I can't believe it's been two whole weeks since my last post!! My brain and heart are both so very full from my 10-day training on yoga for cardiac and cancer patients (I'll share more about that with you on my next post).
So here we are, the final week of March, and I hope that over the past three weeks you have at least experienced a tiny glimpse into that inner light and stillness that dwell in each one of us. Maybe it was just a moment or two of that quiet place where no thoughts dwell or perhaps it felt like moments, but in reality you were there for several minutes!! Whatever you have encountered, remember it is all part of the process. It has taken many years for that busy mind to become so cluttered and restless, and it may take a bit longer for it to learn to relax.
Here is some wonderful advice from my teacher, Nischala Joy Devi on the process of meditation:
"In meditation do not struggle with trying to get all the waves calm. Make the mind be your friend, not your enemy. Remember, you and your mind are on the same side - the side of wanting to be calm and peaceful. It's the nature of the thoughts to move and toss about. Instead of fighting to control them, rise above them as if in an airplane. Get distance from them and look down and see how small and undifferentiated everything looks. Or, if you wish, dive down deep. Like a scuba diver, go below the waves and turbulence to the silence, calmness, and beauty. Go deep within."
This week's goal:
20 minutes of seated meditation
This week's Mantra:
Sat Chit Ananda
(s-ah-t ch-it A-nan-da)
Try saying the first two words - sat chit - on your inhale, then exhale - Ananda
I am all Truth, I am all Knowledge, I am BLISS
Existence, Consciousness, Bliss
Joy is my highest consciousness
As the length of your meditation increases, the distractions from the body and mind may quite well increase as well. I highly recommend a light yoga asana practice - even just a few 1/2 sun salutations and a stretch or two to prepare the body for sitting. To further quite the mind I recommend about 5 minutes of pranayama (breathing). This can be a simple 3-part breath or a practice such as alternate nostril breathing or humming bee breath.
Instructions for 3-part breath:
Instructions for Alternate Nostril Breath:
Sit comfortably and close your right nostril with your right thumb. Gently inhale through the left nostril. Then lift your thumb, close the left nostril with your ring finger, and exhale through the right. Reverse the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the left. Repeat.
Instructions for Humming Bee Breath:
To practice Brahmari Pranayama, sit comfortably, with the back tall and shoulders relaxed. Start by taking a few natural breaths, and close your eyes (as long as closing them doesn't produce more anxiety). Then, keeping the lips lightly sealed, inhale through the nostrils. Exhaling, make the sound of the letter M, essentially a humming sound. Sustain the sound until you need to inhale. Then repeat: Inhale through the nose, then hum like a buzzing bee as you exhale. Continue by inhaling as needed and exhaling with this sound for several minutes. You can practice as long as it feels good.
The longer you sustain the humming exhalation, the more relaxing the Bee Breath is likely to be—but forcing the breath beyond your capacity can have the reverse effect, causing even more stress. So don't force yourself to maintain any particular speed. Inhale whenever necessary, and let the buzzing sound last as long as it is comfortable. Finally, spend a few breaths sitting quietly and noticing whether there are any changes in your breath or mood.
Have a wonderful, peaceful week!
So, how was your first week of meditation? Did 5 minutes feel like forever? Or did you add on extra time because it just didn't quite feel like enough?
No matter if you meditate for 5 or 25 minutes, some days are easy and some...not so much! That is the nature of the human mind and rather than fight it and become frustrated with it, we learn techniques to help us through those days of the crazy Monkey Mind.
According to Deepak Chopra (and I believe him - he's a pretty smart guy!!) these are the five main things that can happen during meditation:
1. We can experience thoughts.
2. We can mentally repeat the mantra.
3. We can have thoughts and repeat the mantra at the same time. If this happens to you, place greater attention on the mantra.
4. Our thoughts and the mantra can cancel eachother out, and we can slip into that place off stillness between our thoughts, the "GAP".
5. We can fall asleep. If you fall asleep, when you awaken and if time permits, allow yourself about 5 or 10 more minutes to complete your meditation.
Here's a lovely description by Chopra of what meditation actually is and does:
Everyone thinks that the purpose of meditation is to handle stress, to tune out, to get away from it all. While that's partially true, the real purpose of meditation is actually to tune in, not to get away from it all, but to get in touch with it all. Not to just de-stress, but to find that peace within, the peace that spiritual traditions talk about that passes all understanding. So, meditation is a way to get in the space between your thoughts. You have a thought here, a thought here, and there's little space between every thought.
According to wisdom traditions, this space between the thought is the window, is the corridor, is the vortex to the infinite mind – the mystery that some people call the spirit or God. We don't have to use those terms, but it's your core consciousness. And the more we learn about this space between thoughts, we find certain things to be true of it:
· It's a field of infinite possibilities – infinite possibilities, pure potentiality.
· Everything is connected to everything else.
· It's a space of infinite creativity, infinite imagination.
· It is a place where there is something called the observer effect, or the power of intention, which means intention is very powerful when brought to this space and it orchestrates its own fulfillment – what people call the law of attraction – so those are wonderful qualities of your own spirit.
In meditation, we get into this space so we find infinite possibilities, infinite correlation, infinite creativity, infinite imagination, and infinite power of intention. That's what meditation is really about.
Isn't that just lovely? Are you ready to go to that space right now?? I'm going to provide you with both the Week 2 and Week 3 challenge and mantras since I will be away in Joshua Tree, CA at a yoga training from March 11-20.
Week 2 - Increase your meditation time to 10 minutes. Follow the same set up, and breath connection from week 1.
Om kriyam nahmah
(oh-m kree-yam nah-ma)
My actions are aligned with cosmic law.
This mantra's vibratory qualities resonate with the Law of Karma. The Law of Karma, or cause and effect, states that every action we take generates a force of energy that returns to us in kind - as we sow, so we reap. When we consciously choose actions that bring happiness and success to others, the fruit of our karma is happiness and success.
You can read more about this Law in Deepak's book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga. It is also a key theme in the book How Yoga Works by Geshe Michael Roach.
Week 3: Increase your meditation time to 15 minutes. Again, follow same routine to get settled and grounded.
Om daksham namah
(oh-m dahk-shahm nah-ma)
My actions achieve maximal benefit with minimal effort
This mantra resonates with the principle of the Law of Least Effort which states that you can accomplish more by doing less if you are not wasting energy by struggling and straining.
Chopra says, "Nature is held together by the energy of love, and least effort is expended when your actions are motivated by love. When your soul is your internal reference point, you can harness the power of love and use that energy creatively for healing, transformation, and evolution."
As you sit in meditation this week, focus on finding the least amount of effort in your seated posture. Perhaps try sitting on a folded blanket or pillow to raise the sit bones and allow more comfort in the hips. If you feel the need to wiggle or scratch an itch, do it, then quickly return your focus to the mantra and the breath. Breathe easily and effortlessly rather than trying to control or direct the breath.
Om Shanti!!! May your practice these next two weeks bring yo
Mary Baker - ERYT-500 yoga teacher, adventure lover, fitness junkie, doughnut snob, whiskey & wine sipper