Article written for Yoga Magazine:
“Everything else can wait, but your search for God cannot wait.” -Paramahansa Yogananda
The great yogic philosopher, Patanjalim defined yoga as: “yogas citta vrtti nirodaha”, yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. Notice he didn’t say, “He who does handstand best is the most enlightened!” However, instead of adopting a regular meditation practice, we spend hours on the mat doing MORE asana (postures), in search of clarity, self -acceptance, and a deeper meaning to our lives. Because the ego mind can be preoccupied with fear, worry, and doubt, it is threatened by meditation and therefore encourages us to do MORE physical activity, whether it be asana, jogging, cleaning our house, checking our email, or anything to distract us from our meditation practice.
As yogis, many times we forget that being strong and flexible isn’t the cure all to a happy and peaceful life. In fact, sometimes we feel even more lost and confused after a strong asana practice, because all kinds of questions begin to surface from the depths of our being and we need more time in savasana and meditation to get quiet and clear. This is one of the many reasons why it is important to practice the seventh limb, dhyana (meditation), of Patajalim’s eight limb path.
My first yoga teacher once said, her greatest goal in life was to know God better. I remember thinking what she said was very commendable, but I definitely didn’t understand the magnitude of what she was saying at the time, because I was more interested in sweating and working out unfortunately. However, seventeen years later, I think I am beginning to understand what she was seeking in her relationship with God. (Interestingly enough she passed in her 30’s and is now in full communion with God as she desired, bless you Trish.)
When we cease the chatter of the mind through meditation, we create space for the Divine to connect with us. God is always trying to communicate with us, but are we listening, or are we too busy trying to get somewhere on the mat, or in our lives? Many times we are reluctant to sit down to meditate, due to a perceived lack of time, or maybe the fear of the unknown; the fear that maybe God has something to tell us that we aren’t ready to face, like the end of a relationship or a career that is not aligned with our highest good anymore. So in turn, we resist being still and miss an opportunity to change our lives for the better. We would rather stay feeling confused, frustrated, and physically “fit,” instead of seeking personal growth through connecting with God in the silence.
The habit of jumping out of bed in the morning, turning on the computer, radio, tv, coffee maker, and reading the newspaper, only creates more vrttis (chatter) in the mind. I suggest doing your meditation practice first thing upon waking and spend some quality quiet time deepening your connection with God first, before you go about your morning routine, otherwise it is very easy to run out of time, before you need to leave the house. I like to sit facing east to feel the sun on my face. Yogananda suggests getting 10 minutes of daily sunshine,”sun baths,” to charge body with the life force of the sun. I also suggest meditating before you go to sleep, so you can give gratitude for the day’s events and clear your mind of any worry, so you can sleep peacefully.
Quiet time in the morning will help you be more kind and patient with yourself and everyone you come into contact with throughout your day, such as your partner, children, pets, co-workers, strangers, people in traffic, etc. Every time you meditate you are helping to align your mind with Divine Mind, Universal Intelligence, which are thoughts based on love, patience, forgiveness, gratitude and service to the planet. You will have a greater ability to make more conscious choices in your life, with less stress and drama! Meditation will also help you to stop repeating self-destructive patterns and addictions in your life that aren’t serving your highest good. As you deepen your meditation practice, your need to self-destruct will begin to diminish greatly and eventually all together, because you will begin to love and respect yourself more fully.
Meditation, like asana, just takes PRACTICE and dedication. The effects are accumulative, so even 5 minutes, two times a day, morning and night, can help you to have a more peaceful and purposeful life.
The use of mantra in meditation can be very helpful to cease the mind “chatties.” . The sanskrit word “mantra”, means “instrument for the mind,” and the first mantra ever given to me was by a very hip Presbyterian female minister from San Fran, whom I met in a yoga training at Mount Madona Ashram in CA many years ago.
The mantra is: ”Be Still and Know.”
This mantra comes from Psalm 46, “Be still and know that I am God.”
On the inhalation, say silently to yourself, “Be still,” and on the exhalation say, “And know.”
It is as if God is saying to our minds, “Be still and know that I AM GOD, and that I am taking care of all the details of you life, if you would just be willing to surrender them to me.”
If you do an inventory of your past, hopefully you will realize how life’s challenges always seem to have a way of working themselves out over time, maybe not the way you planned, but they usually work out for the highest good for your soul’s learning and for the highest good of all involved. We must remember this during times of deep despair and crisis-God ALWAYS has a plan. Meditation helps us to get clear on the divine plan for our lives.
I encourage you to make time daily for the most important relationship in your life, the one with God, and experience the unconditional love, acceptance and guidance that resides within you, in every moment.
Meditate for yourself and as an offering to peace for ALL beings everywhere.
“In the final analysis, it is all between you and God.” -Mother Teresa.