I lead a weekly Facebook Meditation Chat, and am posting some of the chats here. Enjoy. Comment. Ask questions. Share your own experiences.
Good morning, Meditators! any questions or meditation tales to tell?
OK... here is a tale. Many years ago I was in upper state New York taking a stroll in the wood and came upon a bluff with a wild pear tree. I sat down munching a pear looking out over the bluff. Then I noticed a large bird that was simply coasting on the currents... way up there! It was so lovely. The bird just floated. I was awed by how the wind held it. Every now and then it would lose the wind and need to flap just a few times to catch it again. And then just continue sailing. Though it seemed effortless, I realized after watching for about 30 minutes that it was super attentive, making little adjustments to stay with the current and then quickly finding it each time it lost the flow. It was so good at it. We, too, can ride the current, stay in the flow, but need to keep focused on it and ready to flap our wings a little more actively each time we fall out.
Last week we spoke some about pranayama, how useful pranayama is to help still the mind and build the energy needed for a meditation practice, and how it can serve as the focus of your meditation to focus and still the mind. Also, when the mind is still, which often occurs while meditating, the breath stops in a neutral space (not held in or held out). This is known as kevala kumbaka, and is actually one of the ultimate goals of a pranayama practice. Though it happens very naturally when our mind becomes still, we tend to disrupt it whenever we note that the breath has stopped. "Oh! my breath has stopped!" - then an inhalation, and the mind starts to move again. O well... But if we practice that some and become familiar with looking at our mind and breath during kevala kumbaka, then, when it happens, naturally we simply recognize it, enjoy the delight of the still space and enlightened consciousness, and hang out there with it.
Here is a little exercise you can do to become familiar with it... get into a nice, comfortable sitting posture and begin some deep breathing that is totally comfortable. Then lift your hands in front and play this imagination game... Hold an imaginary needle in one hand and an imaginary thread in the other. Now lick the thread and put it gently through the eye of the needle. (Stop reading for a moment as you give this a try it – Go ahead. Try it.). Once you've done this ask your self how you were breathing as you threaded the needle. The breath was completely still, not held in, not held out, but in the neutral place, and the mind was totally clear and focused. The is kevala kumbaka. Become familiar with it. It will serve you well.
Sabrina: Which moment is best to practice? When calm or in turmoil?
Dear Sabrina, interesting question. It is certainly easier to practice when calm, but surely important to practice whenever in turmoil. One of the benefits of setting up a regular practice is that you create a pattern that assists you. You practice because that is what you do, not due to how you feel or what is going on. You simply practice.
A little more Sabrina... like the bird in my story.. those times when you are in turmoil can be like losing the current. Then it takes more effort searching for that sweet lift of the current to hold and carry you. Some nice things to do that might assist you in the turmoil times are to do some deep breathing, chant out loud for a while and then quiet the chanting and move the attention more inward, and even ringing a bell at the start of your seated meditation can be useful by breaking the mind out of its current thought patterns.
Any other questions?
Sabrina: Thanks for these precious advice and teachings. Mantras and Ravi Shankar's music do help me to calm down a bit. The bell. The bell, oh yes, interesting, how it can help... A chanting bowl also maybe?
And how can I initiate my 5 year old who's sometimes so agitated but, in the same time, real interested in yoga and meditation.... Though I know children do meditate more "naturally" and instinctively than we do.
Sabrina, yes a chanting/singing bowl is also very nice, but functions a bit differently. Ringing a bell will clear the air, sort of shattering the thought patterns you came in with and open things to the new. Also, ringing the bell can be a call for the devas to join you. The bowl will then help to still the mind and draw you into a beautiful inner awareness. Once you sound the bowl just listen as long as you can hear it. This will be a great place to start your practice. Do some prayers, some pranayama, and continue to move inward. "Inward" is such a strange word for this because when not meditating "inward" has a sense of being a very restricted space, part of the physical dimension. But "inward" while meditating brings you to the infinite, where you are free to explore, sail or simply be.
Sabrina: Again, what an infinite generous lesson ! I' m grateful for this, thank you! I am going to try all this, to help me focus on my inner strength and take back my path to my paintings and inner peace. I will let you know how your words helped me.
As far as initiating your 5 year old into meditation... there are a number of things that might help. The most important is to be the good example. When children see their parent(s) meditating that speaks much louder than any words you can use. So meditate regularly. Have a steady, daily practice. Your son, as well as you, will notice that meditation helps to make you more easeful with everything, lighter in how you go about your day, and even better with how you relate to him. So be steady in your practice. Next, if you have set up an altar where you sit to meditate, he will be interested in that. You can explain that you have created a space with some things that you find lovely and that you enjoy, so that when you sit there you feel happy and enjoy that special space. He may want to create his own. Let him do that. Though you can assist him by helping to clear some space that he chooses, maybe getting him a cushion, pillow or blanket to sit on and offering to get him a bell or bowl like yours, if he'd like, do not suggest how he do it at all - and accept whatever he wants to put there with absolutely no judgment, just appreciation and love (you might get to know some new things about him, too). Let him create his own special meditation space. If he happens to need to move, acknowledge that. Know that mediation can be done with movement, and some people find that when they move, their minds quiet and get clear. So be open to that, too. Yes, there are some nice practices he can use while moving. But ask me about that if it seems what he likes. I hope you both have fun.
Sabrina: Again thanks for your time and luminous help!
Buddy Katz: When meditating I get into a deeper practice with my eyes closed but I get such warmth to gaze at my alter with the lights twinkling off the deity and the glow. So both help with my practice but I don't know which I should do or in which order. ???
Dear Buddy, how beautiful! It certainly seems that you need to create an approach that uses both. There is a practice known as tratak... gazing. this seems like it may be just right for you. Once you get settled (after whatever things you may do to get the space clear and pleasant, and your mind and body still and comfortable), then simply gaze at your altar with the lights twinkling off the deity. Really look at it in a gently loving way, but steady. Enjoy. Sometimes your mind will be busy with thoughts. sometimes it will simply be still and only your visual experience will dominate. That it fine. So gaze for a while and then shut the eyes and see if you can find that image in the mind's eye. For a number of times it may be difficult to find it. But after gazing and then closing your eyes a number of times you will start to see it. At first your inner image may be in negative colors. That is fine. Stay with it. And when you you are gazing at the inner image stay focused, again delighting in that. After a while the inner image will become a positive and be exactly the same as the external visual. And then it will hold you steady and your inner meditation will go even deeper than ever. If you stay with this practice that inner image will become ever present for you even when you have your eyes open and are speaking with someone. You can give it your attention at any time and become steadily established in that beautiful meditation experience.
I did tratak on a picture of Swami Satchidanda (before I knew of tratak) everyday for many years, and that image is ever available to me - even now as I type away here.