Category Archives : Meditation


Inviting in Piranhas and Sharks

The title may not make sense just yet but this is a post about impressions, how we step into life, into a posture or an experience. Specifically, how have we entered into the year 2015.

January

January was a holiday month for me and so I was able to step into 2015 meeting friends, family and indulging in rest – bliss, a wonderful beginning. However my chosen energetic imprint that I’d like to take with me for the rest of the year came from an evening dog walk to the beach. To back track, the holiday dog walks were often shared with my dog whisperer friend who was on her school holidays – I’ll call her T. T has an innate ability and assurance with animals that is quite remarkable. In particular she can take my wilful red heeler in hand like no one else and she carries with her an energy that is uplifting, sincere and fun.

Canine friends

Suspended energy

Evening Walk

One evening I’d been busy with new year set up tasks and hadn’t given the dogs their usual late afternoon walk. T texted and asked, ‘are you walking tonight?’ – I suggested I pick her up at 8pm and we’d go to the beach. It was late enough for the dogs to be off lead. On arriving at the beach we found the wind was up and the tide was rushing in – there was a wildness in the air. Focused on the dogs we began our walk taking care not to let them in for a swim as the waves in the bay were raucous and rough. The wind pushed against us as we threw the ball and kept everyone pretty close. The dogs noses were everywhere as the scents of the sea were tossed about from one direction to the next. We forged on breathing deeply, salt and spray entering our noses and even mouths as we spoke. As we came to the end of the first cove we instructed everyone to jump the sea wall onto the path and then we placed our leads on the dogs. The waves hit the sea wall with great smacks sending heavy sprays over the walking path, over us. There were few walkers that night and it was too hard to stop for conversation. It was tricky enough to even send out a smile. The next cove was somewhat sheltered by a groyne of rocks extending out into the bay to aid in sand erosion management. So we had a short respite where the ball could be sent off in a determined direction and the dogs could settle onto a single scent path. A lone surf kite was being packed up on this cove but other than that the territory was our own.

Piranhas and Sharks

The return walk included more wave-smack-spray action and the delayed drop of weighty foam hitting our backs. The windy cove returned us into a blast but this time it pushed us onward toward the steps and up to the car. We cleaned our feet including all four paws x 3 of our canine family and T provided assistance to a surf-sail boarder packing up his sails. Then we got back into the car where I exclaimed, ‘we are full of prana now!’. To which T questioned, ‘piranhas?’ I smiled, ‘P-R-A-N-A, but yes it could sound like piranha.’ Then without thinking I naively offered, ‘or we could say we feel the sensations of Shakti.’ T gave a cheeky, quizzical smile, ‘sharks?’ By this time we are both laughing, ‘yes’, I said, ‘we are now filled with piranhas and sharks, both the vital life force/life air and the energy of the cosmos.’ We exited the carpark cheeky and laughing and yes filled with the vibration of an almighty energy swirling within us and about us.

So this is how I’m choosing to enter into 2015 – filled with piranhas and sharks! It isn’t that I’ve stepped into this year free of personal afflictions but I am choosing as I notice my faults or my struggles to smile and remember that precious walk on the beach filled with life air and the energy of the entire cosmos. This is the impression I will offer my psyche as it tumbles out of a pose, meets a challenging experience or feels a little low. Piranhas and sharks shared with my dynamic friend T.

3 Breath Meditation Practice (referencing verses 24-27 Vijnana Bhairava)

Making choices no matter what situation we face and arriving with energy

Find your seat on the floor or a chair. Choose a mudra for your hands.

Shakti Breath Waves

Shakti Breath Waves

Reflect on how we make choices in life when faced with the myriad of life events: Take a moment to observe and accept the breath just as it is, perhaps for a minute or two. Then if you like, choose to change the breath by counting 3 for the inhale and sending it down to the sit bones, exhale for 6 letting energy rise and shoulder blades soften and fall. Alter your inhale and exhale ratios as you choose or as you expand into the breath practice. Practice this for several minutes then invite in another choice to ‘let go’ or walkaway from this particular form of altered breath
Return to acceptance, observe the natural breath as it is offered to you now, feel into any sensations in the body knowing you are empowered to change and correct if your posture needs to be altered. Maintain or reinstate your mudra.
Now/atha, bring the breath in from just above the crown of your head and down toward the heart, as it reaches the heart suspend it there for a moment – a breath suspension is not a holding of the breath it is an entering into a different energetic space in which movement can continue – in this suspension feel the presence of Shakti. Then as you need exhale and return awareness and breath to your crown. Again suspending the breath and drawing awareness to the sensation, the movement of energy – Shakti.

Example:

Inhale crown to heart – suspend the breath ( antar kumbhaka)
Exhale heart to crown – suspend the breath (bahir kumbhaka)

Verse 27. When the Energy of the Breath is retained outside or inside the peaceful state is revealed by means of Shakti. This is the way of prana-shakti or the vital life energy giving life to you, to the universe.

***Take care if you have high blood pressure as the suspended breath should not be practiced. As an option, if you have high blood pressure, use awareness to notice when the breath changes from an inhale to an exhale and from an exhale to an inhale but do not suspend/retain the breath – be a witness to the change in movement.


Meditating on the World’s Soul

 

How did we become so Separate?

As I open the paper each morning – yes I’m still a hard copy newspaper reader – I keep asking myself how did we human beings become so separate? How is it that we appear to have lost our reverence for life, for each other? We shun the other and yet the other is us…locally we are affected: our humanity toward asylum seekers, child abuse, violence toward women, elderly abuse, homelessness, mental health negligence, murder, corruption; and globally: MH17, Gaza, Syria, Ebola virus, jihadist activities in Iraq…the list goes on and our language itself is weighted down with the words terror and fear. How did we become so separate?

Kali Yuga

In the Mahabharata this age is named Kali Yuga when the world’s soul turns black (http://www.grahamhancock.com/forum/DMisraB6.php) It is not an age of the Goddess Kali but of the apocalyptic demon Kali setting up discord, strife on earth manifesting as greed, anger, deceit, corruption, sin, animosity between peoples and an ever increasing gap between human beings and the divine, peace, faith. It is an age where extremes oscillate and the pendulum of virtue no longer has a centre point – the axis is degenerating toward loss. This concept of Kali Yuga seems evident in our histories of violence toward each other, toward other life forms and toward the planet. It is suggested only one quarter virtue remains and in that we may have some hope and yet it is predicted to dwindle to zero by Kali Yuga’s end.

There were preceding ages though, Dvapara, Treta and the sublime state of the time of SatyaYuga. Each of these yuga provided a better existence for all matter and living things.

Light or particle or universe?

Light? Particle? Universe?

Yet, yoga also offers us practices to transform this age. Yoga offers us space to see, feel and experience oneness. Patanjali’s Sutras offer a plethora of practices, something to suit all personalities, practices that encourage us to open into full communion with a greater consciousness. Connection, union, grace, love, trust, service…expansion and return to abundance and peace.

In La Luna’s classes this week we worked with verse 1:40 of the Yoga Sutras and ended our class in sivasana with this meditation:

A Practice for Verse 1:40

Begin to imagine what it would be like to see a sub atomic particle, smaller than the atom, composite or elementary… Perhaps focus on an elementary particle named the Higgs Boson or God particle what does this particle look like to you? Don’t worry if you can’t access a scientific textbook image…what does this smallest of all particles look like to you?
Is it spherical? Plain? Patterned? Coloured? If you have no visual can you sense the particle, conceptualise the idea of something so minute?…

Now bring the mind forward to the world that can be seen and imagine a tree the trunk, bark, the texture, the scent, then the branches, leaves, the textures, the colours of each – there is nothing else in your mind right now but this tree formed behind closed eyelids. Can you smell the earthiness, the fragrance of the leaves?

Trees and Consciousness

Trees and Consciousness

Can you sense the mighty root system offering nutrients out into the earthy floor below feeding other plants, animals, matter…generously sharing without an understanding of borders, or different species…without fear

Next extend your mind outward into the darkness of the night and observe a star, a solitary star, go deeper passed the twinkling light that you can see, feel the heat, see the luminosity, sense the magnetic field, the ancient energy billions of years old…the light, fill yourself with starlight, flood it in to your entire being…

Now sense the whole of the universe…which is a complex and orderly system – an example of a cosmos. Our universe composed of all matter and energy including the entirety of the earth, the galaxies and intergalactic space regarded as a whole. See the whole universe, sense the energy, feel the matter and experience cosmic vibration as you immerse yourself within the universe
Bring this state of being as one with the universe back into this room…be the universe
Return the light to the world’s soul.

Learn from the trees: The consciousness of Trees


Book Review: Stepping Stones to Meditation

 

About the Author

Jennifer Hanning was my first Hatha Yoga teacher at Hampton Yoga. I’d experimented over the decades with Ashtanga and Iyengar but although I enjoyed both I knew I hadn’t found a practice that resonated with my centre… then I walked into Jennie’s classes where I found yoga blossoming, beyond postures, settling into my mind and spirit. Each of her classes began with breath and meditation and ended with a visualisation that let me loose in bliss. Jennie’s visualisations are written from her heart to your heart.

I began questioning her about her writing and about yoga until she eventually suggested I take the Yoga Teacher Training course. Jennie was our meditation teacher throughout our studies and she guided us through yogic meditation techniques which both challenged and calmed our consciousness. Our group of students was thus blessed with the gift of meditation.

Stepping Stones to Meditation

Stepping Stones...water

In her book, Stepping Stones to Meditation, Jennifer Hanning has found that rare balance of writing her meditation course into an informative book for beginner and experienced meditators alike. It is indeed a book of insights encapsulating the magic of meditation within a yogic context and instilling it with her own creativity. It is often said by students that meditation is not for them but in this book Jennifer Hanning provides a concise, yet meaningful practice collection where there is something for all personalities to explore. It ranges through breath, muscular relaxation, deeper philosophical moments, physical awareness, a short course on the chakras through to guided imagery. So begin your journey one stepping stone at a time and find what stone your foot rests on most comfortably and practice, practice… coming back again and again and see, feel, experience the benefits that unfold.

I will admit though in a moment devoid of santosha/contentment I wanted more from this book…I was looking forward to its completion to access more of Jennie’s written visualisations…for this though I believe all I need is sahana/patience. One stepping stone at a time.

Find the book here:

http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00BZQ2STO


Luminosity Lotus Lake

 

I began a recent class with participants seated, right hand over the belly and left over the heart connecting in with two places of intelligence within the body and we asked the third intelligence, the mind, to follow the breath with ‘I am’ or to choose ‘So Ham’ meditation. We sat like this for three minutes then when we reached an inner quiet we sat to ‘be’.
In that state the natural breath flowed and in the background I introduced the final verse for Chapter 3 from the yoga Sutras:

Yoga Sutra 3:55 ‘In the merging of pure being and self there is absolute freedom’

And I hope as the class breathed that I shared aurally some of the substance in the below notes:
To free our consciousness from attachments, aversions, afflictions this leads to clarity – like a murky lake let all the muddied water of your distractions, habits, conditioned thoughts drop like sediment below and reveal the transparency of your inner light – let your lake glow in clear light. This is the luminosity that Pandit Rajmani Tigunat refers to when he discusses the guidance provided in the Sutras – ‘to reclaim your luminous self, your joyous self’, free from preoccupations, acquired conditioning, mind-plays, limiting beliefs. The Sutras provide the means to identify all behaviours that serve to enslave us, ‘get to your essential nature, let the inner wisdom illuminate…the Sutras simplify everything taking us to the main point in life…’

Non-attachment

The lesson of non- attachment is critical to reaching this point of essential nature luminosity. The letting go requires non-attachment materially and mentally, not just our less attractive traits but even when we are serving fully, positively – to serve without expectation, to give with love and unconditionally. This will bring freedom because we stop placing the weight of expectation on every action, we stop anxieties developing because we think were are not good enough or liked enough if some acknowledgement or other didn’t come our way. Offer outward to others freely and do not be attached to the outcome …practiced with clarity, ‘absolute freedom’ –free of doubt, at least in those moments – will be experienced. Practice again and again.
In one of the Yoga Nidra texts Satyananda describes: ‘The water never touches the petals of the lotus flower.

Lotus Water Roots

Lotus Water Roots

Though the lotus is rooted at the bottom of the pond, and it rises up through the water, yet its petals are never wet. Therefore, the sages and yogis advise us always to be detached from everything in the whole universe as the lotus is from water, completely non-attached. The lotus comes from the water; it only survives due to water,yet it does not get wet; the water cannot touch it. …we eat, we enjoy we suffer…yet we should be detached from all of this.’ If we can become the lotus we can never be hurt and yet we can love fully, we can be luminous.

Ultimate Samyama

The Sutras may simplify everything that confounds or limits us – but the work to follow them, in my experience, is rarely simple. Yet when we do let go and let all acquired traits drop as sediment below the lake of pure being, consciousness and self merge – it is another way of standing in the world – another way of saying ‘I am’, or better still ‘Sat Chit Ananda – Existence, Consciousness, Bliss. It doesn’t matter if you are working, enjoying time with family or doing practical chores – in whatever way you serve in the world each day – nothing can shake you from this clear position of being – this is your centre, your light and you can choose to be there and go forward with clarity no matter what life throws your way. Receive each challenge with the grace of your inner light which is revealed to you through the pure and equal merging of consciousness and self – this is freedom.

Lake Practice 10 – 20 mins:

Prepare

Settle into a seated position or perhaps sivasana, let the breath settle, each inhale feel the weight of the body connected to the floor, each exhale release energy allowing the body to rise…play here for a few minutes, you may like to reconnect right hand to belly, left hand to heart.

Visualise

From the eyebrow centre begin to create the image of a murky lake, it may be a lake you know, it may be a classic landscape lake from a photo, painting, your imagination. In this lake you can’t see the lake bed for all the thoughts that are running through your mind, all your thoughts are the mud that clouds the lake. Can you see those thoughts? Can you shape them in the darkness of your lakes water?

Lake Juno

Lake Juno

Perhaps choose one or two thoughts or behaviours that you really would like to let go…then begin to watch that thought lower in the water falling through 10ft, 20 ft, 30ft… of water and see it settle as sediment below. Try this again with another mind imprint, distraction, acquired habit…continue with a few examples until your lake is clear. Then allow your entire being to ‘be’ this clear lake. You are this clear lake.

Add a mental repetition of ‘Sat Chit Ananda’, the perfect mantra to encapsulate the meaning of the Sutra 3.55. The perfect mantra to express the state the Sutras guide us toward.

Release the mantra hold this view of your clear lake, this metaphor revealing the state where self and consciousness have become pure, the same.
Gently externalise, return into your physical body, carrying within the ability to reach your clear lake at any time.

‘With our thoughts, we make our world.’ Dalai Lama

[References from: Govindan, Marshall., ‘Kriya Yoga Sutras’ / Pandit Rajami Tigunant on Yoga International.com / Swami Satyananda Saraswati., Yoga Nidra]


Yoga Sutras – via an Elephant!

Elephant Practice

Chapter 3 Extraordinary Powers

Still inspired by Donna Farhi’s Heart Intensive I looked to Patanjali’s Sutras to theme my next class and landed on Chapter 3 Verse 34, 3.34: ‘By communion/saṁyama at the heart, knowledge [of the nature of] consciousness [is obtained].’* This hurtled my beginners mind back to the beginning of Chapter 3 to understand – at least a glimpse of – saṁyama. Perhaps the heart was a step too far, too soon, for students and myself when exploring this chapter on extraordinary powers.

Sketch of an elephant

Indian Elephant Wikimedia commons

I needed a tangible object to demonstrate and so I chose the elephant, 3.24, but more on that later, saṁyama first.

Accessing Divinity

This chapter on extraordinary powers reveals divinity as accessible, a result of the burning away of the ego through disciplined practice. It is not the actual powers that are valued, in fact it is more important to reach that place where you can remain focused and attentive no matter what extraordinary abilities develop.* The chapter itself is titled vibhūti/holy ash referring to both purity & detachment and it opens with, 3.1, a binding place of consciousness/concentration. We have thus entered into the wisdom of the fifth limb of yoga, dhāranā concentration on a single object or point; we then move to dhyāna meditation where the one who mediates is aware of the object and the ideas related to it in a single stream and we end with the final limb samādhi where any distinction between object/ideas [of] and the meditator have disappeared – the meditator is merged with the object and ideas of that object or subject.
3.4 reveals saṁyama in which the last three limbs are practiced simultaneously or are merged completely. Divine power flows and the object becomes manifest, becomes the practitioner. As the Dalai Lama offers in a prayer, ‘With our thoughts, we make our world…’ Thus it is wise to live with intention and clarity knowing that the universe will work through you and manifest what you practice at all times, all day – not just on the mat.

Elephant Practice

3.24
‘By saṁyama on the powers of elephants and [other such animals], their strength [is obtained].*

You might like to begin your practice with a counted breath focus either seated or in sivasana and introduce a contemplation on the merging of the last three limbs of ashtanga’s 8 limbs. The contemplation may be as simple as – ‘I make my world.’ Return to the breath and on your last exhale fully let go, saying in your mind – ‘I let go, I open space in my world for intention’.
Externalise the body fully aware of your physical form on the mat and roll to the right to come up to seated.

If it’s in your practice offer your prayer, make your intention, chant OM

Practice your asanas, but today take time to actually become each pose – I am warrior, cobra, sphinx etc. Play with truly merging with the object and the qualities of the object, or in deed, subject – if it is an extended leg pose try to merge with the benefits of the pose become the extended leg pose. Don’t excuse yourself because there is not an evident metaphor. Start with softness – move toward strength, easing away when your body speaks and slow with softness ending in sivasana – let the body be a corpse and access the flow of the divine to become the elephant.

Be an Elephant

For sivasana try this elephant practice:
Settle into your floor position – bring the breath in the navel centre – feel a rising of energy from the pelvic floor to the navel and simultaneously from the throat to the navel both energy flows meet at the navel x 6 With the exhale the energies return to their point of origin.
2. Watch this breath note it for temperature, depth, sensations in the body…
3. Release the prana/apana breath you have been practicing. Bring the mind to the eyebrow centre – Dharāna: think about an elephant the whole of an elephant the way the skin wrinkles at the R ear, L ear, how weighty its trunk, the small eyes, the R ear, L ear both ears together, the entire head, the torso and the weight of the torso, the L front leg, the R front leg, both front legs together, the R back leg, the L back leg, both back legs together, all the legs together, the feet, the roundness of the feet, the roundish-ness of the toenails – the whole elephant together. Full concentration on the whole elephant.
4. Dhyana: Draw into the mind the qualities of the elephant and meditate on these…it may be the strength, the memory, the sensitivity to sound, creativity, willingness to serve, obedience, touch, matriarchal/communal societies, groundedness, earth connection…any qualities of the elephant meditate on these…
5. Samadhi choose one or two of these qualities, bring them deep inside behind the eyebrow centre…let the qualities resonate there, in the beginning perhaps use one quality as a mantra. Then as you begin to merge your whole understanding of elephant right up until you are the elephant, embody those qualities you have chosen…if your mind wanders, as it inevitably does return again and again to your elephant word, your mantra…again and again…occasionally you may just ‘be’ elephant.

Elephant parts

Merge with all parts – be ‘elephant’

6. Very gently release your mantra and yet hold to the qualities you have infused within. Feel into your hand imagining it is as round as an elephants foot …and into your feet as though they two are round…then extend outward your own finger and toes opening them wide – feeling back into the physical body of you. Take your time and stretch as your body requests, bend knees, raise arms…respond to your external body as you need, then roll to your R side for a few breaths…before coming up to seated
6. Prana/apana breath as you settle into the upright, perhaps an Om Gam Ganapataye Namah or two.

Namaste

*Stars indicate referenced material Sutra translations from Govindan, Marshall., Kriya Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and read material Bachman, Nicolai., The Yoga Sutras Workbook. Any incorrect interpretations – the authors own.


Choices, Bowers and Cakes

 

Choices

A good friend of mine loves to repeat “life’s about choices” and in yoga too the choices we make are important from a number of points of view. In this post I’m thinking about the need to observe the body/mind and provide it with the care it requires on a particular day whilst simultaneously remaining open to possibilities and new experiences.

Moon-bower addition

In this holiday break I’ve opened myself to warm yoga at KX Yoga in Malvern. The studio is new and light, warm of course, and each class provides a teacher with an assistant. I’ve previously been closed to the idea of warm yoga but with the gift of a scoopon off I went – and I have enjoyed each class. Although I’m still not a convert to warm yoga, this is a personal choice not an argument, the classes at KX Yoga have been welcoming and the assistance is a gentle guidance rather than firm physical adjustment. There is an important distinction here – unless a teacher knows all the history of your body or you are attending a chiropractic session any contact with you and your body by another body should be one of reverence, no more than a gentle pressure to move you into the direction of the next level in a posture or a correction into a safer form of that posture. The other thing that impressed me at KX was both; that the teacher Mary Beth Donahue asked us why we had come, what we’d like to work on, and that the students responded with requests that had come from svadhyaya/self study. Some were specific they wished to work on their warrior postures and they stated their concerns, others were interested in balances, grounding and one requested flexibility and stretching as their profession gave them strength but limited their body in other ways. Mary Beth honored us all and took us on a journey in which each request was fulfilled. This is fine teaching.

 

A non-yogic cake & the sky

So svadhyaya comes up again at the moon-bower. I needed to move out of my comfort zone and so I tried warm yoga…I also needed to extend my wings outward as they have been held too close as I’ve been creating La Luna Meditations. Too much focus on one project gives rise to expectations and attachment to outcomes and that is a recipe that bakes a non-yogic cake full of dry personal obstructive and contracted bits that get stuck in your teeth. My choice of metaphorical floss has been to go a little deeper into the practices of the Vijnanana Bhairava and play with the meditation on Swaahaa/offering, as previously mentioned, but to extend this moving into Verse 85 ‘One should contemplate the entire sky which is the nature of Bhairava as if it is pervading one’s head…’

Sky

Cloud Thoughts

In this contemplation I begin to open my head and it becomes the sky, I open my lower body and it becomes the sky, I open my heart centre and it becomes the sky. Each opening to sky spaciousness brings different sensations. Thoughts are the clouds forming, drifting, dissolving and as each personal obstruction or contraction that I carry surfaces I repeat mentally swaahaa and offer it into the spaciousness of this great sky that has filled/become, gone beyond my physical form. As I continue in this practice my mind falls into and away. There is a sense only of presence. Presence in the spaciousness of the sky.

 

Wild thing

In that spaciousness I cannot hold onto the need for project outcomes or comparative-failure tendencies there is only the active energy of all things, all consciousness and I am not separate. If I am not separate there is nothing to compare. There is only the choice to bring that spaciousness and lightness back into the physical body I inhabit and to let it flow into my offerings for release into the world and into the moon-bower with abandon – I need to go now and practice ‘wild thing’ – camatkarasana! Then be quiet and wait with patience for my projects to evolve in their own time.

 

[My guidance for my reading of the Vijnana Bhairava comes from Sally Kempton who offers the doorway of Shakti-Shiva through her teaching,your own practice and the support of a community]