The mind is like a cauldron of incessantly boiling thoughts, this keeps the mind in a agitated state for ever. This agitation bars the experience of peace, which knowingly or unknowingly the mind craves for, from settling down into the mind. Yes of course! the chatter or the modifications of the mind do settle down during sleep, a mmodification of mind itself, but it fails to do any lasting good as the mind is under the influence of Tamas guna in sleep. All the so believed positive states like happiness, ecstasy, excitement, and all the believed to be negative states like sadness, depression, grief, anger, frustration etc. only contribute to the chatter of Mind.
The ultimate bliss, peace, or the calmness can only be achieved once this chatter inside the mind stops. Doing meditation helps dissipate this thoughts induced roiled state of mind, such a mind is in a constant state of identifying with its thoughts; I am what my thoughts are. Meditation clears the smoke of thoughts from over our true selves hidden behind this confusion. Realizing our true selves, even if for short duration, can be very grounding, calming, and settling in nature. By continuously controlling the thought waves while practicing meditation, or by just observing them, and not identifying with the thoughts one can eventually reduce or even stop them.
Once the thoughts are arrested, the identification with the individual thoughts removed ( ego or ahamkara), the individual consciousness comes in touch with the universal consciousness, the experience of which is bliss, as individual now experiences the feeling of oneness with all animate, and inanimate objects of the universe. The individual mind, when held in place bound by the ego, remains burdened with the effort (stress) of sustaining its individuality on its own. Ones it merges with the universal mind ( consciousness) everything seems to flow into each other, dissipating the perceived burden for good.
Why Meditation is Important?
Meditation can only be experienced individually, describing its experience to others is similar to describing colors to the blind. All our experiences are interpreted by our mind within the limits of time, space, and cause, all the three being transitory in nature renders these experiences as non permanent. Our state, and conditioning of the mind determines the quality of our external experiences: If we are angry everything around us is touched by our anger, and if we are depressed the world around us gets shrouded in the blanket of gloom. Our mind creates our world. Thus meditation is important to keep the mind positive ( calm, serene, tranquil) for leading positive and fulfilling life.
Since our world is the product of our mind, a mind with no control on it will go on spinning a overwhelmingly large world around us, the hugeness of which can make us feel victims or external forces with no control on anything. Yoga and meditation help us by giving the personal power back in our hands as it clarity of thought which emerges from a mind which is under our control. By going inwards with meditation we come face to face with our real selves ( reality), this saves us from the scary illusions created by an otherwise free mind.
Various techniques for improving the quality of concentration are available to help focus the mind in meditation practice . The abstraction achieved in meditation transcends all limitations of time. space, and causation. What remains is just the pure consciousness of I AM in the eternal NOW. This state is only possible when the mind is stilled and it ceases to exist. Meditation is the fourth state of consciousness, the other three being waking, dreaming, and deep sleep states.
One learns to constantly observe the mind in meditation, in order to control the mind we have to separate ourselves from it and look at it only as an instrument of the senses. By helping us know the real meditation aids in detaching us from the unreal. We begin to perceive the modifications of the mind as something external, which can be regulated and controlled. Thus meditation slows the mind by creating detachment to its activities within us.
One needs to understand the proper functioning of the mind in order to understand the importance of meditation to control it. The way mind functions can be explained better with some analogies.
The Mind is like a Lake
The thoughts emerge within the mind like the waves in a lake. Thoughts are mostly pieces of imaginations of mind which are away from reality. The fluctuations of the mind are so powerful that they wreak havoc over all its related functions like decision making, clarity of thought, perception etc. Sitting quietly in meditation benefit by calming down the thought waves by concentration, concentration on one kind of thought waves reduces the emergence of other kinds of waves.
One can see a true reflection of oneself in a clear and calm lake, a sattvic mind (attained through meditation) does the same, one can perceive one's real, true self. A wavy lake ( rajasic mind) will distort the perception, and a muddy lake( tamasic mind) will further blurr the image of the self.
The Mind Operates like a Drunken Monkey
The mind is restless, jumpy, and continuously seeks variety. Thoughts are disorderly and random, without any continuity and focus. The attention span, or the ability to focus is limited. One can momentarily tie down the mind on an object of interest in the name of focus, but soon it looses interest in it and begins to wander around seeking other objects of pleasure. All the external objects which catches its attention fail to give permanent happiness to it.
The mind continuously engages with itself, replaying the past drama, planning for the future, always evaluating the pros and cons of everything it comes in contact with. Meditating regularly benefits by slowing down its continuous ramblings, and the internal dialogue as one focuses on a positive object, a mind like this can easily reveal the internal workings of the psyche.
The Mind is like a Wild Horse
Like a wild horse the mind doesn't like to be tamed but like to go its own way. IT resists all attempts to control it, and like to follow its own will. Thus, meditation helps by teaching one to be gentle with the mind to gain it trust, and slowly guide it in the right direction.
The Mind is like a Shy lady
Like a shy lady the mind loves to remain hidden and avoids being seen or revealed. As the mind doesn't cooperate easily it is difficult to know the ways it work in. Meditation changes the way one sees the mind, the way it really is, that when it calms down. By meditating for long enough the mind reveals its mechanics, and its play, which when understood can be easily discarded.
Now the mind becomes more clearer and the motives pure. The knowledge hidden in the subconscious is released which aids in better understanding.
The Mind is like a Music Record
Just like a music record the mind has its grooves in the form of habits, samaskaras ( impressions of past experiences), and set mental and behavioral patterns. The mind remains conditioned by the previous experiences and habits, as these remain deeply engraved in it. Our repeated bad behavioral patterns are actually the repeated, continuous replay of the associated grooves on the record, destructive addictions are also the result of the needle of the record machine getting stuck in the same groove, and being played again and again.
Why meditation is good for you? is because it helps lift the needle from the negative grove and place it in to a more positive one, or induces positive thinking. This will attune the music of the mind to more positive and uplifting energy, prana. One of the main purpose, benefit of meditation is to create new grooves, channels on the record of the mind, and destroy the destructive ones.
The Mind is like a Fast Spinning fan
The thoughts move very fast like a spinning fan inside the mind, due to high fluctuations of thoughts one is unable to understand their nature; negative or positive. Yoga and meditation are known to slow down the waves of the thoughts by practicing asanas, pranayamas, and self-observation. Research has established brain changes as changed wave patterns with the regular practice of meditation. A slowed down mind, brain can is good for analyzing and ultimately changing the patterns of the thoughts.
The Mind is related to the body
The body and the mind are interrelated; the mind remains present within all the body systems via its extensions - the nervous system. When one straightens one's posture one straightens the mind. Asana practice is the best place to begin controlling the mind.
The Mind is related to the Breath
When one calms down the breath by controlling the prana by practicing pranayam, one is controlling the mind. The breath is like the wind blowing over the surface of the lake of the mind and creating the waves of thoughts. If the wind is slowed down with pranayam their would be lesser waves of thoughts.
The Mind is related to the Senses
Controlling the senses can calm down the mind. Meditation dissociates the senses from the mind by keeping it focused. Senses cannot work without the cooperation of the mind, thus senses remain in animated as the focus of the mind is diverted from them, this is known as the practice of Pratyahara, the fifth step in the eight fold path of yoga by Patanjali.
The mind by nature can process only one thought at a time, even though it moves fast from each thought to the next. Meditation teaches us to first alienate ( from so many) and then concentrate on a single positive thought. Such a practice relieves one of the burden of undue stress and worry related to the negative thoughts jumping within the mind. Stress can even kill if left unmanaged.
The thoughts originating in the mind in general are limited to only images and words. That is the reason we concentrate on a word or a image while meditating. Meditation silence this world of images and , known as words to the mind, and helps reveal a different reality present beyond it. The mind functions by association; we can associate with the helpful thoughts in meditation, to gain from this property of the mind, in order to empower them over the unhelpful thoughts.
One of the advantages of meditation is that with it one can work with three levels of the mind: the subconscious, the conscious, and the super conscious. Regular meditation can help one erase the subconscious ( emotional and instinctive aspects), completely use the conscious ( intellect), and develop the super-conscious ( intuition).
Conclusion : Mind is an entity which keeps one's real self shrouded from the universal self, realizing which is the ultimate goal of yoga. Meditation helps by delineating the mysteries of the way mind functions and its nature. This is made possible as the mind is concentrated on a single entity which slows down its mechanics to a manageable level. Since the physical body is a projection of one's mind, controlling it and regulating its working with meditation can help relieve physical ailments like heart issues, cancer, anxiety, and a weak immune system as incidental benefits on the path to realization of the self.