Meditation or dhyana is my favorite part of the practice. The asana practice is built as a precursor to open and condition the body and mind to be able to sit more comfortably in stillness and silence. The challenge of human nature is that we are caught in this endless cycle of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. We cling to the past or try to control the future. The only way out is a third option – learning to sit with everything exactly as it is. For this reason, I feel that meditation is the most important and profound practice we can do – relaxing into and loving ourselves and life. As Ram Dass says, “Your life is your curriculum.” It is not a glamorous or sexy practice – just sit, be quiet, and practice “being” with all the discomfort, uncertainty, chaos and joy that is life. Eventually, a deeper peace arises. The mind begins to soften its clinging nature.
Meditation is focusing the mind on one object, and becoming absorbed in that point of focus. The traditional pose for meditation is lotus (padmasana), but any comfortable seated position will do. Find a position that works for you – sitting in a straight-backed chair, on a cushion/block, or leaning up against the wall. If you sit on the floor, begin with a simple cross-legged position (sukhasana) or pull one foot into the perineum, and stack the other foot on top (siddhasana).
To move deeper, take half-lotus (ardha padmasana) or full lotus. Close the eyes. Feel both sit bones root down evenly and lengthen the spine, extending through the crown of the head. Let the chin melt down slightly so the back of the neck is long. Relax your shoulders, arms, forehead, eyes and jaw. Take any hand position (mudra) that feels intuitively right. Draw your attention inward. Experiment with the type of meditation that works best for you – concentrating on the breath, a simple mantra (om or so hum), or watching the sensations in the body rise and fall (Vipassana meditation).
The idea is to flex the muscle of the mind to stay in the present moment. When you notice your attention has wandered, simply bring it back to your chosen point of focus. Consistency is the most important factor in your success. Start with small increments of time and build it up. It is more beneficial to meditate for five minutes a day than thirty minutes once every two weeks. Relax, and most of all – enjoy the ride!
I was introduced to yoga ten years ago by my dear friend Govindas, when he took me to my first yoga class with Bryan Kest and gave me Ram Dass’ tape, Dying Into Life. I began to fall in love with myself and this timeless, mysterious study of life. Six years ago, I began teaching yoga to empower people to trust their own inner truth. Studying the psychology and philosophy of yoga led me to deepen my practice, and I am currently completing a Master’s in Counseling Psychology. I want to explore where the wisdom traditions of the East and West intersect, and how to apply yoga in a very practical and real way to effect change in our daily lives.
We can easily spout off many lofty phrases in this practice – but at the end of the day, we are all seeking the same thing: to give and receive love. This is the only game in town. Happy and sad, good and bad will always come and go – but can we learn to love life, ourselves and each other exactly as we are right here, now?
Enjoy dhyana, your meditation practice!
Ashley Turner M.A., MFTI leads workshops and retreats worldwide. - AshleyTurner.org