“You are already happy. The reason you don’t experience it is that it’s covered up by layers of suppressed emotions and negative thoughts. Shift your attention and your inherent happiness flashes forth.” – Steve Ross The other day, I had … Continue reading
I always get a little excited and do a non-visible happy dance when a student, friend or peer asks me about meditation. I hear things like, “I know I should start meditating,” or “I don’t know how to meditate,” or “I tried meditating once and it doesn’t work for me,” all of which I’d experienced at some point in my life as well.
After I’d been practicing yoga asana for a few years, my perception naturally started to shift, and I knew I wanted to pursue more in this spiritual journey beyond physical poses. I began reading about the various types of meditation and what others had experienced.
I’d learned about guided meditation in which you’re listening to a CD or an instructor and you are walked through a type of visual experience in an effort to direct you toward your inner spaciousness and unconscious. Through visualization and imagination, you shift your active mind in a different direction. The issue with this type of meditation, for me, is that it’s still just another form of mind activity. Patanjali describes yoga as “the settling of mind into silence.” I remember thinking that I should be experiencing vivid visualizations and be transformed to a different plane of existence. But, I wasn’t going anywhere and that made me frustrated. I didn’t see any mystical creatures or fabulous lights, and I felt like a failure.
The funny thing — and I didn’t know this at the time — is that there is no goal, there is no “place go to.” In meditation, the only thing you need to do, is sit in silence.
There’s a quote in the book Bad Dog! by Lin Jensen that I try to come back to when I feel I’ve lost direction and an inner compass, “If we are true to the steps we take, the travel makes sense and the journey confirms itself.” In essence, if we are putting one proverbial foot in front of the other from a place of integrity, the journey unfolds before us and becomes less of an effort born of suffering.
So often, we are just “going through the motions” with little recognition of what got us to the present state or why we’re continuing on a given path.
Let’s go back to the dog theme. Have you ever known a dog to lie or put on a facade? No. Dogs are brutally honest in their demeanor and actions. Hungry? Eat. Happy? Wag tail. Threatened? Bite. Nowhere does the dog engage in the inner struggle of what they should do vs. what they want or need to do.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you live selfishly without regard to how your actions impact others, but if you start to trust your gut and become aware of your truth at the core, your perceptions shifts which may even change your path. In either case, the struggle and suffering begin to wane. Continue reading
In the first two posts of this series, I talked about the yamas or “laws of life” and the niyamas or “rules for living,” so now we come to pranayama and meditation, both of which flow through and are essential for the previous two limbs. When I was going through teacher training and we learned about each yama and niyama, I started to feel anxious thinking about all of the work I had to do to change myself. I had this mental checklist running through my head. As I began to examine the deeper meanings behind the yamas, such as violence which can be as subtle as thinking a harsh thought towards someone who is making your life difficult at work, I really started to panic.
When you really dissect all of the subtle ways we can be “in violation” of these universal moralities and personal observances, it can quickly become a challenge to stay present and not judge yourself. So, I read more and listened more and started to see that simply ‘noticing’ when I’m in a situation in which I have an opportunity to practice non-violence or moderation, my actions naturally began to shift. Add pranayama and meditation to the mix, and these qualities of living a yogic life begin to arise unconsciously; they become part of your DNA.