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CONCENTRATION (Dharana): BREATHING (Pranayama): MEDITATION (Dhyana) - Part 1

Clarifying Illusion

A Path Climber receives the instruction,”Distinguish the Real from the Illusionary" in much the same way that a lost traveler receives the dreaded direction, "I know where you want to go, but you can’t get there from here."

The traveler must go back to another place - one that is not clearly marked - before he can start out for his destination. Finding that point of departure requires Concentration (Dharana) - the mastery of the ego’s scattered interests, the discipline that is the counterpart of Pratyahara’s mastery of the senses.

When we concentrate with completely focussed attention, our ego vanishes and we are as unaware of ourselves as we are unaware of time. We continue to exist, of course, but we’re absorbed into the focal point. Our Buddha Self remains in full control of all that we do until the moment our concentration is broken and our ego returns.

We feel this different state of being as we emerge into the material world and wonder, "Where did the time go?" Or, slightly disoriented, we look around, startled, not knowing for a moment where we are. The absence of ego is an exhilirating experience; and to be back in that place in which our ego was not is the destination that the discipline of concentration tries to take us.

Our ego consciousness is an extension of Tattva #7, the Purusha, one of Maya’s material world creations. Whether we refer to the Purusha’s attributes as Skandhas or as the Tattvas that determine our individuality - our mind or intelligence, ego consciousness, feelings, associations, imaginations, thoughts, conditionings, instinctive responses, memories - in fact, all are part of the material world and as such are condidered Illusionary.

We easily recognize the Real when we transcend Maya and enter the Nirvanic Tattvas (5, 4, 3, 2 & 1, 0).

In the Path Climber’s spiritual lexicon,"real" is defined as that which is true - true universally, unconditionally, immutably, and eternally. This hardly describes the material world which changes constantly: Birth, growth, decay, and death; chemical change; or seasons. Everything changes in accordance with shifting conditions. There are changes we notice; and changes that are beyond our ken. Without our being aware of its velocity, the rotating earth moves around the sun and the sun moves around a galaxial wheel and the galaxy moves ever outwards. We "see" something - but only as it was before the light reflected from it traveled back to our eyes. Its current state we do not know. It is not difficult for us to understand that, in the material world, all things are in flux. Chemists and physicists can explain it in even simple terms. What is incomprehensible to us is that our mind, the instrument that observes these material-world changes is, itself, part of the material world.

Easily confounded by the paradox, "I am not the man I was when I was twenty, but neither am I anybody else," we cling to our sense of continuing identity and assume that there is an indestructable quality to our ego’s existence. Some people are grasped so tightly by this falacious concept that not even death can loosen its grip. They believe that they have always been present in the world in numerous past lives and that they will continue to answer the roll call in future lives. This belief will prevent them from climbing the Path that we have chosen to ascend. Other Paths may accommodate them.

After we dispel the notion that our ego-identity is anything different from the other illusionary "stuff" of the material world, we can consider how we process data from that world and then begin to reverse the processes in the regimen of Concentration. The mechanics of these temporary forms which change according to conditions are easily understood.

The first illusion we entertain is the finite borders of our person. Our ego allows us to separate ourselves from everything else. We can sit on a cushioned chair, pressed so closely upon it that the separation between us and the chair seems not to exist. But we know that we are not the chair. Yet, skin cells or perspiration may have been transferred from us to the fabric of the chair. The chair may then contain material that was once a part of ourselves.

And when we breathe, vapor that was once part of our body is expired just as our perspiration evaporates into the atmosphere. When we inhale, molecules that were once part of others, become parts of us.

Hair sheds just as skin cells slough off, and our kidneys discard much that used to be our body. We add to our substance by the food we consume and the air that we breathe, just as in the normal course of events we subtract from it.

Sensory pathways transmit data electro-chemically through a network of nerve-channels and connections. As the data are processed, the awareness of sensation becomes recognized perception. Information of all sorts and sources impresses itself upon our brain, and although our Buddha Self may retain that information, our illusionary ego-conscious mind can and does easily forget it. According to its own abilities and experiences, the mind may subject the information to analysis, using it to comprehend something previously not understood, or it can misinterpret it entirely.

Our likes and dislikes alter with disturbing regularity. Values we placed upon the people, places and things of our environment rise and fall in the mind’s marketplace. Senses, once acute, dwindle in their capacity to function as intended. Nothing that we think, or do, or are - beyond our spiritual selves - has any permanence. And all of the thoughts and emotional impulses formed as action and reaction to instinct and environment, constitute the mental agitations we call "vrittis" or writhings of the mind, the roiling stream of thought that chronicles the hell of Samsara.

Conditions for Concentration

Beneath this turbulent surface lies the placid Self. Vivekananda likens the Sattvic (pure) Self unto the bottom of a lake which we know is there but cannot see when the surface of the lake churns with thought-waves or vrittis.

Only when we calm the waves can we see the divine Self that contains the waters. It is concentration that subdues the ego-related vrittis.

The first condition that must be met is the cultivation of a "laid-back" attitude, called "holy indifference." We discipline ourselves to cease being concerned with those events which unsettle us.

If we are politically opinionated, we gauge the extent of our affliction. If we can’t read a news magazine or watch a TV newscast without getting riled up about current events, we cancel the subscriptions and turn off the TV. Short of that extremity, we take the long view that the nation has survived befrore we arrived to shepherd it through its disasters, and it will survive long after we cease to guide it with our advice and consent. It is our ego that thinks it understands the problems of the world and how to fix them. The danger to us is not in being aware of current events, it is in getting excited about them.

If our children have attained majority, we cease concerning ourselves with their problems. We have done our duty in keeping them alive until they reached eighteen. They are now their own problem. We announce to the world that we are unavailable for discussions about the choice of college or job or wife or sport or car. Any problems resulting from their own choice is also beyond our concern. We are unavilable for legal fees or bail money or investment in real estate or the lending of funds or in the cosigning of documents of any kind.

At work, we cease treating our co-workers like family. That is the least we can do for them.

Neither is our job our religion. The boss is not a god and we his devotees. We do our work with one-pointed, non-social attention; and do what we can to lower the stress of commuting to and from work. When we leave our job we leave the people we work with. We don't involve ourselves in after-hours communication with co-workers. There is no law that says we must answer a telephone. We do that by choice.

If we are truly serious about our spiritual Path, we limit or eliminate intrusions.

Honesty about our efforts is mandatory. If we join a health club because we want to make social contacts, we tell ourselves that it is not for our muscles or vascular system that we go to the health club, but because we want to make social contacts there. Likewise if we attend a religious function, go on a retreat or join a church or sangha and our purpose is to meet people, that needs to be admitted. It is all right to join for this purpose. It is not all right to lie to ourselves about it. It is also not all right to assume that the same person who desires to meet people is the same person who desires to undertake the rigorous solitude of the Path. It is better to meet social demands and then, having fulfilled them and satisfied ourselves that we were missing out on nothing, to admit this sincerely and to proceed with the Climb.

Old pleasures and pains and new unavoidable ones will surface and disturb us emotionally. To counter the deliterious effects of such intrusion, we need to cultivate the attitude of taking the long view that puts events into perspective: "This, too, shall pass away" are the words we rely upon when Holy Indifference has failed to keep us from getting involved in the first place.

Curtailing the opportunities for manufacturing vrittis is half the problem. The other half is taking constructive measures to eliminate interference. Once we arrive at the point at which we can turn off our cell phones and fax machines and pass by the samsaric oasis of water-cooler society without feeling the slightest thirst, we can find Concentration’s benchmark, the elusive Point of Departure.


Lotus Posture

The Lotus posture is a difficult one. If you cannot readily assume it, the following instructions may be helpful:

lotus Shi Fa Jun demonstrates the full lotus

1. Sit on a small, medium-hard cushion or pillow, one that will elevate the tail-bone by a few inches. This allows a "3-pointed" posture, the body's weight being distributed among the spine and knees. It also allows your pelvis to rotate so that your thighs point downward. This posture is easier to master than the traditional Indian version of sitting in Lotus on a flat surface. Sit only on the edge of the cushion.

2. Arch your back as much as possible. Your chest should be bowed far forward. This changes the pelvic axis to an even more favorable angle.

3. Place your right ankle on your left thigh. (The thighs and knees should point forward, not out to the side as in other Lotus posture variants). Your right knee should be touching the floor. Don't proceed with the next step until your right knee is properly down and able to bear weight.

4. Bend your left leg, brining the foot to your right knee. Grab your foot and cautiously pull it up onto your right knee. Be careful to use only reasonable force. Of course, this will hurt. Start counting. Initially, there will be a natural amount of pain associated with the position. When the pain becomes too much, carefully push the foot off. If, on Monday, the count of three seconds was reached, try to reach four seconds on Tuesday and then five on Wednesday. The knee joint will slowly loosen. In a few weeks, full Lotus can be attained for a few minutes or so. In a few months, half an hour can be managed.

Of course, as soon as it is possible to sit comfortably in Lotus, the back is relaxed into an erect but normally balanced posture (no bow). Care must be taken not to lean to either side. The hands may simply rest in the lap or, with palms upward, the right hand may be upon the left, thumbs touching gently. Since learning the Lotus posture is stressful, efforts to achieve it should follow and not precede a meditation session. (Pain activates the sympathetic nervous system, a meditational no-no.)

Zen is a branch of the Mahayana, and as Mahayana Buddhists we are particularly devoted to the Buddha Amitabha, The Buddha of Infinite Light, also known as the Buddha Amitayus, the Buddha of Infinite Time; to the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara-Guan Yin (Kwannon); and to the Future Buddha Maitreya.

Of all postures, the Lotus most conduces to relaxation. Its advantage may lie in the placement of weight upon certain body pressure points, perhaps along acupuncture meridians. Endorphins and other relaxing body chemicals are released when these points are stimulated by pressure.

asana2b.jpg Shi Fa Jun demonstrates Shivasana techniques

In Shivasana the soles of the feet are placed together and drawn into the groin. This also is an excellent "seat" for meditation.

For greater flexibility, which aids breathing, the forehead is brought forward to touch the floor.

Note: Shi Fa Jun will give more instruction in the physical exercises associated with spiritual endeavors in another chapter.


Chest tightnesss on Entering Meditation

It is often reported that when beginning to deepen a meditative state - as opposed to many other relaxation states - the chest muscles begin to tighten and restrict movement. It is as if the body wants to do the opposite of the much vaunted, deep Healing Breath techniques. There are definite physiological reasons for this stricture of the thoracic muscles.

First, we have to appreciate that many of the breathing techniques taught to people at low altitudes are actually developed by people at high altitudes. The Healing Breath functions as a king of Thoracic Yoga - a stretching of the ribcage muscles so that they will release serotonin. It also is cleansing in that the strong contraction of the abdominal muscles forces much of the stale residual air from the lungs. Not all residual air can be removed, of course. The purpose of the Healing Breath is to stretch the muscles and to replace old air with new.

The chest-tightness associated with entering meditation is caused by an entirely different phenomenon. In this case, "normal" breathing is actually breathing done at a faster rate than is necessary for the proper balance of oxygen intake and carbon dioxide exhaust. As the muscles relax the chemistry in them changes. The "burning" associated with an exhausted muscle has to shift into an exactly opposite mode. Now the demand for oxygen and other chemicals is reversed. The body wants less... much less. The so-called "over breathing" of the "normal" state has to become "under breathing" to establish a proper supply and demand ratio. The chest muscles, therefore, constrict. The breathing becomes extremely shallow. When the balance is established, the breathing will be more natural.

Also, it must be remembered that oxygen deprivation is associated with states of ecstasy and profound meditative states. Haridas, the fakir, was able to suspend his oxygen intake to nearly zero. Had his goal been divine union and not hypnotic exhibitionism, he would likely have required more oxygen. A meditator may experience the state in which a voice inside his head tells him that he is not breathing sufficiently; and this warning is often enough to rouse him from his trancelike state.

There are numerous examples of these dangerous manipulations of an oxygen supply: In the early days of Self-Contained-Underwater-Breathing-Apparatus (SCUBA) it was not understood how nitrogen displaced oxygen under oceanic pressure. The diver would often descend into a oxygen-deprived state and then, if he had radio contact with the surface, would report that he was seeing "a beautiful blue light in which Jesus" or some other ethereal figure was standing. No urging from the surface could entice these divers to return "slowly" to the surface. Many divers perished in nitrogen narcosis, The Raptures of the Deep.

Likewise, it has been amply documented in such films as "In the Realm of the Senses," a 1976 Japanese film that purported to tell the true story of a prostitute who enhanced her lover’s sexual pleasure by choking him, in this particular case, fatally. Prostitutes the world over report clients who ask them to perform this choking addendum. The Vishuddha Chakra (the throat center) is considered an erogenous zone of major importance, no doubt for this very reason; there is also, however, a "deep throat" stimulation of the palate that can induce erotic appreciation in conjunction with the oxygen deprivation.

Every few years, high school grapevines carry the news that an orgasm can be intensified by tightening a cord around the neck while masturbating. There will be a spate of deaths by accidental strangling, and mothers will appear on TV shows to recount this sad experience of going into a son's bedroom to wake him for school only to find him dead. The boys would have assumed that they would always be sufficiently conscious to loosen the cord. The official cause of death is "auto-erotic asphyxiation."

The tongue’s anchoring foramen is often cut and the tongue pulled repeatedly to stretch it, as illustrated by a yogi with a very long tongue in Bartolucci’s film Little Buddha. In Yogic lore, this procedure allows the tongue to be curved back into the pharyngeal passage, shutting down the oxygen supply. It may require years of stretching, before the tongue is sufficiently elongated. Much of the instruction regarding the "curved-back tongue" in the Microcosmic Orbit is actually an approximation of this technique. The efficacy of this latter variation consists only in the stimulation of a flow of saliva, initiating a parasympathetic nervous-system biofeedback loop.

Breathing Exercises

The most powerful and certainly the oldest breathing exercise in the yoga regimen is the Healing Breath. The value of this breathing technique cannot be overstated. When anyone begins a meditation program at any level it is necessary to get control of the breath. The 1:4:2 proportion Healing Breath has to be mastered before any other exercise is undertaken. If we multiply each term in the proportion by the same number, we do not change the value of it. Let's say that the proportion is 4:16:8. If we assign one second of time to each number, we inhale for the count of 4 seconds; we hold the breath for 16 seconds; we exhale for the count of 8. And begin again. Naturally, swimmers and opera singers will have no trouble with this exercise and may even want to keep the proportion 8:32:16 or more.

Smokers and people with lung problems may have trouble with the exercise, particularly with holding the breath for 16 seconds. In that case they should hold the breath for 12 seconds and work up to 16 seconds. If 12 is too much, they can begin with 8 and work up to 12 and then 16. It is difficult to imagine that 8 seconds is too long, but if it is, then 4 seconds can be the starting time with intention to work up to 8 then 12 and finally 16. It is absolutely essential that this exercise be mastered so that 10 cycles can be effortlessly completed.

It is sad to note how often students who are told that it is imperative that they master this instruction will simply cast it aside, explaining that their last teacher taught them another exercise which they prefer, or that they found it too difficult and so reverted to an old familiar technique. Needless to say, these students never get anywhere. When students superimpose their judgment on their teacher's judgment, they have yielded control to their own ego. It is impossible for them to succeed in transcending their ego while their ego obstructs the Path. There is nothing in this world that an ego hates more than being transcended.

Regardless of how difficult it seems, the Healing Breath must be the single goal. There can be no eclecticism - grafting part of one exercise onto another to form a third more acceptable. And there should be no attempt to work on another breathing exercise at the same time. Not until the Healing Breath is mastered can another technique be followed.

If there is any doubt about the harmfulness of a practice or if any distress is noticed, a physician should be consulted. People who tend to hyperventilate or who have respiratory problems should be particularly careful. Even normal, healthy people occasionally experience fainting or dizziness. At the first sign of such distress, the exercise should be discontinued and resumed only slowly, conservatively, and with a physician's approval.

First Practice. 1:4:2 Healing Breath

In a quiet place in which distractions are at a minimum, begin by sitting erect but relaxed in the full Lotus posture. If full lotus cannot be easily accomplished, half-lotus or any posture which will not disintegrate into slouching may be taken. (Instructions are given below.)

Gently closing your eyes, repeat a one-line prayer or mantra three times. Anything simple will do. "Lord, help me to know you." "I take refuge in the Buddha." "Om." This will act as a triggering mechanism for entering a calm, relaxed state.

Begin the exercise by expelling all air from your lungs. This is accomplished by slowly contracting the abdominal muscles. As you empty your lungs, imagine that you are trying to force your navel back against your spine.

If you have a clock that has a second hand sweep, place it at a comfortable level in front of you and try to keep the count according to the seconds indicated.

1. Begin the breath cycle by inhaling to the count of four (4 seconds). Imagine that your body is a bellows. Your nose is the nozzle and your abdomen and spine are the handles. To fill the bellows to capacity it is necessary to pull the handles apart. You therefore thrust out the abdomen as you inhale. Strive to make as little sound as possible as you do this. As you inhale, your shoulders will tend to rise. Your thoracic muscles will become taut due to the exaggerated inflation of the lungs. This is a good indication that you are doing the exercise correctly. Holding the chest muscles stretched and taut while you hold your breath is very important.

2. Retain the air in your lungs for the count of sixteen (16 seconds).

3. Exhale in two parts. First, to the count of four (4 seconds) simply allow the air to seep out of your lungs effortlessly as your shoulders relax and drop. Second, to the count of four (4 seconds) contract all of the muscles of your abdomen forcing out all the remaining air as if closing the bellows.

As you exhale, imagine that there is a small plume a couple of inches in front of your nose. Your exhalation must be so fine that it does not ruffle this feather.

4. Immediately repeat the cycle, inhaling to the count of 4.

After ten breath cycles are performed the exercise is finished. Although other forms of meditation should not be attempted until the Healing Breath is mastered, physical "action" meditations such as hatha yoga or tai ji quan are definitely beneficial - just so long as you don't "perform" the exercises as if you had an appreciative audience. In short, your ego may not be permitted to intrude into the process.

Your attitude should always be that you have the rest of your life to master the exercise. The Healing Breath is more than a preliminary exercise. It is a valid meditation technique in and of itself. Therefore there should be no rush to master it.

Watching the Breath

There is another breathing exercise that is practiced in many of the world's great religions. In Zen a little folk tale about an often encountered character, the Purchased Devil, accompanies the instruction. There was a young bachelor who regularly went to the market to get his groceries and household supplies. One day he passed a new vendor's stall and saw a sign that advertised, "Devil for sale." He asked the merchant, "Why would anyone want to buy a devil?" The merchant answered, "This devil is special. He cooks, cleans, sews. He even does windows. Every morning you tell him what chores you want him to do, and when you get home from work everything will be done perfectly." The man was intrigued and decided that this devil would be the perfect servant.

He paid the merchant for the devil, but as he turned to leave, the merchant said emphatically, "Be sure you always give your devil enough tasks to keep him busy until you get home. Idle hands are the Devil's workshop."

For weeks the man lived happily with the Purchased Devil. Every morning he'd give the devil a list of chores to do, and they were always completed perfectly. One day, however, he celebrated a birthday and his co-workers took him out for dinner and drinks... many drinks. It was very late by the time he returned home, and when he entered his property, he found the devil roasting a neighbor's wife over a fire in the yard.

Distraught, he took the devil back to the merchant and related the sad events. The merchant gasped, "You foolish man! I told you always to keep him busy! Why didn't you tell him to climb up and down a tree in your back yard after he finished the household chores you had assigned him?"

In the breathing exercise the breath is the Purchased Devil and it climbs up and down from the nose to the base of the lungs or from the nose to the base of the spine - as you carefully watch it. Sometimes a little mantra can accompany the devil's descent and ascent. Example: Inhale saying quietly to yourself, "Ham" (Haaaammmm), Exhale saying, "Sa" (Saaaaah), or, if you prefer, you can inhale saying 'Sa" and exhale saying "Ham."

There is additional interest in this mantra. Hamsa (or Hansa) means "swan" and is an honorific appellation which signifies high spiritual accomplishment. When the syllables are reversed to say Sa-ham, the meaning in Sanskrit is the unification of human and divine.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

1:1:1 proportion

As you practice this technique you will find that you are increasingly able to extend the proportion from 5:5:5 to 10:10:10 and on. Don't become competitive. Always begin a session starting at a lower number than you used the previous time. After a few cycles at this lower number, you can resume your previous rate.

This exercise should be done completely first with the right hand on the nose and then repeated with the left hand on the nose.

1. With your left hand resting in your lap, raise your right hand, placing the index and middle fingers on the forehead between the eyebrows. These two fingers do not change position. Your thumb will press one nostril shut and your fourth (ring) finger will press the other nostril shut. Your little finger does nothing.

2. Begin by pressing your right nostril shut. Slowly (to the count of five) inhale through your left nostril. When your inhalation is complete, press the left nostril shut.

3. Hold your breath for the count of 5.

4. Release the pressure on your right nostril and exhale slowly to the count of 5.

5. Inhale slowly through your right nostril. Press the nostril shut.

6. Hold your breath and then open the left nostril and exhale.

7. Inhale through the left nostril, etc.

After you have done five of these cycles, change your hand, using the left hand to place on your forehead.

The Segment-Release Breath

This is a segmented release of the breath that can be varied with the use, singly or in combination, of the three main locks: Neck; Abdomen; and Rectal.

In this technique, the lungs are slowly filled, starting at the diaphragm and filling slowly to the absolute maximum.

When no locks are used, the breath is held for ten pulse-beats and then gently released is small increments as the shoulders relax and lower. When the shoulders have reached their normal level, the diaphragm begins to contract in gentle squeezes until the lungs are empty. The lungs should be kept empty and the diaphragm high and contracted for 4 heart beats and then, with the thorax completely relaxed, another cycle can be started.

The exercise is also used in meridian exercises, the various locks act as a kind of pumping or stabilizing force when drawing the "seminal fluid" or Qi energy through the Sushumna or Governor's Channel. It is also used when pushing the pulsing ball of light through the meridians, particularly the long meridians

The locks can be applied simgly, in combination, or all together. (The locks will be discussed in more detail in a later chapter.)

Segment Breathing

In this technique the breath is exhaled in a continuous stream of segments. There is no complete stoppage, but rather a pulsing or throbbing exhalation. Sometimes it helps to recite "mu" as "mu-uu-uu-uu-uu-uu etc., or "Om-mm-mm-mm-mm etc.

If you are listening to music, you can apply a rhythm to your exhalation.

Pot Breathing

In this technique you extend your abdomen and inflate your chest as much as possible and then contract your abdomen, creating even more pressure on your chest.

Follow the same proportions as the Healing Breath. Instead of only holding your breath, hold your breath with the abdomen contracted. It will be more difficult. Start with a lower breath retention count and work up to the correct proportion.

Concentration Techniques

Acquiring Motivation.

Nobody has to tell a football fan to focus his attention upon the Superbowl’s telecast. He does that automatically because he truly desires to watch the game. The player who is being watched, however, concentrates at a much greater level. Music is also absorbing; but it, too, demands even greater concentration to play the instrument than merely to listen to it. Those of us who have difficulty concentrating should consider such Zen-type physical activity as yoga or archery or any of the other martial arts. Since breathing properly is such an important part of any spiritual regimen, playing a wind instrument, perhaps something as inexpensive but effective as the recorder or harmonica, is helpful.

Master Yin Zhao likes to repeat Aesop's tale about a rabbit that safely escapes from the fox that is chasing him. Chided by his fellow foxes for having lost the race, the fox says simply, "I was only running for my dinner. The rabbit was running for his life."

Professionals are usually accorded more respect for their efforts than amateurs simply because, as the fox put it, they have much more at stake than just the enjoyment of the activity. The desire to concentrate is the desperate need to acquire spiritual experience. No lesser motivation will suffice.

The effort is found in Pratyahara and Dharana. Meditation comes easily providing we can focus our attention and keep a passive and devotional attitude.

There are two kinds of concentration: Forced and Absorbed.

"Forced" can lead into automatic - but not necessarily absorbed states. We force concentration when we are learning to drive a car and enter traffic for the first time, or at anytime that we encounter a violent rainstorm or a dense fog. We clutch the steering wheel. We don't chat or fiddle with the radio. We are focussed, alert, in high tension. We are not meditating. But if we drive regularly and often encounter difficult conditions, we slowly begin to relax without functioning at a lesser level of efficiency. This, then, has become a concentration technique - but it is not the altered state of consciousness we seek in the spiritual life.

How do we learn to focus our attention on a single point? Here the literature on the subject confounds the seeker at every turn of a page.

As we perform the preliminary breathing techniques, we begin to create a coherent line of focus. This line will split either into meditation's dynamic awareness or into a hypnotic blurred vacuity. This blank, emotion-erased state never produces the sanguine and permanent afterglow we associate with true meditation.

Many meditation techniques are really only concentration techniques that have been pushed to the limit. Meditation, when pushed to its limit, becomes samadhi's orgasmic ecstasy. (It is for this reason that the privacy of the home is the best setting in which to practice meditation techniques.)

Here is a famous example of a Forced concentration technique:

A warlord, encamped near a monastery, stopped to visit an old zen master he knew. While the two of them sat together, drinking tea and recalling happy days, two novice monks began to argue outside the window. Both novices had been given instructions in concentration; but while one had succeeded, the other had not. This monk complained bitterly that the instructions were worthless since he had applied himself diligently and still he could not concentrate.

The discussion was so disruptive that the warlord and master could not continue chatting. Finally the warlord said, "Master, may I try to solve this young monk’s problem?" The master consented; and the warlord summoned the novice, giving him a cup that was filled to the brim with tea. "Take this cup of tea," he ordered, "and walk with it completely around the courtyard’s periphery." And then he summoned five of his archers. "Follow him, and if he spills a single drop, shoot him." And on that day the novice learned to concentrate.

But what did the novice do when he went into the meditataion hall the next day? He had the memory of his having concentrated under extraordinary pressure. To achieve training in concentration, he needed to take the cup of tea every morning... early perhaps... when there were no distractions and he could walk around the periphery of the courtyard repeating the focus he had so recently achieved. Then, with enough practice, he would acquire the mastery of one kind of concentration.

The other kind of concentration is Absorption:

When we listen to music we do not rehearse the focus. In fact, our absorption tends to lessen with practice if that practice is upon the same musical composition. But before we reach that saturation point, this form of concentration will produce a natural, unforced, seductive loss of ego.

Ultimately, these two forms of concentration can deliver us; but the superior form for beginners is the seductive loss of ego. This delivers him directly to a transcendental state. Once he achieves this meditative state, he can then do a variety of structured meditations.

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