Developing a Daily Practice


Lorin Roche, PhD

You can develop a daily practice by answering the call of the sutras you love. Respect the power of your love. It is powerful to spend even one minute being in the presence of what you adore. Show up and dive in.

Be playful. The word lila (pronounced leela) is Sanskrit for play and amusement, and the sense that the universe has been manifested as an act of play by the divine. As you engage with these tantric techniques, give yourself permission to be at play in the universe, in the fields of the Lord, so that you can find your individual path in meditation. Through play, find your way. 

Read a paragraph a day. These tips are designed to be absorbed slowly. Just read one and then lie down, take a walk, go do something else, or meditate. Even one sentence a day is plenty.

Explore and find what you love. When you find something you love, linger with it. Rest with it. Cozy up to it. Bond with it. Nest with it. Take it out to dinner. Court it. Let all your instincts come into play – homing, resting, nesting, bonding, courting, mating, feeding, sleeping, dreaming, protecting, communing.

Be restful. Ease and naturalness are qualities you want to begin and continue with. Play and rest are instinctive.

Be gradual. Allow yourself to gradually become familiar with a sutra. Notice where in your body you respond to the images and sensations the text evokes. And when you practice, delight in the gentle and gradual progression from the outer level of experience to the interior, intimate levels. This may take only a few seconds, but it’s gradual. The text uses the word śanais, quietly, softly, gently, gradually.

Meditation is sambhava, intimacy with what you love about life. Love calls our attention and engages us. Life is a mysterious, self-renewing process. The techniques of meditation are ways of paying attention to the ecstasy of the life force at play, renewing bodies and souls. The practices of meditation are the skills of being intimate with some aspect of the life force. Life’s rhythms and pulsations of renewal give rise to an infinite number of meditative techniques. Brains have waves, hearts pulsate, breath oscillates, the senses vibrate. Sambhava is “being or coming together, meeting, union, intercourse, especially sexual intercourse, cohabitation. Finding room in, being contained in. Acquaintance, intimacy.”

Learn by heart. When you find something you resonate with, memorize it. Learn it by heart. In this way, you can close your eyes and let it roll through your awareness. Remembering is smara, loving recollection.

Be succinct. After you have learned a sutra by heart, feel into what is the most wonderful word or phrase for you, today. When you say or think that one or two words, the whole sutra will be there vibrating. There are times when shorter is better. You can select an English or a Sanskrit word or phrase, welcome it into your awareness, and cherish it.

Learn three words. You can memorize just three words of a sutra – often that’s all you need. If they represent something you love, those words are a signal to your body & mind that it is okay to shift into love mode. Let’s rest in our love of life for a minute and soak up some nutrition.

Learn what effortlessness is. When you allow your attention to be called to something you love, the flow is effortless. Effortlessness is a great skill, and emerges spontaneously from operating in accord with your essence, your essential nature or prakriti. Effort only comes in when you try to block out thoughts, sensations, or emotions.

Ask your inner wisdom to lead you. There are many ways to explore the sutras. One is just to read them once in awhile and let them influence your pranashakti in the background. Another way is to develop a relationship with one of the sutras, and spend some time with it on a regular basis. You can ask your inner wisdom to lead you to the right sutra, and to teach you the most useful way to play with it.

When you find something you love, cherish it. You can think of meditation as just being with something you love, breathing with it for a couple of minutes, letting the energy of it soak into your skin and breath, feeling the texture.

Welcome mind wandering. When you find something that interests you, your attention will become engaged with it for a moment or a minute, then go off journeying around. Then you will “come to” and remember you are meditating. This is the basic rhythm of attention. Accept it, and you will notice you come back refreshed. All that mind wandering is part of the healing.

Ebb and flow. Going and coming. Appreciate and accept the alternate ebb and flow of your experience as an aspect of life’s wisdom. Ebb and flow is rhythmic alternation, as in the breath flowing in, turning, and flowing out. The tide comes in, turns, and it goes out. A sensation in your body appears, gets stronger, then turns into something else, and fades away. Yātāyāta us "going and coming. Ebb and flow." The first three a’s are long, yātāyāta would be pronounced yaataa yaata (if you wanted to be cute.)

It’s okay to come and go. It’s not unusual for someone to decide, “Today I am going to start meditating,” and sit once, then suddenly conceive an intense desire to clean out all the closets, redecorate the house, take up ballroom dancing, sailing, or archery. Two months or years later they return. In-depth interviews always seem to indicate that the person was absolutely correct, and whatever they did cleared something out or strengthened a mental skill they need in order to be able to thrive in meditation.

Get into Hmmmmmm . . . This text begins with the Goddess wondering. She is listening to the love song of energy and consciousness, Shakti and Shiva. And she sets out to get her famously reticent man to come out of his man-cave and play. Our instruction in meditation always begins with wonder, with our inquiry, and hmmmmm is the mantra for this. This is a sound people make spontaneously when wondering. You could even use hmmmmm or hum as a mantra for years. In reality, all the teachings are contained in the question, in hmmmmm. It is okay to stay in wonder, keep an open mind, stay in the inquiry.

Get into O. O means open, all-embracing awareness. There is always a secret OM permeating tantric texts, in the sense that OM means YES, the primordial vibration of enthusiasm that permeates the universe and your body. O is open awareness. Occasionally in these practices we using awareness as a spotlight, a narrow focus, and if so this will be specified. The default mode is awareness as embrace. You welcome all your senses, all instincts, and all emotions, at all levels of your being, from the most subtle, where you emerge from the primordial hum of creation, to the most obvious. The asana for Open Awareness is to stand or sit with your arms in a circle in front of you - an open circle, with space between the hands.

Get into Ah! and Aha! We make these sounds spontaneously when we discover things, especially things we like. Aaaaahhhh. Whenever you find something that delights you, and find yourself feeling Ah, linger there if you can. Savor the experience.

Linger in Mmmmmmmm. When you come across an experience inside yourself that is like chocolate melting on the tongue, or a perfect hug from a lover, or that feeling of wanting to dissolve into music you love, linger in the mmmmm of that. Another version of Mmmmm is Yum.

Mantras are the spontaneous sounds of delight and wonder. The mantras people make spontaneously when in wonder and delight – Ahh! and Oh and Mmm are the classic sounds used in meditation for thousands of years. The mantra OM is a shorthand for these spontaneous exclamations. These natural sounds are as valid and useful as any mantras that come from “the sacred traditions.” Where do you think they came from in the first place? The originators of the traditions were brilliant observers and diligent organizers.

Make up your own mantras. For the first two years that you are practicing, consider using your own spontaneous sounds - your innate pranava - if practical. Then go ahead and learn some Sanskrit mantras if you like. But realize everyone thinks they own the truth, and you owe them rent and obedience. Every meditation teaching organization is above all a moneymaking corporation, and a real estate holding company. If they think they own a mantra, then you owe them a nickel every time you think it. What comes from inside is valid.

That which you are seeking is already here. These mantras, of wondering, openness, delight, and melting are the great mantras of all time. It’s not like there are better mantras in India or Tibet. This sense you have of seeking, your inquiry, is a manifestation of a powerful energy of creation, life seeking its source. This path of meditation is a flirtation and courtship of essence and embodiment, of the person you are in your wise self and the person who gets up in the morning and goes to work. It’s a love affair you are having with the mystery of how we manage to be here. All these tools of meditation are flowers you send each other, loving touches you give each other, and tender things you say to each other.

Love calls us to freedom, and love calls us to action. There are two incredibly strong impulses of life which are the power source for meditation. One is the movement toward inner freedom. We could call it muktavartana. (Mukta - loosened, set free, relaxed, open. Liberated, delivered, emancipated + Vartana - setting in motion, quickening, moving forward with life.) This is an unstoppable force, an urge to be free and and ease in yourself and savor the deliciousness of life. The other movement is toward expression in action. We can call this karanavartana. (Karaṇa - the act of doing, making, causing. Clever, skillful + Vartana - setting in motion, quickening, causing to live, moving forward.) So first you want to relax and be free in yourself, then you want to jump up and make things. These are the two cycles of meditation, they often alternate every few seconds, and you want both. It is okay to sit there vibrating with excitement, wanting to jump up, the entire time you are meditating. These two impulses alternate every few minutes whenever you are practicing, but some days you are mostly on one side or the other. As you accept the play of opposites, they become complementary. Meditation can feel expressive, like singing in the shower, and expressing in the outer world feels like relaxation.

The skills of meditation are the skills of loving anyone or anything. Meditation is not a separate set of skills apart from living and loving people, places and things. In your inner life, learn to hold yourself as skillfully as a cook holds a spatula, a cellist holds her cello, a singer holds a note, a mother holds a baby. Think of how lightly, yet firmly, how stable and yet responsive, the holding is in each situation. This is what the skills of meditation are like, but subtle in that you are holding and releasing thoughts, emotions, sensations and perceptions.

Give yourself inner freedom. This is an act, a decision you can make. The first freedom is to realize I can be myself, I don’t have to try to pretend to be someone else in order to meditate. The second freedom is just an extension, I can feel whatever there is to feel. (tantra means extension, extending, stretching.) The third freedom is I don’t have to follow instructions. I don’t have to do what anyone else says. I can follow my instincts. The fourth freedom is I can Do Nothing. Each of these can feel like a Revolution, a Declaration of Independence. Giving yourself freedom is an act of power. You can do this anytime, in any breath. And you may need to keep giving yourself freedom as a daily act.

Give yourself surrender. When we give in to our need for sleep, it is a kind of sweet surrender. When we give in to our need for love, it is another kind of surrender. When we give in to orgasm, it is surrender. You might like the words acceptance, ease, relaxation, or just doing what needs to be done. Taking care of life’s needs. Taking it to the next step. Give yourself this quality, whatever you call it. In meditation, you are not surrendering to anyone outside of yourself, you are surrendering to life’s renewing forces, as you do when you fall asleep. *If you want to think of God as outside yourself, that can work, but then take it inside by thinking, “I am surrendering to God’s loving care of me.” The Psalms of David are all about this. “The Lord maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He restoreth my soul.”

Go to parties and witness “The Cocktail Party Effect.” At parties, notice people involved in conversations, how they are able to follow what the other person is saying, in spite of a dozen conversations happening nearby. Do it yourself, get involved in a really interesting conversation and afterwards notice how you tuned out the whole room and were mostly just attending to that one person. Brains do this quite effortlessly when they are interested in something. Go to public places, coffee shops, airports, and watch people reading books, newspapers, email. They are all just happily sitting there reading. No one stands up at the coffee shop and screams to all the other customers, “Everyone shut up. I am trying to read my email here.” In meditation, you do not need to say to the outer world, or to your inner world of thoughts and emotions, “Shut up, I am trying to meditate.”

Transition from work to play. There is a tendency to make meditation into whatever your work is. This is called a “Busman’s Holiday,” - you make your vacation similar to what you do at work. If you sit at a desk all day looking at a computer screen, a busman’s holiday would be to imagine that is what you are supposed to do in meditation is concentrate on a little invisible screen inside your head. And then feel guilty when your mind wanders. When you notice yourself working at meditation, take a breath. Shift your focus. Be alert for sensations everywhere in your body.

Sleep has stages. So does meditation. During sleep, we cycle through light sleep, to medium sleep, to deep sleep, then dreaming. The sequence and duration changes as we flow through the stages over and over. In meditation, we cycle between relaxation, falling into deep restfulness, then daydreaming, and restlessness, and back again. In the first five or ten minutes of a meditation, this whole cycle is often 20 to 40 seconds, although after going through ten or so of these cycles in the first few minutes of meditation, the cycle often slows down so you get a few minutes to luxuriate in one stage. The fact that the body-mind system like to flow through stages should not bother you any more than that we breathe in, and then breathe out again.

Restfulness allows for repair. During the profound restfulness of dreamless sleep and deep meditation, the body is free to repair its tissues, regenerate, rebuild bone and muscle, and strengthen the immune system. Repair, regenerate, refresh, revitalize. All these R’s lead to the feeling after meditation of being renewed.

Repair hurts a little. During sleep, we are unconscious and therefore don’t feel the pain of repair. During meditation, you are awake and alert and feel everything. Usually the level of pain is less than that of massaging sore muscles.

Find what you love, and go with that. The yoga traditions have given us thousands of different meditation practices. Each invites us to attend lovingly to some aspect of prana at play, pranashakti lila. We can breathe as if we are in love, listen to music we love so much we want to dissolve, or dance until we drop. We can even be at the perfect party, with food, music, and lively conversation, and close our eyes and meditate there. Or you can go sit in a cave. Whatever works for you. Each of us has different callings, and these are our gateways into the inner world, the inner adventure, antar yatra.

Activate your love radar, because there are way too many different meditation techniques to explore in a lifetime or even a hundred lifetimes. Each of the techniques mentioned in The Radiance Sutras has at least a hundred variations. It is in the specific modification, the customization, that you will find what works for you. Kevala is “exclusively one's own, not common to others. Alone, excluding others. Not connected with anything else, simple, pure. Selfish. The doctrine of the absolute unity of spirit. The highest possible knowledge.” Kevala is your gateway. It might be sort of similar to someone else’s but it is yours alone. The key to your front door may look sort of like someone else’s, but it works on your door. Their key does not work for you. The Sanskrit gives a key - your path may feel selfish. That is the boundary you have to cross - what actually works for you is so uniquely yours that you have never seen it before in the outside world. It is here in the inner world calling you. The feeling is slightly strange, “Oh, this is me. This is mine.” When you find this, it can feel embarrassing, as if you have turned transparent.

Nature is the adventure. Meditation is an adventure in exploring nature within and around you. Svabhāva is your “native place, your condition or state of being, natural state or constitution, innate or inherent disposition, your nature, impulse, spontaneity.” As you explore any meditation practice, keep a sense of wonder about yourself, “Hmm, is this practice for me? Does it go with my natural impulses? Do I feel free and spontaneous in this practice or is it restricting?”

Yukti is adaptation. Your daily meditation practice is that which helps you to thrive in your inner and outer world. Yukti is “adaptedness, suitableness.” Adapt all techniques – modify and customize them – so that they meet your inner nature and bring out the best in you. And then modify them further so that they help you adapt to the demands of your outer life. For example, twenty minutes of meditation might be perfect for your body and make you clear, rested, alert, relaxed, and as finely tuned as if you just got back from vacation. You can go to work, go through your day, and function at your best. Forty minutes of meditation might make you slightly drunk, as if you have been drinking or smoking pot. Yukti is also prescription, and depends on your innate nature, what your work is, how hard you exercise, how old you are, how sensitive you are to prana, and a hundred other variables. Begin noticing what seems to work for you.

You are already on this journey, and have been since you began breathing. The intention to begin meditating is still exciting. It is okay to feel you are going on a big adventure. It takes a certain amount of knowledge of your innate nature to select a meditation practice that is suitable for you.

Attention releases tension. Relaxation emerges from welcoming your tension. This is like receiving a massage. You feel the tension and release it. Awareness says to the body, “Tell me what you are feeling. Show me. Unburden yourself to me.” As you pay attention, this takes a load off the body. Sāmaprayoga is “the use of friendly words.” Say to every feeling and sensation everywhere in your body, “I welcome you into my awareness. Come, let us heal together. Come, let us practice yoga together. Come, let us move into delight together.”

Stress release is always awful – there is no getting around it. As we relax, we let go of stress, and in the process of letting go of stress, we become aware of what we were stressed about. We review it and release it. In other words, releasing stress is about as pleasant as pulling out thorns. It’s ouch, ouch, and ouch. Then ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. If you have a problem with this, you might move to a different universe, where the laws of nature are different. Here, it seems to be intrinsic. Whenever we relax deeply, the muscles in the body that have been tensed let go, and stop trying to block whatever we are afraid of. Then that fear comes to the front of our awareness to be faced and healed. Meditation is the perfect place to face our fears and release them. This is why it is important to make meditation as luxurious, delicious, and personal as possible. So that you have access to deep relaxation, which inevitably leads to release of stress. It’s a good cycle, because after you have released some stress, the way is cleared for much deeper meditations. If you have a lot of stress release going on, study the Rhythm of Meditation chart.

Stress release is wonderful. As you learn to relax in meditation, your body-mind will gradually bring up everything you are tense or stressed about, and give you a chance to practice staying at ease while thinking of that challenge. If you meditate for twenty minutes, usually half of the time will be spent reviewing and releasing the feeling of stress, anxiety, fear, dread, anger, and sorrow you have about whatever is going on in your life. Afterwards, you feel emotionally cleansed. This is so healing and healthy.

Meditation is surprising. There is no predicting what you will experience from one moment to the next and this is a good thing. You’d think that if you have a busy life, your mind will be noisy during meditation, and if you have a year off, an extended vacation, your mind will be quiet. But it does not work out that way. Sometimes the exhaustion of raising kids, running a business, having a love life, makes you so perfectly tired that meditation is just bliss. And if you took a year off to sit on a hill, your brain might be busy day and night processing your past experiences. There is just no telling. All you can do is prepare your body for meditation, and then accept what arises. And the best preparation for meditation is to live your authentic life, do your work, follow your passions, explore who you are, give everything you can give to each moment.

Don’t make yourself wrong, no matter what. There is no one meditation technique for everyone. There is not even one set of techniques for everyone. In over forty years of listening to meditators report in, I have never met the same person twice. Each practitioner brings a world of previous experience, learning, skills, fears, wounds, talents, and yearnings to meditation. Explore and find what works for you.

Meditation is rich sensuous experience. An intense world of sensation, sound, and imagery awaits us as we allow our attention to be called inward. These are the interior senses - antar indriya: inner touch, inner hearing and inner vision. Also the sva indriyas - self sensing: balance, motion, temperature, oxygen levels, hunger and thirst. It is not that meditation changes anything, actually – this is your inner world. It’s just that you are now tending to it and not doing anything else. As your senses open up to your inner life you will feel background sensations that were always there but you weren’t restful enough to notice.

Love your rhythms. The physical body is a symphony of flows and rhythms and we like it that way. Blood is always flowing everywhere, nourishing every cell, as is prana. The heart pulses about once a second, more or less, and this is one of the fundamental rhythm tracks of the music of life. Breath pulses between flowing out and flowing in every couple of seconds. The body as a whole fluctuates between being oriented toward relaxation and release muktavartana, and action, karanavartana, every so often – every few seconds or every couple of minutes. The skills of meditation have to do with tending to this rhythm.

Sweet moments of silence come as a gift. In the midst of the rhythm, there are delicious moments when it all seems to pause, and you feel incredibly restful. This is a gift. It may last for a second or a minute. Then the rhythm resumes. Don’t think you have failed. And don’t try to impose silence on yourself by suppressing your rhythms, thoughts and emotions.

Cherish the flash of recognition. Pratyabhijñā is a word for this flash of recognition: “to recognize, remember, know, understand. To come to one's self, recover consciousness. To recall to mind. Recognition. regaining knowledge or recognition (of the identify of the Supreme and individual soul).” Sometimes a flash of recognition happens in a second or less. An instant. And nothing is the same after that. There may be a tiny tingle in the top of your head, the base of your spine, or in the spaciousness of your heart. That tingling energy may be accessible to you forever after, or you may need to practice the full spectrum of yoga - asana, pranayama, and meditation, to keep tuned enough to sense it.

There is no time limit. In this approach to inner yoga, there is no set time limit on what “practice” is. With some of these sutras, to just be aware of them for a few seconds is a practice. You might glance at a sutra and your day feels subtly different. A phrase from a sutra may roll through your awareness while you are walking, and something inside you wakes up. Sometimes this awakening is permanent. You recognize an aspect of your own experience and connect with it. The brain works that fast. With other practices, you will probably want to give yourself a good half hour, so that you have 5 minutes to just settle in, and 10 minutes at the end to reorient to your busy life and get your to-do list together.

Don’t do too much. Don’t spend too much time with your eyes closed. If you have set aside half an hour for practice, you have maybe twenty minutes of immersion in your experience, that’s plenty. That is a full dose, and in general, do not do more until you have tested for a year and are sure you can handle it. Meditating too much opens up your senses - you take in more information and become more sensitive. You can become too dilated. For a healthy practice, you always want to balance sensitivity and strength, openness and the the ability to put up shields and boundaries.

Yukti means suitableness and adaptation, as well as skillful practice, connection and union. What is suitable for you may be toxic or a waste of time for your best friend. It’s an individual prescription, like what balances your hormones, your eyeglass prescription, or what shampoo works with your hair type. Back in the day, two or three students would live with the teacher for twenty or thirty years and they would figure it out. These days, you have to develop good, strong instincts to know what you need in meditation and to supervise yourself. Make sure that your meditation practice enhances your adaptation to your outer life, and that it enhances your ability to work, love, rest and play. I know many people who have done the wrong type of meditation for who they are, and have damaged their ability to work, love, sleep, and play.

Study adaptation in all its glorious forms. Develop a set of friends who are well adapted to their lives, and they will help you stay tuned. This does not necessarily mean people who practice yoga and meditation. Be on the lookout for people who are good at laughing and seeing the humor in life; who are good with children, good with dogs, good with horses, good at cooking, good at working, good at playing, traveling, and putting on parties. Spend time with old people and listen to them reminisce. Spend time with babies and watch them learn.

The Path of Intimacy is intense. For those of us who are not nuns or monks, meditation or antar yoga is prāṇadhāraṇa - support or maintenance or prolongation of life. The whole practice of meditation is here to support our outer life in the world, by giving us access to the riches of our inner world. We take a bath in prana, put ourselves on the healing massage table of prana, and let ourselves be worked on for half an hour, then we jump up and go at it and take care of everyone.

Meditation is intense emotional experience. When you close your eyes to attend to your inner world, often you’ll feel bombarded with all the emotions you did not have time to feel during the day or days previously. This is not a problem, it’s the way it’s supposed to be. When you are feeling anger, hurt, dejection, disappointment, sorrow, distress, guilt, fear, disgust, contempt, acceptance, love, adoration, joy, surprise, delight, tenderness, wonder and happiness, it just means you are “in your heart” – in your interior. If you block emotions, then you will create meditation to be a repressive environment and you will not be learning. You do not have to do anything to any emotion other than pay attention. The emotions will teach you about themselves.

Take the pressure off. Do not put pressure on yourself of any kind, ever, during meditation. No pressure to perform, no pressure to be good, no pressure to meet the mark. That is not skill. That is making meditation be like work. Part of the healing effect of meditation comes from having a relaxed attitude. You are, in a sense, too lazy to repress anything. You are at ease so you just welcome any feelings or sensations when they come knocking at your mental door. When uncomfortable sensations arise, you just feel ‘em and release ‘em. This is what lowers your blood pressure lower during meditation, also. Some people have neurogenic hypertension, resulting from a lifetime of repressing emotions. The way though this is to just don’t bother to repress anything during meditation. Repression is hard work, harder than facing things. Welcome all thoughts, welcome all emotions, and select a focus for meditation that is so much fun, so relaxing, that you want to return to it.

Be tender toward yourself. A central part of the skill set of tantra is being tender toward all you are experiencing – all your questions, wondering, inquiries, doubts, emotions and sensations. The root word -tan changed to -ten as it made its way West, and so our word tender is actually derived from the same root as tantra. They are cousins.

Keep coming back to sensation. Often there is a sensation in the body, or a set of sensations, that go with particular emotions, as well as mental movies and remembered conversations. When you have a chance and when the intensity of the emotional drama lessens, find the feeling in the body at the basis of the emotion and just be with it, breathe with it.

The vacation effect is challenging! Say that you are working and know you have a vacation coming up. The first thing that happens after the excitement is the additional stress of getting ready to be gone for a week or two. You may feel the urgent need to clean everything up, get the projects prioritized, the bills paid, train the other people to cover your job for you, start packing. Get immunized and get visas. Life is harder for weeks prior to the vacation, because of this additional pressure. Additionally there is the time spend making arrangements and paying for things. So there is task pressure and time pressure. Then there is the travel and waiting. And waiting. Finally you get to your vacation destination. Maybe you are far away, on the other side of the world. Maybe you are sitting on the beach with a drink in your hand. And what comes to mind? Some problem back at the office. Or you wonder how the dog is. It takes a couple of days to actually arrive at the vacation destination. Your body is there but it takes your mind and heart awhile to catch up. Then you really arrive, and get a few days of rejuvenation. Then about two or three days before you have to return home, thoughts of the unresolved problems or issues at home and work start to come up. Your mind-body system is gearing up to deal with the stress of the return. This is why researchers - yes, there are researchers who study vacations - says that the happiness of a vacation is actually in the anticipation – vacations themselves are lots and lots of work, physically and emotionally. When you develop a daily meditation practice, what you are doing is giving yourself a vacation at 6 in the morning and 5 in the evening, or whenever your time slots are. You take on the challenge of the vacation effect, and can get good at it. You are giving yourself a vacation every day for half an hour, or whatever amount of time you give it. Much of the challenge of meditation is actually the vacation effect.

About half your meditation time may be spent just paying off your sleep debt and emotion debts. Many of us have a sleep debt, an emotional-processing debt, a nature debt and a doing-nothing debt. The sleep debt is because of this marvelous invention, electricity. Before electricity, people slept much more than they do now. The sun set and that was it. There was no TV, no iPads, no computers. We do not have as much quiet time as our ancestors did, so we have an emotion debt. We don’t have that endless span of time just to feel things. Also, we don’t spend hours a day just walking in nature. Because modern life is so wonderfully organized, we do not have the natural meditations built-in. When we take up yoga and meditation, much of our time is spent making up for our sleep deprivation and quiet time deprivation. This is okay, it just is what it is. So don’t be concerned if you fall asleep in every meditation for the first six months, or if it feels totally strange to be doing nothing. The other debt is the “being in nature with no thoughts” debt. After you have paid off the other debts, there is the magical experience of just taking a walk along a city street, in a park, forest, hillside, wherever you are - and communing with nature with your whole body. Whenever you are meditating and it feels like you are just paying attention to exhaustion, difficult sensations, weird emotions, or you feel like nothing is happening, it’s okay. This is what it’s like to catch up with yourself and pay off your debts and even pay it forward. It’s a wonderful feeling to be free of sleep debt and emotional debt, and be available for life. Freedom is mukta. The urge toward freedom is one of your strongest impulses and as you get the feeling of paying attention and freeing yourself, a joy will carry you.

You will forget you are meditating. Depending on how busy you are in your life, most of your time during meditation will be spend in what feels like daydreaming. You won’t even be aware you are meditating - you will be totally lost in planning, making lists, and thinking about the kids, cat, dogs, weather, husband, wife, friends. Then after some cycle of time you will come to and realize, “Oh, I’m sitting here meditating! What time is it?” Be very gentle and cheerful with yourself at this point. This is the moment of RETURN. You will do this thousands of times a month if you have a daily practice, so it is essential you be elegant, gentle, and effortless in the return. If you have chosen a good mantra, (tool of thought), you love the mantra. It represents what you love. So you will return to it with love, when you have the opportunity. Meditation is this whole cycle of selecting a focus, being immersed in it, forgetting it, daydreaming and feeling your life, then returning to the focus. Thinking that meditation is only inner silence is like thinking that lovemaking is orgasm. Just hurry to orgasm. This is the teenage boy view of the world. Not very interesting. Embrace the whole cycle and be tender.

You will never experience the same thing twice. Not even in the same sitting. The texture of your meditation experience will change every moment. You have dozens of senses giving you millions of bits of information every second, dozens of instincts and emotions, all playing out in billions of brain cells and trillions of neuronal interconnections. So no, this is not Disneyland and you can’t take the same ride twice. The whole thing is ever-changing and that is what is so interesting. Once you get this, the problem is no longer, how do I get myself to meditate? How do I make myself meditate? The problem becomes how do I leave meditation. Meditation becomes better than TV and movies and novels, because you don’t know what is going to happen next and you want to find out.

Yukti means union, practice, and skill. The union aspect is creating a context in which all of you — all your disparate parts, can come together and work out their relationship. Practice means you show up for yourself. Skill points to the idea that there are teachable and learnable skills that you can bring to your inner yoga. As you practice these skills, you become more and more light-handed, like a rider who is so in tune with her horse that she just thinks, let’s go right, and the horse senses what she wants and goes there. Learning the skills of meditation is joyous. Day by day you learn how to enter restfulness no matter how noisy your head is, no matter how tired you are, no matter how lengthy your to-do list is. You learn to meditate for a few minutes for a quick refresher, and you learn how to give yourself a full vacation in half an hour. You develop a whole tool kit for dealing skillfully with your life.

Allow yourself to rest in the truth of your being. When you are attending to a sutra, one that speaks to you, there will be waves of exhilaration and restfulness. Both will evolve – your power of outward expression of your truth, and the power of resting in your being. Over time, as you learn to rest in your essence, a special, almost magical kind of meditative rest will develop. This aspect of the physiology of meditation has been researched extensively at Harvard Medical School and other universities over the past 40 years - look at lorinroche.com, in the Benefits of Meditation section. Meditative rest is a type of rest deeper than deep sleep.

Wandering minds head toward AHA. On the Path of Intimacy, daydreaming and mental excursions are part of meditation. The brain has a lot of work to do updating its maps of the outer and inner world. Encountering the world within, all those inner riches, gives the brain and mind even more to chew on. So welcome all random thoughts and cheerfully return to whatever your chosen focus is without feeling you have failed. The skill to practice is to allow yourself to become interested in the focus again - whatever mantra you have chosen (mantra means tool of thought) - and allow your love for the mantra to call you to engage with it again. Welcome the rhythm of enjoying your “official” focus for meditation, then wandering off into sensations, images, or conversations, and then returning. You can think of this as mental housecleaning; it is noisy while you are doing it, but afterwards everything is much cleaner and you can see out the windows with clarity.

Take naps. If you have been doing yoga and the sutras for awhile, your body will tend to enter deep repose when you take a nap, or just lie there and sort of catnap or “savasana nap.” There is often a meditative quality to the dozing, as well as a feeling of being drenched in rejuvenation and healing.  Practicing tantra involves attending to the silent currents of your life force on deep levels of awareness, and you will just fall asleep if you have any fatigue in your system. It is almost not possible to be rested enough to do these practices unless you let meditation carry you into deep repose. 

Be gradual. Begin with a few seconds of practice. Over days, learn to stay for a minute or two. Get used to enjoying yourself. 20 minutes of meditative rest is very powerful. Spend a year or two getting used to the effects of meditating for 20 or 25 minutes in the morning and evening, before going longer. This is individual, though: if you are teaching yoga or doing healing work, you may find that you need to meditate more, to keep your energy field shimmering. 

Ride your rhythms. When you practice these sutras, there will always be flow and fluctuations in the pranashakti. Your experience will change second-by-second, with many sensations, emotions, mental pictures, remembered conversations, dreamlike thoughts, desires, and energy sensations coming and going. The waveless state usually lasts only a second or two. Welcome it all, then return to your focus in an effortless way.

Welcome the adventure. Yogis often go through an entire cycle of adventure – the Call, Refusal of the Call, Crossing the First Threshold, The Road of Trials, Meeting the Mentor, Seizing the Elixir, Resurrection, and The Return – in 60 seconds. Every minute a new adventure. 

The rhythm will call you.Go. One sensuous rhythm you are invited to be aware of is your breath. Just sigh, as if you are exasperated, or disgusted, or tired or relieved. Do this a few times. That is a way of going with a rhythm. While meditating, you may notice a rhythm of being attracted toward restfulness, of setting in, and then all of a sudden you find yourself feeling restless and wondering what time it is. This is a cycle of resting --- activation and both parts of the cycle are good. Welcome them and don’t think that sitting there feeling excited is a failure to meditate. In that moment you are meditating on excitement. It’s okay to feel the urgent need to jump up and go do things. Another rhythm is that of feeling restful, then excited. You may notice this every few minutes. Utter relaxation, restless excitement, and everywhere inbetween are part of meditation. Welcome them.

Signs of successful meditation. You fall fast asleep. You fall into bliss. You think thousands of thoughts. You run through your to-do list over and over. You daydream the entire time. You go on a vacation inside yourself. You cry the whole time. You burst out laughing and can’t stop. You vibrate with eagerness to jump up and go do things. You fall into the center of the Earth. You become aware of your hurts and wounds. Signs of failure in meditation. You interpret any of the above as failure in meditation. You reject your own experience.

Cultivate the opposite. If you are in love with one side of a polarity – outside ∞ inside; dancing ∞ stillness; visual ∞ tactile, passion ∞ serenity,  wildness ∞ peacefulness, freedom ∞ discipline, independence ∞ communion – begin to inquire into the joy of the opposite, which will arise anyway. Yoga flows between the opposite polarities – breathing out and breathing in, turn toward the left then turn toward the right, bend forward then bend back. Train yourself to think in terms of the balance between opposites, and the continuum of energies flowing between the poles. Tolerating the play of opposites (dvandvas) is called tapas in yoga, and is a niyama.

Honor your individuality, for it is a great mystery. Every body has a different style of engaging the forces of life as they flow through the nadis, chakras and muscles. The song Bhairava and Devi are singing to each other is one of intimacy with energy. These practices lead to an intensification of our relatedness with life pulsating within and around us. Cherish the differences between you and others, for intimacy is based on an appreciation of differences as well as commonality. 

Develop expression commensurate with your communion. Learn to express yourself from inside your ecstatic energy flows and sacred spaces. Otherwise the energies you have awakened will just ache. Expression takes the form of movement of all kinds,  including dance, sports, and voice, speaking from inside the current of your passion. This is mudra and mantra.

Be tender toward your wounds, and all you feel is flawed in yourself, broken or defective. As the text says, our wounds and flaws are also gateways to infinity. Allow the life-giving prana to circulate freely in your being and body, and heal the places you are ashamed of, the places that ache.

Check in with your child. Take time to daydream about your childhood quiet times, your forts and secret places, those times when you spoke to the sky and earth, for you were natural and untamed then.

Use all your senses. You have a dozen senses, maybe more. Vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, plus senses of joint position, balance, motion, muscle stretch, lung inflation, blood pressure, hunger (blood sugar), thirst (hydration), and perhaps magnetoception (the ability to sense magnetic fields). Each sense is a way of being in contact with the vibrating, pulsating field within which we are dancing. Learn all your senses, practice using them, engage with them in pranayama, asana, dharana, dhyana, and daily life. Become intimate with the full range of each sense and delight in the nuances and combinations. Look at www.meditation24-7.com for notes.
 
Balance Sensitivity and Strength. Yoga meditation practices  generally have the side-effect of opening up the senses and intensifying the energy flows through and around the body. As you become more perceptive, you need to develop the strength to handle the extra amount of information you are receiving. Focus on physical, emotional, mental, and ethical strength, one-by-one and simultaneously. 

Get elemental. Space, fire, air, earth, water, are the general tattvas or elements. Develop your own playful and informal relationship with each element as it pulsates in the outer world and within you. With each element, learn to be nourished, inspired, supported, healed, strengthened and purified. These are all instinctive qualities. Learn to rest in the embrace of each. In this way, your body, your perception, and your spiritual practice will be continually refreshed. Let each of your senses delight in each of the elements, in every instinctive tone and emotional mood.

Honor the no. Not all of these practices are for every body. The Radiance Sutras is an encyclopedia of yoga meditation technique. Some will call you to come in and play. Some will be scary. Others will just not feel like you – feel free to simply ignore them. Saying no is a kind of bandha, and it creates a container, a boundary, leading to the possibility of a profound yes at some other time. A healthy relationship includes the freedom to say “No, not right now.”

Welcome your emotions. To the degree that you open your heart to life, you will feel flooded by emotions of all kinds. Each emotion is a world of energy flows and sensations throughout the body. Some of the major moods described in the literature include laughter (hasya), erotic love or lust (rati), sorrow (soka), anger (krodha), enthuasiasm (utsaha), fear or terror (bhaya), disgust (jugupsa), astonishment (vismaya). We can see these emotions as a color wheel, a mandala; each one has its place and its gift to give to the vibrancy of life. In meditation, you will tend to move through these rasas in a sequence that is unique to you in this moment. You may find yourself flowing from one to the other every fifteen seconds. These are described in wonderfully intricate ways in the traditions of Indian dance and theater. I have simplified the theory and practice.

Experience life as art. In meditation, whatever is happening, you are invited to experience the rhythms and textures of life as art. Even your struggles at work or at home are a form of the eternal myths. Sita, in the Ramayana, has to raise her two sons alone because Rama banished her. He suspected her of having had sex with her kidnapper during the time of her captivity. If The Ramayana performed on stage is art, then your life is art, if you perceive it that way.

Cherish nuance. Blue light oscillates at around 600 trillion times a second; red light - “only” 400 trillion times a second. Green light is in-between, in the 500 range. Yet we can easily perceive the difference – our senses have evolved to notice and utilize the various frequencies, all these tiny wiggling energies. We sense nuances of emotion – worry, regret, discouragement, envy, weariness, depression, anxiety, grief, shame, agitation, despair, impatience, and indignation. Nuances of lust, love, adoration, admiration. Some are fleeting, lasting a fraction of a second, others demand your attention for a long time. Noticing emotion may involve detecting many processes within the body and around the body – we are simultaneously gauging our hormonal and muscular situation, along with assessing what is going on in our outer world. We interpret all this and attempting to shape prana to respond to the life situation. Be inviting, accepting, and friendly toward your moods in all their varieties. Each is a form of the life force, prana, as it flows. 

Welcome emotional release. Developing an intimate relationship with the energies of life is like any relationship – you laugh and you cry. Therefore, welcome thoughts and emotional release as an intrinsic part of the process. Crying and laughing may not seem “meditative,” but they are cleansing, nourishing, and rejuvenating, and are signs of a healthy meditation. The heart, the nadis, the chakras get to reboot themselves, start afresh. Chronic muscular tension blocks the flow of prana and emotion in the body, and as you let go of that tension, you may find you have a backlog of emotions to tend to. Get good at this tending. If it’s all too wild, work with a mentor who is an adept at emotion. 

Savor your emotional experience. When we attend to the flow of emotion with the skills of yoga, there is the possibility of transmutation – the raw experience of life becomes refined. Erotic energies lead to a lovemaking between body and soul. Angry energies turn to the element of fire. Sorrow leads to compassion. Humor leads to levity, a light heart. Even the most base emotions, when we engage with them as yogis, can turn to gold. We extract the essence, the juice or rasa of experience and bliss, ananda, emerges. Attending to the energy flows in the body is similar to witnessing a movie, play, or dance performance: you are witnessing the play of life as you. There is an inner theater. As you cherish your experience in this way, you can spend more time in wonder, awe, and peacefulness.

Write your own sutras. Give yourself the opportunity to speak and write from inside your own current of perception. There is a flavor, a style of sensing the energies of life that is unique to you, and your world needs it. 

 Learn how to be consistent. What this means is different for each of us. Consistency may mean you practice every day, or twice a day, or four times a week. We have to fit yoga and meditation time into the rhythm of our day. Once you discover a rhythm of practice that works for you, treat it like an appointment with your inner life.

Ask questions of life. Practicing tantra does not mean imposing techniques upon yourself. The doors of the inner world are like those magnetic latches on cabinets that you touch lightly – then they release and swing out. An attitude of wonder and inquiry is one of the greatest skills you can develop. Cherish your questions, and then be alert to see, feel, and listen to the responses from life. 

Don’t put your enlightenment outside of you – Not in India, in the past, in the future, in gurus, or experts. Honor the revelations that come from your own direct living experience. 

Note the difference between the Path of Denial and the Path of Intimacy. In the past, yoga was the domain of males who practiced a particular asana toward life, samnyasana – “throwing down, laying aside, giving up, resignation, renunciation of worldly concerns.” They are called sannyasins. The posture of a sannyasin toward life is characterized by celibacy, detachment, and denial of desire. The ideal is to be poor and homeless, and yet free within. This is the ancient path, and it was profound. In the modern Western world, yoga is practiced mostly by women and men who live in the world and have families and jobs. This is the Path of Intimacy and its posture is in many ways the opposite of sannyas. Those on the Path of Intimacy work with attachment, desire, and responsibility, honoring and embracing each aspect of life – as time, energy, and ethics permit; their yoga evolves though love, work, play, and honoring the bonds of friendship and family. Always practice in accord with your inner nature, whether you are a sannyasin or are on the Path of Intimacy.

Welcome the purusharthas. Your chores (dharma), your sensual pleasure (kama), wealth (artha) and freedom (moksha). Dharma, kama, artha and moksha. Yeah, I know these are goofy words. Puruṣa or purusha is a person, and also the soul, the primordial person and the impulse to be born. Artha is purpose, aim, and meaning, and also wealth. The classic four purposes of yoga are to help us to function better doing our duties and chores in the world, tune us up so we take more pleasure and have more sensual delight in life, help us generate wealth, and develop internal freedom as we live. Having a daily life, family, a job, is not an obstacle to yoga. It’s your context. You know you are doing the right kind of yoga if you are functioning better in all these areas. You daily life is a feedback mechanism to help you fine-tune your practice.

How to clear your desk. If your mind was a desk, there are different ways to clear it. The Path of Denial is to just sweep everything into the trash, then carry the trash to the dumpster. All those bills and letters from friends and family. There. You are done, sort of. Perhaps some of those things were not important, but others, like bills, will just come due with interest and penalties in a month. The basic nature of meditation on the Intimate Path is bill paying, just dealing with your IN and OUT box. That is, if you have a healthy practice that is not based in denial. Thoughts don’t come unless they need a second of your attention, just a tiny blessing. If you have a life, friends and a job, much of your meditation time will feel quite busy just processing thoughts. It’s afterwards that your mind and senses feel clear. Your mental desk is clear because you just spent time sorting everything.

Look at art, listen to music, read poetry, and dance. The arts, including the expressive arts, speak of the sacred, each in its own way. Art educates the senses and leads to a sense of community, of shared revelations with others around the world throughout time. Whenever possible, attend live events, openings and performances, for artists of all kinds are yogis in the sense of being utterly devoted to bringing forth onto Earth the revelation of truth and beauty. Artists seek to articulate, each in their own medium, the resonance of pranashakti in our times, the unfolding revelation. Be in the presence of artists – musicians, singers, dancers, painters. Know that the attention you bring, as a yogi, is a blessing to them, as you listen and watch from a deep place within. 

Get coaching. Get coaching on your meditative practices. I enjoy working with people one-to-one, in person, on the phone, and by email. In this way, we can honor your individual experience. Also, be open to coaching in different domains – the best teacher for you on any given day may be the one who embodies the quality you are craving the most. Your teacher may be a massage therapist, vocal coach, wilderness guide – or an instructor of dance, art, yoga, breathing, surfing, or martial arts. 

Don’t believe your interior monologue. Disempower it by listening without resistance. Almost everyone has an internal critic, or even a group of critics sitting around inside their heads making derogatory comments. “You’re doing it wrong. Ha. I told you that you would fail. You’re too undisciplined. You can never meditate, fool. You should try harder. Your mind is a disaster area.” Your inner voices will study the jargon of yoga and meditation and use it to beat you up: “You should be more mindful. You should be detached and devout. Each time a voice chimes in, you may feel a jab of pain. What to do: go ahead and feel the pain. Each time you listen to an inner critical voice and return to being at ease, you win. Its power over you weakens.

Truth is what works. Don’t impose on yourself instructions that do not work. Just forget everything you have ever heard and start from scratch. Trying harder to make something work just develops bad habits that will interfere with your ability to meditate. You may have read and heard many things about meditation: you have to make your mind blank, you have to sit cross-legged, you have to meditate for half an hour for it to be valid; you have to have a reverent and benevolent attitude, you have to edit your thoughts so they are politically correct, spiritually correct and Dalai-Lama approved. There should be a statue of Buddha or Ganesh somewhere, not a poster of a rock group. Explore and find what “works for me.”

Allow for sorting of experience. Much of your time in meditation will be spent sorting through your life experiences – what happened today, yesterday and tomorrow. If you are a nun or monk, you might have different instructions — maybe it is okay to deny all this and take your mental whip and give yourself a little hit. If you are on the path of intimacy, experience is to be savored.

Allow for learning. Much of what feels like mental and emotional noise is your body-mind system reviewing your experiences and extracting the lessons. The brain is a pattern-recognition system and has a lot to sort.

Allow for unlearning. When you are meditating and are relaxed and at ease in yourself, your brain will bring up whatever experiences you are ill at ease with, so you can become free. For example, if you are afraid of dogs because of a bad experience as a child, your nervous system may still retain that fear. When you see a dog, your heart will race a little. Maybe recently you saw a big dog somewhere, and so now as you are meditating, the image of the dog arises and you feel a little afraid. What they body wisdom is attempting to do is deprogram you, so that you do not have an unnecessary fear response. Dogs can smell the fear on you and see it in your eyes and posture and it makes them afraid of you in turn. Your brain will bring up the image of a dog, the bark of a dog, again and again in meditation until you can experience the thought of a dog and not automatically feel fear. This is uncomfortable, like pulling out thorns, but a relief afterwards. Every day in meditation, most likely, part of the time will be spent in unlearning. If you block this process, then you block part of the healing effects of meditation.

Allow your here-and-now to include the past and future. When world-class athletes are in training, they sometimes are coached to go into a relaxed meditative state and then imagine doing their event. This trains then to be efficient and poised in action. Nervousness is a waste of energy. When you are meditating and you find yourself thinking of your to-do list, that is a form of mental asana flow. Your body is rehearsing going through the motions of your chores. This is happening in the present moment. You are not just seeing a mental movie of the past or future because you can’t visualize an action without your muscles firing, just a little, as if you were doing that action.

Let your meditation focus be what you love – your pranava, your YES to life. Pranava is the nickname for OM and both mean YES. Pra = before, forward, in front, + nava = new, fresh, recent, young, modern. Praise, celebration. If your chosen focus for meditation is something you love, you will tend to return to it as often and joyfully as you can. Whenever your mind gets finished processing a fear, or a plan, or an OUCH-moment that occurred during the day, you will find yourself back in your pranava, your yes to life.

Welcome the adventure. Consider every meditation to be a yātrā, an expedition and adventure. Yātrā - “going, setting off, journey, march, expedition, going on a pilgrimage. A festive train, procession. A feast, festival. Support of life, maintenance. Intercourse. Practice.” You can be excited about meditating and look forward to the challenges. You will be called upon to relax into your greatest fears. You will come face to face with your inner life. You will meet allies you didn’t know you had. You will find peaceful moments right here in the midst of daily life. And it will be a realistic inner peace, because it is not based in denial. You have felt everything and faced everything that needs dealing with, for the moment. And it is always just “for the moment.” Life is an adventure and we are always needing to welcome the next phase of our development. Yukti means, among other things, adaptedness. Our meditation practice is always here to help us adapt to life’s challenges.

Minds don’t wander — they journey. The human body-mind system is a survival machine. It is always processing millions of bits of data each second, coming from the outer and the inner environment. It is not stupid. It is filled with survival wisdom everywhere. Each journey your mind takes, off to daydream, or think about tomorrow’s meeting, or review yesterday’s conversation, is part of the process of learning about what works in your life. Your mind is not something you invented. Your body is not something you created. You are here on this planet inhabiting the collective survival wisdom of a billion years. Every cell of your body is a direct descendant of cells that survived volcanoes, dinosaurs, asteroid impacts. However life was created, whenever it started, all life on Earth is deeply related. And it is very, very smart. You are not at war with life here. You are in delight with life. The urge to be at home in the world, the drive to become one with your essence, the desire for intense relaxation, are some of the most powerful forces in your being. You are riding this power, not denying it.

Witness your inner theater. Much of your time in meditation will be spend reviewing your daily life, sorting through your desires, making plans, having mental conversations with people, and feeling things. In other words, this is exactly like watching a movie, play, or TV show. In witnessing, you get a chance to savor the emotional experience you have been having but didn’t have time to savor. This savoring is rasa.

Savor the emotional texture of your life. One of the meanings of tantra is “texture.” The image is of weaving, in which individual threads are woven together into a fabric or network. When we meditate, we go in to our inner world and pay attention to the texture of what we find there. When meditating, you may have noticed, much of your time is spent feeling the emotional texture of your daily life as it shows up in thoughts, images, mental movies, remembered conversations and sensations everywhere in your body. This is the way it’s supposed to be. You are witnessing the movie of your life from the inside, because you are giving yourself time to savor the nuances, the ebb and flow, the music of your emotions. Awareness is touching the fabric of life, running its fingers along the weave. Say you are doing one of the meditations in this book and it touches your heart. There is a pulse, and something in the heart awakens, comes alive. The next thing that will tend to happen is that you find yourself reviewing the texture of your love life from inside the space of the heart. You will tend to think of everyone you love and you will feel the weave of qualities that make up each particular love – some relationships are erotic, some are friendly, some are competitive, and some are family. As you savor the texture of each relationship – you will experience some play of joy, sorrow, desire, grief, elation, tenderness, wonder, fear, anger and acceptance. If you are actually paying attention, you see and feel that the mix is new each time, the texture is ever-changing, and each moment is new and surprising. Everything is different because you are in your heart. This relishing of experience is called rasa.

Welcome rapid changes. As you tend the texture of your emotional experience, you may find yourself watching a speeded-up version of your life. This seem to be just the nature of attention doing a review, looking at the patterns in the story of your life. Say you are a single mom whose only child, a daughter, has just gone away to college. You’ll be meditating and suddenly be overcome with sorrow as you feel the loss of intimacy and what was the closest relationship of your life. The sorrow turns into pride at how great a person she is, then a bit of anxiety as you feel the impulse to try to protect her from harm. You might start laughing as you recall something she said on the phone. You take a moment to cherish a new emotion, as you recall her speaking to you woman to woman: “Mom, time for you to get a life. You can start dating now. I’m fine.” Now you are immersed in awe and wonder, and a sense of amazement that you realize this is true, she really turned out well in spite of your disastrous relationships with men. A feeling of peace comes over you. You sigh with relief. Now you start thinking of a man you occasionally see in line at the local coffee shop and certain glances you share, and you begin to feel an erotic thrill moving through your body. Each of these emotional tones may last just a few seconds. In a few minutes, you may flow through a whole mini-movie of your life, seeing it from a slightly new angle and feeling it with the added strength of attention you are learning from meditation. If you have trouble accepting the speed of your emotions, watch a lot of commercials on television, go see movies, and make sure to watch all the previews. Commercials are entire movies in 30 seconds. Movie previews are often two and a half minutes, and follow a three-act structure with a beginning, middle and climax. Our brains easily follow all this because the brain is always working this fast. We are absorbing millions of bits of data from our skin, ears, joints, eyes, and senses of smell and taste, and assembling it into a coherent narrative, continually.

Learn names for the emotions. For people on the Path of Intimacy, the emotional and sensuous texture of life is a primary part of the structure of meditative experience. Therefore it can be very useful to develop your own lexicon of emotions, and to continually be extending it. Make sure you can identify the Big Six: joy, sadness, anger, fear, surprise and disgust. Know the corresponding sensations and currents of feeling in your body, and practice spotting them in others. Add to the list as you spot them: the “time to start doing yoga” emotion, or the “time to meditate” emotion, or even the “overwhelmed by social networks” emotion in which a person is confused and scattered from so much imaginary contact with people who are not here. As you get into a daily practice, you will notice fresh emotions emerging in you, or a refreshed quality of emotions you already know: interest, curiosity, delight, and gratitude.

More emotion and mood names: there are the Seven Dwarfs, of course: Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, Dopey and Doc. (Doc is perhaps cold and clinical). Also consider: scared, joyful, powerful, peaceful, mad, sad. Dominant, submissive, excited, sensuous, cheerful, hopeful, bored, lonely, content, thoughtful, intimate, loving, trusting, nurturing. There are bewildered, skeptical, discouraged, pensive, apathetic, remorseful. Each of these may arise as a bodily sensation, a barely-perceptible emotion, and this may feel like an obstacle. But not. Just attend.
Sanskrit has cool names for savoring emotional experience. Compassion is karuna. Laughter is hasya. Amazement is vismaya. Sorrow is soka. Disgust is bibhatsa. Courage is vira. Fury is raudra. Parental love is vatsalya. Fear is bhayanaka. Wonder is adbhuta. Erotic love is shringara. Peacefulness is shanta. The word shanti is now part of the English language - it is in the Oxford English Dictionary, and karuna is in the Merriam-Webster. When you savor your experience, something wonderful happens. An emotion, mood, or sensation that you seem to have been stuck in begins to change. Or it may transform into something completely unexpected.

Keep on modifying your practice to suit your life as it is, today. Customize your meditation practice so that it fits you exactly. You learn this by experimenting, trying things on as you do in shopping for clothes. In modifying the classic techniques to suit your needs, you will be able to pay off your sleep debt and emotional processing debt and move on to savoring the more positive emotions available to you in your life right now.

Don’t defeat your own healing. When you relax, you let go of tension, and when you let go of tension, you experience what caused the tension. You may even re-experience the context you were in, see a movie of it. Your brain + body want to look at that situation and decide, in the here and now, if that chronic tension is really necessary, and are you safe to keep on letting go? As you breathe with the stress, your whole system gets to compute and make a new decision, a fresh assessment. You may experience this dozens of times in every meditation, thousands of times a month. You’ll be all relaxed in meditation, enjoying a breath, sound, touch, energy flow and scritttttttccchhhhh, the feeling + image + remembered conversation of a stressful event will flood your awareness. Just allow this. It is not unique to meditation; it happens while you sleep and dream, and on vacations, whenever the body-mind system decides it’s time for some healing. This seems to be a Law of The Body that is like a law of physics, built in.

Face your fears. Whenever you relax and are at ease, that which you are uneasy about will come to the foreground of your attention to be healed. Usually all you need to do is breathe with it and not try to block it out. Over time, the relaxation will gradually soothe the irritated nerves or the scared parts of you.

It’s always personal. On the Path of Intimacy, give priority to what you love about the elements and the senses. This is very personal to you, and you might even be embarrassed by it. It’s your secret. You might love Radiohead and be bored by Bach, or vice versa. You might not really care about music and mantras and sound in general, but be thrilled by smell and taste. You might love the way meditation lets you feel so at home in yourself, so utterly at ease sitting on your sofa. Or you might love the way meditation feels like traveling, as your senses wake up, everything looks fresh, as if you are in a different life. So go with your natural gateways, build your practice around what you love and the exact things you love, and expand from there. Your taste may change over time, as meditation opens up your senses and gives you the capacity for richer experience.

Everything you think you need to block out . . . is actually the magic stuff of your aliveness. Perhaps a part of you that you haven’t met yet. Most likely, anything you sense you need to block out, “that is not part of meditation,” is the same aspect of prana that you always block out. Often some aspect of survival, sex, power, or love that you had a problem with when you were 5 or 10 or 15. When a quality of energy you have not come to terms with comes knocking at your door, it feels like noise, and trouble. This is a gift of meditation, that you have a safe place to explore yourself.

That mental noise you are trying to block out may be your intuition talking. And you don’t want to listen. This is really challenging and you just have to explore and find out. Some aspects of meditation are like being dropped onto an island in a reality TV show with a bunch of strangers and you don’t know what their agendas are or even what the objective is. You have to explore and find out.

Welcome sudden and surprising second-by-second changes. As you get into the rhythm of meditation, your body will shift through different instincts, sensations, and emotions as needed. Often every fifteen seconds is a different world. In one three-minute period you may feel alternately soothed, excited, scared, excited again, then sexually aroused, fall asleep, dream, wake up refreshed, have a few seconds of profound inner peace, and then wonder what time it is.

Be generous toward the within. A sensation or thought arises because it needs something. Whenever you attention is called to an item, you are called to be a healer and give it space to exist, or light, or the nourishing warmth of blood circulation, or air, or containment and just the right holding; you give it support, or breathe on it and let it disperse. As you gain skills to meet yourself in meditation, you become more and more generous.

Meditation is a sport. Your awareness and your body are responding to each other in micro-seconds, continually, in a dance. You can learn about this in watching any sport. In baseball and cricket, the batter has to read the pitcher’s posture and movements and respond even before the ball leaves her hands. Basketball, water polo, all team sports. Professional dancing, ballroom dancing in which the partners are practiced. In fencing, the opponents are moving quicker than the eye can follow.

Get to know all the instincts as they flow through you in meditation. Exploring, gathering, making trails, returning home, feeding, nesting, resting, mating, singing, these are all natural instincts. This is what prana does. When you are meditating, the whole feeling tone of your experience will shift from seeming like you are on an adventure, exploring new territory in yourself, to feeding, feasting on breath, to yearning to return home, to napping. The instincts are the texture of prana. If there is any instinct you do not express as a free-flowing emotion – sexuality, or anger, or healthy selfishness – then prana, your own instinctive wisdom, will work on that in meditation.

The instincts are the motions of life. Grooming, gossip, eating, socializing. Hunting, exploring, foraging, gathering, making trails, defending your turf, forming alliances, forming bonds of friendship, finding your way home, nesting, mating, sleeping. These words describe patterns of activity that maintain life. Śarīravṛtti - maintenance of the body.

Meditation is a celebration of instincts. Meditation practices are subtle internal correlates of the outer instincts. Grooming the energy body. Listening to the gossip of all the chakras, the energy centers along the spine reporting in to each other and swapping data. Feeding on breath, taking in subtle nourishment from prana, and letting the ears be fed, the soul be fed, by the inner music of mantras. Socializing with the soul. Exploring your inner worlds. Learning how to be at home in yourself.

The instincts you use all the time will hum with exhaustion. If you are a mother with young children at home, you probably work your nurturing, bonding, feeding, and nesting instincts to the point of sheer exhaustion. If you don’t have kids and want to, you may be working your mating instincts to the point of exhaustion. When you go shopping for food, you are exercising your gathering instincts. When you meditate, you will feel fatigue sensations in the areas of your body that you have been using, and the exhaustion, if you simply breathe with it, may sing with relief. Tiredness, when we relax into it, can be the most delicious sensation around. You may feel a different kind of ache in the areas that did not get exercised.

The instincts you are not using may ache with yearning to be expressed. Whether you act on them or not, you have a full complement of instincts inspiring you to explore your environment, gather food, eat, socialize, have a nest, rest, play, form bonds of friendship. The instincts want to be used appropriately. They want to help you survive and thrive. Along the spine are nerve centers, and throughout the body are areas where there are lots of nerves – the hands, the feet, the genitals, the perineum, the belly, the center of the chest, the breasts, the throat, the forehead, the middle of the brain. There are many areas where energy condenses and flows, that are alive with feeling and sensation. When an area of the body is steady-state, you don’t notice it. But when the state changes, energy increases or changes in texture, you will start getting signals - you will feel an ache. When an area has been dormant and begins to wake up, you can have pins-and-needles sensations. Or daydreams or fantasies. And just to complicate things further, sometimes pranashakti likes to just run up and down the scale of your chakras like a piano exercise.

Each instinct is full of wisdom. An instinct is a way of meeting life. And a name we give to the impulses of life maintenance flowing through us. Hunting, homing, mating, resting, nesting, feeding. Protecting the children. When we are moved to cooperate with life, we call that an instinct.

Each sense is a mystery school. Touch, taste, smell, hearing, vision. And also balance, temperature, motion, oxygen sensing. These are not noise to be transcended, they are the path of transcendence. You start with where you are and explore. Your deep desire for adventure, rest, renewal, pleasure and sex will

Don’t sit cross-legged unless you really, truly, honestly are comfortable that way. The world does not need for the veteran meditators and yogis to be limping around.

Don’t close your eyes. Let them close of themselves. When your eyes are ready to close, they will feel heavy and just close and it will be a relief. Otherwise, it is okay to leave them open. There are lots of eyes-open meditations to do if you don’t feel like closing your eyes.

Be suspicious of all meditation instruction. Make your own list of rules you want to impose on yourself, and do it from scratch. Because human beings are so incredibly varied, there are thousands of very different meditation practices.

If you are a rebel, meditate as rebellion. Some people, when given an instruction – their first response is “*%^# you!” Defiance. If you are this way, you don’t have to change yourself in order to meditate. If you don’t like being ordered around, then don’t put yourself in a subordinate position. You don’t need to. No matter how dominant you are, your body has rhythms of moving toward relaxation, and moving towards excitation. Come at yoga and meditation from the inside. You have things you love – colors and sounds and tastes. Give yourself a chance to be with that which you love.

Even if you aren’t a rebel, meditation can feel like an act of rebellion. There is the idea out there in the world that a human being is supposed to be working all the time, or else watching TV. But you can’t just sit there and do nothing. The fact is, meditation is so luxurious that it feels taboo. There must be something wrong about just sitting here in pleasure and restfulness. Breaking a taboo feels like an act of rebellion. Meditation is deeply restful, more so than sleep, so we encounter the taboo against rest. Meditation is pleasurable and is sort of like masturbating, so there is a taboo against pleasure. Meditation is time away from working, so there is the taboo against wasting time. And meditation is svatantra, my own personal school of life. There are taboos against being your unique self and having your own unique thing going on. Welcome the taboos when you encounter them.

What you love will change from moment to moment. When you are in love with someone, you might delight in the way she walks across a room, the sound of her voice, and then the look in her eyes. If you love a piece of music, your attention may be enchanted by the lyrics, then the guitar, then the way the singer reaches down and delivers a note, and then the overall mix. Attention moves. This is part of staying engaged – letting awareness keep on generating interest on a deeper and deeper level.

Don’t impose religion on yourself. Let meditation be its own thing, and you decorate and accessorize to suit yourself. If you are a Christian, you might want to have a Christ-themed meditation, or you may want it to just be neutral and relaxing. Be aware that you have choice and exercise it. There is no reason to be anything other than what you are, and actually your belief is a great ally. The world needs more Christians who meditate and teach meditation. If you want, find the corresponding concepts in the Christian contemplative tradition. Or forget the jargon entirely and just use the 112 techniques as ways of being with Christ. You may be a devout Catholic, but for reasons of your own you prefer that meditation be more of an art, or an indulgence, as if you are sitting on your sofa with a glass of wine listening to your favorite music. You may not want any sense of religious orthodoxy hanging over your head. The same is true if you were born Hindu. It is possible that you want your meditation to be associated with your religion or you might prefer to have it feel like your own thing. I know Hindus that do not want anything Hindu in their meditation - they want it to feel clean, like science. And I know scientists who like a little Hindu flavoring in their meditation. Meditating in someone else’s religion can create a nifty boundary around you that keeps out the stultifying emotions you grew up with that were associated with the religion of your family. Whichever style you use to decorate the inside of your head and your altar, change it every year. Because meditation is something you do every day for up to an hour, it is dangerous to have your access to Christ, or Krishna, or Shiva, associated with any particular lineage. They will try to control you. Meditators are vulnerable to being captured by orthodoxy and told that their meditation is unorthodox and therefore invalid. It happens all the time. There are Western women who have spent decades studying Sanskrit and ancient texts, who know more about some areas than anyone in India - and who are denounced and cursed by orthodox Hindus because they don’t want women to be experts, and they don’t want Americans to claim any knowledge. There are narrow-minded people everywhere.

Don’t let dust accumulate on your altar. Somehow it has become a thing to have lots of statues of Hindu deities and photos of gurus on one’s altar, along with maybe a humorous item, like an action figure of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I love it. All over the world, dynamic young yogis are into the kitsch I had on my altar in 1969. I feel right at home. But knowing these people, I have to say, “Really? Is this really you?”

Don’t mind the housekeeping. If you somehow had several hours a day of quiet time, for a year, then when you approach meditation, you might not have a sleep debt and an emotion-processing debt. And you would settle into deep meditation with very few thoughts. Or not. Because whatever led you to have so much quiet also took you away from people you love. Sometimes, even if you have been on retreat, learning and practicing your unique meditation can be so intimate that it brings up inner challenges. Meditation is a deeper and more intimate experience than sleep.

Life is fast. This is OK. When you close your eyes, sometimes it will seem like there are a thousand thoughts zooming around in all directions. There may be. If so, enjoy the show. The brain is always doing magic and for some reason you are perceiving the psychedelic quality underlying every moment. Inside your head are tens of billions of neurons, talking to each other via a network of trillions of electrical and chemical connections. It’s a continuous hum of connectedness, processing millions of bits of sensory data every second. People often think one thought per second, some studies indicate, but a thought is actually made up of thousands of little perceptions. If you think of your lover or your favorite city, that thought is made up of thousands of little perceptions.

You have time. Unless there is some pressing need, you can learn to meditate by practicing a few minutes a day and building skills, and then as you internalize the skills, lengthen your meditation time up to twenty or twenty-five minutes. In general, don’t go out in big surf, until you have the skills to dive under the waves. It is more useful to practice skillfully than to practice a long time. What often happens when you meditate is you just embed the habits of resting, straining, blocking, and judging yourself.

Know the tones of attention and move toward awe. If you want to dismantle something, pay attention to it with cold scrutiny. If you want something to thrive, pay warm loving attention. When you are meditating, you are in charge, and there is a whole selection of tones to choose from. On the chilly side there is: skepticism, clinical examination, intellectual dissection, deconstruction, neutral observation, dispassionate witnessing, and detached watching. On the warm side there is affectionate noticing, loving embrace, spacious acceptance, gentle encouragement. Which tone you pick depends on your path through life. If you are a monk or nun and want to dry up, kill your sexual desire and kill your sense of self, stay with clinical examination. If you are on the Path of Intimacy, stay on the warm side. The attitudes you hold will shape the flow of prana in the body, and seep into your skin and blood, affecting your hormones. In daily life, you need all and need to be able to switch in a heartbeat – you might be listening to your child and the phone rings and it’s a telemarketer. While you are meditating, you are paying attention to the relationship of your body and the forces of life. The intimacy of your love affair with prana.

Your to-do list is Dharma, Kama, Artha and Moksha. Accept it and let it flow through you. You’ll get used to it, having the intricate choreography of your daily life, what you need to do and did, want to do and might do, being rehearsed in your awareness as you meditate, as you sit there all relaxed. This is good.

Thoughts are not a problem. In spite of what you may have heard - thousands of times - thoughts are not a problem in meditation. Just welcome your to-do list and your anxiety and excitement about each item. This is a decision you make.

Don’t resist when your problems come to awareness to be healed. When you are meditating and have some sense of safety and relaxation, whatever you are tense about will come to the foreground of your awareness to be tuned up – the bodymind system wants to have just the right amount of energy for each aspect of your life. Nature loves elegance. Often, what is needed is to release excess tension, and convert fear and anxiety into excitement.

Get more sleep. Most of us are sleep deprived to some extent, and have a sleep debt of a few hours or a few hundred hours. See what you feel like if you get an extra half an hour a day of sleep. Also, protect your sleep time, make your bedroom a temple, a sanctuary for sleeping and sex, nothing else.

Take sensuous walks. Go out and wander around just to explore with all your senses awake. As you walk, orbit through the senses: now I am smelling the air, now I am hearing the sounds all around, now I am feeling the touch of the weather on my face and my skin, now I am enjoying the sensations of motion, now I am appreciating the colors I see, now I am feeling the flush of oxygen circulating, now I am feeling the heat generated by my body, now I am feeling my knees and arms in motion. Or you could use seeing hearing smelling moving as a kind of inner mantra. Most of us have a shortage of quiet time, so wandering for an hour a day is good therapy.

Let it be Halloween or Mardi Gras if you want. There is a place for historical re-enactment, parties, and costumes. Cosplay (costume play) is brilliant, genius. If you like, dress up to meditate. Or, with a thought, pretend to be a character. Be Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, Magneto, The Torch, Invisible Woman, to meditate, or a yogi from 5000 years ago, or a Tibetan Dakini, a Japanese Zen adept. Accessorize to suit. For some people this is a gateway and so much fun that it’s impossible to describe. A character from a modern comic book is much more likely to be a match for your subconscious than a myth from the other side of the world. Another good thing about Cosplay is that you are called to select your own character out of a huge variety. By actively making a choice, you are exercising your preferences. This makes you strong in your inner world and lets you call the shots. This gives some immunity to the stultifying effects of ancient religion and orthodoxy. Meditators who do not exercise choice are often taken over unawares by the ancient archetypes and sucked into the worst aspects of the past. Exercising your imagination can be an invaluable tool at the beginning, middle, and advanced stages of meditation. You want to decorate your inner world with what you love. And it can feel playful. Play is the most neglected instinct in the whole world of meditation and yoga.

Let each style have its own integrity. If you love Vipassana, there is no need to change anything. You can dance, or immerse yourself in your love of poetry if you do Vipassana. If you love some style of yoga meditation, the same. The different styles of meditation are as distinct as ping-pong, tennis, badminton, and water polo. They all involve a net and a ball. Somehow you move the ball around. The physical skills of each are somewhat different. Use whatever you get from The Radiance Sutras to support your practice.

Bring your own technique. If you know how to slip between the worlds, to shift from the physical and obvious to the subtle to the atomic, (sthula-suksma), then you can do any technique - Christian, Buddhist, Taoist, Yoga, with any sense - breathing or mantras or visualizations - and find transcendence, once you learn how to use its specific sensory pathways. The most awake people I have ever met have been, variously, Zen practitioners, Kundalini yogis, self-taught meditators, Christian meditators, people who took a lot of acid many years ago, surfers and Tai Chi adepts. The great unknown is what techniques work for what specific person. No one knows you like you do.

The Radiance Sutras is not one style of meditation, it is a cookbook for developing your style. But even in the 112 techniques, each of which has a hundred modifications or variations, there is a certain style overall. Each of the major meditation traditions - Tibetan Buddhism, Japanese Buddhism, Cambodian Buddhism, yoga, has hundreds or thousands of variations. Even one specific teacher may vary every few years, so there is Guru-ji circa 1050 and a completely different Guru-ji circa 1070.

If you don’t want to meditate, you are right. If you find yourself resisting meditation, check to see if you are not making it into some kind of prison. Meditation is often taught as an inner prison, and that might not be your cup of tea. If so, just drop that idea. Think of meditation as a luxurious time of doing nothing, a sin. A delicious indulgence.

Practice in freedom if this is your nature and your calling. Your own system is svatantra. Sva (one’s own) Tantra. (system) - “self-dependence, independence, self-will, freedom, one's own system or school, one's own army, free, uncontrolled.” Svātantrya - “following one's own will, freedom of the will, independence." Moksha (mokṣa) “emancipation , liberation, release from, release from worldly existence or transmigration, final or eternal emancipation. Setting free , deliverance (of a prisoner). Loosing , untying (hair).”

People who quit meditating are right. What they quit doing was the wrong type of meditation for who they are now. Meditation changes us. We get fulfilled. The person we were when we started has perhaps gotten the particular healing she needed. Time to move on into a different form of meditation. Sticking with the type of meditation you began with can be like sticking with training wheels, or the shoes you wore when you were 8 years old.

Be gracious toward your inner voices. When you meditate, your inner voices don’t actually get louder, even though it might seem that way. It’s like when you are in a room and everyone leaves, you’re sitting there and all of a sudden you can hear the clock ticking. It sounds so loud. But for the previous hour, you didn’t hear it at all. The inner voices represent the instincts, protective schemas of the people you were around when you were little, advice from your inner subpersonalities, and even TV shows you like and have bonded with on some level. They mean well. If a thought is there in your head, it is trying, in its own way, to assure your survival. It may be totally misguided - if you would ask your great great great grandmother for advice, she would say, save every scrap of paper you ever come across, because once, in Russia in 1530, there was this extra-long winter and only people with big wood piles and lots of string survived. So her advice would be that you raid all the garbage cans in the neighborhood and have a mountain of paper. Fill every spare inch of your place with flammable paper. But she means well. Listen and go on. But don’t worry. They all mean well, and on some level, they just represent some anxiety about survival.

Make peace with thoughts. If you are going to meditate, make peace with thought. If you are not willing to, then think about doing something else for your development. Jump out of airplanes. Do sports. Get into dance. Take singing lessons. Learn an instrument.

Count thoughts per second. One exercise you could do once, or once every six months for half an hour, is to just count thoughts. How many per second or minute?

Sort thoughts by chakra. Now if you want learn a simple chakra system and assign a chakra to each thought. From bottom to top: survival, sex, power, love, talking about something, analyzing something and trying to see the truth of it, and something to to with global awareness. If you think of all thoughts as the chakras talking to each other, does that help you to accept them?

Sort thoughts into instinct category. Something to do with hunting or gathering. Shopping is a kind of gathering. Something to do with nesting. Feeding. Exploring. Finding a mate, the mating instinct. Bonding. Protecting - the need for protection. Desire to play. Desire for expression. Desire for a vacation. If you accept thoughts as being energized by life instincts, how does that change your relationship with thought impulses?

Mantras are purring sounds. Many of the basic mantras are sounds of delight, awe, joy, astonishment, wonder, and orgasm.
Ahhhh
Ooooooo
MMMmmmmmmm
Aha!
Ohhhhhh
Wow
Yummmmm

. . . sounds such as these, and more, arise spontaneously when we are in delight and pleasure. If you use nonsense sounds or Sanskrit mantras, remember where they come from.

Yantra is “engine,” and some mantras are like engines purring and revving. Motorcycle or motor sounds: Vrroooooom. Zoooom. RRRRrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmm.

Rejoice in that which is splendid. One Sanskrit word for meditation is dhyan, from dhī - “to perceive, think, reflect. Wish, desire. Meditation, understanding, intelligence, knowledge, science, art. Mind, disposition, intention, design. Splendor.” And dhi is built on dī - to shine forth, excel, please. So find that which is splendid, full of splendor, for you. Think of meditation as a way, a space and time and skill, of being with what you find splendid.

Soak in what you love. Another Sanskrit word for meditation is bhāvanā - “demonstration, argument, ascertainment. Feeling of devotion, faith in. Reflection, contemplation. Saturating any powder with fluid, steeping, infusion.” Look at that idea, infusion. Like making tea or coffee. You pick something you like, in this case a thought, image, feeling, sensation, mantra - be with it so your whole being is infused with that quality. Because this is something you love, awareness naturally goes toward it and wants to merge with it, soak it up.

Be open to surprise. If you are paying attention, you will be surprised continually. The Sanskrit word, adbhuta is “extraordinary. Supernatural, wonderful, marvelous. Surprise.” During meditation, welcome surprise in the form of thoughts, emotions, sensations, and melting into relaxation. Let everything be unpredictable, as if you are watching a good movie. The relaxation of meditation gives us a sensory foundation to welcome surprise, relax into it, flow with it. When your senses are awake, normal everyday life takes on the quality of the supernatural, marvelous. Just being alive seems wonderful.

Train yourself to welcome all thoughts. This is first of all a decision – “I accept the flow of intelligence through my awareness.” Day by day you will learn innumerable skills for meeting thoughts and giving them what they need, and mostly letting them flow.

Be alert for the feeling of suppression and imprisonment – witness any confinement that you sense and release yourself from the many little prisons that may ensnare you. The dictionary definition of nirodha is – confinement, locking up, imprisonment. Investment, siege. Enclosing, covering up. Restraint, check, control, suppression, destruction. Disappointment, frustration of hope. (Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary, page 554.) Monks and nuns, when they give up the world and confine themselves to their little cells to just practice meditation and prayer, are practicing nirodha. This is the path of renunciation. The language of renunciation is everywhere in the field of meditation and yoga, because the tradition has been kept alive by renunciates.

Set yourself free. Dare to live your freedom. Use meditation to access the inner serenity you need to live in freedom.

Attention alights. In The Radiance Sutras, the Sanskrit text uses the word, nilī - “to alight,” in Sutra 26. Nili - the alighting of birds, alight, descend. To become settled or fixed.” What an interesting way to describe the way we can lightly attend during meditation. Attention alights. It is really useful for meditators to have hobbies and watch movies – in other words, be in situations where you just love being there and find yourself immersed in experience, paying attention without effort. Learn from this. Your everyday moment-by-moment experience in meditation is as enrapturing as a movie, myth, novel, or musical. Learn to allow attention to alight and be delighted.

Welcome all aspects of yourself. Whenever you engage in the special type of attention we call meditation, let your overall attitude be that of welcoming.

Engagement. Consider meditation as engagement.

Select an aspect of life’s rhythms of renewal you love so much you want to dissolve in it. Be infused with it.