Category Archives: Meditation

Successful Habits – The Opportunity to Break Laziness

The awareness of “being” is very important to me in my teaching. It’s practice to be able to abide peacefully in yourself and know a more fundamental sort of identity. It’s what you do differently after experiencing it to live more genuinely and go even closer to the soul.

I may have mentioned in a previous post how “stilling” ourselves makes movement more significant. In other words, by practicing “being” you become more aware of “doing”, and it’s consequences. This is important because “doing”(which includes thinking) is what creates the patterns playing out in us that must be transformed and then diminished to align ourselves with peace, happiness and the wisdom. However, when it comes to changing ourselves, the light of consciousness will not do it for us. It will only reveal where the work lies. In it’s infinite love and wisdom, the universe allows all possibilities, even ones that leave it’s microcosmic human flower blossom of representations to experience disconnection and discord. Stilling yourself in being, (which incidentally can also involve movement in it’s surface levels… think ecstatic, enraptured dance) is inherently connecting so for those that feel out of touch with life and their purpose it gives them that realization that there is that immense mysterious fabric of unity right underneath their feet, and in their hands, and up in the sky, and inside that flower over there…

After picking up lunch today and on my way home, I stopped into the store to buy some fruits. I had an afternoon lethargy. I barely felt like going into the store but I knew it would be good to have some mangoes tonight. As I walked out and looked across the street to where the market was that sells bags of coconuts, 10 to a bag, the thought/feeling arose, “you’ve been too lazy to buy the coconuts lately” because I’ve been wanting to make a new batch of yogurt. Quick responses to rationalize came next; “it’s so much easier to just hop on the motorbike” and “that bag is heavy and then I have to hang on the back of the pick up truck to go home”, and even “you’re already thinking of being lazy, and you want to make coconut yogurt today!?”. Then the saving thought/feeling shone out from the background, “didn’t you already do some things you thought you were too lazy for today?”. Without further internal debate I was walking across the street instead of hopping on the motorsai taxi. Of course the coconuts were heavy but after a few steps carrying them I felt a surge of energy and worked to stabilize my spine, trying to walk without the bag pulling my posture into a compromising collapse. The lazy lethargy disappeared.

Everything we do is habit forming. This is why some time in stillness can help us to see our actions for what they really are, a break from the pattern so we can come back with fresh eyes. Accomplishing things that we thought we couldn’t or wouldn’t do is also habit forming. I thought I was too lazy to make coconut yogurt today, or even buy the coconuts, but perhaps because of small events foregoing immediate gratification (I brought home lunch today because I wanted to have a smoothie 30 minutes before lunch and not with my meal) I set up a new habit for the day to push on and do what I knew would make me satisfied when I lay down to sleep tonight, comfortably letting the day go. After the yogurt mayhem I continued with a number of other projects including writing this post.

Recap:

Willingly do something that will test your resolve or patience.  It doesn’t matter how “big” this thing is. Note the feelings of moving beyond the obstacles, accomplishing the task, and the sense of satisfaction that comes. Save that feeling. With another practice you can get on a roll with it and everything becomes do-able. Use that feeling anytime you feel the challenge of deciding between right action and laziness.

Namaste

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How to Sit for Meditation: Classical Meditation Poses

Meditation Asana

Meditation Asana share two main features; an upright spine and stability. The spine, up right in extension, provides the mental poise needed for sustained concentration. Stability calms all systems and gives us more internal awareness.

In classic meditation poses the legs cross and the thighs form a wide base of support. The hands rest on the knees further helping to stabilize the spine. The individual parts support the total body alignment with minimum effort, yoga. At first the flexibility of your body is the main determining factor for which of the meditation asana you should use, then time. Remember that you should be comfortable in the pose so as to focus easily on your inner environment. Do not sit in a position that irritates or nags you to release the pose. When all of these poses are accessible to you can explore their different qualities.

The Poses here are listed in order of most effort to remain upright and least stable to least effort and most stable, generally…

 Throne Pose

This pose is appropriate for those who cannot sit comfortable on the floor from lack of mobility or injury. It’s also a good way to sit anytime you’re in a chair.  Sit in a chair with both feet flat on the ground hip distance apart, hands on the thighs or in a simple mudra, and spine upright. It has a very attentive feeling but requires the most total body engagement to maintain. Keep focusing to the center of the head and harboring in the axis of your balance for a “light head” feeling. You know I don’t mean that kind!

 Sukhasana – Happy Pose

Sukhasana is a simple cross legged position. Compared to the other cross leg positions it is not very stable and easy to slouch in but generally better than the Throne pose as it opens the hips. It is better suited for short meditation periods like at the beginning and end of Hatha Yoga classes, for those that cannot yet perform the three classical meditation poses, and for casual sitting. For balance, in this, and each cross legged position, you should change the cross of the legs everyday, practice, or time performing the pose. Bring each foot under the knee of the opposite leg and then slightly rocking your hips from side to side roll the flesh of your buttocks out and widen the sit bones. You can do this pose sitting on the edge of a folded blanket or block to elevate the hips and make an easier time of it. This works because the knees drop lower relative to the pelvis and create less pull that would cause the lumbar vertebrae to round and the whole spine to “sink”. Use something that lifts you just enough to make it feel easy to stay with the chest broad and spine upright. This makes a thick blanket best because you can fold it to your needs.

 

Vajrasana – Thunder Bolt Pose

Same as Sukhasana, this asana can be useful for short periods. Long holds can be straining to the knees and ankles for some people and in extreme conditions can result in temporary paralysis of the muscles that flex the foot. If this pose is used with a thick cushion between the calves and thighs, or a small angled bench, it can be one of the most comfortable seated poses as the knees are only partially flexed, pressures in the body are evenly spread out, and it’s easy to maintain an upright spine. The downside is that it’s still not as passively stable as the three classical seated poses, described next.

 Swastikasana – Auspicious Pose

This is the first traditional meditation asana and similar to the next one, Siddhasana, but is less demanding to accomplish. Pull one heel towards the genitals with the sole against the opposite thigh. Pull in the second foot similarly and tucking the toes between the calf and thigh muscles. Each heel will be on the opposite side of the body. You can stay with this pose for a long time. It is rather stable and much more accessible than the next two.

 Siddhasana – Accomplished Pose

This pose is claimed as the best for pranayama, meditation, and realization. It is also said to bring powers or siddhis to the yogi who practices it daily for 12 years. Siddhis are not to be used from a will directed by ego but if they are experienced as divine phenomenon they are fine. Draw one heel inwards and right to the perineum.  Draw the second inwards and over the genitals, stacking the ankles on top of one another and placing the toes between calf and thigh. The backs of both heels should be on the midsagittal plane. There are claims that performed properly this pose helps control sexual energy, and those that also say it can cause male impotence.  This can be caused primarily by the lower heel traumatizing the arteries responsible for dilating during erection. This makes the earnest practice of siddhasana better for celibates. If you still want to explore the pose without this danger and are able to achieve it, try it with modest elevation of about one inch for the hips and you will find everything much nicer yet still subtly subduing.

 Padmasana – Lotus Pose

This is the most stable of the meditation asana. Place the feet on the upper thigh of the opposite leg with the knees close to or touching the floor. The legs are essentially locked into place and this is what makes it possible to use this arrangement in many other poses as well as providing the unparalleled steadiness of this pose. Be especially mindful of the knees when learning padmasana. Do not force you’re feet into the position.  With this and the other classical meditation poses keep your arms lightly extended to your knees with the palms up to steady the spine even further. Use the Jnana mudra with the tip of the thumb and index finger touching and the other three fingers extended straight, touching side by side.

Mula Bandha in Meditation

Mula bandha is used to govern the energy in the body during meditation. It is essentially the fail safe for concentration techniques and can be used as the technique itself. In each of these poses for meditation it will have a slightly different dynamic. The more spread apart the space of the perineum the more consciously you will have to focus to maintain it. It is almost naturally occurring in the propped version of Vajrasana and Siddhasana, with the pressure of the heel stimulating the PC muscles.

It is advised for most practitioners to come to meditation after a full practice of asana and pranayama that gives the energy, alertness, and physical comfort needed to stay focused. Those who can be fresh and focused enough to meditate without preparatory practices may do so but will most likely still benefit from preparing with at least kriya and pranayama. I also recommend unplanned meditations whenever conditions are right.

Namaste

George Anthony

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Filed under Alignment, anatomy, Asana, Meditation, Practice Advise, Yoga

Meditation and the Inward Movement: Nerve Relief and Re-wiring

What is the process of moving towards meditation?

I  say towards, because meditation is an out of body experience which you can not perform. Meditation infers that there is no performer! I suppose it’s easier to say and we all love that, but to say “I meditate”, unless your speaking from the cosmic endless ocean of pure concsciousness-bliss, is just incorrect. You can however prepare yourself for this divinely graced presence by meditation practice. Imagine it’s like going through all the rooms in the gigantic house-of-your-being, slowly you dim the lights and turn off things as you make your way inwards. Walking more quietly and slowly after each light is turned off, you might stub your toe on some left out thought you thought you had put away. Pick it up mindfully. Feel it in your hands and contemplate it’s meaning or use in your life. If it has merit or a place in your heart, place it on a shelf for later. If it’s just chatter or undesired, drop it without remorse into the bin. Going further into your house, you find rooms you may not have known even existed. However, they feel more familiar than any of the previous rooms once you’re in there. You decide to sit down in one. As you sit and become still, you realize you can feel the entire house you’ve already gone through. There it is, perhaps gently vibrating in your awareness. Now, all there is to do is look at the awareness…. of your awareness…. of awarenessthat………….hey! ……this is just an article, snap out of it!

Meditation begins with a quiet place where we can slowly withdraw from activity and stimulation. We should definitely be grateful if we have a handy place like that in our lives. For most people it’s hard to find the ideal spot. Don’t sweat it. Just locate or simulate the most cave like setting you can manage! The whole idea of the cave is that it’s just a hole in a rock with nothing going on in there. You need to cut out the stimulation so you can look and listen internally. It makes pratyahara, sense withdraw, a lot more simple. If you can’t really find such a place conveniently, consider somewhere with consistency in the incoming stimulation.Maybe the non-disruptive sounds of nature.

Another example, I live in Bangkok in a condo. I practice meditation on the roof, 24 stories up. From up there, the bustle of the city sounds mostly distant and homogenous. None of the sounds stand out too drastically. Ideally if there aren’t any buck-wild children around the pool I’ll also practice there. Actually, if I’ve just done a lot of invigorating asana I’ll practice meditation afterwards there because I feel so centered, even if there are all kinds of kids splashing and cahooting. They usually become unusually quiet if they notice me put my head on my feet in Kapotasana anyway.Plus, I think some of them really get it…

Another option you could consider that I just read about is quite extreme. Put on some headphones with static white noise, tape half a ping pong ball over each eye, then put a red light on in front of you. These filters over your senses will eventually become completely  meaningless to your brain and you will be totally internalized. The only problem is you might start to hallucinate wildly after about 30 minutes. Here’s a reasonable compromise…

…obviously for much shorter intervals.

So it’s true, you don’t have to actually sit somewhere quiet for that withdraw. But having a foundational asana and pranayama practice helps to hone your focus a little more close to home. People who are good at relaxing, somewhere quiet, ideally in nature, are doing this all the time too. If it’s somewhere especially peaceful (again, nature) you can even be engaged in simple activity and get a sense of it. It’s a skill of sorts to be able to filter out overload. This is needed from time to time to refresh ourselves and it’s the first step towards meditation. That withdraw however,  can be much more recuperating and the experience much more interesting if we leave out the activity.

So, you’re in your spot, your withdrawn, my next post will be about meditation poses, what next? Watch your breath. If you’re practicing meditation there’s no need to change your breath. Just be still, calm, and watch your breath. Watch the spaces between your breath. Watch the feeling in the spaces between your breaths. All the while, feel everything relaxing and slowing down. Your heart rate slows down. Your mind slows down. Time slows down. Like in the metaphor of the house-of-being if you come across a thought don’t rush yourself to cast it out. Let it be there as a phenomenon. Picture it as an event or energetic happening. If it strikes a chord with you emotionally take consideration to know your genuine feelings and have resolution with the subject before letting it go. Some thoughts come simply as flashes of trivial memories, mostly inconsequential, some come with deep personal meanings and present a great opportunity for establishing a new relationship with that particular subject.

This process of moving inward, let’s you encounter more consciously your usually subconscious behavioral patterns. But it’s still only just on the verge of conscious…initially….I can’t even say what kind of stuff might be waiting for you in there; such fleetingly indescribable whisps of experience, energetic epiphany, maybe even completely disappearing for an instant. Sounds epic right? Well if you don’t experience any of that it’s fine. Don’t give up because like the ashtangi’s love to say “practice and all is coming.”

The practical level of meditation practice is always still there. It’s a great tool. Instead of bang-crashing all around your nervous system with the thought train express, processing the endless bits of information of a day, and reacting to the explosions, bosses getting the cramps, or a damned paper cut…Just sit down sometimes… survey the network of your nearly impossibly miraculous vessel of life in a chilled out way. The more you come here, to your  place inside yourself, perhaps an even sacred place, the more your innate intelligence, beyond the level of your thinking mind, will trim all the hodgepodge non-sense on which you don’t need to be wasting your vital nerve force. And, when you come back from meditation practice you’ll have a new and easier way to be true to you, more streamlined, high-def, and totally astrally experienced.

Tips for Meditation Practice

1. Be comfortable. It’s not going to work if you’re struggling to just be in your body. Upright is preferable to laying down for staying alert. Use big cushions or even one of those cool super space age rubber balls. Actually, you’ll probably have too much fun rolling around and bouncing on it. If you can’t sit upright comfortably for more than a minute lay down for now and practice asana!

2. Relax your eyes and tongue especially. Thoughts are often stimulated by movements of these areas that carry and convey so much information.

3. Watch your breath.

4. Trust yourself! You don’t have to “know” what to do. Sometimes there is a lot of stuff to process before you can come to the clearing of peacefulness.


Namaste.

George Anthony

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Filed under Breathing, Health, Meditation, Practice, Practice Advise, Resting, Yoga

Tadasana or Samasthiti – Mountain Pose and Standing in Balance

Mountain pose is often touted as the prime posture for experiencing the inherent poise of properly performed Asana. What is poise, first? We should perhaps consider. Poise comes when we feel present in every fiber of our being. It feels like all your inner resources are right there at your beck and whim and you can play it as cool as having an ace in the hole. Physically, it is feeling balanced and at ease to deftly move in any direction.

Truth is, lately I think about mountain pose or “the upright standing posture” of people more often outside of the yoga class. I watch how people stand everywhere. I look inside them, and see their spine.

When we stand tall our bodies naturally moves towards balance. This means that all of our postural muscles are working with the appropriate weight load and don’t become stressed. All of our vertebrae, joints, and organs come close to an internal stasis, of having equal pressure.

The lungs also move towards this stasis and breath is distributed evenly to and from all portions of the lungs. I don’t need to cite all the benefits this has for your metabolism, immunity, mental health, etc.

So why does it seem many people slouch, have bad posture, or curl over with age? They are being pulled away from their center in one way or another. Physical objects like our gadgets pull us in, social confrontations pull us to a side so we feel stronger to move in a certain feeling or direction, and gravity pulls us down. It is also accepted that many peoples’ posture is a result of cultural conditioning. We hold ourselves the way we see other people do. All the more important for us than to be a good role models!  To come back to center takes recognition, some concentration, and sometimes  more. Keep going through the process. Be aware. Recognize. Re-adjust. Notice what it feels like to be in your balance physically. Consider what it means to be in emotional and intra-personal balance. Can you still feel poise when someone is creating invasive or reactive energies.  When your in balance does it seem like there is a bigger world, more energy, or a better feeling about yourself? Keep doing it and make yourself new. This process of coming back to your physical balance center with the spine is the symbolic representation of bringing your self back to the present moment in which lay your real work and pleasure of discovering a new manifestation of your eternal soul.

Soo….to a group of readers who are probably very familiar with how to practice mountain pose, I lead you to my presentation now!

Mountain Pose – How to Stand Tall

A lot of people make a big deal out of feet in this pose. And as they should, the base affects the entire structure. We can spread our weight evenly on our feet in this pose easily. Place the feet so the big toes are touching side by side. Your heels may be slightly apart or touching. Put them in the place that makes you feel balanced in the center of your heel and you can put weight into the balls of your big toe and pinky toe.

You can also try placing the heels to the position that makes your legs face straight forward. Pay attention to the relationship of alignment from your toes, to your knees and upper thighs.When your feet are set right, your ankle joints should feel centered, or even hollow. When you are setting your feet it’s also good to lift and spread your toes as high as you can to wake up muscles and broaden your base for greater  balance. If you are set in the feet but your knees seem rotated inwards or outward it may mean you need to develop balance in hip and thigh muscles.

With your alignment set you can now create the synergistic action of engaging the quadriceps to lift the knees and push down through the axis of your legs to “root in” to your feet. This kind of synergistic action should be created in all standing poses and in a similar way, into any part of your body that touches the ground to create lift in another part or vice versa. This makes mountain pose a model for proper asana practice.  At the same time let the lower back lengthen down through the tailbone towards the floor and the pubic bone to lift slightly upwards, if at all. Here you should essentially be making the bowl of your pelvis level with the earth. All of these muscle contractions should be done to create a sense of poise but can also be engaged stronger on exhales to give you a therapeutic alignment “reset” if you will.

While you were doing all that you were probably already beginning to feel your posture growing taller. When you practice focus on the crown of your head and the sensation of being perfectly centered. You may feel slight sways in your posture. Don’t fight them, just feel where the center is, and increase your sensitivity and with practice you’ll stay there more easily. Let your breath also guide you in this. Observing the dimensions of your breath as it changes inside of you is powerful way to learn about your body and your balance. As for arms… I always say arms are for expressing so explore what feels right for your arms. I like to gently turn my palms forward to open the chest for breathing. Keep your head level and your face calm.

To me, mountain pose, and good posture in general, is as if a straight line is passing through the center of my head, the center of my hips, and the center of the earth. My body is soft and open, the spine feels comfortably suspended in the fluids and tissues of the body. I feel equally connected to the earth, aware of space all around me, and a little something extra special pulling me upwards and ever closer to my balance wth the center.

Namaste.

George Anthony

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Filed under Alignment, anatomy, Asana, Breathing, Meditation, Practice, Yoga

What is Karma? How does it work and where did it come from?

Karma is an ancient Sanskrit word that literally means action. Within the backdrop of Vedantic and buddhist philosophy, and the growing momentum of us humans to experience the workings of the universe and our own spirituality, it has more connotations.  It often comes with the understanding that actions have results, not only to the external environment but also in human tendencies to create significance and beliefs from experiences. This is what shapes each ones’ own sense of  identity, or in a yoga perspective, separateness.

Technically this affect of action, or karma, is called sanskara, the impressions that influence future actions.

I believe existence started as spiritual consciousness and evolved to matter, and then eventually to what I might call “manifest consciousness” or life. This fits with the story that many people call the fall of humans, a fall from a state in which we were beyond physical bodies and unbound by the “laws” of time and space, knowing love and oneness.  Looking at this “fall” in terms of a chakra perspective of consciousness, your spirit descended down to this “Earth” plane to be able to play with more intricate forms and create new knowledge. When the knowledge that comprises you, your vibrational signature, becomes seminal to the evolution of spiritual consciousness, it goes back up through the chakra and makes enlightenment, an awakening in spiritual consciousness, something that was laying latent until your human soul popped it’s head it and said, “Hey! Wake up with me!”. Suddenly you’re breaking fast in a new dimension you can’t yet explain, nor have need to. You leave the body for awhile. Maybe you come back to this body, maybe another. Human beings represent the newest frontier in which the original consciousness can explore and study the interactions of it’s ever more subtle yet stimulating creations. You can see it in every facet of our interests; our sexual energy, emotional bonds, the hurtling speed of our intellectual and technological advancement…All of this is to make smaller actions, more refinement, and to see that while we may become disillusioned in a new complexity,  love still operates there. No matter how many ways you cut up it, everything still wants to be it, connected, and accepted. All of our karmic traces, or sanskaras would appear to be the trickle down affect of pure and complete oneness becoming twoness, then threeness, and then…Ohhh how far are we now? That’s a deeep rabbit hole. Karma is the process of the universe in multiplicity and the evolution of the human soul.

So then, do we have any options or is it just some unfathomable math equation playing out? Of course, we have choice. I feel it anyway. Human choice is always about how much we open ourselves to what is really going on, and whether we create belief in it’s relevance to our identity. The sanskara pulls similar experiences back to us, like feedback or an echo from the karma as a kind of check test. Do you still identify this way? When the manifest consciousness can recognize itself through the superficial experience of identifying, the sanskara is reduced or removed. This is one of the affects of meditation. You spend a time not identifying and some of your perceptual tendencies becomes reduced or removed. You become less committed to ego created roles and more dedicated to love and self-less, universal purpose.

Kinda like this…

The common misconception about karma is that the things you do will be the things that happen to you. While this may be the case, it is much more accurate to say it is the inner experience you create that will come back to you. This explains some of the perceived incongruity between peoples’ actions and their life experiences.

A common pondering about karma is pure bewilderment at how many perceptual tendencies we have, the complexity of their relationships, and the span of their cycles. I can only suggest have awe and gratitude for the amazing degree to which our “oneness” has made you unique, capable of the greatest of love, and adorned us with the grandness of the cosmos.

The stars are really here with us…

Whether we make good or bad karma, it still keeps us from evolving spiritually unless we are learning to look through and see that actions do not touch the true core of being.  That being said, I would like to believe that the world of form and action has a propensity towards the positive spectrum, as it is not only alluringly beautiful, but has a lightness which allows us to see through to that original being of infinite peace and love.

We can all act as karma reducers for each other.  When we receive one another’s actions without judgement, without critically self interested re-action, we can dissipate some of the sanskaras by making a space for the other to see themselves and without reinforcing their identifying processes. If we keep swapping these actions with this attitude we reduce karma and increase knowledge as well.

….a quote…

“One who is able to see inaction in action and action in inaction-he is the intelligent among men. He is a yogi while engaged in every kind of work. Others will see him engaged in activity but he will see himself as not doing any karma.”– Chapter 4, Verse 18. Bhagavad Gita

Namaste

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Meditating in the New Year at a Thai Temple

It’s good to start anything new with clarity. Last night I met Adrian and Shiang at Wat Yannawa, one of the many amazing examples of Thai temple architecture.

This is a view close to where I was sitting in the grass, doing some long forward folds to bide the time. As the new year came closer, throngs of people moved up the stairs towards the meeting halls for a led chanting meditation. By 11:00 Adrian and Shiang appeared. They were slightly bewildered as they had just gone to scope out the scene up those stairs. I went to check it out briefly for myself. Upon reaching the first landing, a wave of hot, humid air radiated me. Both upper floors were overflowing with people seated on the floor, hands in wai, chanting with the monks, some on their gadgets. I came back and we talked for another moment or so until Shiang spontaneously decided it was time and adopted Lotus pose. Adrian and I followed suit and we were a circle of focus.

I moved through many thoughts and energies while sitting there, considering my intention for this next journey around the sun. Ideas about future goals, lifestyle pursuits, relationships, and career ambitions rifled through my mind.

Feeling the time draw ever nearer, I needed to clear away the clutter and come to something simpler; giving. There are many avenues and chances to give. Sometimes giving is respecting someones wishes and giving them space. Sometimes it is being there for them when they need a compassionate friend. Sometimes it is coming from one’s own hardwork so that you may provide for others. I thought about all the people most dear to me and how I could best serve them. I thought about this world’s people, and extended my intention broader.  I began to add a visual element by imagining my intention as a pure energy, moving from my heart, through the hearts of Adrian and Shiang, and then circling back to me. After a few rounds it could extend farther. It spread like an electrical current through the mass of conductive participants, which had now sprawled out across the temple grounds. In the last few seconds of 2010 I gathered this metaphorical energy, multiplied by those around me, into a pure ball of light in the midst of our circle. Hearing the first fireworks launched, I sent it skywards declaring my intention to all beings.

We opened our eyes and cheered the New Year. Adrian said “I love the contrast. Inner-work and glitter.”

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