Steps to achieve Meditation:
The ageless tradition of wisdom teaches that in order to enter the state of meditation, certain definite steps are to be followed. Nobody can enter meditation without passing through these steps.
The Eight-Limbs of Yoga are:
Yama” has different meanings. It may mean “rein, curb, or bridle, discipline or restraints” In the present context, it is used to mean “self-control, forbearance, or any great rule or duty”. It can also be interpreted as “attitude” or “behavior”. Certainly, a particular attitude can be expressed as discipline, which then influences our behaviour. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra mentions five different Yama that is, behavior patterns or relationships between the individual and the outside world.
Niyama, a Sanskrit, word that means rules or laws. These are the rules prescribed for personal observance. Like the five yamas, the niyamas are not exercises or actions to be simply studied. They represent far more than an attitude. Compared with the yamas, the niyamas are more intimate and personal. They refer to the attitude we adopt toward ourselves.
3. Asanas (Yogic postures)
‘Asana’ means staying or abiding. Asana is one way in which a person can experience the unity of body and mind. Asana is defined as that which is comfortable and easy, as well as firm. In the west, asana is commonly called “posture”. Yogic postures (asanas) are prescribed for the purpose of comfort and firmness during meditation and the practice of pranayama. An upright seated posture in which one can sit with comfort and no need to move is ideal for meditation.
Pranayama is the fourth limb of Ashtanga Yoga. Pranayama is measuring, controlling, and directing the breath. Pranayama controls the energy within the organism, in order to restore and maintain health and to promote evolution.
Pratyahara is the fifth limb of Ashtanga Yoga. Pratyahara means drawing back or retreat. The word ahara means “nourishment”; pratyahara can be translated as “to withdraw oneself from that which nourishes the senses.” In yoga, the term pratyahara implies withdrawal of the senses from attachment to external objects.
In pratyahara we sever the link between mind and senses, and the senses withdraw. Each sense perception has a particular quality to which it relates: the eyes relate to the form of some visual object; the ears to the sound, the vibration it makes; the nose to its smell. In pratyahara it is as if things are spread out with all their attractions before our senses, but they are ignored; the senses remain unmoved and uninfluenced. In effect, the brain will disregard all that is received by the various sensory organs and will only accept and process the signals sent by sensory organs at the command of the brain. Now we have control over our senses rather than being controlled by them.
6. Dharana – mental concentration
Dharana is the sixth limb of Ashtanga Yoga. Dhar means, “to hold.” Literally, the word dharana means ‘immovable concentration of the mind’. The essential idea is to hold the concentration or focus of attention in one direction. This is not the forced concentration. Example: solving a difficult mathematics problem. Rather dharana is a form of meditation, which could be called receptive concentration.
7. Dhyana – meditation
Dhyana is the seventh limb of Ashtanga Yoga. Dhyana means worship, or profound and abstract religious meditation. It is perfect contemplation. It involves concentration upon a point of focus with the intention of knowing the truth about it.
8. Samadhi – blissful identification
The final step in Ashtanga Yoga is the attainment of Samadhi.
When we become so absorbed in something, our mind becomes completely one with it and we are supposed to be in a state of samadhi. Samadhi means “to bring together, to merge.” In samadhi, our personal identity-name, profession, family history, etc. disappears completely. In the moment of samadhi, none of that exists anymore. Nothing separates us from the object of our choice; instead, we blend and become one with it.