Thousands of years ago the rishis (sages) of India began to express their sense of unity with the natural world through their poetic hymns to nature deities such as Surya (sun), Agni (fire) and Vayu (wind). These hymns were later compiled into the sacred texts of Hinduism that became known as the Vedas. They are the outpourings of the early Indian spirituality from which yoga and meditation evolved.
As well as feeling a mystical connection with nature, the rishis also sensed the unseen energies of the universe beyond their everyday world. Through intuitive insights, they perceived the interconnectedness of everything within this vast universe.
The rishis also made the incredible discovery that the essential oneness of the universe could be experienced within the soul through the disciplined practice of meditation. In the Upanisads (sacred texts added to the Vedas between 1000 and 200 BC) this goal was expressed as the uniting of the individual soul (Atman) with the vast universal soul, known in Sanskrit as Brahman – a blissful experience attained through a state of mental absorption known as samadhi.
The Maitri Upanisad describes a step-by-step meditative discipline for attaining unity with Brahman in this way: “The precept for affecting this [unity] is this: restraint of the breath, withdrawal of the senses, meditation, concentration, contemplation, absorption (samadhi)”.
This shows that even in these ancient times structured methods of meditation were developed, and supported by spiritual philosophies. Remembering the rishis and these early foundations of meditation practice can be a wonderful way to motivate and inspire your practice - whether it's based on yoga asanas or meditation,or both.
Little did the rishis know how their amazing insights would become so valuable, thousands of years later...in a troubled world in need of personal and planetary healing.