Asha Praver

Letters from Asha

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ask Asha: Meditation Reveals States of Consciousness

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

Hi, I am new to meditation and when ever i sit for it and concentrate of my breath after some time i feel like my breathe is getting shorter for one sec and it gets my immediate attention, and i will lose my concentration. If i continue to meditate for more than 10 min i feel very sleepy. I am so sad. Even when i sit stright my back also pains.. All these disturbing my concentration. Please help me in right direction.

Thanks,
B
From Malaysia

Answer

Dear B,

Meditation does not create states of consciousness — it reveals them, both positive and negative. In other words, meditation increases our awareness of what is already there.

Bliss is already there as our own deepest reality. But so also are many other habitual states of consciousness that we may or may not have noticed before.

I have found over the years that what comes up to distract me in meditation may also be the positive fruit of my meditation. Not the distraction itself, but the fact that I become aware of attitudes, conditions, and mental habits within me that I was unaware of before I started meditating.

Once when I was teaching a beginning meditation class, every one of the dozen or so people there reported some major obstacle to being able to meditate. They included sleepiness, physical pain, fear, sadness, anxiety that they weren’t doing it right, and so on.

In all cases, these turned out to be areas in each person’s life that needed attention. Meditation had made them aware. Which is, when you think about, the point of meditation: to increase our awareness.

When you climb to the top of a mountain, your progress is usually not straight up. You reach the highest peak by first traveling across smaller peaks and the valleys between them.

From even a small peak, you can look down into a valley on the other side, one you didn’t even know was there — until you climbed to the top of the hill in front of you.

What I am saying, in other words, is that nothing is going wrong.

You are just learning how to meditate.

As for your breath, having it slow down or shorten is not uncommon. Breath is related to your state of consciousness.

Your efforts to meditate are taking you into unexplored realms. The extreme shortness of breath can be a subconscious tensing in response to the unfamiliar.

The solution is simple: if your short breath, or any other distraction breaks your concentration, as soon as you can, calmly bring your concentration back to whatever technique you are using. Don’t waste energy feeling sad or distressed. That just increases the distraction.

(I presume you are using Hong-Sau or other of the Ananda teachniques. If you have not yet learned them, I suggest that you do so.)

As for pain in your back, most people find the effort to sit still reveals how tense we are most of the time. The Energization Exercises can help, also yoga postures.

You can also begin your meditation practice with some of the tense and relax exercises taught in beginning meditation courses. Again, if you haven’t yet started a systematic study, I suggest that you do. These exercises can be repeated in the middle of meditation as needed.

You also may need to experiment with various ways of sitting. You make no mention of how you are sitting so I can’t respond specifically.

There are so many choices of cushions, kneeling benches, chairs with and without footstools, wedge pillows, back rests, etc. The most important thing is to find something that works. Keep experimenting until you do.

As for being sleepy, this, too, is a common response to the unfamiliar effort of concentrating inwardly. If it sets in right at the 10-minute mark, then plan in advance to convert to healing prayers, affirmations, chanting — either inwardly or out loud — for a few minutes until you feel energetic again.

Be creative. Meditation is both a science and an art. It is far better to change the program slightly than to have to give up after only 10 minutes each time.

Consider it an interesting challenge rather than a defeat.

Like finding a comfortable way to sit, experiment until you can consistently get yourself over the 10-minute hump.

You’ll be surprised that if you respond with determination your subconscious will soon admit defeat and cooperate with your meditation instead of trying as it does now to coax you away from it with sleep.

Pray to God and Gurus to help you.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of Ananda.org.]

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