7:00pm – Introduction, Course Aims, and Overview.
7:15 – Common Misconceptions
7:20 The True Versatility of Meditation
Compare misconceptions from above with versatility evident below. Meditation doesn’t require a special time or place. Meditation is versatile, adaptable, can be integrated into any day/activity.
Summary: Two Ways to Meditate
- On the spot
- utilizes down/transitional/commute time
- immediate reduction of stress
- return to balance
7:30 Movement Meditations (Exaggerated Mindfulness of the Body Exercises)
8:00 Principles of Meditation: Relaxing the Body
8:15 Meditation for Relaxing the Body — 7 Deep Breaths (3 Big Sighs)
8:20 — Calming the Mind
8:25 — Meditation 3 – Catching the next thought
Here’s some food for thought, courtesy of Lorin Roche. It summarizes, quite well, the approach to thinking that I think is best suited to a fruitful meditation practice.
One of the great secrets of TM is that you do not block out thoughts. Not even a little. And you don’t mentally complain to yourself about the thoughts. You don’t resist at all, and this turns out to be an amazing secret, a key to going deep. At the same time, you don’t cling to the mantra and use it to block out noise. If you are in deep inner silence, just barely hearing the mantra very faintly, and sublimely relaxed, and then suddenly you start thinking of your to-do list, and get anxious about it, you do not resent the thoughts for coming and interrupting you. No. What you do is almost nothing. You don’t encourage the thoughts and you don’t discourage them in any way. If the thoughts keep coming, you pay attention to the sensation of tension in your body that is giving rise to the thoughts.
What happens is that thoughts come, noises attract your attention, and you simply notice them, and then you return to listening to the mantra. Because you are not concentrating on the mantra, it changes all the time. It speeds up, slows down, shifts rhythm, fades away, comes back, fades away, doesn’t come back for a long time. The attitude to have here is so weightless it is hard to describe. Let me give it a shot: you are simply prepared to enjoy the mantra, however it is appearing. There is a slight sense of encouraging the mantra, and that’s it. Your attitude toward the universe is incredibly tolerant.
The most radical, truly radical insights of TM is that there is no control. There is no way some small part of you can control your vast self – that would be like your little finger arrogantly deciding it is going to control the whole body. What you are doing is riding your craving for vastness, the longing the little self has to meet its essence. You aren’t even “letting” that happen, because it is not up to you to issue permits. You set up the situation so that your little self, as you know yourself, can gradually get to know your larger self. TM’s formulation of the naturalness of this meeting is better and simpler than anything else I have ever encountered, except Laksman Joo’s work.
So what you are doing in TM has a musical quality to it, in that you are listening to a vibration, a sound. And there is a jazz quality, improvisations wandering off into silences, because you aren’t repeating the sound mechanically, over and over. You are interested in the sound, and allow it to be different in each moment. You let it have its own rhythm, and you allow it to fade into the silence. Then you come back to it. So there is always a surprise – the mantra is different in every moment, and the silence after the mantra lasts as long as it lasts. You just never know. It’s fresh in every moment. That’s why people can meditate for hours a day, and meditate every day for years: it’s like listening to music that is eternally changing.
The great thing about TM, which the great insight, is that you don’t make unnecessary effort. No wrong effort. Only the right effort, which is not effort at all. Right effort is to BE THERE. Meditation is being there witnessing everything and you don’t run away. And the word effort does not describe what is called for. Courage is called for. The willingness to feel everything. Effort, or trying, is only a distraction and will only be effort toward the wrong thing. This is an astounding insight, because skill IS called for. It is very difficult to sit there and face everything, in total darkness and total silence, second after second, minute after minute, day after day, on and on and on. One of the brilliant gifts of TM is knowing how to make darkness and silence interesting. In TM, they are not afraid to let things be simple.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, one of the first aphorishms is Yoga chitta vritti nirodhah. This is usually translated as something like, “Yoga is the suppression of the fluctuations of mindstuff.” In practice, everyone thinks this means that yoga is blanking out your mind. You flatten the waves. Yoga = union, chitta vritti = modifications or fluctuations, chittam = mindstuff; nirodhah = restriction or suppression. You can read hundreds of translations of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and they almost all use some variation on arrest, cessation, stoppage, inhibition, restriction, and control. You are supposed to still the mind, they say. And I think they are all wrong. Sorry, boys. You don’t understand your own tradition.
The best spin I could put on this sutra is “When you pay attention to the fluctuations of mindstuff, an underlying sense of stillness emerges.” That is perhaps a fair meaning of this very unfortunate aphorism, which seems to have caused millions of people to fail miserably at meditation over thousands of years. Just think about this for a minute. What does suppression result in? More suppression. I get the feeling that what has been going on for centuries is that people have been failing at meditation. The ability to transcend is so delicate that if you even hint at resisting thought, you wind up with the feeling of sand in your gears. Instead of being able to slide up and down the levels, you wind up stuck.
Actually, this is an empirical question. Train one group to try to suppress thought, restrict flutuations. Train another group to welcome fluctuations as they meditate. Measure the ability to meditate in both groups over time. You can even explore this in yourself. Explore the nuances of gently, appreciatively holding your experience. Notice how that works. Then set out to restrict your thinking as a way of silencing your mind. What works better? One problem with taking a “scriptural” approach to truth is that you are always favoring tradition over what works.
If you look up the etymology of the word, some experts say, nirodhah (or nirodha) means containment. Rodha is an old Indo-European word pertaining to keeping a fire. Back in the day, everyone knew what it was to make and maintain a fire. You were always pushing ashes and rocks around, banking the fire, then fanning the flames. This was an everyday skill and the word rodha referred to this process of containing a fire. Usually you did not want to put the fire out.