Some people, especially those who are more inclined towards abstraction, can use an idea or a question as a vehicle. This applies particularly in the realm of jnana yoga, where the practitioner totally absorbs himself in an enquiry about the nature of himself and existence. Or one can use abstract concepts such as the idea of infinity, compassion, eternity or love. However, these forms of vehicles for awareness are too difficult for most people, at least in the earlier stages of yoga practice. As such, we recommend tbat you adopt a process, symbol or object that is more concrete. Most of the meditational practices we will give will be of this more tangible type. Full details of this topic will be given when we describe specific practices.
Awareness: We have already extensively mentioned awareness under the other headings; however, we will again briefly summarize. The essence of meditational practice is to develop awareness. That is, awareness of the different realms of the mind. Without awareness, meditation is impossible.
Remember, awareness means that you must be a witness to processes within the mind as well as the process of the meditational techniques. In other words, you should feel apart from your thoughts. Don’t lose yourself in them or associate with them. Merely watch the processes as though you are a spectator3. If your mind tends to wander and contemplate on other things apart from your practice, do not become frustrated or try to suppress this tendency. This happens to everyone. On some days we are so relaxed that our awareness automatically fixes itself on the vehicle of awareness, without any effort. On the other hand, at other times our attention jumps around like a monkey in a tree. You must accept the bad with the good. The way to subdue the mind is to allow it to wander as it wishes and not to force it to concentrate. Give it free rein, but at the same time be aware of the fact that it is roaming, roving and rambling. In other words, simultaneously maintain awareness of the different thoughts of the mind, together with the process of the meditational practice in hand. After some time you will find that the mind will cease to wander – it will automatically become fixed on the practice. We emphasize again: do not force one-pointedness.
Sometimes the mind will be particularly disturbed. It will incessantly jump from one thought to the next, or be totally obsessed by a problem or some other emotional conflict in your life. An excellent method of overcoming this seemingly impossible situation, and in order to gain relaxation, is to chant a mantra over and over again. A good mantra is Aum, which under these circumstances should be chanted loudly and for as long as possible. If you do this with intensity, it has an almost incredible calming influence on the mind. It is so simple yet very effective.