We also conducted a webinar on meditation. You can find the video recording and the podcast for the same by scrolling to the bottom of this post.
Creating awareness in the client is the most important objective of a coach, and this requires the coach to be aware.
The practice of meditation existed in all cultures around the world from time immemorial. When the human pondered on the vastness of the space around, and the relative insignificance of the individual, the existential query was about “Who am I?” and “What am I here for?” This seeking led inwards and many found that within lay the without. The macrocosm of the universe was replicated in the microcosm of the individual self.
This existential quest and contemplation became the practice of meditation. The Sanskrit word “dhyana,” meaning meditation, arose from the root “dhee,” meaning contemplative, non-judgmental awareness. Meditative quest often led to a disengagement from mind-based perception, leading to enlightenment, or “samadhi,” discovery that within the human resides the divine.
By definition, there is no “mindful meditation” – that’s an oxymoronic term. Yoga Sutra defines “dhyana” as focusing on a thought, before disengaging from thoughts, to reach the ultimate witnessing state of “samadhi,” or enlightenment, in which self merges with self in energy that is beyond senses, mind and body matter.
“Dhyana” is preceded by “dharana” practices that create focused awareness of senses, breath, mind and body. One then moves beyond the gross mind body awareness to contemplate a far subtler energy awareness of a singular thought, and then disengaging.
Meditation in Coaching
Paraphrasing Carl Rogers, creating awareness in the client is the most important objective of a coach, and this requires the coach to be aware. Only a coach in the space beyond the mindful ego state can listen non-judgmentally, unconditionally and generatively to become aware of the client’s vision. Meditation leads to this no mind state of mindlessness.
How the Mind Works
Mind Vs Brain
Brain is part of our mind, which comprises the intelligence of all the cells and other body intelligence systems, which may be well about 100 trillion entities in the average human. We now know that emotions are conveyed not only through the nerves from the brain, but are also generated in our cells and conveyed through the bloodstream as chemicals.
In the Western model multiple models exist to explain how the brain works, but not the mind. The triune model provides for the reptilian brain that holds long term memories, limbic brain that is emotionally mature, and the neocortex that is about cognition. Within this system, Hypothalamus and amygdala process emotion, hippocampus our memory, and the frontal cortex cognition. Right brain is holistic and the left detailed, and so on.
In the ancient 5000 year old Eastern Hindu model, mind has 4 parts: senses of perception and action, memory of retention and conditioning, ego of identity, and higher intelligence.
What the senses perceive are the territory of what lies outside. However, what they act upon are the maps created by conditioned memory filtered by ego. Often, there is significant variation between what is sensed by many people from the same territory, which is interpreted as hugely different maps by the filter of individual ego based on retained and conditioned memories. This leads to conflict.
Controlling the movements of the mind is the stated objective of Yoga, the science that developed to integrate the body and mind, with our inherently divine and truthful energy state. Meditation is the penultimate stage of the eightfold pathway of Yoga.
Senses are the gateways and entry points of interaction with self and the external world. Senses feed the mind. The five knowledge senses of sight, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling, when active, constantly explore the world outside, gathering information. This is then processed by other parts of the mind and acted upon by five senses of action: speaking, grasping, moving, reproducing and excreting.
At the level of instinct, our actions are geared for what we perceive as critical to our survival. We react to situations based on immediate short terms needs, similar to what animals in the wild may do.
At the level of intelligence, we respond to situations with a larger perspective of group needs based on factors of safety and belonging as part of a group, in addition to mere individual survival.
At the level of intuition, our actions are generative anticipating the future of the larger ecosystem and the species collectively.
In yoga, the effort and training is in controlling the senses from controlling us.
What the senses feed, memory retains. Neurobiology tells us that everything we sense is retained by us, whether consciously or unconsciously. What we do not need now, and sometimes, what may be a threat to us, is pushed back into unconscious memory. Such memories need triggers to bring them into conscious awareness.
Memories of our experiences condition us, as our personality and identity, as ego in our early childhood development, when we may perhaps start with a tabula rasa or white board mind. As we grow, ego filters how the sensed reality is stored by memory space conditioned by the influence of past memories. We are mostly what we experience. Conditioned memories develop as belief systems, and value aspirations, based on interpretation of our ego.
Ego is both the filter through which we perceive the territory as the map and the trigger that drives us into action. Ego is selective and judgmental. Over a period of time, the filter of ego affects how we sense. We see, listen, feel, taste, and smell selectively, judgmentally based on how past experiences have conditioned our memory and ego.
Much of yoga practice is about dropping our ego. So is coaching.
The fourth part of the mind is higher intelligence of discrimination that if activated can override our ego. We question our belief and value systems. We question our prejudices and intolerance. Our higher intelligence can control our senses, memory and ego, if we allow it to.
Our higher intelligence connects with our energy system, which is a part of the universal eco energy system. The purpose of yoga and meditation is to awaken this higher intelligence.
Much of yoga practice is about dropping our ego. So is coaching.
Eight Limbs of Yoga
Meditation as a practice is an integral part of the science and practice of yoga. Yoga has 8 parts or limbs as they are called. The first 4 are external yoga relating to practices moral conduct, behavior, body postures and breath control. These 4 practices prepare the body and behavior so that the practitioner can work on controlling the mind in the next four internal yoga practices.
The first two of the four internal practices relate to controlling the senses by focusing on one sense perception at a time. In the practice of “dharana” the sixth part of yoga, one of the techniques is to stare at a candle flame intensely for a long time in deep concentration. The objective is to focus one sense on one activity so as to keep the mind still.
In the seventh and penultimate practice of meditation or “dhyana,” reflective focus is on one thought, image or experience. In addition to centering in the mind on that thought, the essential quality of that thought becomes embedded in the unconscious mind. In the final eighth practice of “samadhi,” the objective becomes disengagement from thoughts by the mind by becoming a witnessing observer of thoughts, with the mind still. All three, dharana, dhyana and samadhi are considered to constitute the experience of “samyama,” the ultimate experience of moving out of mind body into energy state.
Vigyana Bhairava Tantra
Vigyana Bhairava Tantra is considered part of the “agama” lore that may predate the “vedas,” though discovered and popularized later in this millennium. In this treatise, the male aspect of the creator, Shiva, explains in 112 verses to his female half, Shakti, where he resides. These 112 verses are called “dharana” as these are techniques that help control the senses, and yet can be easily used to move into “dhyana” or meditation, and beyond that into disengaged witnessing consciousness of “samadhi.”
Each of these verses focus on one sense and some on the breath, to create mind and body awareness. These can be used as powerful tools to reach higher levels of awareness.
In the first few verses of Vigyana Bhairava Tantra, breath control is used as the “dharana” technique. Shiva explains that he resides in the spaces between the in and out breath. This simple “pranayama” technique, is all at once a “dharna,” and a “dhyana” leading to the fourth state of “Turiya” or “samadhi.” No other intervention other than observing one’s breath in a witnessing mode is needed for enlightened awareness.
The practice of meditation falls into three categories depending on the nature of the thoughts.
- If it is a cognitive thought, in words and concepts, meditation will be on a mantra. Repetitive focus on a syllable such as Om or Jesus, a phrase such as “om namah shivaya” or a longer verse such as the “gayatri” or Lord’s Prayer, would constitute mantra meditation. Such repetition of a word can be silent or aloud, though silent repetition is the recommended yoga practice.
- When the thought is visually represented, meditation is on a yantra. Focused attention on a visual concept such as a “sri chakra” or mandala or a cross would be yantra meditation.
- When the thought is experienced in the mind body space, meditation becomes tantra. Tantra meditation can be a word or verse, or visual, or all together, that is meditated upon to create an experiential awareness in the body.
Depending upon whether one is cognitive, visual or kinesthetic, one may prefer ‘mantra’, ‘yantra’ or ‘tantra’ meditation.
Four States of Awareness
The value of finding out who I am is finding out who I am not
Ram S. Ramanathan
The first and the most common state of awareness we all experience is that of the waking state. In this state we think and are fully aware of our sensory perceptions. We are aware of who we are, our identity. Psychologically, we are in the conscious state awareness. Neurobiologically, we are in the beta state of brainwave patterns.
Mindful state of awareness refers to this first state of conscious awareness.
In the second state of awareness, we think and our senses are active. However, sensory perceptions are internal. We do not have the identity of our body though we retain the identity of our mind. This is the dream state, corresponding to the subconscious awareness in the psychological model and alpha brainwave pattern in the neurobiological model.
In the third state of awareness both our mind and body are at rest. We do not think. We do not perceive through our senses. We do not have mind or body identity. This is the state of deep sleep, responding to the unconscious state in the psychological models and the brainwave patterns of theta and delta in the neurobiological models.
Western psychology and neurobiology recognize only these three states of consciousness and awareness.
Eastern Hindu spirituality talks about a fourth state of awareness, simply called the Fourth state. In the state, we are awake and aware, fully conscious and yet disengaged from thoughts and feelings. The state of no mind or mindlessness is considered to be the highest level of consciousness and awareness one can seek.
Mandukya Upanishad explains these four states of awareness in line with the sacred sound of creation ‘Om’. The pathway to the Fourth state of disengaged witnessing consciousness seeds of thought are still present and can be used to reach the fourth state. Practices such as ‘vipassana’ and ‘yoga nidra’ use this concept.
Chakras – Energy Centers and Emotions
When using the pathway of ‘tantra’ in meditation, energy centres or ‘chakras’ are powerful experiential reference points to work with.
The seven energy centres there are mind body system and associated emotions are:
- Muladhara, root center, located at perineum point at the bottom of spine
Negative Energy: Ego-centric greed and lust
Positive energy: Selfless eco-centric willingness to serve
- Swadisthana, spleen centre, located in the groin area
Negative energy: Fear
Positive energy: Courage to face fear, vulnerability
- Manipuraka, navel centre,
Negative energy: Stress
Positive energy: Fire in the belly
- Anahata, heart centre
Negative energy: Need for validation
Positive energy: Love
- Vishuddhi, throat center
Negative energy: Comparison, envy
Positive energy: Confident uniqueness
- Ajna, Third Eye centre, between eyebrows
Negative energy: Control
Positive energy: Empowerment
- Sahasrara, crown center, top of cead
Negative energy: Discontent
Positive energy: Gratitude
Chakra meditation involves focusing on each of the energy centers, working with negative energies present in our mind body space as emotional experiences, experiencing them, releasing them and transforming them through meditation into positive energies.
Some details on this process are explained in the e-book Creating your Future. Please contact us to request a copy.
Webinar on Meditation
We’ve recently recorded a webinar that discusses many of the points in this blog post. You can watch it on YouTube below or listen to the podcast with the given link.
What do you think about the role of meditation in coaching? Join the discussion here: https://forum.coacharya.com/t/meditation-article-on-coacharya-blog/42