A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. ~Oscar Wilde

Posts tagged ‘yoga’

A Beginner’s Mind

I was first introduced to yoga by someone who taught herself. Let’s call her Sukhi. She had a book, which had a few pictures and many strictures. It seemed to emphasise on how difficult yoga is, more than how to learn it. Something that often comes up in Indian ways of teaching. Sukhi wanted to learn, and even though I was so much younger than her, I was there, and got roped in as her buddy. Her fervour, while it lasted, took us on a journey that led us into dark and deep forests and far away from any sort of union of mind, body and soul. The book did speak a lot about the union, not that I read it. I was ten, my job was to turn up on the mat. Figuratively speaking, that is, as there was no mat, just a concrete floor.

Sukhi expected herself, and me, to be perfect from the word “go”. So there was a lot of muttering to herself, and talking at me. Our postures were not perfect, nor did we have any idea how to get there.

Possibly from some idea of “No Pain No Gain”, we did headstands on the first day.  We did not use any props, the book did not recommend any, either. “Iyengar” was unheard of in that household; during those days he was probably far more revered in the West than in India. My ten-year old, classical dance trained body managed fairly well, but there were many gaps for Sukhi to correct. So reading aloud from the book, and interpreting them in the narrowest most harrowing way possible, she would push and pull me into postures that probably were not right for a pre teen to get into in the first place. She did not know any better. She practised with me, and fared little better than me. So each practice session was one of disappointment more than learning. Very soon, I learnt to hate yoga, and very thankfully wiped it all from my mind when Sukhi went on to other pursuits.

Some dregs of wisdom from those days, and that much thumbed little book, must have lingered, and many, many years later, I began a journey of my own to learn and practise yoga. With guidance from many teachers, and some research of my own, I softly and gently led myself into a wiser practice. It took a long time, but I gradually learnt not to strive for an A+ mark from my teacher. I learnt to ease myself into the postures, and the practice. I fed from the energy of each class, and slowly and surely ceased to compare. I felt immersed in my own journey. So good. So light.

Then today, as I reached for my block, strengthened and stretched my legs, taking care not to hyperextend, and breathed into my posture, the teacher said, “Come to the pose with a beginner’s mind”. My mind blew out so hard that I nearly stumbled.

There I was, turning up regularly on the mat (there is a mat now), with all my baggage. My big belly. My hurt toe. My awareness of how far I think I can stretch, or balance, and acceptance when I need a prop. Each day, I walk a little bit further along my journey, dancing on the reflections of my practice. I feel present and in tune. But, perhaps, in my acceptance of the limitations of my body,  I have closed my self to the endless possibilities I could experience? Should I instead, present myself on the mat, each day, with the intention of a fresh new start? I could just bring my beginner’s mind, and let muscle memory work its magic in the background? Maybe I am still comparing myself, now, to how I fared yesterday?

As I drove back home after the class, an image of a toddler frolicked in front of me. Giggling, swaying straight from a downward facing dog to happy baby, rocking up to tree on tippy toe, falling over and moving on. No wisdom. Just joyous abandonment.

Advertisement

Radiating the definitions

It is my belief that mediation works wonders for the individual, and by extension, to the community at large. I do believe that an ever increasing number of people taking time out their day to meditate, can only benefit the whole circle of existence. In the course of sharing my progress and responding to comments on my posts, I was reminded that meditation can mean different things to different people, as well as be a slightly confusing idea, in itself.

So I thought I needed to answer the question “what is meditation, really?” The first step was just to get on to Google. “The action or practice of meditating”. Right. That then took care of that, but left me in a circle not of my choosing.

Derived from the Latin verb “Meditari” which means to think, to contemplate, to ponder, the word is used these days to describe the act of quietening one’s mind and focussing on an idea or a thought. Or as is also commonly practised, emptying ones mind…

I believe that this sort of trance or contemplative state of mind can be more readily achieved by sitting down in a regular quiet place. If one sits down at the same time, at the same place, with the same candle lit, it is easier to slip into the mode. Hence most mediation classes advocate such a habit.

Most classes teach breathing techniques and relaxation techniques and lead the student down a well practised path of visualisation. My mother taught me to stare at the flame of a candle in a dark room, breathe slow and deep, and then close my eyes and hold the picture of the candle in my mind, and  visualise it come to the centre of my forehead, where the third eye is. She was very insistent that the mind had to be a blank and the image of the flame was all one was allowed to see. Needless to say that at the age of ten, such a feat was completely beyond me, and I did not even try. I just sat with my eyes closed until she said I could open them again. Even then, I knew that what she was trying to teach me had value, I did not realise that I was not attuned to her process. I ended feeling that meditating was for special, wise people.

Through my on again off again yoga journey through the years, each teacher has taught a different way to meditate. Sitting in those classes amidst the calm, vibrant energy of a number of yoga students, I have found each method to be of value.

I have also read and heard about a number of people’s experience with meditation. Some people find their mediative state through some activity or the other, and some people swear by bodily stillness. Also, in monasteries, monks bring the meditative experience to their daily chores and if they are doing it, it must work!

So, it seems to me, that meditation is a process through which one experiences oneself.  To the lay person like me, its value lies in the effect of calm and peace it brings. The increased ability to concentrate, and the slowing down of the heartbeat fills me with an awareness of myself beyond the flesh I can see. It makes me feel, that, I might not be very wise, but I might be getting there!

Some more thoughts on meditation:

Deepak Chopra explains meditation:

What happens during meditation?

 

 

 

How would you define meditation? I am curious. As soon as I tried to define it, it became too broad a question for me.

Enhancing the Circle

I have gone on record multiple times saying that I am unable to sit down and meditate properly.  Meaning with quietness, deep breaths, lightness, and emptying of thoughts. I have now incorporated the Bodhi Circle into my life for a few weeks, and the only thing to report about my experience has been my ongoing learning to deal with sitting down. Quietening down. Breathing well.

I am loath to harp on my failures, but I have not had any kind of success in my attempts at meditation so far. On the days when I do get to quiet myself down for more than five minutes, I am happy to say, I have slept better or felt happier. But there have not been many such days.

I know this has been more my special personal journey than any belief that meditation is “not for me”. So in spite of my deleteriously repetitive experience, I am persisting. Now, who was it who had likened me to a bulldog? “She latches on and never lets go!” 

 So when Deepak Chopra announced his latest Meditation Challenge a few weeks back, scheduled to begin today, I jumped on the wagon immediately. I don’t know whether you can still register, but why not give it a try? For the novice, such courses are extremely helpful. And for the experienced, please join in as well, as your energy will help lift the energy around the globe. I am sure, this being the third time that I have registered on a meditation challenge from Deepak, I will experience the luck that is famed to come at the third try, and I encourage everyone to do the same. Perhaps, for others, beginner’s luck will triumph. The previous times I registered, I did not meditate once in the assigned twenty one days. For good measure, I scowled fiercely when anyone tried to remind me of my commitment. Now so now. Today is Day 1. I am proud to report, I have started a new journey. 

Therefore, I feel that I will be able to continue and at the end of the 21 days, I will have developed a habit that will last me a lifetime. Easy, no? Of course, easy!

So, tell me, do YOU meditate? Would you LIKE to meditate? Do you feel meditation is for everybody?

Love

Onwards and Anon!

It was my intention to lead the Bodhi Circle through my practice of meditation. Instead, others are more regular and steadfast. In the meantime,  I stand steadfast in my non-practice.

One person has shared their visualisations with me, another person has shared how their aching shoulder ache has improved. What do I have to share? Nothing much.

Most days I forget when I get up, and when I go to bed, I remember as I am dropping off. This results in, sometimes, hurried three to five minutes at night time and not at all during the day.

So my meditation practice has become like my start everyday “tomorrow is a new beginning” yoga practice. In the meantime the middle aged spread settles in more securely.

So. I now make a new commitment. Tonight onwards I commit to the meditation circle again. I will turn the times around. Ten minutes at night, and 5 minutes in the morning. I firmly believe I will report major progress next time.

Love

Update: Last night I did meditate  – for about 4 minutes and 32 seconds… . 🙂 I can now follow my followers… into the Circle! Now that I have remembered, I will sit down right now and do my “morning” session! Blessings be!

%d bloggers like this: