The seventh of the eight limbs of yoga is Dhyana. Dhyana (Jhana in Buddhism) is meditation, where the ego and the mind are at rest, and thoughts come and go in pure self-observation. Practicing Dharana, or concentration, can serve as a transition from the chattering mind state to the quieted mind state of Dhyana. With practice this self-observation meditation can lead to a completely still mind, empty of all thought.
It is not easy to get into the Silence. That is only possible by throwing out all mental-vital activities. It is easier to let the Silence descend into you, i.e., to open yourself and let it descend…It is to remain quiet at the time of meditation, not fighting with the mind or making mental efforts to pull down the power or the Silence but keeping only a silent will and aspiration for them.
- Sri Aurobindo, The Integral Yoga
However, in order to be able to practice Dhyana, in order to let thoughts and mind chatter come and go and eventually dissipate, we must learn how to relax the mind and remove stress. Meditation, complete stillness, is possible when our minds are calm and cool. The first six of the eight limbs of yoga are practices that help us to de-stress our lives so that we may reach the state of meditative stillness that is Dhyana.
True meditation leads us to wisdom (jnana) and awareness (prajna), and this specifically helps in understanding that we are more than our ego. For this, one needs the preparations of the postures and the breathing, the withdrawal of the senses and concentration…True meditation is when the knower, the knowledge, and the known become one. This is only possible when one is in a stress-less state.
- B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life
To actualize the blessedness of meditation you should practice with pure intention and firm determination. Your meditation room should be clean and quiet. Do not dwell on thoughts good or bad. Just relax and forget that you are meditating. Do not desire realization since that thought will keep you confused.
Sit on a cushion in a manner as comfortable as possible, wearing loose clothing. Hold you body straight without leaning to the left or right, forward or backward. Your ears should be in line with your shoulders, and your nose in a straight line with your navel. Keep your tongue at the roof of your mouth and close your lips. Keep your eyes slightly open, and breathe through your nostrils…Many thoughts will crowd your mind, ignore them, letting them go. If they persist be aware of them with the awareness which does not think.
- from the Fukanzazengi (Zen Buddhist text)
As in the ocean’s midmost depth no wave is born, but all is still, so let the practitioners be still, be motionless, and nowhere should they swell.
I felt in need of a great pilgrimage
So I sat still for three days
And God came to me.
- Kabir 15th century Indian poet