Do you guys remember “Head of the Class?” I remember watching it as a little kid and liking it, although I bet I barely knew what was going on.
But I have a vivid memory of one quitillienth of an episode:
There are two guys that always sit at the back of the room, Dennis and Arvid. The teacher says, “Alright, I want you to make your mind blank,” and either Dennis or Arvid (I forget who) is able to do this so well, and so completely, that his head falls forward and his eyes roll back into his head.
I remember being just fascinated by this idea. That you can actually empty your mind like emptying a drawer. And of course I tried it. We all have.
Of course it is! We are thinking creatures!
Meditation is not about emptying your mind completely. It is about whittling away your thoughts down to just ONE.
This is why meditation teachers offer different tools to meditate: looking at a candle, following your breath, repeating a mantra. These are all good examples of focusing on just ONE thought rather than NONE.
The other thing that fascinated me about Dennis (or Arvid)’s mind-blank experience was the STATE he was in. Could you really erase your mind and enter a state almost like sleep? Is it different than sleep?
Luckily, yoga has an explanation for this. It differentiates between the act of focusing on one object (Dharana) and that magical state you sometimes shift into after focusing for a while (Dhyana).
Mr. Iyengar says about Dhyana “There is no other feeling except a state of SUPREME BLISS [sic].”
So Dharana is the ACTION. It is something you do. Dhyana is a STATE that sometimes arises during Dharana.
Got it? 😉 Good! Now, everyone to the Meditation Mobile!