The state of living in the present moment happens only when one makes substantial progress in meditation.  Meditation is nothing but a bundle of few techniques to consciously focus attention leading to a conclusion by reasoning or argument rather than intuition and to think deeply about a subject over a period of time.  Capacity for reasoning and thinking is provided by knowledge. Therefore quality of knowledge is paramount in meditation. 

Meditation is a self initiated process. As one progresses in meditation, absorption and grasping of the inner nature of things intuitively unfold without our conscious knowledge.  This happens automatically without any effort on the part of the meditator.   The faculty or power of mental concentration through intense mental effort, ability to discriminate between illusion and reality, and knowledge of the Spirit (spiritual knowledge), these three combine together in the mental platform leading to a stage of clear understanding unintentionally.  But this happens only if the mind is in a stage of total relaxation.  For example, if the desired deity’s form is focused in the mental domain with sustained attention, one becomes absorbed in the form of the desired deity.  But, over a period of time, if the focus on desired deity is withdrawn, then one makes spiritual progress with unfolding internal experience.  The change over from focusing to un-focusing is not a difficult process, as the mind would have been tamed by now.  This transition from focusing to un-focusing is important, as one has to become least absorbed leading to higher level of consciousness, where one develops the skill of intuitiveness.  The meditation can be said to be complete, only if one develops various skills to make the mind serene and inward looking over a period of time.  Only in the higher level of meditation, alternate levels of consciousness can be realized an important factor in Self-realization.  The highest level of consciousness can be experienced only in the stages of alternative levels of consciousness. You cannot say which one is the best in the absence of a second object. 

Only a serene mind can lead to pure consciousness.   In the reality of pure consciousness, the desired deity can be visualized and realized.  There is a trenchant connection between mind, consciousness and the desired deity, the first leading to the last. Mind is always associated with impurity, as it is directly connected to senses.  Therefore, it becomes a necessity to understand the mind better. A normal mind perceives illusionary nature of time and space thereby causing dyads.  Every object that exists in this universe is conceived by human mind influenced by senses. When one is able to transcend human mind that normally stands afflicted by senses, one is able to progress towards reality.  Reality means devoid of dyads.  Dyads arise because of illusionary effect caused by māyā.  Pragmatism is the stage where one is able to realize that an object does not exist as such but only appears to exist as such.  What prevails around us is the energy field, where objects constitute as corporeal that are susceptible for destruction and decay over a period of time. 

The mind that is influenced by sensory perceptions is incapable of functioning without ego.  As long as mind is affected by ego, one continues to be self-centred without any opportunity of realizing the Self.  Ego is a major factor in māyā that plays spoilsport in knowing the reality.  Inner peace alone can lead to realisation of reality.  When peace does not prevail, the mind is subjected to innumerable digressions caused by māyā.  One of the major factors that preclude considerable progress in meditation is lack of internal gratification.  This happens due to the combined factors of ego and desire acting in tandem with senses afflicting the mind beyond reprehension.  These adversities influence the mind making it to deviate from the causative path of realising the eternal truth.  The human mind alone is the main obstacle to our realising the Reality.  Minds of non-human beings are devoid of ego.  It is only the human mind that is capable of realising the Brahman and it is again the same human mind that causes obstructions in realising the Reality.  The former is knowledge and latter is ignorance.  Hence mind is considered as more powerful than nuclear energy that can be used for both creative and destructive purposes. 

To counteract the effects of ego, desire and sensory afflictions, meditation is practiced.  A proper meditation causes attentive awareness for a considerable duration, causing certain physiological changes thereby relaxing both mind and body.  For an effective meditation, relaxation of mind and body is a prerequisite that can be attained only by persistent practice. Practice alone makes a man perfect.  Relaxation of body is indicated by lowering of blood pressure (BP) and relaxation of mind is reflected by internal happiness leading to ability of better focusing.  This relaxation is reflected in the face of practitioner. Two things that are required to reach this stage are comfortable posture and total body relaxation.  There are bound to be stiffness in our body and the localisation of the stiffness largely depends upon one’s profession.  Apart from mentally removing such blocks, stretching exercises are of great help.  Generally, stiffness arises in the area of hip and neck, the starting and penultimate points of kundalini.  Yogic postures make the energy move inside the body without facing any blocks.

Quality of meditation is directly related to our breathing.  When the breathing is fast or normal, it means mind continues to be associated with extraneous thoughts. The spiritual quest should be more powerful than extraneous thoughts that are associated with sensory precepts. The intense spiritual quest alone is capable of obviating extraneous thoughts.  This is the reason for attending spiritual lectures or reading spiritual books.  Breathing is the tool that connects self with the Self, by establishing a link between the brain and the body.  Medulla is the lowest part of the brain.  The level of oxygen in the blood is decided by medulla.  When the level of oxygen is low, brain sends signals through the spinal cord, which in turn makes the diaphragm to descend thereby making the lungs expand by drawing external air.  After pumping the available oxygen into the system, the inhaled air is exhaled with lesser oxygen and more carbon dioxide.  When breath is slow and steady, adequate oxygen is supplied to the body and when the breath is erratic and shallow, lesser amount of oxygen is supplied making the breath faster.   Abdominal breathing helps in relaxing both body and mind and chest breathing leads to build up of tension both in body and in mind.  It would be ideal to make the breathing deeper with lesser time on inhalation and more time on exhalation.  When attention is fixed on breathing, the practitioner automatically enters the state of no-mind.  The no-mind state is the entry point of pure consciousness where the brain continues to remain awake, but disengages itself from all other thought processes. It becomes receptive, dispassionate and devoid of all emotions. 

The level of consciousness is the foremost factor in meditation.   Three normal states of consciousness are awakened state, sleep state and deep sleep state. These are the three stages of intensity of sleep. In the same way, meditation also has different intensities depending upon one’s ability to move his consciousness.  The quality of consciousness is the sole factor to determine the quality of meditation.   Meditation will be of no use, unless one establishes a firm contact with pure cosmic energy from where necessary energy is provided to the universe for creation and sustenance.  The cosmic energy is the source of all energies, which is also known as the Brahman or God.  This energy in its miniscule form is known as speech, sound, vision, light, etc.  Whether one likes it or not, this cosmic energy is present in and around a person.  It is omnipresent.  Attempting to understand the original source of this energy is known as the path of spirituality.  To pursue this path, one requires supreme knowledge, which is different from the routine process of learning.  This knowledge cannot be effectively acquired from books or through lectures.  This can be attained only by exploring the inner self by inquiring who am I.

Intensive meditative practice enables a person to access the supreme level consciousness.  For example, the level of awareness in the active state and in dream state is both external and internal.  In the state of deep sleep state, the level of awareness is only internalized.  No one knows what is happening around him in deep sleep state.  In the same way, a person in the shallow stage of meditation is aware both externally and internally.  In the deep stage of meditation, he becomes thoughtless and therefore totally fixed internally.  He stands disconnected from external influences and is able to sustain his single pointed focus.  This is where the meditation really advances to the next stage.  This is the fourth level of consciousness, the first three being awake, shallow sleep and deep sleep.  The fourth level of consciousness can be classified into two sub-stages, shallow meditative stage and deep meditative stage.  One can easily differentiate between these two stages. In the first stage (shallow), the preliminary effect of tranquilizing is felt which could last for a few seconds to a few minutes. A feeling of relief is also felt.  At this moment, he does not seem to want anything in life.   A sort of happiness is realized not amounting to bliss.  This is the symptom of upcoming blissful stage.  Having experienced this stage he wants to experience again and again which prompts him to spend more time in enjoying this experience.  Therefore, reaching this stage of meditation is difficult and once this is reached, rest of the meditative process happens automatically leading to the deep meditative stages. 

As one progresses, the quality of meditation also increases finally leading to emancipation or Self-realization. Emancipation is enlightenment, the logical conclusion to meditative process.  The progress in meditation can be monitored with the duration of remaining in intense awareness.  Though this is not possible and also not advisable to make such a calculation, it is possible to mentally calculate the duration of intensive awareness from the level of relaxation and happiness.  From a few seconds in the beginning to a couple minutes now is a good progress.  But this does not mean that one should meditate for only a couple of minutes.  The process is like takeoff of an aircraft to reach higher altitudes and then to descend to land.  In the same way, in meditation the consciousness level starts from the lowest level (routine level of awareness that is witnessed during the awakened stage), reach the highest level, remain there for a few seconds to a few minutes and ultimately come back to the normal stage of awareness.  The quality of the meditation depends upon the time taken to reach the highest level of consciousness and the duration of sustaining at that level.  The human brain is the main factor in managing the different level of consciousness.  Meditation is not without scientific proof, but it does not need any scientific proof, as one undergoes personal experience. There can be no better proof than personal experience.

(to be continued)