Yoga proclaims that happiness is a state of mind not dependent upon anything from the external world. Our desire to have an ideal spouse, a rewarding job, a beautiful house, or a fancy car may provide satisfaction. However, ultimate happiness is already our natural state, and as long as we are in our natural state, happiness is present without any reason.
Why then do we experience unhappiness? Yoga’s classical definition is “Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha”, meaning Yoga is that state when the fluctations of the mind cease. Yoga says that when we can reduce the mental chatter in our mind, we come into a state of mental clarity where we feel deeply connected, deeply present and deeply alive. Mental chatter is considered the result of unconscious, conditioned thinking that has developed from a very young age, and it imposes a limited filter on reality. Meditation slowly begins to loosen the knot of that conditioned thinking giving one a sense of liberty in responding, rather than reacting, to events in one’s life. Meditation does not necessarily give one the power to change external events, but it can empower us with how to respond to those events.
In addition to the psychological benefits of meditation, there is scientific evidence supporting meditation's physiological benefits. Tibetan monks who have meditated for more than 20 years have shown highly developed areas of the prefrontal cortex more than the norm. Literally, meditation can transform brain structures as weight-lifting develops muscle tissue.
How our meditation sessions are structured
Yogic theory is presented before we prepare the mind with breathing techniques and japa chanting to render the mind more conducive to the practice of meditation.
The theory presented may touch upon any of the following topics:
- the 14 principles of meditation according to Sivananda yoga
- the 9 obstacles to meditation according to Sivananda yoga
- the four functions of the mind according to yoga
- vasanas and samskaras
- the 8-limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras
- Vedic philosophy
- Samkhya philosophy
- the four paths of yoga
- other topics
All these subjects will provide an intellectual support for maintaining one’s practice.