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Monthly Inspiration: March 2015

Meditation—How To Begin Your Practice

By Leigh Anne Eberle

 

A Foreword From Jessica Bellofatto

This month at KamaDeva Yoga, we will once again explore the topic of meditation. Meditation is a vast topic, and there are many techniques and styles of meditation, just as there are many techniques and styles of Yoga. From Vipassana to Zazen to Transcendental Meditation, it can be overwhelming to decide what style to follow and how to get started. Leigh Anne Eberle, one of our beloved teachers, wrote the focus this month and offers her advice on how to get started in a very clear and simple way.

For me, a practitioner of Yoga for 20 years, meditation has been an elusive and inconsistent part of my practice and something I struggle to cultivate. There have been times in my life when I sit without question every single morning for 30 minutes, and other times where I can not seem to find even 5 minutes of time in the day. With three kids (one of whom is still night waking), I can easily fall into the trap of "I will meditate when (fill in the blank) my kids are older, I get to sleep through the night, I am not working so much, etc etc. But, when I am honest, I find that I really don't have an excuse, and nor do you.

We NEED meditation in our lives. It is as vital to our health and well being, not to mention our spiritual world and connection to Higher Self, as sleeping and water are to our basic survival. This becomes all the more clear to me when I take the time to meditate even if only for 15 minutes a day, and even when it doesn't look perfect (my 14 month old sitting on my lap). This past month, I was away in Puerto Rico and then Mexico teaching Yoga retreats. These retreats are action packed for me—I am managing 15-25 or more people and their expectations and goals for the week, whether or not they like their room, scheduling surf lessons, massages, etc, and this year and last had the added stress of traveling with a nursing baby. But, every morning, without fail, when i wake up in these gorgeous tropical places, I am drawn to sit. No matter how my sleep was the night before, no matter how busy the upcoming day, I can not wait to get on my meditation cushion as the sun rises and the sweet smells of the tropics fill my body, and sit.

I sit for as long as an hour, savoring each moment, breathing in, and breathing out. When a thought, mental image, internal or external disturbance arises, I return, without judgement, to the breath coming in and the breath going out and simply, as Sharon Salzberg says, 'begin again.' What a gift, to be in this very moment, to simply sit, to cultivate the witness, the Seer, beyond the fluctuations of the body and mind. I love it, I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame when I am away and out of my daily routine. Then why not here at home? I am not quite sure of the answer to that question but I will once again this month work on establishing this daily habit, one day at a time.

Meditation – How to Begin Your Practice

Often people come up to me and say,” I just don’t know where to start to meditate.” They continue on to explain that they don’t think it will make any difference or that maybe they are not the kind of person who can meditate, but I believe differently. Anyone can meditate, and you can do meditation anywhere, so long as you’re able to put the “back in five minutes” sign on your head and the door. I often meditate in bed at the start of the day, or while sitting in my parked car before heading into class, during my lunch break, or in the evening as I relax on the couch or enjoy a hot bath. The only consideration is to choose a location and a point during the day where you can sit still and have an undisturbed five minutes... this is the beginning point of any meditation practice.

To define meditation, it is a way of training the mind. Just as regular physical exercise trains the body and keeps it fit, so meditation can be thought of as a method for training the mind and keeping it in a healthy state. We’re all wired differently, so the act of “turning inward” may look very different for you than it does for me. Still, I suggest meditation for everyone; it is the most direct route for getting out of the head and into the heart. Through meditation practice it's possible to develop a positive and clear state of mind. This isn't thinking 'good' thoughts, or painting on a smile. It is bringing out the best inside of you - a way of reducing the build-up of stress, anger and other emotions, which can make life difficult for you and those around you. Everyone needs refuge from the stress, anxiety, fear, loneliness, emptiness, and other aspects of life that can overwhelm us.

Furthermore, many people, through the practice of meditation,experience a sense of connection to something larger than self. Some prefer terms like humanity, evolution, the universe, or nature, to describe it while others with a religious slant, often describe that their connection to God is deepened through practice. Still, others note that they are happier, more content, and kinder to themselves, others, and the planet without reference to any other constructs.

While the act of meditation is fairly simple—close your eyes and focus on your breath—it can be helpful to use guided imagery. So, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Take a few slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Mentally set the intention to release all negative noise and mind-inspired banter (the monkey mind) with each exhalation and with each inhalation welcome calm, cool thoughts, and relax into your-self. Begin the process again, gently guiding yourself into an alternative state of presence—releasing the mind and body and healing from the inside out. With this, you have taken the first step into creating a meditation practice. See if you can repeat this continuously for six more days experiencing a weeks worth of meditation, and opening yourself to the many inner possibilities that life has to offer you.

For the month of March, I choose Easy Pose, or Sukhasana (soo-KAHS-uh-nuh). This is a basic seated yoga posture. It is depicted in some of the oldest images of ancient yogis in India, some of which are at least 2,000 years old. Also sometimes called “Simple Cross-Legged Pose,” Sukhasana is intended to be comfortable and calming. Its name comes from two Sanskrit words:

“Sukha”—meaning “easy,” “comfortable,” or “joy” (from “su,” meaning “good,” and “kha,” meaning “space”)
“Asana”—meaning “pose”
Sukhasana is a very common pose for practicing meditation and breathing exercises (called “pranayama”). It is also often used as an alternative to practicing Lotus Pose (Padmasana) for those whose hips are very tight.

I welcome you to sit, meditate and just be as we complete this last month of winter.

Namaste,
LeighAnne

KamaDeva Yoga, 15 Lumber Lane, 2nd Fl, East Hampton, NY 11937 Tel: 917.301.6919 Monthly Inspiration Archives