Everything is contained within the mind.
—Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Master
I am walking down Adams Avenue here in San Diego on a sunny afternoon. Cars buzz by, a warm breeze blows, it feels nice against my skin. My mind jumps between trying to understand perspective on a human resources issue at the yoga studio and text messages coming in regarding who is coming to meditation tonight at my house. All the while, a faint undercurrent of joy remains swirling in me from a documentary I watched last night about the great track star Usain Bolt.
Fluctuating sense impressions and thoughts form the foundation of my reality as I walk along. For no apparent reason I focus on my incoming breath and make a conscious decision. I want to reboot my awareness. I want to free fall out of this reality for just a moment. Time for a 10 second journey into micro -Samadhi. Ah, this is gonna feel good!
What Is Samadhi?
Samadhi is a state of awareness first described in yoga literature over 2,000 years ago. It is a state of consciousness described by all religious and spiritual traditions but called by various names: heaven, nirvana, trance, satori and countless others. It is the peak experience of spiritual training and the eighth and final aspect of the journey of yoga.
The first four aspects of the yoga journey involve morality, daily purifications, physical movement and breath control.
The final four are turning your awareness within, concentration, meditation and Samadhi. These final four aspects are fluidly intertwined, seamlessly flowing one to the next.
It is important to realize that you naturally pass through the state of Samadhi multiple times each day. These moments of micro-Samadhi occur naturally and spontaneously. They arise when you transition from wakefulness to sleeping and from sleeping to wakefulness. In the sleep cycle you go through a state of deep sleep characterized by Delta brain waves, this is another form of Samadhi or undifferentiated consciousness.
A great indian yogi and medical doctor Swami Sivananda (1887-1963) authored over 300 books. In his writing, Guide to Samadhi, he notes:
“Deep meditation leads to Samadhi or oneness with God. If you can fix the mind for ten seconds steadily on a particular object or Murti, it is Dharana (concentration). Ten such Dharanas become Dhyana (meditation). Ten such Dhyanas form a Samadhi.”
When I first read this passage, I did a double-take. Ten seconds! All this time, I presumed attaining true concentration took countless hours. I now saw the situation differently. Samadhi is not a question of time, but rather a question of intensity. For those of you who like numbers, here is a breakdown: concentration can be achieved in ten seconds, meditation in 100 seconds (One min and 40 seconds) and Samadhi in 1000 seconds (16 min and 30 seconds.)
Later in the passage Swami Sivananda writes:
“In trained Yogis, you cannot say where Pratyahara (abstraction) ends and Dharana (concentration) begins; where Dharana ends and Dhyana (meditation) begins; where Dhyana ends and Samadhi (superconscious state) begins.”
The micro-Samadhi technique I explain below is rooted in intensity. If the intensity is present then it is possible to receive a taste of the Samadhi experience in just one breath cycle. Remember, that you pass through Samadhi during the gap between wakefulness and sleep. In this technique, we are trying to move into that space without falling into sleep.
This technique is designed for you to achieve daily experiences of micro-Samadhi. With increased effort and patience your experience will grow in duration and profundity. Whenever you remember to practice the technique do not let the inspiration slip away-try to practice it within the next five breath cycles.
The technique for micro-Samadhi is as follows:
- Begin by becoming as conscious as possible of your breathing. Take three or four deep slow conscious breaths. You will begin to feel a shift in your awareness as you become more calm and focused.
- Now begin by taking a long slow inhalation. Then slowly start to exhale.At the end of your next exhalation, freeze your body position and pause for five or ten seconds. Become as still as possible and be intently aware of that stillness.
- Now begin a long slow inhale. As you inhale bring all of your focused attention to your sense of self, the observer, the witness, the enjoyer.
- Hold onto that sense of self as you hold your breath at the top of your inhale for five or ten seconds.
- Begin your next exhale before you feel any strain in your breath retention. You must self regulate the holding of your inhales and exhales. Do not strain yourself. Remember, intensity does not mean straining your breathing process. Your capacity to retain your breath will grow with time.
The opportunities to experience micro-Samadhi occur in the intervals when you are not breathing and when you are holding onto the sense of self. It is as simple as that! Remember to practice this technique as often as possible.
A few things to note
In step three, you are instructed to take a deep breath in and at the top of your inhalation hold your breath and focus all your attention on your own existence. In the beginning hold your awareness on a certain part of your physical body such as your chest area or the third eye area between your eyebrows. Entirely focus on your sense of self and being. As a side note, holding your eyes motionless will help to calm the mind.
Doing the technique in public can make it more effective. The reason is we are often so self-conscious of what others may think about us that to do this in public may allow you to feel the difference between truly feeling your own existence and thinking and judging yourself in relation to how you perceive others to judge you. If you pause and look around in public you will actually find that almost no one, or no one at all, is even aware of you. Everyone is wrapped up in their own whirlwinds of thought.With practice you will be able to sustain the deep feeling of self while resuming normal breathing.
An essential component of this technique is knowing that when your breath is moving, your mind is active. When breath is suspended the mind is rendered quiet. During this technique the breath is suspended for 10- 20 seconds creating the psychological and physiological environment for micro-Samadhi.
Practice and let me know how it goes!
Meet The Author
Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.