When I began to meditate I had the hope that I could explore some of the inner workings of my mind and find something of interest there.
After all; meditation is simple, right?
Simple? Yes. Easy? No.
Inner attention can dissolve in an instant when we are worried, upset, angry or distracted. During the course of a single day, we move in and out of states of awareness – flashes of insight are ephemeral. That’s why it is helpful to use a variety of practices to steady the mind.
Postural yoga is one such practice. BKS Iyengar, a living yoga master, has said that yoga is meditation on the body in the body. In his classes Mr Iyengar provided uninterrupted verbal, visual and kinesthetic cues to each student. It is impossible to follow such teaching and think of anything else. The method brings the student deeply into the inner sheaths of being so that the muscular-skeletal body is known in increasing detail and clarity. Additionally, the workings of the mind are identified and refined. Both mind and body are strengthened and made ready to face the challenges of daily life.
One of the Niyamas of the eight-limbed path of yoga is svadyaya, or study of the self. Implied is the character work demanded of yogis. Examining motives and attitudes yoga students can learn how to express qualities of compassion, gentleness, kindness, steady wisdom and truthfulness.
This work is not limited to the mat or cushion. Daily, we check in to monitor states of being so when we slip off the centre we can return to balance; the inner baseline of which does not include neurotic patterns of thought.
The attitudes that we bring to yoga as a form of meditation is part of the work. Sometimes I begin a practice by offering it to the healing of community members or loved ones. Other times I dedicate my day to the practice of one of the universal guidelines: non harming, truth, generosity and moderation. Each one is a means by which kinship is deepened not only with humans but in the natural world and even with inanimate objects such as the car or computer.
New to these practices?
You might offer your thoughts, feelings and actions at the end of each day. Or place your attention in your heart whenever you think of it during the day. You might use mantra or pranayama, the yoga of breath.
Whichever practices you adopt, the benefits will show up quickly. You’ll feel more integrated. Experience on the mat or cushion won’t seem entirely different from daily life. Decompressing after the day’s events won’t be so time consuming. A sense of sweetness and spaciousness will come.
Try working with different practices until you find one that feels like yours. Then dive in deeply. There will be moments when love seems to sweep over you and the world glows with meaning. In that state, casual encounters seem like oracles and synchronicity transmutes effort into worship.
Just as certainly there will be work to accept the facts of mood swings, painful feelings and psychological pain. Meditation isn’t a buffer. It’s a means by which skills are developed in order to meet the emotional heavy weather. More choices become apparent. The major change after one begins developing a disciplined practice is one’s attitude to moods and tendencies, along with the resources to manage them. Namaste!
Kelly Murphy is owner of a yoga studio in Nanaimo.