Meditation Chat 30 July 2013 * Prepping with Pranayama

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Blessed day to you! May the Force be with you, and may you be open to it flowing fully. Have fun.

Some of the things I am sharing today may be of interest and helpful for those getting started, but some are for those who are already established in a practice.

I ask folks to meditating every day, with a commitment to doing it twice for at least one minute. A daily practice is important if you want to enter into the special realm available through meditation. Such a commitment is totally doable, which is important so that you feel good about yourself meditating. But the "at least" is worth noting, too. When you do have the space, please give yourself up to your meditation. It can take some time coming to that deep zone where you are free. Be open to accept what's there for you in that special moment.

It is so helpful to do some preparation. This can open you for a deeper meditation experience. Here are some of those things you can do... things that can really ripen you for your meditation practice and help bring meaningful, moving experiences.

 Have a neat clean space, and come with your body and clothing clean. Also, if you enjoy incense, light some incense and a candle. I get my body loosened up before sitting, and then, after sitting, twist and check that my posture is upright and comfortable. It is useful to shift around some and check how it feels to move the weight a bit forward or backward. This can be quite useful.  When the alignment is right you will feel energy flowing openly up through sushumna (the central energy channel that flows along the spinal pathway), from the root right up through the crown. Take a few moments right now to play with this and see if you can notice this energy flow. It is worth the little time it takes.

I then honor my Gurudev, and ask for protection and guidance for this meditation and to move forward living in my fullness. If you do not have a relationship with a divine teacher/guide, your Guru, you can simply ask the Divine that loves you, cares for you, and is all wise to be with you in this way. This is useful to put you in a state of mind ready for meditation. If we want to receive, we need to humbly place our hand below the Source and open it for what will be given to us.

Then, if I find there are issues about myself or others demanding my mind's attention and my heart's engagement, I will take a little time to pray about those things, wishing the best for them, really mean it, and expect the good for all.

Next I do some pranayama. There are two different approaches to doing pranayama. Sometimes it is  doing the pranayama to still the mind, get centered and build an energetic charge to carry you through your practice - meditation takes energy. At other times I may shape my meditation practice through the pranayama practice, using the pranayama as part of the focus for my meditation. If I am doing the former, I then ring my singing bowl after I am done with my pranayama. But if I am intending to use the pranayama steadily throughout my practice, I will ring the bowl before. Listening to the singing bowl  moves my attention inward to that inner space where the meditation work is easiest.

Hmmm... pranayama. Wow. It is very important to include this as part of your practice. And even if you are only taking one minute, still a few deep breaths at the start, deergha swasam, will help you move into that meditative state. But if you have the time, spend anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes doing pranayama at the start. Longer can be ok, too, but only if you have been doing pranayama regularly for some time, and then it is best to have a competent teacher who can guide you as you go deeper into your pranayama practice. Some of the things I am about to mention are not for everyone, but many of you will understand and be able to make use of these comments.

Do some deep breathing. You may want to use the Ujjayi breathing (squeezing the throat a bit so that you can feel and inwardly hear the breath moving through the throat) to help direct your awareness inward. My teacher directed us to do some rounds of Kapalabhati breathing (a rapid diaphragmatic breathing that highly oxygenates the body, stimulates the endocrine glands and especially brings sharpness/alertness to the mind). I usually do three full rounds. Because this practice oxygenates so well it is easy to hang out and do some extra things without the body asking for a new breath right away. In Kapalabhati, once several rapid breaths are done out & in through the nostrils, there is a rather full exhalation. Pause while the air is out. During these pauses, after each of the three rounds, I usually do three abdominal practices. After the first round of rapid breaths I do Uddiyana Bandha by drawing my diaphragm up while the air is out. I include the Moola Bandha (the Root Lock) by tightening a bit in the anus area. After a while I then inhale a full breath, without overdoing it, and pause with the air in. During this pause I do what is known as the Triple Lock - Moola Bandha (Root Lock), Uddiyana Bandha (Central Lock - which can be done with the air in rather than as we did it earlier with the air out, though it is quite a different experience) and Jalandhara Bhandha (Chin Lock). The Chin Lock can be the first lock to put in place and is useful while retaining the breath. While doing the Triple Lock, I also include a lovely work with the energy, by directing attention initially to the Central Lock area and envision the apana energy moving up to that point from the root and the prana energy moving down to that point from the chest, and those two energies coming into a union which I mentally direct and envision flowing up to the third eye. I then release the chin lock and begin the gentle, slow exhalation.

I repeat this final element with the deep breath, triple lock and moving the united prana/apana to the third eye after each of the next two rounds of Kapalabhati. During the second round, after the rapid breaths and the full exhalation, while the air is out I usually do Agnasari Dhauti (a flapping of the abdominal muscles while the air is out), and in the third round do Nauli Kriya (a rolling of the abdominal recti muscles). These are useful practices with many helpful benefits, but also in this meditation flow they work wonderfully to draw the attention inward and help you engage the mind fully and direct it. And you also fill your energy up from the pranayama.

I will need to stop for today, but may be able to continue this discussion next week.

All love and blessings to and through you always,