Hours and days of meditation provide opportunity to clarify one’s practice. Patanjali was clear in his Sutras about the stages leading to and then within meditation:
- right withdrawal – pratyahara
- concentration – dharana
- meditation yogically understood – dhyana
- absorption – samadhi.
Each is its own practice, and each provides excellent benefits to body and state of being.
- Right withdrawal is to learn to come inside, to grow at ease with less outer stimulation such that a sense of peace, as well as quietude of emotions and thoughts is had and, at least somewhat, sustained. This leads to the state called “peaceful abiding” and is called the practice of shamatha (sha-ma-ta).
- Concentration begins from there. Meditative concentration is particular. When teaching meditation, I take the word apart. “Con” means with, “centra” means center; thus meditative concentration describes a furthering of shamatha. Having brought all to the center in right withdrawal, and having learned to abide at and as the center of Presence, the concentrated mind stream can be focalized and used to illumine or perceive through to the center or essence of something. Concentration (dharana) is more than a mundane focusing, which is good and useful unto itself. It is a result (of withdrawal/shamatha) which becomes an important cause of the next possible set of further results (meditation/absorption).
Peaceful abiding will be experienced by everyone with the same set of qualities: the feeling of peace, at ease, stability within, centeredness, and light. Light might or might not be an inner visual quality, and that is unimportant. Yet everyone experiences the inner sensation of light, lightedness, lightness of being, even lightness as in less density. It is light that then is automatically refined in concentration. Stability is as well, and necessarily so in order to refine and further concentrate the inner light. As a result, dharana – concentration – can bring a range of quite excellent meditative and mystical experiences, as well as deep insight. Classically, this practice is called vipassyana, or insight. It generally has a penetrating quality as in penetrating to the essence of spiritual consideration or of being penetrated by an infusing quality of Being.
Concentration (with the center) is the stage of meditative practice where we can begin to experience ourself as much more. Peaceful abiding has made this possible, and we could experience wonderful heart-presence meditations with peaceful abiding. We abided in peace and felt that as pervasive and outpouring, and all people do with practice. But concentration is when light, consciousness, and states of Presence become possible. Part of this has simply to do with light as the substance of consciousness and awareness, not to mention the substance of all things. Therefore, we are able to perceive through, to penetrate through to meaning, cause, reason for being, and thus cut through our delusions, and live purely. Concentration, then, for so many people is what they call meditation. Concentration is light, Presence, it is experienced as powerful, vibrating, and riveting. Insights and experiences that are profound from the mundane point of view can be had, and wondrously so. Over my decades of teaching meditation, I am always very happy for a practitioner who can achieve the stage of concentration, yogically understood.
Meditation, as I often say, is another kettle of fish. Yogic meditation is a jump in category made possible only because of the first two layers of practice and accumulated skill. Meditation is the Soul in concentration, it is Awareness abiding within Awareness, it is Awareness-Being able to penetrate in various directions at will energetically, vibrationally, intuitionally, or in Presence. True meditation is not personal and cannot possibly be because of “who” is meditating: Higher consciousness, Soul on its own levels of Being, Awareness as Itself. All these phrases are trying to state the same: a spectrum of living Presence that is each and everyone but that largely is unknown and therefore unlived. It is not our person-ness but that which requires our personality as an expression and instrument of service in the mundane worlds. Meditation as described here is one of the great guaranteed results of a meditation practice that well suits the practitioner: Beingness and Awareness, Beingness as Awareness: Awareness-Being.
With meditation, one is the abiding Presence able to penetrate beyond the mind and concepts or said differently, as Presence one is able to awaken the potential of Mind as the Mirror of Reality.
The Sanskrit word for the level of meditative practice is dhyana. This includes the word “yana” which means path, method, livingness. This, then, describes exactly what has been needed to arrive and describes its result. Path has been the process of dissatisfaction leading to discovery of methods of meditative practice. Method has been learned and cultivated. The result is positive livingness in all regards: meditatively, spiritually, personally, and in our daily life.
Absorption turns the spiral one more time. In meditation (dhyana), light was absorbed into a greater light, thus we experience pervasive Oneness. As Oneness, the profound is accessible and is normal. With absorption (samadhi), Oneness is at first absorbed into, which is still a state of meditative duality, and then Oneness absorbs all Other. Twoness is no more. Sameness, Suchness, THATness are the result. Otherness is impossible in the state of samadhi, even a relative state of such. (There are levels of samadhi, just as with the other layers of meditative ability and actualization which are just like any other skill and attainment.)
Simply, then, right withdrawal provides peace and ease and a “place” to reside within oneself. Concentration uses that peace and stability to hone and focus the inner light that we are as awareness and that Mind is by its nature. Meditation is both the result of the two excellent practices and is Awareness experiencing its Being. Absorption is also a result, but now of all that has been established. Absorption-samadhi is a superlative peaceful abiding. It is a state of being such Center as to be no otherness thus to be, at least temporarily the experience of apparent non-duality. Finally, absorption is the experience of THATness.
All this can sound rather self-absorbed, and along the path of training it is. However, the result of a meditative practice is well-being for all beings. A meditator, is by nature of the practice and its guaranteed results, fine tuning every aspect of him or herself. Eventually, that refined personhood is a vibrational tincture of Awareness within the collective of human consciousness. Every meditator is. So, although we start out learning to meditate to help ourselves, all meditators are vibrationally uplifting human awareness.