You may refer to my earlier blog in this series here: Universal Knowledge. Your Life. Part 4.
To start on the practice, you first need to sit in the correct posture as outlined under the stage “Aasan” in the earlier blog.
Stage 4: Pranayam
First, close your eyes and wait for a few seconds. What do you see, or feel? You see darkness (obviously) and all present thoughts – enjoying with your wife and kids, a tussle with your office boss, or riding a bike to Honolulu – come and go in your mind. Even pin drops may sound like pounding stones (note that you need to have a place with no or minimum aural distractions).
Now let us dissect how your body is at work at this moment. Whatever you see, feel or hear are through your senses – eyes, ears, and so on. They receive the environmental signals and pass them on to your brain. Now it is the brain that is the actual sense organ (eyes or ears are mere recipients who pass the signals on through nerves). What the brain perceives gets processed and reflected to either your “heart” (the subjective impulsive emotional entity within you), your “mind” (the rational logical entity within you) or to none at all (we will call this “soul”). Who gets this reflection depends on degree of your meditative capability – When you start meditating, all are active and hence, the reflection happens to the heart which makes you respond (say, a mosquito bite on your shoulder, while you are sitting your eyes closed, will make you try hitting it). A little later trying hard to concentrate, the reflection possibly stops at your mind who tells you not to hit the mosquito (so now you sit still, though with a little pain on the shoulder).
The objective is to stop any reflection to even the mind so that you do not feel anything from outside at all (all such perceptions stop at the brain; or the entity called “soul”). This is the objective of this stage.
How to achieve this? So next, feel each part of your body one by one – starting with toes, then lower limbs, and so on – and think that one by one these parts cease to exist (it is difficult, hence would need practice). Once the first round is done, think and consciously “throw away” the thoughts that come and go into the darkness; sort of discarding them. This is also difficult and thoughts may still keep coming and going off for awhile.
Once you are relatively calm without too many distracting thoughts cropping up, now is to time to practice breath control. This is done in three steps –
Note – Whatever I have mentioned to “imagine” in bold underlined, is important. All breaths need to be taken (or released) slowly. Further, the central line (through spinal cord) till brain is your seat of all consciousness, thoughts and life force (represented by a white snake); imagine a coiled up white snake happily sleeping at the bottom tip of your lower back. The objective is to imagine waking up the snake and pulling it up gradually along the central line till the brain.
a. Inhale deep so as to fill up your entire lungs and stomach (they will inflate). Imagine that as you inhale, the air presses against the snake trying to wake it up. Once inhale is full, immediately start exhaling. Imagine that the snake is trying to rise up along the line gasping for breath. Once exhale is done, stop your breath as long as you can (you may feel dizzy or in want of breath). Repeat this quite a few times till you fully concentrate on the snake.
b. Now, use one of your hands to alternately breath through left and right sides of your nose. To illustrate, I would assume that you are using the left hand. Press against the left side of your nose with your thumb and inhale through the right side. Imagine that the snake is pressed against as before. Once inhale is full, stop as long as you can (this is opposite of what you did in above step) by pressing your little finger on the right side of your nose. When you are ready to exhale, remove your thumb and this time, exhale through left side. Imagine slowly pushing up the snake on the central line. Once exhale is fully done, immediately start inhaling through the left side. Repeat this alternately for not more than four time each side.
c. Bring up your palms to your lap, one on top of the other, in a relaxed position. Keep repeating the breathing as in step ‘a’ (inhale -> exhale -> stop -> inhale -> …..)
Stage 5: Pratyahar
The last step above (c) is the state that gradually, as you practice, will transform into true meditation. During the stops (between exhale and next inhale), you will gradually start feeling a vacuum – it is during this time that you gradually learn to connect with your super-conscious state, your Praann or the soul; gradually the external perceptions will go away and the feeling would be transcendental. This will give way to a feeling that you do not possess a body (hence, will not even feel that mosquito bite).
The aforesaid practice gradually takes shape into the higher stages which are mental states rather than physical practices. I will not describe them here as of now. However as a pointer, note that the final stage makes you realize that you are one with the entire universe – all animals, plants, inanimate objects and you are all one, and there is no difference.
Let me know your experiences as you read this blog and probably practice it. This needs to be personally experienced to be believed. Feel free to drop me a question, or in case you need further guidance.