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Meditation the Way of Mastery

Posted on 23 December, 2015 at 18:25

Meditation the Way of Mastery.

So we begin! 

The path has opened before you and we are at the begining of the long road towards greater understanding and self discovery.  For the beginner, meditation can be a daunting task.  Who knew there was such a plethora of noise, such a storm of excuses and so many pressing things that arise despite every intention to find solace and peace within.  The inner realm is laden with shadows, light and many colorful thoughts and ideas.  So how does one navigate the uncharted waters of the concious and uncouncious mind when diving into the deep sea of meditation?  Multitudes of directions, many thousands upon thousands of electric pathways to follow.  Impulses, emotions and other things triggered by the mind in endless space of silence.  How strange that in what is supposed to be silent, there is so much commotion.  The mind is so unruly, and the pressing nature of the past and future are such strong deterants from staying present and centered.  So how can anyone find peace in meditation at all?

Lets start with the basics!

Step 1- Begin with a comfortable seat!  While this sounds easy it is very challenging for all those but seasoned practitioners, monks and the like. The body,  accustomed to slouching, easy chairs and other forms of lazy sitting;  has trained the muscles to form around structured weaknesses. Years of poor habits are readily felt when attempting to sit in what is know as Sukasana, A.K.A easy seat.   Easy seat is not so easy for most Americans, something I see everyday when I teach yoga classes.  For many sitting in an Indian Style Seat may be likened unto a form of mideval torture.  The Hips are tight,the back is weak, the core is not strong and the shoulders and neck somehow seem to compensate for what is lacking everywhere else.

The fix-

Try a pillow or cushion and sit to the edge of it!  If this is still too intense, sit in a chair with feet firmly planted on the floor, or lay down but dont fall asleep!

Step 2- Relax

So you finally have found a seeminly comfortable seat!  Now notice your muscles!  Are you clenching your jaw and teeth?  How about the eyes?  Are you squinting in over concentration striving to see in the dark screen of the mind with no avail?  Are you sitting too straight?  Think natural and relaxed.  Systematically go down from the head to the toes and notice each area as you move downward.  Ground down throught the sitting bones and relax your shoulders.

Step 3- Breath

Notice your breath.  Notice,... is your breath is ragged and uneven?  Begin by slowing bring your breath into a natural flow.  Imagine your breath as an ocean wave.  Feel the breath open and expand, while it moves in and through the body.  Visualize and feel your body open.  Then, onthe exhale....relax let the breath flow out of the body.  Feel the belly fill on the inhale and the ribs expand, soften and deepen toward the earth as the breath begins to move freely out of the body on the exhale.

Step 4- Guide yourself towards stillness within

This is a bit tricky to get to and to sustain for the beginer and intermediate practitioner.  Depending on the situations preceeding your meditation and those things that are happening in your life at the time, there may be alot to work through to get to the place of stillness within.  Some are confronted with several situations

A. Restless body.  The first distraction will be some itch, pain or discomfort.  This is common especially if you are begining a fitness regimen after a long period of being sedentary and have not developed physical stamina and strength.  This will happen not only in meditation but also if you practice yoga.  You will have to begin patiently and learn to differenciate complaints from reality.  This will be tough to work through but not impossible.  Remember this is a practice and takes practice.  So start with a do-able amount of time, such as 5 minutes to start.  It may take years to reach 20 minutes, but do not fret.  Shift to a more comfortable position like laying down to continue if need be but try and avoid constant movement and complaints.  The undisciplined mind will create many false sensations to distract you from this process.

B.  Mental Checklists.  Once you master the body you will find the mind is a tricky thing to contain.  This is where the real meditation begins.  Notice if you begin with mental inventories or even sermons.  You may find your mind will not remain still or quiet.  The mind is like a wild horse that has been running wild for a long time.  Expect to be bucked off a few times and perhaps even taken on a few wild rides or tangents.  Return to the breath and if need be....say to yourself I am breathing in and I am breathing out.

C.  Unpleasant emotions.  Often times when the mental checklists or thougths go on too far or long in the space of the meditation time, a thought will arise that will trigger an emotional reaction.  Anger, frustration, depression and sadness will arise.  This is not a bad thing, but it is a tell tale sign that there are things to work on.  Many of us rush around our lives attending to checklists and or us distractions to avoid confronting real emotions that exist and have perhaps been supressed in your walking life ( the non meditation part of your life).  It is not wrong to use your meditation time as a processing time, however the trick is to not let it take over your time.  So allow the feelings to be there.  Witness them as they arise, watch the thoughts come up and acknowledge them but use your breath and centering tools to prevent yourself from being hijacked by them.  So allow the feelings to come up acknowledge them.  Then, derail any thougths that will cause your mind to get stuck in a whirlwind of fixation.  Return to the breath and stay present keeping your eye on the prize of peace!

Step 5- Be patient.  

Continue to keep bringing yourself back to center if you find yourself distracted by any of the above challenges.  The most important thing is to not judge yourself or pressure yourself to much.  It is ok if you dont get to a Zen state.  Slow and steady wins the race.  Even if in the moment you feel not so peaceful,  keep breathing and coming back to the stillness and be the observer of your own inner world.  Be open to explore and learn.  In order to master anything you must be open to the fumbling nature of baby steps!  You are learning to meditate so dont pressure yourself to be a master in one day!

Keep to your meditations!   The more you try the more you will understand!  

Come to Terms with Your Body- Ground and Connect

Posted on 13 April, 2015 at 1:25

Coming to Terms with Your Body

The body is the first step in your yoga practice. Many of us have walked through life in complete disregard for our bodies. Pushing, prodding and forcing our way through, treating our physical form as a machine neglecting the regular maintenance. Despite our outer focused society, where the car and the glam and the way we appear to others are a central focus, we have ironically forgotten the old adage that the body is a temple. Some cringe to think of this verbiage, others perhaps hear this with a tinge of angst while misreading this to mean that we must make an idol of ourselves. The middle way, or a balance between the contrasting interpretations is a great place to start the process of understanding. In fact, it is the tendency to polarize ourselves and our views that continues to serve as, at least in yoga, to be a limit to the greater goal of oneness and wholeness we strive to embrace.

The body is the first step to your yoga practice. Grounding back into the body is critical to find the middle ground with which to begin traversing the great road of discovery that lay ahead. The journey in yoga is long, there is no McPeace to drive up to and order a side of happiness and never ending bliss. The reason yoga is called a practice is that it takes practice. The ground covered is vast and begins like any journey with the first step. The first attempt at a yoga practice may be daunting. Why? Well the mind particularly during the first few 50 attempts will be littered with noise pollution, the interjection of distractions of all kinds – each seemingly urgent and of great import at the time. The truth…none of the pending thoughts and petty complaints that arise are really of much concern in the greater scope of existence, but this is where we begin. At least, this is where I began….and I can speak only of my own personal experience, though many have related to me similar stories of their personal travails on the mat.

To connect first with the body is a high priority. I have come to think of it as a grounding wire, the way to prevent shock and greater troubles found in evoking higher levels of spirituality. A practice lead solely by the capricious mind and its crafty imaginings can be an exhausting chase through an infinite maze of possibilities. With regard to yoga, it is best to follow a plan, thousands of years of experience can serve as a guide and outline, but the way for each is somewhat different. Even when following an old routine or an ancient lineage, if you haven’t grounded into your body first however …you may be entertaining a hazard more so than a healthy option. If you begin to practice yoga without taking care to connect and respect your physical body, you may cause yourself injury unintentionally. The reason being is that you may not really feel what you are doing.

Imagine for a moment, all your life you have hit your head against a wall. You have done this for all the years of your life and suddenly someone tells you that this is the cause of great pain. While it may sound true in some ways, you may hesitate to embrace this new knowledge. Let’s imagine for a moment you do finally decide that the headaches and pain you have been experiencing may in some way likely be connected, and finally you decide to make a change. The problem is your body has grown accustomed to this treatment, so it may be desensitized to a more gentle approach, it may take quite some time to come to a more normalized scale of feeling. The same is true for yoga.

I have taught hundreds of classes over the years, and in these classes I have seen countless people struggle and attempt to go deeper and further than their body can obviously go. Unfortunately, I can tell them and suggest over and over again that they take a more moderate approach but yet the habit is there, they cannot grasp that I am speaking to them. Even if you tell a person directly, this is not always well received. I know that this is part of their journey and I can only suggest and try to help them learn this important lesson of respecting their own personal body. In truth I too, have found myself guilty of this tendency.

Learning the limitations of oneself is a challenge. Self reflection is necessary and the levels to which one begins to do this only deepen with time. There seems to be a bell curve where much effort leads to great self questioning and then one day this need begins to wane. In the beginning the need for honest self inquiry is paramount, though many great realizations may take time to avail themselves.

A gentle approach to yoga and life run contrary to every ounce of the American mentality. “Push and compete, strive for success, keep your eyes on the prize and don’t give up.” I can’t tell you how many people ask when they will be able to do a certain pose, etc. It is a common misconception to believe that the level of one’s physical practice is in some way the most important thing. The important thing is to know yourself. If there is pain, refrain. Move to a place of reasonable comfort. Effortless effort. The asana means comfortable seat, ironically many find themselves under the notion that a pose must be uncomfortable to gain greater benefit, this could not be further from the truth. While a certain level of discomfort is common in yoga, especially that of the restless mind finally called upon to quiet; pain is not a part of a strong yoga practice. The no pain no gain idea is not the model to follow in yoga, though it may be a phase of your practice as you move to greater understanding of the body.

The purpose of it all is to ground with the body, come to the present moment and get real. During the practice of yoga you will learn to respect your body and work with it not against it. This is one of the very first principles to learn – pace yourself, find a balance between your will and the ability to surrender and let go.


Deconstructing the Fortress of Fear

Posted on 13 November, 2014 at 2:35

When asked the other day my personal opinion on the meaning of life, I without hesitation replied to love and to learn to let the walls down. It is not for me the big picture of my purpose that is so difficult but the process of living in the context of it that is a bit of the challenge. On paper it looks great, and theoretically it sounds rather simple. Live in the moment, forgive and forget, let go and surrender to win. These catch phrases on the whole are the general point of life but it is in the process of living that the subtle nuances become rather tricky.

So how does one begin this quest for true love and freedom from the bondage of self? How to be comfortable in one’s own skin but on a true soul level and to be authentic and no longer party to the inner fashion show of a thousand personas? Off with the costumes not just in our wardrobes, though some may want to start there, but also off with the roles we play and the personalities we believe define our life.

What are these masks for? Well quite simple...they are our fortress of fear, our armor against the perceived attacks of this world. Essentially, the masks we wear keep us in spiritual asylum. All these are facets of our fear and serve as the founding belief that we are in some kind of battle against those who are out to get us. For the naysayers...I will concede that yes there are some dark forces to content with in this world and there are some harsh realities that we will come to face. This I cannot deny. However, in the attempt to protect ourselves from life we end not living it fully. In fear, we take on conditioned methods of survival that we may or may not be aware of. The act and the performance we use as a shield against pain keeps us bound within, locked away inside our true nature remains hidden, without ever really letting the true light within shine out.

This true light is the light of our authentic self, not the self we feel we must be. Beyond the skin, the neighborhood, the religion, the role we play, there exists the true essence of the real self. Perhaps even the mask of artist or scientist, these seemingly important qualifiers and definitions we ascribe to ourselves to separate us or rather to distinguish us from our fellow man are the very walls that prevent us from really connecting to other people, perhaps these roles while helpful in some ways may be the very thing keeping us from knowing the real person within. This western approach at self definition, at self actualization based on the need to categorize and classify ourselves as something special or different may in fact be the very walls that construct our own fortresses of fear.

The truth be told, we are all unique and different. Certainly we have different gifts and talents that do make us our own snowflake in this universe. The key is to not focus or attach too heavily on the differences, this becomes especially helpful when working with the great lesson of compassion, though I will expound upon that in a later article dedicated more to that point.

The goal is to first deconstruct the need to keep sequestered in our niches and comfort zones and this can only happen by beginning to unravel the tangles of theses facades and identities that we so cling to for self aggrandizement and clutch to, to perpetuate the competition mentality that keeps us alone and essentially keeps up from really ever really expressing the essence of who we are beyond our accomplishments. This is a state of agitation where the next parcel of life is greener and more desirable than being present, and a state of mind that anxiously drives us from who we are within as our focus becomes who we appear to be seen as from those outside ourselves. Granted, a state of neutrality and complacency is not the method of being in the moment of which we speak. What this disarmorment is about, is rather, slowly dismantling the feudal estate of fear that we have barricaded our hearts within, as we to live in an un-evolved state that is in essence our own personal spiritual dark ages. Locked in the box of social stigmas and expectations, shining only for our momentary accomplishments and titles but remaining lost and always seeking, endlessly looking for the quick fix that will last forever.

To let love in and let your light shine, we need to tear the walls down and take the heavy curtains off the windows of the soul. This takes place over a course of time and does not need to occur all at once. The most important thing is to first recognize that there is a heavy layer of protection disguised as our identity that needs to be released. Our attachment to this role in this earth plane is very limiting to the eternal nature of the soul within. Shedding these layers is part of our metamorphosis into the butterfly of our free spirit. Lovingly let the layers come off, shed the skin and bring out the new life. We must stop over identifying with the former or contrived self and carry it upon us as a heavy yoke. Drop the sack of rocks and chain mail and run free in a state of primitive naturalism, become a free spirit and exude the nature of who you are in a natural way.

It is funny but look around and then at yourself. Are you wearing a costume, am I wearing a costume? Who is there beneath the need for Respect, and need for Adoration? Who is there that may be really happy to just be free and joy filled. These large shoes we have been wearing are too hard to fill. Walk barefoot in this life. Liberate the person within. The spirit that existed with hope before years of conditioning about who you are supposed to become clouded the truth about who you are.

Join me friends and take a loving and compassionate look deep into your eyes and the eyes of others and see beyond the illusion and the charade. Let’s tear down the Berlin wall between us and our fellow man, and most importantly tear down the fortress of fear that keeps us from seeing the true nature of ourselves.

Namaste Friends