|Cataract by Brad Gibson|
“Tatra Pratyaya Ekatanata Dhyanam”
tatra = there, therein; pratyaya = the feeling, notion, idea, cognition; ekatanata (eka = one, single- tanata = continuous, uninterrupted); dhyanam = meditation
Swami Jnaneshvara translates this as: “The repeated continuation or uninterrupted stream of that one point of idea/notion is called meditation.” To put it simply, when the mind remains undistracted (stillness) for a length of time, it is called meditation.
I do not need to elaborate on this topic as this site has extensively dealt with this aspect. In addition to defining and explaining the term dhyana (meditation), Baxter also provided a lucid explanation about ways to meditate. Both Brad and Nina followed it up by posting very interesting articles regarding the science of/behind meditation and the effects of meditation on chronic stress and brain aging (see Meditation and Brain Strength and Stress Mind, Stressed Cells. Undoubtedly, meditation has been shown to produce immense medical benefits. Among others, meditation reduces emotional stresses - including fear, worry, anxiety, anger, rage, etc - reduces chronic pain, increases cognitive function, lowers blood pressure, alleviates post-traumatic stress syndrome, increases positive states of mind and slows down cellular aging.
Interestingly, each time I am asked to teach various aspects of meditation, the one common question that I encounter is if I could suggest some tips for meditating in a challenging environment (loud noise, room is cold, neighbor’s breathing is too loud, smell of incense is too strong, mosquito/flies buzzing overhead, etc.). In fact, one of our readers recently sent us the following question:
Do you have any tips on finding one's center when one's environment isn't quiet or warm?
I agree that it does get tough to come to stillness if you are being disturbed or getting distracted due to any number of reasons, including those previously mentioned. But life is never a bed of roses, correct? Life is a balance of opposites: positives and negatives, success and failures, good and bad, mobile and grounded, etc. Our goal is to do the best we can in the given set of circumstances and try to achieve the maximum. The same principle applies to the practice of meditation as well. No doubt, it is peaceful and invigorating to meditate in a salubrious environment, but is it always possible to expect such serene surroundings? My grandfather insisted that we practice meditation in the railway station (how much tougher could it get?). That’s because meditation can be done in a challenging environment. If it is a noisy environment, you can plug your ears, or if the room is freezing, you can put on several layers of clothes to ward off the cold. But remember physical comforts have no boundaries. How far would you go to get comfortable physically in order to achieve that stillness in mind?
The goal of meditation is to be at ease, relaxed and at peace with our surroundings. It is important to not resist the disturbing/distracting influence that comes in the way of your meditation practice (in your case traffic or the cold environment). So do not try to ignore the influence or to block it out, for if you try to do, you will only meet with stiffer resistance, ending in frustration. Instead, simply let it be (“thathaasthu” in Sanskrit) and continue with your meditation. Everything is a part of meditation, all the influences including the noise, the thoughts, the emotions, and the resistance from the mind. Treat everything that arises in meditation the same way—let it be and just be there!