I never said meditation was easy! Easy and simple are not the same thing. Just like any skill, getting there takes practice and practice might take time...but that doesn't mean that underneath, it is still a simple skill. Ironically it is the simplest thing that you can possibly do. It takes a total lack of effort, in contrast the the enormous effort that most of us associate it with.
The number of people i talk to that have 'tried' meditation and discovered it isn't for them is even greater than the number that don't go to yoga because they aren't very stretchy! Haha. Maybe what they thought was meditation wasn't meditation at all is my greatest suspicion!
Equally the number of people that i talk to who want to discuss the difference between meditation and mindfulness, or the pros and cons of all the different techniques, far outweigh those who stop procrastinating and just get on with the job of finding out. We can talk about meditation and mindfulness for weeks, do degrees on the subject and write papers on the merits and differences - it gets us no closer to walking our path-we are just delaying walking the path by looking at the map over and over again.
What is 'meditation'?
Try it and find out!
Ask me what is 'tea' and you'd get a similar answer - you have to drink it to know it - i could talk to you about tea all day but until you have had a great cup (tea before milk of course!) you will never 'know tea'.
I often say it is just a study of a strange creature, that creature being your mind. 'Know thyself' as Socrates declared. no-one else can know your mind except you, however many pieces of paper and certificates they have. But it is much more than that. It enfolds every moment of your existence.
Tibetan Buddhism calls meditation 'Gom' - literally to 'become familiar with' - with what? With yourself, with your mind and all of its peculiarities.
'How should i meditate?' is the next most common question.
How do you want to meditate ? Is my normal answer
Sit, walk, wash the car, drink tea, have a disagreement with a neighbour. They all offer perfect opportunities to practice Gom, to become familiar with yourself, your reactions, your habit patterns.
Let's take the example of sitting because most people associate meditation with crossed legs, bums on mats.
To practice sitting meditation, what you really want to practise is the art of sitting, nothing more and nothing less. To do nothing but sit. What else is there to do?
I can play all sorts of distracting games with myself that i might call or mistake as 'meditation': blocking thoughts, reciting mantras, getting tied up in thoughts, getting frustrated at my lack of 'progress', my lack of 'meditation'. All of this time i am ignoring the sitting, I have departed even from sitting. Im not sitting anymore, i'm somewhere else in my head, in the future or the past. My bum may be on the floor but i'm not aware of it, my awareness is elsewhere.
How complicated and pointless!!
However simply to sit and do nothing but sit, to be fully aware of sitting and totally immersed in sitting, to be distracted by nothing but sitting, that is a pleasure and it requires not the slightest bit of effort. Simply let go of everything but sitting.
Q-How long should i sit for?
A-Until it is time to not sit!
Q How do i know when that is?
A You wont know unless you practise sitting :)
Im afraid you just have to sit, or walk, or drink tea or wash the car, and you just need to practice doing 'it'.
That is to say, practise it and nothing else - to know you are doing it, to feel you are doing it, to be thoroughly saturated by doing it.
Then your meditation becomes everything that you do, in every second, and then you answer the question for yourself and laugh:
'What is meditation?
'There is no such thing as meditation, just doing'
And maybe eventually you'll realise
'There isn't even any doing, because there is no doer'
But thats a topic for another blog :)
I suppose most of my workshops, CPDs and certainly the entire teacher training are all dedicated at their heart to both finding freedom as a teacher and facilitating freedom within your students. This is a massive topic, no doubt endless but it flavours almost everything that I ever share. This freedom requires space. Space can often seem empty of content and therefore of no valuable, yet really the spaces that you create as a teacher hold infinite potential for both yourself and the entire group.
Indeed this past weekends TT in Devon revolved a lot around that topic and we explored it from all sorts of angles, although this time they were from the point of view of asana practice.
I often get a feeling in my bones that asana was included in the eight limbs as a joke by the wise, a clever experiment, not as an instruction to be followed. It can seem peculiar to include a practise so aligned with the physical body into an arguably metaphysical pursuit. You have to wonder if there was meant to be a much greater lesson to be unveiled through a dedicated physical practice of asana.
Just as many Buddhists believe that the Buddha taught an end to suffering through eliminating desire-aversion and attachment; wiser scholars have pointed out that he did not 'teach this' as a practise and in fact it was a point of discussion in order to prove a point via its attempted practice - the point being that this endeavour would prove impossible because one would have to desire being desire-less!
Likewise through our experiential practise of asana we can learn so much about every other aspect of life. There are so many pitfalls and cul-de-sacs awaiting asana practitioners - falling into ego attachment, asana attachment, injury and tumbling headlong into duality of progression and attainment being the most obvious. It would seem that eventually after exhausting ourselves with the many dead ends of asana there may come a point at which we learn many transferable skills to our actual 'life' but are essentially able to completely release it – or at east to release any attachment to its debatable 'fruits'.
From a teaching point of view, Im going to focus on something that may seem so simple that most of us obverook its potential power - the naming of postures.
The simple naming of 'postures' will set up an immediate wave of aversions and attachments to everyone in the class - some will fear crow pose, think they aren't good enough, worry about injury, others will love it, enjoy demonstrating their prowess, feel good about themselves.
Posture names, by themselves mean nothing at all, They simply allude to a certain type of shape when really there is no 'posture' at all and there never will be, there are simply infinite variations for not only every person but also every person each time they come to practice. However we could argue that naming postures shuts down space and potential immediately - removing the beauty of enjoying these infinite variations.
To take a simple example Warrior 3 means nothing, it’s just another compartment, another segregation that hints at a body shape, yet that shape will feel entirely different to every single person in the room - this is a factor of proportions, strength and flexibility, injuries, past history and so on. Infinite factors. Would it not be more useful to guide the movement simply with some body orientation cues and some simple questions that offer space - possibilities and potential for the whole class to interpret and draw from as they need to. After all asana is a process of exploration not progression, the danger of naming a shape is that it brings immediate comparisons relative to others, to your past practices and so on. Simply hinting at body placement with questions to ponder provides everyone with possibilities for personal development, it is a win win situation, there is no way that you cannot benefit.
Imagine you have managed to get the class into a one legged balance with all sorts of potential variations that alludes to what we might otherwise call warrior 3. Everyone has found a vague shape, what happens if you ask some intelligent questions now? ‘How does this position make you feel?' 'Can you explore that feeling and maybe alter it?' 'Do you think there is a lack of effort right now?' 'Are any parts of your body doing nothing?' 'Is that affecting your balance and can you explore ways to find more balanced engagement?'
At the end of the day, how stable or well balanced their take on a one legged balance is, it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. However if you offer up the space to explore these elements without any scale of pass /fail or good/ bad, over time students can take these skills and transfer them directly into the rest of their lives, maybe finding stability and balance in their lives. Maybe they will find themselves transferring this type of logic into a situation where they feel agitation in the body during a confrontation - rather than react they simply become aware and explore it with curiosity yet detachment.
After all find perfection in one thing and you can find it in anything.
Next workshops exploring space and freedom are:
19-22 April in London (with Jake Smart and Embodic Yoga and Movement)
18-19 May, Wild Wolfs Yoga, Bristol