Monday is AUM-day; in search of meditation.
After mentioning the physical benefits of attending to aasana and embarking upon meditation, a small search was done online for some graphics to illustrate this more. The one you see here is very apt.
There is one bubble here which is often the greatest bone of contention when it comes to meditation; the stilled mind. The perennial complaint of the practitioner is "HHOOOOWWWWW???!!!!". Each of you reading this now know this wail of despair, is it not? What keeps us trying is not only that we at least gain some calming and relaxation, but that we sense there is something worth making more effort for and, also, we have the examples of those who have gone before us, all saying that it can be done.
Without fail, all the masters berate their students; "do not try to run before you can walk!" If you have not fully acquainted yourself with how limiting your body is - and this includes the mind - how are you ever going to move beyond it?
Check yourself at this point; how has the week gone with only the aasana practice? If you have attempted it each day, you will certainly will have realised how attached you are to the body and how it rules a lot of your life. Sure, like any vehicle, it requires our attention and will only give back the quality we give it. This is not a one hundred percent given though. There are many folk who have not a day's sickness then enter sudden death. There are those who live a 'clean and healthy' life yet they must endure serious illness. As you advance through vedanta you will come to understand the place of praarabdha in these matters. What we are concerned with here is how to rise above the physical bondage.
If meditation, for you, means only to have some time each day out of the 'rat race', that is fine. However, if you discover benefits within these verges of the race track, are you not more likely to want to stop more often, perhaps find a few things you can carry with you even when back in the race?
The sitting practice is of prime importance. Second to this is the breath. Anyone who has attended any form of meditation/relaxation group will know that a lot of emphasis is placed on the breathing cycle. If the aasana ensures optimal relief and support for muscle and bone, then breath is that which optimises the energy which feeds them and also the inner organs.
प्राण/praana** is traditionally considered to be the connection between the mind and the body. If , in our attempts to 'empty' we need at first some props to aid the process, then the breathing is a great place to start.
This was touched upon three weeks back; but here is a reprint of the relevant tract;
In aasana when spine is properly balanced, it is as if there is a trigger for the diaphragm. It is a clue for settling. Keep shifting and making the minute adjustments required to find that trigger. The breathing may not yet be deep and prolonged, but it should definitely be from the solar plexus and the shoulders should be straight, level and not in any way lifting to your ears! The more tense you are, the first place of defence is the shoulder area; the tighter the shoulders the more shallow will come your breath. It is a flight/fight response.
What are you fighting or fleeing here? Take charge!
The more settled and correct is aasana, the freer the lung will be and by now you ought to be able to take longer lasting, deeper and fuller breaths. In doing this the whole chest should lift outwards and lightly upwards - not the shoulders… movement there should be absolutely minimal. Place your hands on your tummy with middle fingers just touching each other. As you breath in they should separate. If they don't you are not yet breathing to diaphragm.
Continue alert in the practice of aasana, but now, as you become at home in it, pay special and prolonged attention to your breathing, using the guide just given. Remember at all times that YOU are not the body or the breath. YOU at all times are the witness, YOU are the driver of this vehicle. Let these thoughts and this focus alone be your practice for the week.
AT ALL TIMES BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF.
**the term 'praana' has perfunctorily been used for the most part to mean breath only. As we deepen our study, it will become clear that in fact it refers to 'life energy' and in fact has five components. More on this next week.