Get Ready for CLARITY!

Consider this: awareness is the only expression of Totality that reflects its own existence. 

Let’s just focus on that statement for a moment. Let’s not sidetrack into a discussion of whether dolphins and chimps and butterflies and pebbles have awareness. I’m fine either way. That’s not the thing we’re looking at here. 

Just this: awareness is the only expression of Totality that reflects its own existence. 

And that can be simplified to this: awareness is Totality reflecting its own existence. 

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An Overview of Concentration

If relaxation is our doorway, then deep concentration is the door itself. Lacking a doorway, a door simply hides a blank wall – an impassable barrier. Add a doorway, and suddenly the door leads somewhere. In a similar manner, relaxation opens a space for deeper and relatively effortless concentration.

This metaphor points to an important fact about relaxation versus concentration, namely that they are not one and the same thing. That may seem obvious, but some teachers make it seem as if meditation, relaxation and concentration are interchangeable. What’s important to remember is that meditation is at root a relaxation practice which can, if the practitioner so wishes it, set the stage for varying levels of deep concentration as well as other practices.

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61 Points Relaxation Practice

61 Points Relaxation Method

This relaxation exercise consists simply in following with your attention a trail of 61 distinct points throughout the body. That is to say, you focus your attention on each of 61 distinct points in turn. At each point, notice any tension you might feel and let it go. Then go on to the next point.

You can do this practice sitting up or lying down. If you are able to do it lying down without falling asleep, it will serve very well as a deep relaxation exercise. Done sitting up it serves more as a kind of calming concentration exercise.

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Lucid Sleeping (Yoga Nidra)

Lucid Sleeping

Also known as Yoga Nidra, lucid sleeping is among the deepest possible states of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness. It is not the same as the similarly named “lucid dreaming”, though the two can be easily confused, since the practices that lead to lucid sleeping can also generate lucid dreaming. What further confuses the issue is that, as opposed to being completely separate experiences in kind, the two states are actually only different in degree, existing as they do at opposite ends of a particular slice out of the spectrum of consciousness. Hence, lucid sleeping can “slide into” lucid dreaming and vice versa, a fact which can cloud the real difference between the two.

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What is Meditation?

What Is Meditation?

The essence of meditation is awake non-striving.

As such, in its most basic form, it constitutes one of the four natural states of the mind, the other three of which are waking, dreaming and deep sleeping.

Briefly explained, waking is our “everyday” awake state of mind, what you are in right now. Dreaming occurs during a light stage of sleep, which is different from the dreamless state of deep sleeping. And meditating begins in the relaxed state of mind we experience between full waking and dreaming.

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Benefits of Meditation

Benefits of Meditation

Much has been said and written about the benefits of meditation – and over the past few decades numerous studies have been done which indicate that the meditative state of mind is not only beneficial but is indeed an ingrained and entirely natural function of the healthy human nervous system.

This acceptance of what was once considered at best a hobby of anti-social eccentrics has become so general that even mainstream institutions like Massachusetts General Hospital has an entire department dedicated to Mind-Body Medicine. Not surprisingly, the cornerstone of their methodology is teaching people how to meditate in order to avoid and assist in the cure of stress-related diseases.

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Hazards of Meditation

We’ve dealt with the benefits of meditation, but what about its dangers, if any? Many people have a sense there is something sinister and hazardous about the process of self-inquiry in general, and about meditation specifically as a mode of self-inquiry. I don’t want to exaggerate these suspicions, but I will admit they have some basis, even if it’s largely misplaced.

There are four main categories of hazard associated with meditation 

– the hazards of self-inquiry
– the hazards of faulty methodology
– the hazards of the tradition
– what could be called organizational hazards

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How To Sit For Meditation

Ho to sit for meditation

There are many possible body positions for meditation, most of them variations on different ways of sitting. But there is no one best position, only the best position for you.

There are two important aspects about whatever position you decide to use:

  • that you are comfortable in it so that you can maintain it for your entire meditation session without having to move, experience pain or think about discomfort in your body
  • that you can stay alert during the duration of your practice without risk of falling asleep

The choice of position is, ultimately, up to you. However, here are a couple of considerations you might wish to take into account.

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