Sitting to Meditate

Writing a blog is as much a spiritual endeavor as any of my other practices. I now realize there is so much that goes into making this page useful. I will be adding a gentle asana section soon, the poses I highlight will specifically assist with developing a seated posture. Until then, I’ve linked Ma Tri’s beautiful asana chart and a little YouTube Video of asana for posture below.

Sitting well is foundational to a meditation practice.  However, this can be a major obstruction to going inside. In this system, we work with the many levels of ourselves, moving from the gross physical body to the superconscious core. Therefore, the physical body must be prepared to support this endeavor.

This is where the conventional asana class is supportive. If you followed the link above, in the Yoga Sutras, “asana” means a “comfortable seat”. If one is seeking the highest state of existence, asanas are an opportunity to prepare the body and experience meditation in action–but, they aren’t the apex.

Sitting tall and well, is much more than about aesthetics. It is essential to proper physiological functioning. Furthermore, it is an anchor to hold you in the present moment. One should release any idea or preconceived notion of the ascetic, sitting cross leg and semi-nude on a mountain top without any creature comforts. If you’ve been a desk jockey, you need a chair. Using a chair is not admitting defeat, it’s acknowledging the physical limitation and working to transcend it.

Try to find a quiet place, free from outside distraction. I suggest you do some gentle stretches; then, as I posted before, observe the unfolding of the mind. For those  who want to go a little further, begin to work with the breath. Just start to bring awareness to the breath–sit in absolute silence and observe the natural rhythm. Try to sit without moving for adjusting and observe for a predetermined amount of time. In the beginning, it’s best not to try to do this for too long; you don’t want to strain and develop an aversion. In the early stages of sitting I recommend three to seven minutes at the most. Think of simply sitting well, also, as meditation in action.

I Am Everyone…

I recently read a blog post, “I am (Not) Mike Brown“– which deeply touched me.  Although my aim is not to politicize my blog, the title of the post evokes powerful concepts that are addressed in the Yoga tradition.  There is an idea in conventional circles (I say conventional and not the West– some of the most amazing teachers live in the West), that Yoga is associated with an “anything goes” sort of attitude.  While I cannot speak for other schools of thought and movements, I can say Yoga, at its center, has an ethical core.  In my last post, “Begin to Meditate“, I present the concept of the Yamas and Niyamas from the Yoga Sutras.  The first principle of which is Ahimsa, non-violence–to your Self and others.  Some people have called the Yamas and Niyamas, the “10 Commandments of Yoga”– which I refute as having a punitive, patronizing tone.  Yoga is about Self-direction, the sages do not tell us to fear the wrath of an anthropomorphized deity. However, they explain that we are all one.  If we go inside, regularly, and establish a relationship with our transcendent existential core we will, inherently, not wish to harm one another.  The brilliant late, Georg Feuerstein, a German-Canadian Yogi and Scholar, wrote extensively about morality as it relates to the Yoga tradition as well as an eloquent ethical guidelines for Yoga teachers. His writings affirm our natural ability to emanate goodness and to seek harmony when we frequently return to our center.

Begin to meditate

It’s wonderful, and ironic, how the idea of meditating has gained so much popularity.  Naturally, after modern medicine “verifies” it’s benefits many of the skeptics come on board (no real digs at modern medicine– I’m an exercise physiologist).  However, according to the traditional teaching of the Yoga Sutras, meditation is not the first step on the path to Union, Enlightenment, Self-Realization, Transcendence (whatever you may call the experience– not concept).  In fact, meditation (dhyana) is the 7th of the 8 rungs.  It is recommended to get one’s house in order prior to meditating.  That presents a stark contrast to the modern/Western idea that meditation is for stress reduction or happiness.  Meditation is work– but, that doesn’t mean it is an unattainable feat.  One doesn’t simply sit and meditate.  When one has the done the preparatory work then meditation more naturally unfolds.  I mentioned in previous posts, introspection and sitting in silence.  It is my personal experience that when my life is in more chaos, meditation is not an easily attainable.  Listen to the inner call to deal with what it happening in your “outer” life that may be distracting you from the “inner”.  In Setting it All Down, I discussed my personal drama with feeling attacked.  That is something to address and not avoid– the spiritual path is not about avoidance.  The yamas and niyamas can offer insight into areas of our life to balance which will incline us to naturally want to go inside.  If you are still working with introspection– let this direct cleaning house.  If you already meditating perhaps this will create a space to deepen your practice.