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Meditation and Reflection (with practice)

This article details the practice of the Inner Silence (Antar Mouna) meditation practice and discusses the topic of meditation in relation to it. Please skip towards the end to for the actual practice itself if you are not interested in the discussion.

Please note that this article was originally published on 27 Nov 2016 and was updated 23rd April 2018.

Introduction

Meditation practices that focus on the awareness of thoughts, can be thought of as a time to allow reflection and integration of experiences.  I have practiced the Antar Mouna (Inner Silence) meditation daily for many years. Although I practice other meditation practices, Antar Mouna is my daily practice in addition to a Japa (mantra repetition) meditation practice.

Antar Mouna is a practice that deals with thought awareness in one of its stages.

Ultimately meditation can bring ones mind to a clarity and stillness when the space between the thoughts opens up and pure experience occurs, although not always and less so in the beginning.

Meditation can be thought of as a reflection. An opportunity to witness the stuff in the mind which is normally out of sight. Sitting and watching the thoughts, or more importantly the mind space and the activities in that space, provides time for the mind to integrate experiences (impressions). We are shown the nature of the mind and also the content. Greater self-understanding occurs, both the nature of the mind and its content becomes more clearly perceived. In the process we are able to let go of negative impressions, or at least gain the awareness they exist, thereby providing an opportunity that we can work to resolve them.

One outcome of meditation is that, in my experience, is that connections between things become either established or clearer, sometimes during or after practice.

Another outcome is that the instances of insight and wisdom tend to arise more frequently and with profound relevance to our life.

There are of course other effects and benefits of practicing meditation. The others you can learn about for yourself through your own experience as that is the way of yoga and meditation. We learn by doing having learnt just enough to be able to practice it. Meditation is something that should be practiced much more often than it is talked or thought about.

Guidelines for Practice

Please try the following meditation practice. You can set an intent and commit to an initial number of days. You can if you so wish dedicate each days meditation practice to something or one etc.  Decide how many days in a row you will practice, make it once a day to start with.  For an intention try “I am going to practice meditation for 7 days regardless of how difficult it is. I am capable of success in this endeavour. “, or you can use and intention of your own choosing of course.

As you become more familiar with a meditation practice you may end up practice most days as a regular practice. Don’t force this though. You may also find preceding meditation with other practices can be beneficial.

All negative feelings about the practice including those that relate to your ability to “do meditation” should be ignored without reservation. It is more important to follow the sequence (the mechanics) of the practice than it is the expectations and/or the dialog in your head about it. To quote Yoda (if you’re a Star Wars fan) “do or do not, there is no try”. So just do the meditation and ignore your opinion about it is.

Inner Silence (Antar Mouna) Practice

  • Sit comfortably. lengthen the spine to achieve a good upright posture. Use a chair, or whatever, but sit upright.
  • Close the eyes and become aware of the physical body.
  • Let go of any effort to breath, the body will do that
  • Allow the body to settle into physical stillness while you move your awareness around parts of the body like; feet, legs, etc. really feel the body part, place your awareness there, notice the sensations in that part of the body.
  • Now place awareness on your breathing – observation only
  • After some time (you choose) become aware of the mind space
  • Reverse out of the practice when you are ready to finish
    • back to the breath for a bit
    • back to the body for a bit
    • gently start moving the head neck SMALL movements
    • gradually take your time to fully externalize and start moving more
  • This is no Antar Mouna, it is a stripped-down meditation technique that does work.

Options for Practicing Inner Silence

There are no timings given because you need to feel your way through the practice. However, you can try about 5 minutes in each section of the practice to get you started and tweak the timings for each section as you feel works best for you.

Approaches to use the practice are listed below.

A: Memorize the basic sequence. Use your memory to guide you. Then start at the beginning and follow that instruction until you feel it’s time to move on.

B: Record the practice sequence with your own timings. Smart phones have a voice recorder or buy a dedicated voice recorder. May laptops built-in mike. Suggested timings are 2 minutes each section.

C: Get a friend or family member to guide you through it. Guide each other ????

D: Attend a Satsang evening, or specific class or workshop which includes meditation.

Once you find a meditation practice that works for you, stick with it through thick and thin. Digging many holes gets you nowhere. Dig in the same place and the hole will go deep.

 

 

I wish you every success.

All the best

Russell


Posted in Contemplations, Raja Yoga (Yoga Sutras)

Path to Freedom Pointers

The information below was originally shared for those attending the event to taught called “Path to Freedom” at the British Wheel of Yoga North West day of yoga (November 28th 2015). The information be useful for subsequent events or for students wanting some pointers to explore yoga for themselves.

[Note: 28th November 2015. The quotes used during the day of yoga have been added at the request of some of those students present.]

Areas of study and practice:-

 

Specific practices:-

  • Physical yoga postures
  • Mudras such as Chin mudra
  • Pranayama – Specifically in this context Nadhi Shodana also known as Alternate nostril breathing
  • Pratyahara – Shanmuki Mudra or possibly Bramari pranayama
  • Meditation – Specifically in this context Antar Mouna or Inner Silence
  • Karma yoga

 

Further reading (see book list for exact details):-

  • Hatha Yoga Pradipika
  • Gheranda Samhita
  • Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – mainly chapter 1 and 2
  • Edge of Infinity – chapters 3, 5, 6 and 7
  • Bhagavad Gita – chapters 3 and 6
  • Yoga Darshan – Starting on pages 59, 87, 107, 226 until end of section

 

Quotes

99% practice 1% theory
(Sri K. Pattabhi Jois)

“Raja yoga is in practice an exploration and training of the mind. Ultimately this leads to complete mastery and understanding of the mind.”
(http://yoga-bija.me.uk/om/raja-yoga)

“Those who are enamoured of practice without theory are like a pilot who goes into a ship without rudder or compass and never has any certainty where he is going. Practice should always be based upon a sound knowledge of theory.”
(Leonardo da Vinci)

“The Yoga Sutra, is not a philosophy book to be studied with the intellect or ordinary mind, but rather it is an experiential workbook that is revealed by an open heart. Wisdom is by its nature, trans-rational and transconceptual — broader than any manmade conception or constructed thought wave, and Patanjali everywhere confirms that hypothesis. Wisdom as well as intellect comes from an innate sourceless intelligence of the universal boundless mind”
(Online PDF, reference available from yoga-bija.me.uk)

“The path of Karma Yoga gives us the possibility of expanding our awareness and deepening perception whilst acting in the world.”
(Edge of Infinity, page 223)

“Karma yoga means to perform work with awareness and to the best of our ability, without being attached to the outcome.”
(Edge of Infinity, page 223)

“In our daily life our minds are almost continually externalized. We see and hear only what is going on outside of us, and we have little understanding of the events taking place in our inner environment. The practice of antar mouna is designed to turn this around, so that for at least a short period we can see the workings of our mind and understand them. In reality antar mouna is one of the few ‘permanent sadhanas’ which can be practised spontaneously all the twenty four hours of the day by anyone who is really determined to know oneself.”
(Meditations from the tantras, page 211)

 

 


Posted in About Yoga, Developing a Personal Practice, Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga (Yoga Sutras)

Yoga Sutras – Introduction

What are the yoga sutras? The yoga sutras explain what the essence of yoga is, how to practice yoga, and describe the challenges we face along the way. It’s a guidebook if you like.  For those who attend physical yoga and think they are doing yoga, well they might be or might not be. One way to understand if you are “doing yoga”, and what is important, is to explore the Yoga Sutras. There are other books that are also important, and supplement the yoga sutras. The yoga sutras are the one scientific explanation of yoga that helps bring clarity in a way no other book I have found does. Other books such as the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads also have essential teachings explained in different ways and from different perspectives. The yoga sutras however, are complete and scientific in their approach.

What scientific approach in yoga? The phrase scientific approach probably conjures up imagery of machines and instruments. In actual fact scientific and empirical approaches are encouraged in yoga on a personal level so we can prove for ourselves and not have to believe in anything. Yoga is only known, understood and benefited from when it is activly practiced, and therefore experienced first hand. In fact the reason we have such books as the Yoga Sutras, and various different traditions based on yoga, is because the techniques and understanding of yoga does work repeatedly for people and has done since yoga began thousands of years ago. When looking at the definition of empirical evidence you will see its very compatible with this scientific yoga approach; “Empirical evidence, data, or knowledge, also known as sense experience, is a collective term for the knowledge or source of knowledge acquired by means of the senses, particularly by observation and experimentation.[1] The term comes from the Greek word for experience, (empeiría)”  (wikipedia empirical evidence). Should you look at definition of the scientific approach, you would also see this is compatible with the approach in yoga, especially the yoga sutras. You could say yoga is simple, it’s been proven, and we can follow the guidance of others to prove it for ourselves. It’s not of course, the ego, and subtly make it more interesting.

What form do the sutras take? The yoga sutras in physical form are a book containing many versus (196). Each verse uncovers and highlights an important aspect of yoga and it’s practice. The book is divided into 4 chapters. The first two (Samadhi and Sadhana) being the most important chapters to start with. Most books that explore the yoga sutras will have, in addition to the 4 chapters; an introduction, some commentary and other usefull information. Not all yoga sutra books contain the elements mentioned. The four chapters are, as worded by Swami Satchidinanda’s version:-

  1. Contemplation (Samadhi Pada) – The explanation of the essential concepts and essence of yoga
  2. Practice (Sadhana Pada) – The explanation of how yoga can be practiced
  3. Accomplishments (Vibhuti Pada) – The details of the by products of practicing yoga
  4. Absoluteness (Kaivalya Pada) – The experience of the experience of yoga we are working towards experiencing

How are they explained? Sanskrit is the language used by yogis, and this is the case in the yoga sutras. Therefore most books talking about the yoga sutras will have, for each sutra; the sanskrit, the transliteration, the essence of the sutra in english and maybe some commentry for that sutra. there might also be an introduction to the book, and maybe a short introduction to each chapter. Sanskrit is a sound based alphabet/language and as such many of the benefits of sanskrit are realised when words are spoken, chanted or used as a mantra. Sounds have a power, odd you may think, but I have proven to myself repeatadly that sounds have an effect. Om repeated a few times stills the mind and brings calm. Repeating some mantras does induce a different feeling than other mantras.

 


Posted in Raja Yoga (Yoga Sutras)

Asana and Meditation

When practicing postures (asana) it is most beneficial to try to cultivate concentration and awareness. Develop the ability to meditate on your body and posture whilst practicing asanas. Bring in the yamas and niyama (Yoga Sutras, 8 Limbs) into your practice. What are your attitudes towards yourself and your body when you are practicing? Are these attitudes positive or having a negative impact on your practice and being?

A couple of, off the cuff suggestions based on the list below for the 8 limbs.

  • When practicing there are times when closing the eyes is useful. This engages Pratyahara, although there are specific practices for Pratyahara also.
  • Ahimsa, can you stop trying to force yourself into a posture, and apply awareness to be a safe yogi?
  • Samtosha, can you be content with where you are, whilst trying to make progress instead of being unhappy with your practice?
  • Use a Drishti point. This is a steady gazing point such as big toe or a point on the floor in front of you which you focus your gaze on.
  • Can you learn to integrate bandhas, pratyahara, ujjayi and moolabandha to bring a more intense concentration and mediation into your practice?

The 8 limbs are:-

  • Yamas
    • Ahimsa – non-violent
    • Satya – truthfulness
    • Asteya – nonstealing
    • Brahmacharya – self control without disapating energies
    • Aparigraha – noncovetousness
  • Niyama
    • Saucha – cleanliness
    • Samtosha – contentment
    • Tapas – accepting the challenges of tranformation and letting go of the things that cause us pain and suffering
    • Svadhyaya – study of respected texts and healthy ways of living with respect to oneself
    • Isvara Pranidhana – Surrender to the mystery of the unknown in matters we can’t control or understand
  • Asana – the postures we do in class
  • Pranayama – breathing practices to control prana and energies in the body
  • Pratyhara – Sense withdrawl, or turning our attention inward.
  • Dharana – concentration
  • Dhyana – meditation
  • Samadhi

Namaste
Yoga Bija


Posted in About Yoga, Developing a Personal Practice, Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga (Yoga Sutras)

Aim of Yoga

What is the aim of yoga? or what is the aim for the person who practices yoga? Well clearly there are many benefits and reasons to practice yoga. There are also many varied reasons why people become interested in yoga. This is all good.

Looking at the fundamental and essential nature of yoga we find that the real goal is that of quieting the mind. Not making it dull, not turning it off. The mind like a muscle is useful and has it’s purpose. However we tend to find our minds all over the place allot of the time. Most of our real problems emanate from the mind.

In other articles I have looked at Raja yoga and Hatha yoga. Hatha (any physical yoga) was created to prepare one for raja yoga (yoga of the mind). Therefore when practising yoga and following yoga we will potentially become engaged with the real purpose of yoga. Yoga means union, union of what?  To all of our nature, a harmonious interplay of our different aspects. Our mind is the control centre and that is the main focus for yoga.

To still the mind, “Cessation of the fluctuations of the mind stuff” (patanajali yoga sutras). If we are to still the mind we will need to meditate. In order to meditate we need to be able to sit still long enough to meditate without discomfort. When we practice postures (physical yoga) and breathing (pranayama) we need to ensure we are cultivating the cornerstones for yoga.

Therefore when practising any form of yoga, any type of practice it must help cultivate following qualities, or at least not disturb them.

  • Quite mind
  • Develop Concentration
  • Heighten Awareness
  • Bring you close to the moment of now

In order to achieve these things we can focus our practice on.

  • Opening the body to be able to sit for meditation without discomfort.
  • Cultivate concentration and awareness
  • Remove the afflictions of body any mind
  • Learn to meditate whilst practicing yoga
  • Gain an understanding of the effects of yoga off the mat
  • Realise that yoga is practiceable during ones whole day

During a typical yoga class you can work on these qualities and goals in order to explore the real purpose and meaning behind yoga. You can work your practice to be more mindful, to develop a meditative approach. There is allot you can do to deepen your yoga practice on and off the matt, and in and out of class.

On meditation it’s important to note sitting meditation is not the only way to medidate, but it is an important one.

Namaste
Russell


Posted in About Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga (Yoga Sutras)
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