Meditation Calming a Turbulent Mind
Your mind is a thought-generating organ. Thought forms perpetually arise in your awareness. If you try to stop your thoughts with the intention of creating tillness in your mind, your mental activity may quiet for a few moments, but it will almost certainly start up again at full speed.
The activity in your mind is communicated to every cell in your body. When your mind is turbulent, your messenger molecules communicate turbulence to your cells, tissues, and organs. If you can quiet your mind, you can send messages of peace and harmony to every cell in your body. To experience the real essence of yoga—the full integration of body, mind, and spirit—you need to develop the ability to calm your mental turbulence.
A thought is a packet of energy and information.According to yoga, all thoughts can be classified as either memories or desires. When your mind is active, you are either thinking about something that happened in the past or are anticipating something occurring in the future. The Sanskrit word for memory or past impression is sanskara, while the word for desire is vasana.
Impressions give rise to desires. If you see an advertisement for a flashy car, a tropical vacation spot, or a designer dress, an impression is laid down in your mind that may give rise to a desire. As a result of this desire, you are compelled to take some new action, such as going to a car dealership, calling your travel agent, or visiting your local boutique.
The action that emerges from the desire is called karma. This endless cycle of impressions giving rise to desires giving rise to actions resulting in new impressions is the circuitry that keeps your mind perpetually active.We can think of this circuit of sanskara, vasana, and karma as the software of your soul. As long as you are thinking, your mind is churning through the cycle of action . . . impression . . . desire . . . action . . . impression . . . desire . . . action.
Meditation is the technology that enables you temporarily to escape from this cycle. Through the process of gently focusing your attention (known in yoga as Dharana) while innocently witnessing the thought forms that come and go in your mind (Dhyana), you enter into the gap between thoughts, glimpsing the domain of unbounded awareness (Samadhi). Taking your mind from constricted to expanded awareness, meditation offers the most direct path to awakening the Law of Pure Potentiality in your life.
Your choices are limited while your mind is engaged in a particular memory or desire. People frequently get caught in habitual ruts of thinking, believing that they are stuck in a situation because they cannot imagine any other possibilities. Accessing the field of pure potentiality by going beyond conditioning through meditation opens up creative possibilities that previously were unavailable.
Meditation can take many different forms, but there is a common theme. In every technique of meditation, the process takes you out of the conditioned mind and opens up access to the nonconditioned mind. This is accomplished by experiencing a thought in its less distinct, more refined aspects until eventually you experience thethought as it emerges from the nonlocal field of your awareness. As you become increasingly familiar with the experience of thoughts condensing from consciousness, your identity begins shifting from your mind to your soul. You can focus on and refine your perception of objects in any sensory modality.
You can use music, chanting, drumming, or the sound of your own breath as a focus of your attention in meditation. You can use visual symbols, a candle flame, pictures of people you love, or a sunset to expand your consciousness. You can go from local to nonlocal awareness through the sense of touch—from therapeutic massage to sexual rapture. Youcan even momentarily go beyond time and space through the sense of taste and smell.
For every experience in the mind, it is possible to refine that experience so your awareness is less constricted and more expanded. This expanded state of mind is the ultimate expression of the Law of Pure Potentiality, for allpossibilities reside in and emerge from this field of unbounded awareness.Before it arises in your mind, a thought is in this domain of consciousness that is transcendent to thought, a domain accessible through meditation. An ancient powerful meditation technique involves asking the question, Who is having these thoughts? By repeated inquiry, you reach the awareness that thoughts arise from a deeper domain of awareness over which your mind really has no control.
In the yoga tradition, meditation classically involves the use of a mantra or primordial sound. The word mantra means “instrument or vehicle of the mind.”Mantras are used to take your awareness from engagement in the changing realm of life to immersion in the expanded state of being that is beyond beginnings and endings. These vibrations, used for thousands of years to quiet mental activity, are pleasing, resonant sounds that do not have specific meanings to keep your mind active.
The mind stays active through the process of association.If you listen to your mind, it may sound like this: I need to reduce my credit card debt . . . I really didn’t need to buy that sweater last week . . . I did need something to wear to Stan’s party . . . The food was really great . . . I wish I hadn’t eaten so much . . . I am definitely going to start exercising next week . . . I am going to try to get Tanya to go out with me . . . I wonder if she got the job she was applying for . . . and on . . . and on . . .and on . . .
Introducing a mantra temporarily interrupts the incessant association process that keeps the mind active. Introducing a thought that does not carry meaning momentarily breaks the cycle and allows you to glimpse the silent space between your thoughts. This starts the transformation of your identity from mind to spirit.
The best-known mantra is the sound Aum or Om,traditionally said to be the sound the universe makes when it manifests from potential to perceptual. Using the sound that represents the junction point between local and nonlocal can take your awareness back to the field of awareness that gives rise to the mind.At the Chopra Center, we teach a mantra meditationtechnique called Primordial Sound Meditation, which assigns a person one of 108 mantras based upon the date and place of a person’s birth. This requires personalized instruction, which is available through our certified meditation instructors in most cities throughout the world.
According to the theory that underlies Primordial Sound Meditation, the universe expresses a different vibratory frequency at different times during the day. You can appreciate this principle by considering how the environment feels different at dawn from the way it does at high noon or at dusk. Over the course of a lunar month, the “sound” of the world changes about 108 times. One of these 108 sounds is assigned based upon the time, date, and place of a person’s birth. This primordial sound or mantra is said to represent the sound of the cosmos at the doorway between potentiality and individuality because until we emerge through the birth canal we are potential human beings. This primordial sound can be used as a meditation vehicle to take you back through the doorway from individuality to universality—the ultimate goal of meditation.