. The issue here is the development of a technique in meditation practice, and the capacity to bring that technique into your life so that your lifestyle supports and reflects your inner work. That is where difficulties can arise, because the capacity for distraction is endless; we have endless desires which keep us fascinated. However, meditation tackles this endless cycle of desire and will finally take us to the point where we have to examine the unbroken desire that keeps us alive, the will to live, and ultimately death itself – the process of letting go. Once we can do this we can convey a sense of certainty and power in the face of life’s difficulties. This process takes place gradually over a long period of time.

The desires and distractions will always be there and we should accept that, but the consciousness has to be aware of the urgency, the compulsion to act out these desires. Until that time meditation cannot build in intensity. The more we can hold the memory of the practice, the more we can hold the capacity to pull the mind back from the endless sensory input, the more we will progress in meditation.

Being the witness

So we need to develop a meditative lifestyle. This is where the technique of antar mouna comes in. We learn to be the witness and to hang on to this ability. One of the problems we may have in meditation is that when we practise we can have a great experience but after, when we go back into our life, we lose it. This process is natural. It is an oscillation between two states – the state we achieve in meditation and the state of mind in daily life. We need to understand this process of oscillation and develop the capacity to follow its pattern. We also need to assess how much our lifestyle helps or hinders this process. How much do diet, sleep patterns, exercise, work, pastimes and relationships play a part in pulling us out of the awareness of our inner process and what changes will help us get back into it. We must come to know ourselves, our own patterns and tendencies. This is where swadhyaya, self-study, comes in.

Grounding

In practising meditation, we find that as we advance we can take on more rigorous practice. To manage this, one fundamental technique we need to learn is grounding.

Grounding means to be firm and stable in facing our own mind and in the face of life. The best place to be grounded is in the body; we can also ground ourselves in the breath. Grounding in the body is one of the most basic and important things to help us go deeper. It can happen in meditation that people get to a certain point and then lose their confidence. They can get into a state of sleep or become blank (an unconscious mechanism to avoid looking at what lies hidden at deeper levels) or they feel a fear arise, which happens when stability is lost.

Grounding is a process that allows us to maintain both one-pointedness and also the memory of what we are doing. It also conveys a sense of strength, which gives us the confidence to go forward into our mental processes so as to uproot the deeper issues. There is a certain point at which we are willing to go into our ‘mental stuff’ and a point where we are not. It is necessary not just to want to have nice experiences in meditation, but to start to actually use meditation to do solid work on ourselves.

Grounding is an essential component. Without grounding, as soon as energies start to change, there is no stability within to rest on. So we may feel it is easier to stay with an old pattern of behaviour through familiarity, rather than trusting in the new pattern we are trying to create. By coming back into the base of the body, the pelvic floor, or the bones (the ground of consciousness), or the breath, we can develop a habit of grounding ourselves. Then we can trust in the process and we can do the next stage of meditation training, which is to face our fundamental issues.

Solid inner work – developing trust

To be able to face our issues in meditation, two things are important:

1. The capacity to use energy in the form of movement, breath and sound, to allow us to manipulate the body/ mind, so we are able to change how we feel.

2. The development of the capacity of consciousness to penetrate into this energetic field, to know and to feel what is going on at deeper and more subtle levels of being.

The relationship between consciousness and energy is very important. We need to understand and experience how consciousness and energy relate and interplay. Energy is the vehicle for consciousness. It carries consciousness. Take the breath, for example. If you move the breath up and down, the consciousness can travel with it more easily. Energy is informing our consciousness; it is constantly bringing up information for us to process. The more we develop the capacity for recognition through the ability to witness, and experience an ever more subtle awareness, the more we can know what is going on within ourselves.

In meditation, we find that we come up against blocks, certain patterns of energy that seem to have a life of their own or about which we have gone into denial. Meditation in this day and age is not just sitting alone and going inside. Meditation is the use of awareness in the day to day existence. Before we can genuinely practise higher yoga we need to get information back to our consciousness about what we need to deal with, and then we need to find a kind of determination to go into that ‘stuff.’ We have to jump in.

Antar mouna – stage 3

In antar mouna, there are stages to do this. In stage 1 we witness our sensory information; then in stage 2 the spontaneous thoughts, and then in stage 3 the conscious creation of thoughts. To do work we need to go deep inside ourselves and really explore life. Not in a half-hearted or timid way, but with gusto and zest. How far into our process are we willing to go when we create thoughts in stage three?

Stage 3 is the capacity to use our minds constructively to create thoughts. We can only rise above the mind when we make a conscious decision that we will go in and tackle the mind, in a way that is skilful, patient and respectful. Stage 3 is for that. Here we create our own thought, any thought, but uncensored. Then whatever that issue is, go into it fully. This is what tantra really is. If we don’t tackle it in meditation, we will have to live it, because it will drive us unconsciously. It is active and it will drive us, so bring it up – drinking, smoking, sensuality, passion, anything – whatever your trip is, visualize it, see yourself doing it, without reservation, without inhibition. Bring the craving, the desire up, make yourself sick of it – and then throw it out.

Swamiji tells the story of his desire for mangoes, which he saw as an attachment. He went into meditation and visualized himself eating baskets and baskets of mangoes until he was sick of them. Then he stopped desiring mangoes.

Dealing with unconscious drives

As meditation stabilizes, we can begin to watch our lives more. The desire for attention, to be important, to be loved, the need to use the libido, the need for creativity, the need for a purpose – how do these things drive us? How do we get our fulfilment and where do we lack it? What emotions are coming up and what issues do we need to face – at work, with people, with anger, fear and frustration and our self-esteem, our lack of self-esteem or our arrogance? We need to bring all these things up and work on them. And we also watch how they affect our lives. How conscious are we of those things so that our lives are working at a level that is lifting us out of the lower chakras and into anahata?

In the lower chakras are the dark unconscious energies of the mind, which are driving us all in one form or another. This is also where the kundalini, the shakti, resides. The vast power that reveals who we really are is locked in the darker recesses of the unconscious. In meditation we open up to all this, to being with ourselves on these different levels. So meditation is not just a passive sitting in a peaceful state. It is about being with ourselves as totally self-possessed human beings, knowing all of our darkness and all of our light.

Antar mouna – stage 4

Stage 3 of antar mouna is also a preparation for stage 4. In stage 3 we are creating the thoughts. In stage 4 we deal with the capacity to grapple with unconscious forces as they arise. These forces can come up and take us over and we may be overwhelmed by them until our sense of self, through the capacity to remain the witness, becomes alive, strong, consolidated, and grounded. Until our sense of self has become established and is stronger, the mind will have a greater capacity to overwhelm us.

In stage 3 if an issue comes up spontaneously, often we can move into stage 4, if we are prepared to do that. When a powerful negative (or positive) thought comes up we can be ready to grab it and wrestle it and then throw it out. So if anger or disappointment comes up and we start to feel the ache, and the inner critic comes up, and anything else, we watch all those contracted energy patterns (thoughts) – then we throw them out. This is the stage where we develop the confidence to really be with our issues. Until that happens the repressive instinct takes over, pushes the stuff away, and we go into contraction. Attachment takes over and we push away the thoughts. As soon as we relax and get the confidence, we can say, “No, let’s go for it,” and dive in. We need to start really to be in touch with ourselves so we are no longer just trying to create pleasant states all the time, to relax and feel good. I need to be able to say that it is time to do something about this: Let’s work on this one now.”

Developing spiritual maturity

Most people are afraid to go deep into their own minds, because we are not trained or encouraged to do so by our society. The mind is still a mystery to most of us. It is wise to use caution in proceeding into these areas. They can create depression, fear, anxiety, insecurity and so on. These lie in the deeper unconscious waiting for something to trigger to explode them and rob us of our power and our consciousness.

In meditation, whenever we are facing some major issue in this way, we can always come back to the breath to ground ourselves. We have to be able to regulate ourselves by moving between stability and the need for grounding, and the capacity for diving deeper.

Meditation is where we develop a subtle awareness, so that in our daily lives, when core issues or powerful emotions arise, we can see them for what they are and develop a calm confidence in dealing with them. To do that we go back to the meditation process and work on them again and again, to look at how we have managed in our life and how we can improve ourselves in those situations. The techniques become the tools, which are available more and more outside of formal meditation practice.

 

Antar Mouna (Silence Meditation)

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ANTAR MOUNA – A POWERFUL TECHNIQUE TO LEARN TO MEDITATE-

When the mind is silent and peaceful it becomes very powerful. It can become a receptor of bliss and wisdom enabling life to become a spontaneous flow and expression of joy and harmony. However…this inner silence cannot arise while there is a continual stream of disturbing thoughts and emotions. All this inner noise of thoughts and emotions has to be removed before one can truly experience the soundless sound of inner silence.

—Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Peace, bliss, harmony. Who is able to experience these states? So many people these days are struggling with their own minds. Influenced by their conditionings, and overwhelmed by the pressures of day to day living in today’s increasingly stressful society, they are full of mental tensions, which manifest as anxiety, nervousness, guilt, lack of self-confidence, loneliness, fear, obsessions and phobias. Some turn to drugs and alcohol as a temporary means of escape and solace. Others enlist the costly help of psychiatrists or psychotherapists to try and cope. All are looking for some form of change, a little relief from the inner conflicts and turmoil, wanting to feel at ease with themselves, or even to experience, if not bliss, just a modicum of peace and contentment.

Those who are fortunate enough to come across Yoga can encounter and learn an excellent systematic meditation practice, known as antar mouna (अंतर्मौन) , that will enable them to release these oppressive mental tensions and to become their own psychotherapists in the process.

Antar means inner, mouna means silence. Antar mouna is a technique of attaining pratyahara(withdrawal of the mind from the sense objects), the fifth stage of raja yoga, and in its fullest form can lead to dharana and dhyana. Antar mouna is also a fundamental part of the Buddhist practice known as vipassana, used in a modified way.

Purging the mind

Generally we tend to allow ‘good’ thoughts to arise to conscious perception; we accept and enjoy pleasant thoughts. When an unpleasant, painful or ‘bad’ memory or thought arises, we tend to quickly push it back down into the subconscious layers of the mind. This is suppression and we all do it. Everyone has mental suppressions. Often we are conditioned to do it from childhood. But suppression is definitely not the answer.

Every single suppressed thought that remains unexpressed causes a block in the free flow of the mind. The thoughts and experiences stay submerged in the subconscious realms of the mind in seed form, causing pain, unhappiness and frustration in life. These subtle impressions are known assamskaras. Without even realizing it, we build up a vast accumulation of suppressed thoughts which cause a lot of tension and disturbances in the mind and personality without obvious cause.

To find lasting happiness or peace of mind, these mental impressions have to be rooted out. It can be compared to gardening. We remove the unwanted weeds from the mind. If we just break the top off, although there is temporary relief, the weed will return. However, when we dig down deep and pull out the root of the weed, it loses its hold and can be removed completely. If left to fester in the mind, these negative mental impressions poison the psyche and lead to irritability, aggression, anger, non-specific depression, a tendency to worry, being fearful without reason, and permanent tiredness. This affects all our interactions in life and reduces our ability to be efficient, creative and dynamic at every level of our lives.

Antar mouna enables us to exhaust these unwanted thoughts; it provides a means to purge the mind. Once these mental tensions start to be released, we can experience corresponding surges of energy and inspiration and life starts to take on a new dimension. In the same way that we clean our rooms and the physical body every day we also need to develop the habit of cleaning the mind each day in order to prevent the accumulation of more dross or rubbish. Therefore, it is very necessary to repeat this process on a consistent and regular basis.

Antar mouna is required because this process of oscillation and extrication from the contracted state to the more benevolent state takes time. We forget and get lost along the way. We need a technique like antar mouna which will help us through this process. Antar mouna is the technique of inner silence, also known as witnessing. It is divided into six main stages which can be divided into three basic categories. For most people, the first three stages provide plenty to work with, and in order to obtain the full benefits, a considerable amount of time should be spent practising and perfecting them before attempting to move into the more advanced stages.

The first two categories are passive, where we sit and observe our mind and our process of evolution, of change in our inner nature, without engagement. We simply observe that tendency to suppress things and to grab onto things and to lose ourselves within our mental process. We do not try to change anything. We simply develop what is called a sense of self. While we are developing that, we have to maintain an awareness of the object of meditation. We also have to be aware of the whole process. This is important because we tend to get lost either in the object we are observing, a thought or an event, or we get lost in our own selves. It is very difficult to maintain the kind of equilibrium where we hold an awareness of self and of other at the same time.

Antar mouna is designed to allow us to do that because developing a sense of self is an antidote to the pain, to dealing with this kind of contracted and somehow distorted energetic process that goes on inside. A sense of self is very grounding and calming. We feel a greater sense of safety and trust the more we develop it. What we are trying to do is develop a greater stability in that experience, so that it becomes more available to us for longer periods of time. So the first stages of antar mouna are simply passive, learning to witness outside sounds or sensations, learning to witness thoughts without getting engaged in suppression of thoughts or involvement in the process. These are the two main states, grabbing onto a thought and pushing it away. Of course, the awareness is the antidote to ignorance.

Once we have that capacity, we go into the next two stages. These are active, to develop mental muscle, like doing mental push-ups. We consciously try to grab onto a thought, to exaggerate the process of grabbing. Then we consciously let it go. One stage is to create a thought, grab it and then throw it away, and the other state is to grab a spontaneous thought as it comes up and then throw it away. So we are developing this internal capacity to deal with our thoughts, feelings, emotions and inner states with greater clarity. In the third category, which is divided into two groups, we throw out any thought that comes into our mind, until we achieve shoonya or emptiness, a luminous emptiness. It is not a dark, tamasic emptiness; it is an emptiness which is full of peace and love.

Antar mouna is one of the most important techniques that we can learn in order to maintain the path, in order to maintain an awareness of duality and polarity, and to be able to hold the negative as well as the positive experiences.