Do you find it hard to meditate? If so, you probably haven’t heard of Raja Yoga Meditation. Learn more about this versatile form of meditation.
Intro to Raja Yoga
Raja Yoga comes from the Sanskrit words ‘Raj,’ which means King, and Yoga,’ which means union. It is sometimes referred to as the Supreme Yoga because in Raja Yoga, the Soul becomes the King or master.
Meditation is an essential part of Raja Yoga, but it’s somewhat different from other types of meditation, at least in one respect. In Raja Yoga, practitioners keep their eyes open.
You don’t close your eyes in Raja Yoga because it believes that by opening your eyes and gazing at your focus, you control the mind to focus on your goal. Closing your eyes may give you relief and a feeling of stepping away from external distractions. But you are slowly drawing your sense of sight away when you close your eyes. The distractions remain and continue to distract you even when your eyes are closed. By keeping your eyes open, you train yourself to remain calm and peaceful, even when you can see the distractions.
Because of this, Raja Yoga meditation is considered to be easy and accessible. Most schools or movements don’t include chanting of mantras, mudras (hand gestures), movements, and other rituals to practice this type of meditation. But some schools or groups have started adding those to make it accessible to other practitioners.
There are two aspects to Raja Yoga meditation: Self-realisation and God-realisation.
Before becoming one with your King or Master, you first must truly understand yourself. In Raja Yoga, self-realization is a critical aspect. By knowing yourself, you get to know your Soul. By knowing your Soul, you can discipline yourself, sharpen your mind, and have complete control over your senses. It is believed that by knowing your Soul, you can rule yourself and achieve oneness with God.
The other aspect of Raja Yoga meditation is God-realisation. Raja Yoga teaches that when you achieve mastery over yourself, you achieve oneness with God. You can achieve this through meditation.
There are different techniques you can follow when practicing Raja Yoga meditation. Each meditation teacher will have their preferences. Some will add chants, reciting of self-affirmations, and chanting of murli. However, a basic Raja Yoga meditation looks like this:
Find a conducive place to meditate
Raja Yoga meditation aims to help you gain mastery over yourself. But when you are starting, You will find it difficult to control your thoughts with so many distractions going on around you. Therefore, it’s best to practice meditation where there are minimal distractions. Find a quiet and comfortable place where you can be alone.
Once you find a place for meditation, sit down comfortably. You can sit on a bolster, a chair, a mat, or directly on the ground. You can sit with your legs crossed or on your heels.
Look at a fixed point
Now start being aware of each of your senses. For example, you can begin with your sense of sight and notice the point you are looking at. Next, be aware of the sounds you hear, the feeling of your sitting bones on the mat or chair, or the taste in your mouth.
Bring your attention to the present
In this case, since your eyes are open, bring your attention to your focal point. It cannot be easy for beginners because you only have to focus on one thing. If you’re having difficulty, you can close your eyes and still mind. Once you are ready, open your eyes again and focus on whatever you have decided in front of you; it could be a flower, the light of a candle, it something neutral.
Withdraw your senses of touch, hearing, smell and sight
At this point, you can open or close your eyes. Stay still for a few minutes while staying in the present moment. If you get distracted, don’t be harsh on yourself; just come back to noticing your breath or focal point. Let all your stray thoughts pass by – like the clouds in the sky.
Create a peaceful thought
Now it is time to set the intention for your practice. Stray thoughts will start to flow, but keep them from distracting you by creating purposeful thoughts. It could be a general affirmation, such as “I am a peaceful soul.”. Or it could be specific to what you are feeling or experiencing at the present moment, such as “I am struggling right now. I am a survivor.” Repeat this affirmation inside your head at a comfortable pace. If your thoughts wander away from the affirmation, keep repeating it.
Continue feeling and experiencing your affirmation
As you continue, you may feel this affirmation radiating through you. If you are a beginner, you may not experience this right away. But after regular practice, you will.
Meditation can be difficult if you don’t know how to turn away your senses and focus on just one thing. You are more likely to experience that if you are a beginner. But if it is of any consolation to you, even experienced meditators will find it difficult from time to time. Here are some techniques to help you fall into a meditative state:
In Raja Yoga meditation, you keep your eyes open. Some people find this easier because if they close their eyes, they will be overwhelmed by unwanted thoughts. Some people also fear not being able to see. This could be because of trauma or something else. If you are one of these people, you should use an object as a focal point. One object many people like to use is candlelight. Steady gazing in candlelight can help you withdraw your other senses first, eventually, your sense of sight.
The Brahma Kumari, a spiritual organization and movement, teaches classes based on Raja Yoga meditation. They call these classes the Murli. A murli is recorded teaching taken from the Bhagavad Gita, Bible or even the Quran. You can read this Murli and reflect on the words as you meditate. It works if you can’t think of an affirmation.
You can also use the Murli to find words that describe your Soul or Supreme Being, such as Absolute Truth, consciousness, benevolence, etc. You can embody these words as you meditate.
Perhaps the most common technique in the practice of Raja Yoga meditation is to reflect on the question, “Who Am I?” “Who do I belong to?” and “What do I have to do now?” Answer these questions from within yourself. After answering, repeat the questions and answers. If you get distracted and your thoughts stray, just come back to the exercise without judgment.
Raja Yoga meditation doesn’t involve practicing yoga asanas. But practicing yoga asanas strengthens your body and helps sustain sitting in meditation for an extended period. Meditation can cause physical discomfort, as we are not made to sit down for a long time.
Practicing yoga asanas can also help relieve physical pain, such as low-back pain, and strengthen the spine. This results in a more comfortable meditation session. You don’t have to practice advanced asanas to practice Raja Yoga meditation. Instead, you can start with basic Yoga poses such as Cat-Cow, Child’s pose, Seated Twist poses and Forward Fold.
Raja Yoga is quite similar to other styles of Yoga. If you feel this style of Yoga is not for you, try some of these other styles:
Hatha Yoga was developed to prepare for Raja Yoga. These two styles of Yoga follow the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, where the eight-fold path of Yoga came from. Some people refer to Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga interchangeably. However, Hatha Yoga focuses more on asanas than meditation, especially in the west. You can practice both styles of Yoga separately or as one as you like.
Mindfulness meditation is another popular type of meditation. This meditation aims to help practitioners remain aware of the present moment. It can help you in your practice of Raja Yoga meditation. By focusing on the present moment, you will see people, things, and circumstances for what they are. This includes your Soul. When you see your Soul and accept it for what it truly is, you achieve self-realization, an essential aspect of Raja Yoga.
Bhakti Yoga is a yoga of devotion and complete faith. It is a practice that follows the path to self-realization, which is vital if you want to achieve oneness with the Supreme Being. It is similar to Raja Yoga.
Raja Yoga Meditation is a powerful practice of knowing your true self and achieving mastery over yourself. Practice it regularly, and your life will change for the better.
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