In the Vigyan Bhairava Tantra there are 112 meditation methods and concentration techniques listed. Only very few mention the most popular in the West: the breath. There are many visualizations and some strange meditation techniques.
For example, sneezing. When you feel the urge to sneeze, wait and become very focused on the tingling sensations in your nose. It will get stronger and stronger, you stay alert without the impulse of exploding, totally focused, and then if you are skilled, the energy that would have been exerted with a sneeze will implode within yourself. There is a moment of no thought. In these scriptures it is written: “and then…and then…" without giving us a clear idea of what will happen. I don’t know of anybody who “became enlightened” through this meditation practice, but who knows?
The point is that there are many practices and you have to find out what suits you.
Let’s reflect for a moment on the practice of meditation and why and how you want to do this. If you ever walked past a new age bookshop in the last 20 years you will have read titles like “Be Here Now,” or the “Eternal Now,” or “The Power of Now,” and so on.
If I tell you the past is gone and future is not here yet, you will not be surprised. The future in fact is only the past repacked and projected into the imagined future. Depending on your subconscious mind (or your Vasanas and Gunas), you will either project a positive or a more negative outcome. Both are only real in your imagination.
So what is left?
The “now” you might say, in agreement with Eckhart Tolle. The now is not a good word because it indicates that there is something like the now. But is there?
Show me this now, where is it? How long is it?
If I clap my hands, where is the now?
Even a clap has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
So it happens in time and space.
Where is the now, tell me?
The fact is you are always in the present moment, never somewhere else. This refers to the popular notion that you have to be more in the present. You cannot be more or less present. Yes, you might be present to your fantasies, but you are always present.
Why? Because you are this non-dual, actionless, uncreated, unbound, ordinary awareness.
So let’s look into the present moment and discover what is happening.
All your senses will give you some input and your mind will decide what to focus on. The nose will perceive smells, the eyes will perceive sights, the body will perceive sensations, your tongue will perceive taste, and the ears will perceive sounds. Only through your senses you will be able to connect with the apparent reality around you, while your Vasanas and Gunas will project your likes and dislikes into this field.
So again, what is the now?
Perhaps a light breeze on your skin, the smell of coffee, a slight tension in your legs. All this is happening in the now.
The world is perceived by your senses and analyzed by your mind. To be present is really not such a big deal. Easy, but difficult at the same time.
This is where meditation comes in. We need to differentiate between:
a. Concentration as the unwavering focus of attention on a single object in consciousness (Dharana).
b. Meditation as the effortless flow of sustained concentration (Dhyana).
Patanjali clearly points out that meditation is not just sitting and relaxing. In fact, it is an “unwavering focus of attention.” It takes effort or “tapas,” as he would say. Only after the effort of concentration, meditation becomes effortless.
In Vedanta, the “single object” of concentration is the Self.
Who is meditating? Who is this me? Who am I?
Once you “get a sense of it,” you can drop into it. When you can “stay” in the Self as the Self, it becomes effortless. It is only an effort in the beginning.
Why? Because of our old habits. We think we are our sense perceptions and we identify with the doer (the ego).
Meditation is not just sitting in silence and waiting patiently for the sky to open and reveal its secrets. Trust me, I was a great “sitter” when I was involved in Theravada Buddhism and later in Zen Buddhism. I could sit for an hour, no problem. My fellow meditators thought 60 minutes was for “beginners,” so we sat for 90 minutes. When I sat with “Baba,” a very relaxed and friendly Indian guru. He used to sit with us sometimes for two-and-a-half hours. After that, I felt great, spaced, sensitive, and high. Until I fell back again into my “normal” neurotic state.
“Meditation is an action not a means of knowledge.” (James Swartz)
Silence is not against ignorance. Baba was very extreme. In all the years I was with him, I never heard him talk about the scriptures, or even basic spirituality. His message was “enjoy yourself!” Not bad, but not enough for most seekers.
It is great to slow your mind down for a while, but remember, without an input it remains as it is. Unless you can assimilate the knowledge of your essence in a receptive mind, you will stay the same. Maybe a bit quieter and nicer, but not wiser.