Being spiritual has nothing to do with what you believe and everything to do with your state of consciousness.-Eckhart Tolle
The real purpose of Asana
The physical postures that are know in the West as “practice”, is a means of preparation. Preparing the body to sit still to observe what’s there. The body is so tight from over doing physical activity and not resting enough. It is also very tired from sitting all day in front of computers and not resting enough. Humans are so distracted by the external environment that they have no relationship to observing what’s happening inside. The ability to concentrate is diminishing, let alone the ability to begin to witness the differences from: sensations, thoughts, energy, held emotions or energies, etc. The asana practice becomes a platform of establishing a witnessing state of consciousness as well as purifying the body to learn how to concentrate the mind’s attention.
The Process of Moving Deeper Inside
The 8-limb path provides a guideline on how to move into a more holistic, awareness in one’s life. It begins with the yama and niyamas the yogi’s ethics and how we work in the world and relate to others. The third limb is a learning how to move, stretch and strengthen the body with control. The fourth limb is controlling the breath in a conscious rhythmic fashion that calms the nervous system and moves the vital life force energy. The fifth limb teaches about sense withdrawal and deepening the 5 sense organs inside. The last three limbs are concentration, uninterrupted concentration (meditation) and absorption in meditation where union with the divine is perceived.
How do we practice concentration?
Vitarka Vichara Ananda Asmita Rupa Anugamat Samprajnatah
Due to the nature of the object of focus the first stage of spiritual absorption, known as samprajnata samadhi is four-fold:
Stages of attention: Attention develops in stages:
Attention may wander here and there, whether externally observing through the senses, or internally observing the stuff of the mind. There are seemingly countless objects that can be observed by "me" as the observer (that "me" is actually a false identity, which is systematically being explored so as to uncover the true Self).
Concentration comes from attention and means that the attention is focused on one object, though the concentration may be interrupted, and is thus temporary. There is still an observer, who is doing the process of observing, and an object that is being observed.
Meditation is a state of constant attention, where in the concentration is not broken by those other distractions. There continues to be an observer observing an observed object. (There is no specific time limit that discriminates between concentration and meditation.)
Samadhi is absorption, which occurs when the observer, the process of observing, and the observer all three seem to collapse into one, wherein there seems to be only the object in existence.
Allow the depth of the experience to happen over time and practice.
A deeper exploration of meditation
All objects are in one of four stages: Virtually all types, styles, methods, or objects of meditation are included in one of the four stages:
With an object of meditation:
1. Savitarka: meditation relates to concentration on a gross object while still accompanied with other activities of the mind. It involves the co-mingling of three things: the object itself, the word or name we give to the object, and knowledge related to the object. There are many different gross objects on which one might meditate at the Savitarka level.
2. Savichara: meditation relates to subtle objects, after the gross have been left behind. It is a deeper exploration involving the subtleties of matter and the subtleties of the senses. There are far fewer choices of subtle objects on which to meditate. As stated in the Yoga Sutras, at some point, "the knowables become few All of the complexity is seen to emerge from simplicity.
3. Sananda: meditation emphasizes the still subtler state of bliss in meditation. In this state, the concentration is free from the gross and subtle impressions that were at the levels of Savitarka and Savichara.
4. Sasmita: meditation focuses on I-ness, which is even subtler, as it relates to the I that is behind, or witness to all of the other experiences.
Meditation on the subtle: It is very important to reflect on the principle of meditation on the subtle elements. Meditation at this stage means that you are dealing with the very building blocks of all of the objects on which you might meditate in their gross form. You are focusing not only with objects normally seen to be external (the things of the world stored as memories in the mind), but also the very instruments (such as senses and mind) by which those objects are experienced. In this way, it becomes increasingly possible to attain non-attachment to the whole realm of gross matter, along with their subtle counterparts and the mind itself.
Like driving through cities on a highway: When you are driving your car in a rural area it may seem quiet and peaceful. As you approach a city, there is an ever-increasing activity, with more and more people. In the heart of the city, it is thriving with sights and sounds, people and objects of this or that kind. When you pass through the center of the city the process reverses, as the activity seems to gradually recede behind you, as you move through the city. On your journey down the highway, towards your destination, you approach cities, experience them, and drive through them.
The inner journey is like that too, as you approach a level of inner activity, experience it, and then move through to the next. The goal is realization, direct experience of the absolute reality, the objectless center of consciousness, whose nature is of peace, happiness, and bliss, though truly indescribable. On that journey inward, few are able to go directly to that realization, and must move into, experience, and then transcend the levels of inner reality or mind, that are along the way. This is the process being described in this sutra.
Simplicity, like a ball point pen: Yoga Sutras has a beautiful simplicity to it, Attention can absorb in gross objects or subtle objects. Like clicking on a ball point pen, one can come outward, like the little container of ink. When attention is outward, the subtler levels are still there, underneath or interior, doing their work to provide consciousness itself with experience of the gross. With another click, the pen part retracts back into the body of the pen. When attention retracts from the gross, there is no gross experienced. Then, the subtle is experienced. When attention retracts again, that subtle experience falls away. Then, there is the experience of joy or bliss, as none of the activity, distractions, attractions or aversions (whether gross or subtle) are experienced. Yet, there is still an I-ness doing something called experiencing. There is an experiencer experiencing an "other." With one more click of the pen, attention retracts past even that bliss, so that all there is, is the I-ness itself. Consciousness is still operating through that individuation, but that's another story. Beautifully simple.