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What is Meditation


Meditation is an intensely personal and spiritual experience. The desired purpose of each meditation technique is to channel normal waking consciousness into a more positive direction by totally transforming one`s state of mind. To meditate is to turn inwards, to concentrate on the inner self.

The entire process of meditation usually entails the three stages of concentration, meditation and enlightenment or absorption. The meditator starts off by concentrating on a certain point. Once attention gets engaged, concentration turns into meditation. And through continuous meditation, the meditator merges with the object of concentration, which might either be the present moment or the Divine Entity.

In some branches of Indian philosopohy, direct perception from the inner self (mana) together with perception that is filtered through the five senses (pancha indriya) form a part of their valid epistemology (pratyaksha jnana). And this self-realization or self-awareness (as popularized by Paramahansa Yogananda), is nothing but the knowledge of the “pure being”—the Self.

Humanity is increasingly turning towards various meditative techniques in order to cope with the increasing stress of modern-day lifestyles. Unable to locate stability in the outside world, people have directed their gaze inwards in a bid to attain peace of mind. Modern psychotherapists have begun to discover various therapeutic benefits of meditation practices. The state of relaxation and the altered state of consciousness—both induced by meditation—are especially effective in psychotherapy.

But more than anything else, meditation is being used as a personal growth device these days—for inculcating a more positive attitude towards life at large.

Meditation is not necessarily a religious practice, but because of its spiritual element it forms an integral part of most religions. And even though the basic objective of most meditation styles remain the same and are performed in a state of inner and outer stillness, they all vary according to the specific religious framework within which they are placed. Preparation, posture, length of period of meditation, particular verbal or visual elements—all contribute to the various forms of meditation. Some of the more popular methods are, Transcendental Meditation, yoga nidra, vipassana and mindfulness meditation.

Meditation techniques
It was not till the 20th century that a need for the creation of secular forms of popular meditative techniques began to be felt. But for the most part these New Age meditative systems were little more than rehashed versions of older techniques, which had been extracted from their religious contexts. Transcendental Meditation (TM), as propagated by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, is one such version, which grew out of the Hindu practice of `naam japa` or `yoga japa` during the 1960`s.

Existent techniques of meditation can be categorized under two fairly broad sections
—Zen-based forms, which are more “insight”-oriented and Hinduism-based forms, which are largely “concentration”-oriented. Most New Age techniques fall into either of these categories.

Concentrative meditation focuses the attention on the breath, an image, or a sound (mantra), in order to still the mind and allow a greater awareness and clarity to emerge.

The simplest form of concentrative meditation is to sit quietly and focus the attention on the breath. Yoga and meditation practitioners believe that there is a direct correlation between one`s breath and one`s state of the mind. For example, when a person is anxious, frightened, agitated, or distracted, the breath tends to get shallow, rapid, and uneven. On the other hand, when the mind is calm, focused, and composed, the breath is slow, deep, and regular. Focusing the mind on the continuous rhythm of inhalation and exhalation provides a natural object of meditation. As you focus your awareness on the breath, your mind becomes absorbed in the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation. As a result, your breathing will become slower and deeper, and the mind becomes more tranquil and aware.
Transcendental Meditation or yoga nidra (popularized by the Bihar School of Yoga), which owe its origin to ancient Hindu meditative techniques, aim towards a totally detached frame of mind. These forms encourage the practitioner to retreat within the inner-self, into the “real” world, away from the “illusions” (maya) of outside influences. Meditative practices like Mantra yoga, for example, induces the mind to concentrate on a sacred sound by ritualistic chanting, until it attains the trance-like state of samadhi (a state of mind, where it is only responsive to subjective impressions).

Mindfulness meditation involves opening the attention to become aware of the continuously passing parade of sensations and feelings, images, thoughts, sounds, smells, and so forth without becoming involved in thinking about them. The meditator sits quietly and simply witnesses whatever goes through the mind, not reacting or becoming involved with thoughts, memories, worries, or images. This helps to gain a more calm, clear, and non-reactive state of mind. Zen-based forms like Thich Nhat Hanh`s (the France-based Vietnamese Zen master) mindfulness meditation or vipassana, which was promoted by S.N. Goenka, concentrate more on the present, the here and now. This is accomplished by non-judgmentally observing the breath and the sensations in the body very keenly. The objective is to attain perfect concentration without blocking out outside distractions. To reach an ideal state of equanimity and objectivity. But whether one adopts the method of the yogi, oblivious to the external world, or that of the Zen meditator, keenly attuned to his environment—the idea is to tap those vast resources of energy and enlightenment inherent in all of us. To effortlessly find within, what we had been unsuccessfully trying to discover without. That, in essence, is both the art and the science of meditation.

Meditation Exercises

Easy Does It

  • Find a clean place.
  • Sit in a position that is most comfortable for you.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Concentrate on the darkness behind your eyelids.
  • Watch the flow of your thoughts. Do not try to stem the flow.
  • Simply observe.
  • To keep your attention focused, chant any mantra.
  • Meditate like this for at least 10 minutes.
  • Open your eyes slowly.
  • Benefits Galore

  • Worries and struggles of the mind are smoothened.
  • Fear is removed and a sense of joy permeates your daily life.
  • Your thinking becomes exalted, and you achieve success in your actions.
  • Your being is filled with a sense of peace and love. You attain a sense of fulfillment and perfection, and acquire the ability to create this sense in others.
  • You come to realize that your own true Self permeates all living beings, and thus come to love each of them dearly.
  • You attain the knowledge of your own immortal and blissful essence.