Tag 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.


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


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.


Fire, Water and Offerings

Full Moon 16 January 2014

La Luna will provide occasional ‘moon cycle reports’ as they come to her here at the moon-bower…

Symbolism

The moon symbolises the feminine side of the human being, characterised by grace, cycles or transitions, wisdom, perception, illumination. She is both teacher and guide within us, she is hidden from view without the light of the sun.

Full Moon

The whole of the moon

This is where the full moon this week in Melbourne gets interesting – she is being revealed by a fierce hot sun. The first full moon of 2014 is becoming visible through heat. As the moon element is water, and her colour silver, the alchemy is fractious.

Meaning

What this may mean is, subtly since the new moon and more strongly as we approach the full moon, our emotions may be intense – anger, frustration, despair, doubt may be very present. We may find ourselves lacking the clarity of thought to make sense or meaning to what is a transition within. For Melbourne dwellers there will be a tinder box effect – a dryness building to fire – the emotions unchecked will have the potential to ignite. This could end with confrontation or it may create a burning away of old samskaras, old patterns of behaviour that no longer have any validation in our lives.

Practice

Take care in this time. Call to compassion for self, love for self and increase your meditation time.

Try this ‘swaahaa’ or ‘so be it’ meditation. A meditation of offering, a releasing or letting go into fire.

Fire offerings

Fire offerings

  • Settle in a comfortable seated position, choosing a mudra for yourself
  • Commit yourself to a time, you may choose to set a gentle timer
  • Close the eyes bring the focus to the breath – observe only
  • Shift the breath around the body so it is as if you are breathing in through the crown of your head, neck, shoulders, heart centre etc and breathe out the same spot you breathed in x 3 breaths per body section
  • Settle the breath to an inhale down to the heart centre – or wherever it lands down through the body and working with your diaphragm on the exhale release up through the crown of your head, continue for at least 6 breaths until this flow is natural to you
  • Check in with your self here, are thoughts distracting you? Consider how in all those thoughts, throughout your entire body and in all living things and matter there is shakti, the energy of the divine consciousness – release those thoughts to the understanding that everything that comes up for you is infused with shakti
  • Once you have welcomed the thought of shakti in all things introduce ‘swaa’ to the inhale to the heart and ‘haaa’ to the exhale.
  • Continue with the movement of the breath and your mantra
  • When you finish take time to let the meditation settle so that the offering is released – restoring the true calibration of the moon within as calmness and grace.
  • Know that there will be an easing with the illumination of the full moon and you may be very tired by the end of the week.

The above meditation was inspired for use at this time by Sally Kempton and her current Freedom, Ecstasy and Awakening Telecourse