Personally, my idea of sitting in meditation is appealing; the effort required to stay focused and at ease is not. I have noticed that moving my body prior to meditating quiets down the restlessness inside so that the experience of sitting in silence is accessible and probably more beneficial. I see it as time well spent. Both my body and my mind are satisfied.
I have created a class called Moving Into Meditation. It begins with gentle, slow yoga of about 20 minutes, followed by a relaxing meditation done in a supine position on the floor, and concluding with an optional writing activity and group sharing time.
Is slow yoga a form of meditation?
Doing yoga slowly with attention on the sensations of muscles stretching and contracting, breath coming and going in sync with the limbs flowing into various positions, and the focus on the present moment can be called mindfulness but not quite meditation. Slow yoga has the potential to bring one into the present moment. Being in the present moment is a necessary aspect for meditation, but it is not the whole thing. Moving with mindfulness, as when one is running, painting or flowing through a yoga sequence can set up the ideal conditions for a satisfying sit. It allows the body to be both energized and relaxed, and the mind to be curious and awake. When conditions become favorable, a natural progression from doing into a state of being that we call meditation may open with minimal effort.
Sometimes it is helpful to have a guide when visiting a new country with a language that is not familiar, and with landscape, food and customs that look, taste and feel different. A form of meditation that offers a guided verbal direction toward relaxation is called Yoga Nidra. It is done lying down while paying attention to present moment body sensations for approximately a second before moving awareness to another place in the body. More and more subtle layers are explored such as the nuanced sensations of breathing in and out. Simple visual images such as a blue sky might be offered. The invitation to witness a thought as it appears, stays for some time, and passes through awareness is presented. With gentle guidance, the body deepens into relaxation while the mind is engaged with curiosity and compassion for the many sensations, images and thoughts that come and go within an awake yet relaxed awareness.
A unique tweak
Just a suggestion – what if you are already whole? What if what you have been trying to find is already inside you, but covered by delusion and misperception? What if you are already whole, wise, happy, healthy, peaceful and safe, but you just missed that room within because it was painted over? A unique tweak to Yoga Nidra is the option to choose a “sankalpa” or a positive statement that is self-selected and set in the present moment such as “I am”, and you fill in the positive word that follows. Your positive phrase is silently stated at the beginning and again at the end of the session. To me, it is motivating and actually really exciting to imagine that what I admire in another is the seed of potential that already exists within me. My only obstacle is my false belief that I am separate from it. Rather than looking at meditation as a means to achieve another, more peaceful or more enlightened state of being, it just feels better on every level to consider the possibility that I have already arrived, and the only effort now is to recognize where I have painted over my natural experience of wisdom, happiness, health, peace and power.
It is like a nap, but better
After moving my body in ways that release tension and activate some energy, at my own pace, with careful attention to right now experiences, I am primed for an interesting experience of lying down to wake up to my hidden aspects. Just as a nap can feel like heaven, this kind of meditation can be deeply restorative and it is said that the potential exists to move through the deep sleep brain wave state and open into a much more creative, rich and expanded brain wave state of deep self-awareness.
You are not the boss of me
It turns out, the brain is not the boss of the body, as once believed. The brain produces thoughts, but by believing our own thoughts, we can end up entangled in stories and dramas that are mostly fictional. If the body is consulted for information, as happens in Yoga Nidra meditation, it tells the truth as it is unfolding in the present moment. The practice of checking in with the body, without judgment, is cultivated. The full picture emerges which is the truth of the present moment, without commentary. The brain as boss has taken a break.
William Faulkner, American novelist and Nobel Prize winner in literature, said, “I don’t know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written about it.” At the conclusion of the Yoga Nidra session, the opportunity to write a few sentences about your experience will be offered to gather those insights while they are still fresh. Just like a dream, if you jump out of bed in the morning without much curiosity about your dreams, they come and go like a discarded gift from beyond.
Just like me
You have the option to share what you discover by talking about your experience of slow yoga and Yoga Nidra with others in the group. There is something extremely supportive about being in a group and listening to another about their experience and noticing how it resonates with your own. When we move and meditate together, we might begin to realize how we are more alike than we are different. Just like me, others want to be happy, healthy, peaceful and safe.