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Archive for January, 2008

The type of mantra-based meditation I’ve been practicing is taken from yoga science, which has its roots in the teachings of Swami Rama. I’ve been struggling to choose a meditation practice and have been flip-flopping between this y.s./mantra meditation and Buddhist/Tibetan forms of meditation. Last week at group meditation (mantra-based), I asked about deciding on a form and was encouraged to try some out but to really settle down with “the one”–that is, I was told, one would just feel right for me and be the right fit.

I feel as though the mantra-based meditation works for me, but have often thought that this is only because it was the first kind of meditation I really tried and the one I’ve had the most experience with. I know very little about the philosophy of yoga science and tend to read more buddhist philosophy books. And yet, it is not the buddhist forms of meditation the feel so “right” to me. Then, I tell myself, I should continue on the path of buddhist meditation because that one is more difficult for me and that meditation should not be easy.

But, since Wednesday, I’ve really given myself over to a mantra-based meditation. As one of the leaders of the group meditation would say, all that flip-flopping between forms is ultimately my ego getting in the way. And that comment got me thinking about how much we have to meet our ego head on during meditation (if we notice it, that is. But the more I meditate, the more I notice it.). I actually wrote a bit about this in my last post. Today also I kept butting heads with my ego during practice.

But I suppose that ultimately what little I know about yoga science makes sense for who I am and how I live. It is an integrative approach, a whole body approach. With its attention to the principles of Ayurveda and its roots in the teachings of The Bhagavad Gita, it certainly appeals to my interests. It’s just a slightly different path than the one I thought I was on.

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Before I begin meditating, I say out loud the following statements, three times:

  • meditation is a metaphor for enlightenment
  • being still is a metaphor for wanting to be free more than anything else
  • ease of being is a metaphor for accepting everything as it is
  • paying attention is a metaphor for having no relationship to the arising of thought or the presence of feeling
  • These words were given to me by the shiatsu practitioner who inspired me to start meditating regularly. She has studied with Andrew Cohen, and these four statements are his instructions for meditation.

    Although I don’t know a lot about Cohen’s teachings, so I don’t know exactly what form of meditation he teaches, I am interested in learning more because these four instructions make so much sense to me. I’m glad that I looked them up and read more about their meaning (so far I’ve simply been saying them and reflecting upon them with my own interpretation). Lately, as with any prayer, mantra, chant that a person says over and over, I feel like I space out a bit when saying the words and the act has kind of lost its meaning. But in reading Cohen’s teachings online, I’ve gained the respect, interest, and understanding for these instructions that I need.

    The idea of letting everything be as it is = the state of letting go, not trying to control everything and anything, as I spend so much of my life doing. I so relate to this:

    When you experience ease of being, there is a profound release of a fundamental existential tension, which is the deep and often unconscious conviction that something is terribly wrong. (Cohen)

    I’m always so full of fear, practice catastrophic thinking, and am convinced that something is terribly wrong.

    I look forward to someday experiencing this:

    When you choose not to identify with the movement of thoughts and emotions, sooner or later you will have the profound experience of your own Self standing free from the mind—free from the compulsive habit of conceptualization and personalization.

    The thing is that today I actually let go for all of…I don’t know…five breaths (maybe). But, oh no, my ego couldn’t stay out the picture for long. I was so proud of myself for staying with the breath and nothing else that my mind instantly went to “good job”, “way to go,” “wow…look at this.”

    Today’s meditation ended with the entrance of my dog. The first chime had rung, and I was trying to concentrate on the sound of the chime until it was gone and then return to my breathing for another three and half minutes until the next chime. But I only got less than a minute in, when I heard Cheyanne scratch, scratch, scratching at my door. I tried to ignore her and stay focused, but because I knew I had very little time before she pushed that door open, I decided to finish up with om, shanti, shanti, shanti. By the middle of chanting om, Cheyanne was through the door and jumping on me. I tried to continue but was laughing at this point. She finally just sat down and listened to me finish my little chant, but she had such a strange look on her face that I couldn’t stop laughing.

    Such is life….

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    I stopped meditating for a period of almost three weeks; hence the lack of blog entries. It wasn’t good. I lost myself. I let my emotions run me.

    I started again yesterday — committing myself *again* to daily meditation. Day number two today, and I can say that it has been quite a struggle, but that is understandable.

    I don’t know a lot about meditation, but I’ve learned enough to know that when a person starts meditating (and I suppose this also applies when a person starts meditating *again*), the number of thoughts that arise are abundant and frequent. I know also to be kind to myself (but this part is much more difficult than the realization that the arising of thoughts is the norm). I’ve experienced much anxiety and have done much obsessive planning while on the bench.

    Still, at least I’ve done it. I’ve focused on more breaths than I would have if I hadn’t sat there at all. And I’m slowly rebuilding and reconnecting with the discipline and awareness involved in meditation (and that is necessary in life).

    I received a zen alarm clock for christmas from my parents. I’m using it primarily as a meditation timer, as my partner tends to be my alarm clock. That change is also talking some getting accustomed to (it’s very different than programming the time on the microwave). My mother’s close friend nearly spit out her coffee when she heard the term “zen alarm clock.” She thought it sure sounds like an oxymoron, which it does. Now every time I hear it chime I picture her choking with laughter on her coffee!

    Besides the ringing of zen chimes, we have just rung in the New Year! I have many resolutions this year, but they can kind of all be summed up with the word “balance.”

    In particular, I want to try to keep my work life and personal life/down time very separate this year. I am rarely able to keep those boundaries, because my work as a teacher can easily be a 24-7 occupation. (Certainly it is one of the main thoughts that occupies my meditating mind). In the evenings when I sit down in the living room with my partner to relax and unwind and move toward bed, I tend to run and grab my laptop for that last e-mail check. I don’t want to do that this year. I want to create more distinct and clear boundaries — the goal being that when I am not working, I don’t still feel like I’m working and/or I don’t feel the guilt that always accompanies the not working moments of my life.

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