Meditation Chat 8 October 2013 * combining techniques 1

This is a most current Chat rather than posting them from the past (though I will keep posting the earlier ones, too).


blessed day to you.

Meditation... such a wonderful fountain of strength, riches, comfort, light, peace and bliss.

Last week we focused on a lovely Sanskrit affirmation: "Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu". I shared a bit about how we have the creative power of manifesting what we speak with feeling, conviction and intent, and how this ancient affirmation is used so widely. I do hope each of us will consciously speak to better ourselves and our world. "Bless all the dimensions of being with peace & joy, love & light!"

I would like to talk today about combining meditation techniques. This has been brought up before in general, but I would like to focus in on it a little closer today.

Some techniques that we often use are: focusing on the breath; gazing at a candle flame or yantra (sacred geometric pattern) or lovely image; repeating a mantra; etc. Each of these techniques is perfect. We can do any of them and they work to get our mind one-pointed and take us to the meditative state. But we need to find something that "works" for us. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna gives a list of approaches saying, well, if this doesn't work, try this one, and if this one doesn't work, then try it this way. And in his Yoga Sutras, Bhagavan Patanjali gives us a list of things to meditate upon, and then says to pick absolutely anything uplifting that works for us.

The message here is that we really can make up our own approach, and we should. Find what you like and what works for your mind. Try an assortment of approaches. Note what is comfortable and effective for your mind. And as you keep practicing, you will find that your awareness and consciousness become ever more subtle. As that happens, you may find yourself drawn to new things. Your mind will be able to use different things. Perhaps you will notice more subtle things and be able to use them to move you more quickly or easily into the meditative state.

I find that rather than one technique, a combination is what I am usually drawn to. For instance, when I gaze at the flame or yantra it focuses my attention wonderfully. Then I notice my breathing and find that as I give that attention it does not move me aware from my awareness of the flame, but lets me focus on it even more intently. Then I begin to hear the mantra that I repeat throughout each day. All of these are working together to engage and occupy my mind. They blend into one practice that I find very comfortable and effective to move me into that state of meditation.

There are lots of ways to combine techniques. I think that it happens for us quite naturally. Being open to that can be quite useful, rather than thinking that once you start a technique, anything else is an interference that will disrupt your practice. But is it worth noting that the mind can shift between techniques, and that such shifting will not serve you well. This is different from that. This is a blending of techniques that actually serves to engage the mind and keep in on track, taking it to the one-pointed place you are aiming at even more effectively.

Let's say you are watching the breath. This is the technique you are using. You start, and find it useful to do the breathing more deeply so that it is easy to focus upon. You might use ujjayi (squeezing the throat just enough to feel and hear the breath moving through it) to make it even easier to watch. Good, you are able to focus on the breathing. But as you continue, the mind begins to quiet and your breathing is naturally quieting, too. That more forceful breathing, the grosser level of practice, moves toward something more subtle. This is good. You are moving inward, disengaging from external sensual attention. But... it is more challenging to stay focused on the breath. Thoughts may come in and distract you, engage you in something that has nothing to do with focusing your mind and settling into your meditation. Your thoughts can wander randomly. So, as soon as you note that happening, you bring the attention back to the breath. This it Concentration... bringing the mind back to what you have chosen as the focus of your meditation. But, you want to stay with what you have chosen, which is Meditation. So, try adding mantra japa to your breathing. Now you mentally repeat your mantra in sync with the breath. Or you may find that the breath actually can take shape to the mantra. You might coordinate the inhalations, pauses and exhalations with parts of the mantra, but that is not a requirement.

What I mean is that you might inhale while repeating "OMMMMMM", pause while repeating "SHANTI", and then exhale while repeating "OMMMMMM", and repeat this with each breath. This can make bring the mind into a truly focused state and keep it engaged without getting distracted.

Another approach is to simply use the mantra repetition to keep the mind attentive as you observe the breath, and just let the mantra and the breath both flow as they will – not amking any effort to coordinate them. This, if the mind accepts it, can be very relaxed and comfortable, while still keeping you totally alert and engaged in what you are doing. This second approach has the advantage that you can get ever more subtle without trying to "think" about doing it.

Since it is time to stop now, maybe we can go over a number of combinations next week, too.

Blessings and love,