April 6, 2015

Inviting a Meditative State

A yoga practice is a tool to meditate, but where does one start?  Let us first define meditation in the simplest terms: meditation is a deep level of mental focus.  For most people, the best way to begin is to pick one subject to focus on, so for the purpose of our discussion let us say that one subject will be our yoga practice.

A yoga practice already has tools in place to aid meditation, tools such as:  the quality, rhythm, and synchronization of the breath (pranayama); the direction of the gaze (dristhi) in the position (asana); the precise alignment of the asana; the precise sequence of the positions and their synchronization with the breath (vinyasa).  These are good details to start with.  They may seem like a lot to keep up with, but that is the point.  Yoga is an exercise for the mind.

With meditation, expect to start off with concrete techniques such as these.  As your meditation becomes deeper perhaps you might switch to something abstract to focus on in your practice, such as: “letting go,” lightness, ease …etc.  If your meditation gets still deeper, you may start to focus only on the sensation of doing the practice – moving away from cognitive thought.  At last, if our mind is particularly strong that day, we may be able to experience a level of concentration to where our only focus is that we are doing our practice, with no other thought, not even the physical or emotional sensation of practicing.  Perhaps we may humbly consider this progression as our samadhi samprajnata (distinguished contemplation).

Many of us struggle with meditation because we are not told two simple things: meditation is focus, and it generally starts by focusing on something in the concrete world (such as an object, or activity).  Do not be deterred, you can do it.  When it becomes hard for you to maintain your focus, just go back to the concrete tools of a yoga practice described above: your breath, the direction of your gaze, the alignment of the position, the synchronization of asana to asana and breath to asana.  It is alright for it to feel like it’s a lot of mental work, you are doing just fine.

With you,