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YAHWEH A name of God in Judaism and Christianity, from the Hebrew "YHWH," or "I Am That I Am." See "God" and the separate, short "Guide to God in Meditation."

YOGA (See also “Buddha’s Eight-fold Path” and “Chakras.”)

“Yoga” means “yoke” or “union”–“yoking” oneself to either a higher level of consciousness or using practices that will aid in such yoking or union. In other words, in yoga, one experiences–or prepares to experience–enlightenment (see). Yoga also is the ancient practice of meditation, focus, and preparation for enlightenment as it existed in India. Yoga is not simply exercises, nor is it simply mental gymnastics or sitting and quietly thinking normal thoughts. It also is not simply examining oneself (though it might start in this way or include self-examination). Rather, traditional yoga, whether in physical or other forms, involves a focus of awareness.

Examples of yoga are many. Today in the West, “yoga” is more often associated with physical stretches, breathing, and healthy poses, especially in yoga classes. Such yoga is, traditionally, known as “hatha yoga” (see).

Other types of yoga vary from the most mundane mindful awareness of a daily religious ritual to the more complex and powerful explorations–and focuses on–different spiritual or higher-awareness states that one has already discovered. Among these many types of yoga are practices identical to the spiritual activities of many religions, including prayer and mantras, as well as devotional meditations, mindful silence, “walking” or otherwise active yoga practices, and many others.

Over the thousands of years yoga has been practiced, there literally have been hundreds of millions of practitioners. Over these many years, yoga masters have developed hundreds of types and schools of yoga. They exist not just in India, now, but in many other countries, as well, having spread especially in the 1900s through recent times in the West and other parts of the East.

There are, however, forms of yoga from ancient India that are considered traditional. The four most mentioned traditional forms are:

- raja yoga (see) or “king yoga”–focusing above the head on higher energies/spirituality (e.g., the thousand petalled lotus)

- jnana yoga (see) or “mind yoga”focusing in the third-eye and throat energy centers (see) on knowledge, ideas, imagination, words, and singing

- bhakti yoga (see) or “love yoga”–focusing  in the heart or in the center of the sternum parallel to the heart on devotion and love

- karma yoga (see) or “work yoga”focusing on work and daily life as a form of, place for, or way of meditation and devotion

Some systems also mention two or three other traditional yogas. One is hatha yoga (see), mentioned above, which has to do with breathing, health, exercise, and posture. Technically it is a part of karma yoga mixed with other basic yogic physical activities.

A second is tantra yoga (see). It has to do with concentration on the energy centers (see) or chakras (see).

A third often mentioned form is mantra yoga (see). It uses repetitions of words, songs, or visual devices. Technically it is a part of jnana yoga.

Most yoga systems also relate to, or can be found as, part of the steps of Buddha’s Eight-fold Path (see) and/or Hinduism’s seven traditional chakra energy centers. These energy centers (see) run from above the top of the head to the base of the trunk. (See “Chakras.”)  

YOGA NIDRA See “Nidra Meditation.”

ZEN MEDITATION – (See also “Satori.”)

Zen, or Zen Buddhism, is more a state of mind than a particular set of rituals or acts. Even so, it also is considered a religion. It is an offshoot of Buddhism that traveled east from India to China and especially Japan.

Zen is about your maintaining or finding a higher or deeper inner state of mind or being. Reaching for this state of mind means you discover an inner and outer balance that is difficult to describe in words. As a result, Zen scripts sometimes use contradictory phrases or “koans” used by beginners to help them first discover a flash of the true reality.

These koans do not make logical sense. However, if you have the appropriate inner experience, the koans do make perfect sense. For example, to use a famous koan, Zen enlightenment means that you can find truth in “the sound of one hand clapping.”  Another example of a koan suggests that success in Zen Buddhism requires that you “kill the Buddha.” Yet another is that in understanding Zen, you can find the reality in “the color of the wind.”

To practice Zen, you sit (or stand, or work) in contemplation of these and other such koans and suggested practices, many of them suited for those who have renounced the material world in favor of spiritual pursuit in a monastery or some other kind of retreat. Sometimes different koans and other sayings fit different types of experiences, or openings to the true reality. In Zen, as in all spiritual and meditation systems, there is not just one possible experience but rather a variety.

          In essence, you are in a Zen state of mind when you are in what other systems consider a spiritual or mystical state in which your inner and outer realities are one (see “Mystic” and “Self”), or, sometimes, that the experience of nothingness is better than the experience of something-ness (see “Nirvana”). You may practice Zen meditation for many years and arrive at no better understanding, or you may suddenly have, says Zen, a realization or "the" realization.

You may try Zen. It is full of meditation opportunities and experiences. But you also can try many other spiritual and meditation systems, if you prefer, ones that may seem less confusing or mysterious.



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Text © 2017-2020 by Richard Jewell

Images © 1994-2018 by Gabriel R. Jewell

First edition: 1 Sept. 2018. Second edition: 1 Sept. 2019. Free Use Policy

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