What makes you feel like saying Oh Yeah, or MMMMmmmmmm or Ouuuuuuuuuuuuu
Have You Ever . . .
— Drifted slowly awake, and lain there in a delicious restfulness for a few moments before opening your eyes? — Looked at the night sky and felt utter wonder at the vastness? —Merged so deeply with the melody and rhythm of music you love that your sense of self disappeared in the ocean of sound? — Felt electricity coursing through your body when you made love? At the moment of orgasm, been filled with brilliance or fireworks? Or in the afterglow, felt your body shimmering and pulsing with a vibrant peace? — Inhaled a smell so delicious, perhaps your favorite dish when you were really hungry, that you almost swooned? — Sat by a river, conscious of its steady flow, and entered into a sense of stillness? — Been so in love that your heart seemed to turn to light?
. . .Then you have already experienced meditative awareness. These are all spontaneous experiences, typically lasting from a few seconds to a few minutes. Attention expands beyond its confines and touches something greater, something of the essence of life. Human beings have been experiencing these sorts of things since before there was the language to speak of them. What are some of your natural meditative states? What are your natural, spontaneous moments of pleasure, relaxation, delight. When does your attention turn toward savoring the beauty of life? —Watching the baby sleep —Looking into the eyes of a dog —The first moment when you sit on the sofa with a glass of wine and take a sip You might want to take a moment now and let your mind drift with the question, "What are my natural meditative gateways?"
We can look at The Radiance Sutras, and the original, the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, as saying, "check out these 112 natural gateways into meditation. You may happen upon them spontaneously and you can also cultivate them."
Meditative experience is not different than these naturally-occurring moments. It is just intentional. What I am calling a “meditation technique” is paying attention to the rhythm of such an experience, tracking it through all its phases, and returning again and again to be educated by it. Most of what is meant by “practicing meditation” is just spending half an hour a day or so being in the presence of such a quality of attention, then enjoying the effect this has on your daily life. Meditation is the practice of developing your capacity for rich experience.
Everyone is a yogi for half a second when they stop to smell the roses. It’s all there in that moment of conscious, grateful breathing. When you cultivate your gratitude for breath, something good happens at a deep level. You make friends with life. Welcome
Something has led you to be interested in meditation — your curiosity, your desire to explore, a longing for a little rest and relaxation, or the recommendation of a friend or doctor. Well, come on in.
Meditation is a great gift to give yourself. It is a way to experience a higher quality of life just by going inside yourself and touching your center for a moment. It is a brief retreat from the world that lets you re-enter it with a more vivid presence.
If you have never meditated before, this book will be your guide to some of the simplest and most widely practiced meditations used by people in the Western World. They are all simple techniques you can do on your own, and involve things like paying attention to your breathing, listening to quiet sounds, and tracking the movement of your thoughts. You can start by doing the exercises for one or two minutes at a time, and as you grow more skillful you can meditate longer.
If you have meditated before, you probably started and stopped a number of times, looking for ways of practicing to suit your individual nature and lifestyle. You may have learned a technique from a friend, a teacher or a class that did not suit you. Perhaps it was like a shoe that doesn’t quite fit -- OK to try on in the store, but uncomfortable to actually walk in. My approach is about taking what usually seems like obstacles to meditation: your busy mind, your long days, your desires, and making them into your allies.
You will find the exercises in this book useful for getting started again and for learning how to customize your meditation to fit your needs. You also may find the exercises help your meditation become easier, more restful and more interesting.
This is come-as-you-are meditation. You do not have to be other than you are in order to begin. There are no impossible-to-do techniques, no uncomfortable postures, no onerous rules to follow.
If you invest the time in exploring how your individual nature interacts with these techniques, you will likely develop some powerful tools to enhance your life. The work for you is to engage your curiosity and sense of adventure. The rewards are a greater ability to pay attention to life and to love.
Almost everything we think of as meditation is flavored slightly with the view from behind the walls of a monastery. The whole idea that in meditation you are supposed to sit still and make your mind empty, and aspire to high spiritual ideals, override or kill the ego, and cultivate detachment from things — all this comes from the spiritual tradition for recluses. This may be wisdom if you are a monastic, but it is poison if you are someone who lives in the world. These are not general truths any more than the rules for Ping-Pong are universal and should apply to tennis, golf, volleyball and baseball.
Meditation is about being intimate with your deepest self. Any sense of formality, any sense that you are doing a technique that comes from outside of yourself interferes with this necessary closeness.
Meditation can and should be something that you reach for in the same informal way you reach for a cup of tea, or an apple, or the phone to talk to a friend — in other words, as a direct response to sensing some need in your body or heart. Meditation can be something you look forward to doing after you roll out of bed in the morning, to help you wake up and get ready for the day. It is something you may find yourself wanting to do when you walk in the door after work, to unwind and revitalize yourself. It is not really that meditation is “better” than sitting on the sofa and having a glass of wine while listening to music on the stereo. Meditation is that much fun, but it is more of a relief, works better, and is cheaper. Taking this informal approach to being with yourself will help you to keep meditation simple, a simple pleasure and a relief.
Approaching meditation as a pleasurable indulgence will help you develop good instincts for your path, because instinctive guidance comes the same place your cravings and desires come from. You will need to be in touch with your instincts because you are your own guide in meditation, with your own daily life as your feedback mechanism.
Your instincts do not necessarily feel "spiritual.” Far from it. They feel down-home, selfish and spontaneous. The instincts are seat-of-the-pants and gut feelings. And they are often the first thing that gets thrown overboard when people try to be spiritual. But they are the essence of spirituality. They represent deep wisdom. The instincts move us to explore the world, survive, thrive, communicate, bond, reproduce and rejoice. The urge to explore meditation is just as instinctive as the urges to talk to other people, work to assure your survival, explore your sexuality, and party. Spirituality is a spontaneous alchemy that occurs when all of the instincts are working together. This only happens when all of human nature is embraced.
Meditation is not one monotone mood of reverence, nor is it only irreverence. It is a wide-open embrace of every possible mood, emotion and current of your being: that is its simplicity and its challenge. Therefore I advocate a radical informality with the self as the essence of the approach to meditation. In an informal approach, the rebel in you is just as important as the sincere seeker. The impulse that says “Ah, I don’t want to meditate today” is just as useful and informative as the impulse that says, ”I really want and need to meditate, I have an important day.”
For those of us who work hard and barely have enough real time for ourselves and our families, meditation can be incredibly useful: creating stronger, more resilient health and more consistent energy; helping us to be more at ease and perceptive in our relationships; and opening entire new worlds of gratitude, wonder and well-being. Meditation should fit into our lifestyle in a natural way. In this book you will learn how to adapt your practice to the changing conditions in your life.
If you live in the world and work long days you already crave stillness and rest; this is not something that has to be imposed from On High. This craving is called “wanting a vacation” -- and you achieve it by giving in to the craving. Meditation is the practice of giving in to such cravings and letting them carry us into our interior worlds. This feels like an indulgence, and the sense of luxury is one of the ways of knowing you are doing it right. Meditation is powered by our deepest cravings, not by discipline.
No one with a busy life can or should try to empty their minds, whatever that means. It is not that in meditation you won't find yourself sitting very still and going to a place beyond ordinary thought; it's just that any attempt to impose this on yourself will backfire. Imposition just makes a person more restless. Meditation for people who live in the world should strengthen the ego and enliven the connection to the fires of passion. The more you embrace your passion, the more readily you will go beyond it to places of total repose inside yourself.
Meditation is quietly sexy, in the way that getting a massage or listening to great music is. The subtle currents of electricity that flow sweetly through the body, touching you everywhere, are to be cherished. Meditation allows the body to tune itself up to be ready for work, play, sleep, and all the exquisite pleasures of life. Say you walk in the door from work and you have half an hour to prepare yourself to be intimate with the one you love. What do you do? If you know how to meditate you would certainly spend some time that way, for one of the greatest gifts of meditation is that of enabling you to be completely present with sensuous experience, open to life with your senses shimmering, with a quality of surprise and novelty.
Food is best appreciated by those who have had an active day and built up a good appetite. Water is loved the most by people who have been out in the sun working up a sweat and come in to drink a refreshing glass. Meditation is best known by the people who need it most, who are out there in life putting their plans, desires and ambitions into action. It should have a sense of luxury and deliciousness. It should be a place for you to entertain all your desires and longings and prepare to fulfill them as much as is possible and ethical in your life. If you lose track of your deepest desires and longings then what will be your anchor? The idea that you should give up or distance yourself from your desires and your ego in meditation is nonsense. When people succeed in relinquishing desire, they tend to lose vitality.
You want meditation to be in the service of a better relationship with yourself and the world. This means having a more lively channel between your inner resources of love, passion, generosity and curiosity, and your outer life and relationships, where all those qualities are needed. The meditations presented in the book are all simple sensory alertness exercises that will help you to have a more appreciative grasp of your everyday life.
Longing is your best clue to what is good for you. You will have to work at investigating your longings. Go into them deeply and find out what it really is that you want most passionately. Engaging with your hankerings, lusts, desires and longing will take you straight into your heart, not hell. If you love music of any kind, you already know much about your longings — just notice what is awakened in your body when you listen to what you love with complete abandon. Notice what kinds of music you crave and when. That same instinct you use to choose what music to play will guide you in selecting what meditations to do.
Be safe on your journey. Safety comes from being alert and relaxed as you move through your life. Let your best instincts guide you. Be awake to beauty. Be merciful to yourself and others. Cultivate your desires and enthusiasm for life. Meditation is enthusiasm for the simple. The simplicity of breath flowing in and out of us, day and night, for as long as we live.
Previously on RSMTT Steven Leonard, reporting in from Kripalu Teleseminar 2: SPONTANEITY AND RHYTHM An important part of the art and science of teaching meditation is the ability to recognize spontaneous meditative states. Almost everyone has a wealth of naturally occurring meditative experience, that is a foundation to their further practice and a clue to their inherent nature. A skilled meditation teacher learns how to cooperate with the student’s inner nature, not suppress it. You will learn to structure a meditation practice so that it feels spontaneous, using Skills Checklists and Meditation Flowlists.
Yatra/Triple Shakti model · Just like our biology (fight/flight) meditation happens in rhythms · Inte(rest) and Inter(action) rhythms · Rehearsing and reviewing are part of meditation. Affirm checklists and memories.
Ashtanga Yoga & Antar Yoga · We are constantly flowing through the angas (parts of a whole, parts in a play). · Yama, Niyama; working the reigns. · Asana, Pranayama; intelligence of body and breath. · Pratyahara; intimate sensing. · Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi; holding, melting and merging. · Analogy of skillful asana teaching and applying them to inward yoga.
Mudra · Mudra is spontaneous and customized tai chi. · Watch people’s body move when you are talking to them. · Include mudra in your meditation flow. What moves prepare you to dive in?
Time to Practice · Watch the rhythm of Yatra in meditation for a few moments. Recognize reviewing, rehearsing, wondering, resting and melting. · Flow through the angas: no hitting, feel the body moving, feel the breath pulsing, allow the senses to draw you in, hold something you’re interested in, cherish what you’re holding, allow yourself to merge with its essence. · Do a short mudra flow. Choose an aspect of life’s essence you love and create a movement out of it. What does the embodiment of love, joy, pleasure, delight, sorrow, confusion look like?