The Yoga Of Meditation
(This article was written for the Yoga Outreach newsletter. Yoga Outreach is an organization which brings Yoga to prisons, halfway houses, women’s shelters and more.)
Two students of a learned Guru were engaged in a heated discussion. The first one exclaimed: "Enlightenment is transcendence, free and far from the pull of the senses, worldly joys, objects, and possessions."
The second insisted: "No, absolutely opposite! The enlightened one embraces everything, for all is one –- world, mind, & senses are one."
They approached the venerable teacher. The first presented his view of renunciation as the true wisdom. "You're right", affirmed the wise one.
"But," protested the second, "How can that be? True Knowledge omits nothing. It is all one Whole."
"You're right,” agreed the wise one.
A third student sitting nearby, witnessing the spectacle, approached the teacher and said: "How can they both be right when they hold completely different points of view?
"You're right, too!" was the reply.
Aaah! The light-hearted resilience of the sage dissolves the polarized views of the students in an instant; the limited mind expands into wholeness. This is the heart of yoga – stretching, expanding, and opening to strength, stamina, balance, flexibility, and awareness of body and mind. The ‘student’ mind is crowded with thoughts that are too small for the ‘all’ of ME. When there is space to think, hear, and listen, the self is set free to experiment, to experience and discover.
It was a major turning point in my life when I became aware of these two asanas/postures of the mind – a little me, and a big ME. I observed:
Body and mind consumed most of my time and attention.
What time is left for the deeper and vaster ME?
Intuitively, I knew that it was time for action. I determined to practice a posture of expansion, the action of ‘no-action’, the action of meditation.
My Hatha yoga practice had prepared me, along with the growing realization that no one was more empowered than I to live my vision, to take full responsibility for the quality of my own, every-minute life. I was ready for the asana of poised alertness and focused attention for the journey inward toward the source of experience. I have taken this journey faithfully and daily ever since.
The body sits, stable and still, and the mind opens to the inner dimension of knowing. With resolute intention, I remain centered, present. Penetrating through the tug of the multiple identities of body/mind into Awareness That IS, I remain unmoved by the traffic of thoughts, voices, emotions, impressions, ideas, physical sensations, and sounds. The Conscious Presence is alive, awake, and aware.
I am attentive to the flow of breath. I observe that breath is something that happens and something that I can make happen. I consciously expand the breath into my whole body being. Its flow steadies and centers, recharges and vitalizes. I observe that mind, like breath, is something that happens, and something that I can make happen. I apply a timeless formula. I repeat mantra (Jap), a vibration that channels the flow of pure life essence into infinity.
Another timeless formula, Yogash chitt vritti nirodhaha has been offered to us in the second of the yoga sutras by the ancient sage, Patanjali.
The unity state of Consciousness (Yogaha)
abides where the mind (chitt) remains unmoved (nirodhaha)
by the modifications (vritti) of Consciousness.
This is the recipe for the yoga of Yoga: Awareness remains as awareness, and does not become identified as or caught up in the waves of thought that rise and fall, come and go. Holding the attention in this way, the power of the seer, the Shiv, the pause, is unleashed. It enables a gap, a moment suspended in time, to witness, see and transform…
from reaction response to awareness response.
I am no longer compelled by patterns and conditions. I have a choice to “opt for the real”1, the unmistakable ME. This is the true Vairaagya2 - giving up the sense of identification with the changing field of smallness and doubt, pain and pleasure. After some time the flow of attention becomes absorbed into knowingness itself. Waves never trouble or divide the ocean, and, in the same way, the wave forms of the mind now assume their true status as the eternal dynamism of infinite awareness. As sung in an ancient Sanskrit Shiv stotram (traditional prayer):
Yehe vishwa shiva daarpan bhaavan shiva bana jo bheetara daykhaataa
Sarvatra hee shiva ayka usako, bimba pratibimba bhaasataa
This universe is the mansion of the mirror of Shiv. Looking into it, feeling one with Shiv, one sees one’s own image and reflection, sees the one Shiv everywhere.3
This is the culmination, the evolution of the Hatha yoga discipline that brings visible results and fulfills our sense of doership: it purifies the channels/nadis, releases bound-in tensions, and prepares us for an even deeper stretch – meditation, a science of subtlety.
It takes great fortitude and resolve to sit consistently in the seat of ‘non-doership’. Voices of our cultural condition always call us toward some doing, some productivity for the worldly mind to gain and grasp. However, ‘non-doership’ is not to be confused with non-doing. This misconception has led people to believe that meditation takes one away from the world. As long as we are in these bodies we are compelled to act and interact. Now we are being given the information that we can act from a deeper, vaster, and truer ME:
Yastwaatmaaritarayva syaadaatmatriptashcha maanavaha
Aaatmanyayva cha santushtastasya kaaryam na vidyatay
One who is saturated in the Knowledge of the Self, remaining fully satisfied in the Self, knows that the Self alone is at the back of every action. For such a being there is no special duty to be performed separate from the Self.4
With faith and consistency in the practice of Dhyaan Yoga, the yoga of meditation, pain and powerlessness become less, joy and vitality become more. Our storehouse of love, energy, and awareness increases.
The eternal sage is awakening. Our on-going yoga practice is purifying and refining the body/mind from within – freeing us from fear, firming our faith, compelling our creativity, building our strength. Challenges, victories, tears and elation – it all comes and it all goes, and it is all right. It is the dance of light.
Thank you, dear reader, for your devotion to your evolution, your attention and inspiration. Happy "Dhyaaning"5! May the Grace of Samaadhi reign! Namaste.