Meditation Chat 7 March 2013 * comfortable, pleasant, special

Good morning! om om om om om om om

Please let me know if you have any meditation questions or things to share today.

Last week we started to look at how getting set for your meditations can help your practice tremendously.

Getting your meditation space comfortable and pleasant, and keeping it a little special will help a lot.

Comfortable.... yes, you actually want to sit comfortably. A blanket or cushion, or both, can make your sitting easier. Much of the hatha yoga practice (working with the postures) is designed to get your body conditioned to sit comfortably, without becoming a distraction while you meditate. The hatha yoga practice also clears the energy channels and works to settle and strengthen the mind. So, do what's needed to make it comfortable for you to sit. Though sitting cross-legged does give some special benefits that aid in your meditations, it is fine to sit on a chair if sitting cross-legged is uncomfortable for you.

You may find that a shawl or blanket helps you feel more relaxed. If so, use that. Be careful to not have the space too hot. Excessive heat is not only uncomfortable, but can agitate the mind.

Now, pleasant... make your space a place you like to visit and hang out. Some people like an open, uncluttered setting. Some enjoy a place that has lots of little items about. Whatever you enjoy, try to do your meditations in such a place. You can easily do a few things so that you enjoy your space. Make it so you find it a delight to spend time there.

A singing bowl or ringing a bell can also be a nice way to get set for your meditation practice.

Also, special... if you make the place where you sit for meditation "special" it will help in a number of ways. It will signify that you are doing something different, helping you open up to something new. It can move you into a sense of awe... very useful to open you for what meditation has to offer you. You might keep fresh flowers there. Put a beautiful shawl or pillow or blanket that means something to you.

Do respect your practice and your practice space. Commit to your regular meditations whether you "feel" like it or not, whether everything is just right or not. Be regular. Keep your space clean and neat. It is a reflection of your mental state. Hatha yoga can help you learn how to be steady in your effort while remaining comfortable while you do it. In fact, one way to understand the word “hatha” is “ha”... sun and “tha”... moon. The sun is the effort that you make. It takes effort to accomplish things. But the moon reflects and is cool. Hatha has us making a comfortable, steady effort. That should become how our approach to everything. It will help in your meditation practice, too. Comfortable, but steady.

Start with some nice deep breathing. Make it deep, but totally comfortable. As you do this you will find that the body releases and softens and expands. Your posture will actually improves as the body opens up. Hips, shoulders, jaws, lower back, chest will all release. The mental state will quiet and become centered. This deep breathing is very useful for your up-coming meditation practice. If you continue for a while comfortably, you will begin to store up the vital energy, the prana... charge up your battery fully before your meditation. It will also begin to draw the attention inward, especially if you all the ujjayi breathing with it. Ujjayi is when you squeeze the throat just a little so that you can feel the air passing through the throat on both the inhalations and exhalations. You can also hear it inwardly (you don't want to be doing it so forcefully that it makes an external sound and demands a lot of effort). Ujjayi will naturally direct your senses inward establishing you in the 5th limb of Raja Yoga, Pratyahara (controlling and directing the senses inward), which Patanjali tells us prepares us for meditation.

Of course there are many other Pranayama practices that can be useful in a number of ways. But be sure to make this deep breathing part of who you are. Its benefits are limitless. Perhaps we can spend some weeks talking about Pranayama in the future. In any case, if you have the time, you will find it so useful to do some Pranayama at the opening of your meditation practice. Of course, watching the breath is one of the most effective and used objects for meditation, too.

If the mind is in a Rajasic (busy) mode, you will find that as you begin the deep breathing it may not be so deep. But it will deepen as you continue and then the mind will let go of that Rajasic frame and quiet down. If the mind is in a Tamasic (dull) mode you won't want to even do any deep breathing. But if you do, through your disciplined habit, it will begin to pick up some energy and gently shift out of the dullness and become alert and energized. And when the mind is in a Satwic (balanced) way, the breath will become a focal point and draw attention inward and move you into an expanded awareness. So... breathe.... deeply.... often.

This is the end of this morning's chat. Thank you for being part of it.

May you be ever blessed and a blessing.

Love always,