Tag Archive: meditation


instructions by Sally Kempton

Meditation stats

I think when the average reaches 10 min something magical will happen – LOL!

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Liz in Revolved Side Angle pose

Liz in Revolved Side Angle pose

I really liked the way Stephen Cope explained the difference between yoga asana and meditation. If the goal is to settle the mind (more about the theory related to that in a later post) – yoga asana does that bottom-up while meditation does it top-down.

Meditation involves a concentrated effort to bring the mind back to a focus object (e.g. breath), whereas yoga, by facilitating the alignment of movement, breath, and attention, achieves that mind settling more effortlessly (even if with more sweat!).

That explains why I fell in love with yoga asana – and why I think I prefer it over meditation, even though I really hate to sweat.

My practice at Greenville Yoga lead me through beautiful states of mind and emotion that were achieved without me really trying to alter my emotional state. They were an unexpected side-effect of asana practice. They were powerful experiences of mood altering, that happened without much outside intervention (such as alcohol, or a conversation with a good friend). It was the first time ever for me that I discovered that I can do something relatively simple (move the body with the breath, pay attention to the body as I do so) and make myself feel 1000% better in 1 hour. I discovered self-soothing (better late than never). I used to tell dear Liz that she sells happiness at $10 a pop. That it’s so good it shouldn’t be legal. 🙂 I should not, however, underestimate the importance of the asana teacher. As I found later, even though practice is mine (my body, my breath, my attention), the beautiful, mood altering experience doesn’t happen every time, in every class. Liz has the gift of orchestrating a flow that takes you there, and, in my opinion, offering her energy as a ladder you can climb on to get to the floaty pink clouds easier, faster.

It is said that asana prepares the mind for meditation. It makes a lot more sense to me now, after comparing asana practice with a lot of time (for me) spent cross-legged on a meditation cushion this past weekend. The latter is so much harder. You have to expend much more volitional control, whereas asana kidnaps you and takes you to that beautiful place without you having to try that hard.

There is something about the effort of the body, having to pay attention in order to balance, or to integrate the opposing directions of many yoga postures (the sideways, length, and downward bending of triangle, for example – you can’t hold your body in all these seemingly opposing directions without paying attention. The same with a simple forward fold where your shoulders and upper back are open and not collapsing down. Everything goes down, but shoulders go up, away from the ears.) Asana really kidnaps attention, and a practice of continuous body scanning during asana (paying attention to every finger and toe, scanning the body to relax unnecessary tension, remembering to release the jaw) really helps focus the mind, and integrate it with breath and body movement.

While I want to further develop my meditation practice, it has become clearer to me than ever before how powerful asana is, and that, if I am ever to share any of these practices with other people, I would like to share yoga asana. I think it is an effective entry point in this beautiful realm of alleviating suffering – one that, in spite of its physical nature, is much more accessible to people in Western societies.

Practice, and good things do happen.

The Chronicle of Higher Education published today an article about a course on Information and Contemplation taught by David Levy at UW. Interesting to see that Levy’s previous work on effects of meditation on multitasking was actually funded by the National Science Foundation. Interesting to see that ACM CHI and Graphics Interface publish this kind of work.

Harder than it looks

dogs meditating the key to meditation is learning to stay

Contemplative pedagogy

More on this from the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University.

“…the faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention,
over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character and will.
No one is compos sui if he has it not. An education which should
improve this faculty would be the education par excellence.”
[William James, 1890]

compos sui = master of one’s self

MuttsComics.com on Facebook – Further evidence that cats are, indeed, Zen masters 🙂

I stuck to it. Kinda. I missed a couple of 3 days when I was waaay too tired and realized that I would be nodding off and unable to focus. The first day I missed was a challenge – I challenged myself to miss a day and not obsess and feel guilty about it. To make room for it, as Liz suggested in an email. I realized that I was so attached to not missing a day that it was hard to make room for missing one. So I did. From there on, I noticed it is easy to start going down a slippery slope. I made up the time on the following day (if that counts for something) but in terms of maintaining the habit, it is important to not miss days. There’s some research I read about that if you slip once you are more likely to give everything up – as in, when you eat a cookie on a diet, and then give up the entire diet (I am not an advocate of dieting, btw).

I loved the Hamsa meditation and it came easy to me. This week’s meditation, not so much. It is about focusing on the space in between the breaths. I am having a hard time with it. It doesn’t come naturally, I tense up, focus too much, can’t leave my breath flow at its natural pace, and spend the time, overall, trying too hard. I don’t think it’s about trying too hard. I’ll keep practicing it for another day or so,  but I do not think this type of meditation is for me.

I recognize the importance of the space between breaths as a portal. I remember it from one of my first readings in this area (Eckhart Tolle). I just don’t think I’m ready – or maybe it’s something that should be practiced after asana and pranayama, when the space between the breaths lengthens naturally. I remember that feeling from a breathing class with Max Strom. After one hour of very deep breathing, the space between the breaths was long and peaceful, almost as if my body didn’t need to breathe for long periods of time.

I loved the Mutts strip above (thank you, Dr. V, the lovely veterinarian and amazing writer, for bringing it across my screen) and it reminded me that one thing I would like to start is a gratitude practice. I still have the gratitude journal Liz gave me a few years ago… and still a lot of blank pages in it.

So many things I’d like to do, so little time.

How do you make room for regular practice (yoga, meditation, gratitude, arts, cooking) in your life?

Namaste from Blue Lotus Yoga,

M

As sitting for 10 minutes a day got filed in my mind as “should do” or “have to do” I started noticing a tendency to procrastinate. This procrastination is a form of resistance, of opposing control and authority. It has been very interesting to dig deeper and figure out where this comes from. Who am I trying to oppose? What control have I lost that I am trying to regain? Childhood sit, of course. But it’s good that I noticed it and I can attempt to work through it, because these days I end up resisting and opposing myself, which is not something that serves me well.

Hamsa meditation

This week is a different kind of meditation – a mantra aligned with the in-breath (ham) and the out-breath (sa). More about hamsa meditation on Yoga Journal’s site. I try to be cautious about mantra meditations, because I know just enough to understand that if mispronounced, or not chosen well for each particular person, they can be misleading (OK, my Hindu husband is the source of this information). But I am open to trying, and seeing how it feels.

And after only 2 days of hamsa meditation, I find that this is powerful stuff for me. It feels good, it resonates well with my being. I am surprised at how quickly it brings me to a very peaceful, quiet state. Then, I stop on the brink of something and I am afraid to let go because I don’t know what’s beyond. So my mind returns to thinking. And the mantra. And back to the brink. And repeat 3-4 times in the space of only 10 minutes. I guess that’s the problem of not having immediate access to a trusted teacher who can guide you or coach you or catch you if you fall.

This site has what seems to be a more in-depth explanation of the hamsa meditation, though I am in no position to evaluate the credibility of this information. [Update]But, the more I read the information on this site, the more I like it. This article about the levels and dimensions of consciousness may provide some answers as to what that brink I experienced is about.

Have you had similar experiences?

Check, check, and check.

Day 3 – lying in bed, last thing before going to sleep. Too tired to go upstairs, but decided I didn’t want to deal with the disappointment of missing a day.

Day 4 – who needs a mindfulness bell when Zen master Luna Blue is there to squeak and bring my mind back to reality?

Day 5 – this blogging thing helps! I was thinking that I didn’t blog the previous days and remembered that I had not sat yesterday. So went upstairs and sat for 10 minutes before going out to a local street festival.

Some days are better than others, some days feel like punching the clock, but it’s OK – what matters here is the discipline that will hopefully help create a daily habit.

Namaste from blue lotus,
M

Today I had to leave the house in a hurry (for a noon meeting… I know, I know) so I didn’t sit before getting started. I took the new kitty to the vet, and when I came back around 4 pm, I had some time to work before heading to a Yoga class. I sat down to read through a manuscript and realized I felt tired and unfocused – and that I felt the need to meditate and quiet down.

I am glad I payed attention to what my mind needed and went upstairs to sit for 10 minutes. It was a short but very sweet session. For a few precious seconds my mind stayed with me and the breath, and my entire being felt light and peaceful.

Of course, this sitting got so much better once Zen master Ziggy decided to supervise. 🙂

Zen master Ziggy finding (en)light(ment) in the Yoga room

Later, during Yoga class, the teacher said, “There is always time for one deep breath.” So true. I’d like to remember that. There is always time for one deep breath and there is always time for a quick 3-minute  meditation, even at the office, to find a bit of stillness and clarity to move on with the day. Funny thing is, the water mug on my desk reads “Breathe.” I’ve become rather skilled at not seeing it…