saṁniyamya-indriya-grāmaṁ
sarvatra sama-buddhayaḥ
te prāpnuvanti mām eva
sarva-bhūta-hite ratāḥ

Those who are able to control their senses, have equanimity of mind and rejoice in contributing to the welfare of all creatures are dear to me. (translation, the Jivamukti Yoga Chant Book)

Bhagavad-Gītā, Ch. 12, v. 4

These words I am writing bubble up the surface in conclusion of a meditation retreat and as a product of a few days of silence. Two main ideas circle around me. First, what an arduous job it is to restrain the senses and concentrate one’s mind, how difficult and challenging it is to remain equanimous. Second, that more than ever I am convinced that meditation is an essential part of our dharmic journey. Our mind is the origin, our life is the outcome. Thus, getting to know our mind and our senses, their tendencies and patterns, and most importantly learning to move the mind in a desired direction, understand both its nature and its potential; using it to realize our true nature “I-AM”, can be one of the main undertakings of our lives. Many paths can lead to this realization, and yoga is one of them.

Yoga does not solely align our bodies. Yoga aligns our thoughts, words and actions with a higher purpose. We become more attracted to the idea of contributing to the welfare of others and living a life of service on our own path to freedom. We often think: “What will make ME happy?”, “How can I earn more money?”, “How can I be happy in my romantic life?” – mind revolving around itself. Instead, yoga teachings invite us to ask ourselves: “How do the choices of my life “ripple out”, what are its societal impacts?”, “What gifts do I have that could be of service to others?”, “What would it feel like leading a life of service?” – as the mind gets purified, our focus expands. Meditation practice allows us to see the panorama of our life, see where we stand and where we want to go. Reaching this widened perspective comes with time.

A lot of the meditation time will be about observing the thoughts. This alone can be a daunting experience, however as a byproduct, we get a better sense of the mindfield, become less reactive, sometimes get inspiration for creative ideas and projects. Furthermore, we withdraw the senses – a very difficult task indeed, but it becomes much easier if we remember the high intention and commit to it. Senses have strong power in pulling us out of the path, but choosing “beneficial” instead of “pleasurable”, over and over, will train us to stay firm and grounded.  We train concentration and build equanimity muscle; our capacity to focus and keep a balanced mind. Daily meditation can become your main compass in life. Then, over a prolonged period of regular practice we begin to examine whether our lives reflect the teachings we believe in. Eventually the mind will start moving towards much deeper questions, such as dharma.

We may have different dharma in different facets and stages of our lives. Being a child, we have one dharma, being an adolescent – another, taking on a job or being a parent will mean another dharmic role. It often changes throughout our lives. However, as we move on the spiritual quest, our dharma is truth realization or satyadharma. Part of the discussion on dharma revolves around the questions –  “what is the right action?” and “what is a good result?”. Consistency is key. Meditation practice, uninterrupted and continued over a long period of time, will reveal the answers.

Obstacles will inevitably arise – lack of enthusiasm, doubts about ourselves, our teachers and their teachings, moments of weakened motivation, attachments and aversions, fears, confusion. All obstacles arise from ignorance.We identify them and look for ways to overcome them. We don’t have to do it alone – we receive a great deal of help in the path of awakening, from our beloved teachers, from teachings, from our satsang and friends along the way. Most importantly, we can find all the resources to battle the obstacles inside of ourselves: our own innate wisdom, our own continuous encouragement, our own enthusiasm and determination, our own loving kindness and patience. Time in the relative world goes fast, we must practice wholeheartedly thus when the death, that final transition comes and we look at this life and we see that we didn’t waste it.

 

TEACHING TIPS

  1. Prolonging meditation practice to ten minutes instead of five.
  2. Practice pratyahara with shamukhi mudra.
  3. Practice pranayama with breath retention.
  4. Invite students to contemplate pratyahara and how it could reflect in their daily lives, e.g. reducing the use of media, consumption, conversation, etc.
  5. Practice loving kindness meditation using mantra Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
  6. Read “Encouraging Words” by Zen Master Guishan
  7. Discuss with students obstacles on the yoga path, let students share theirs
  8. Chose different obstacles to inspire your sequence, e.g. an obstacle such as “fear” could inspire a sequence with emphasis on standing asanas, anger/depression and low self-esteem – sequence emphasizing twisting asanas, etc.
  9. Check FOM of December 2008 written by Sharon-ji and guide students into deep relaxation, using those shavasana instructions

 

From “The Bhagavad Gita” by Winthrop Sargeant
saṁniyamyendriyagrāmaṁ sarvatra samabuddhayaḥ
te prāpnuvanti mām eva sarvabhūtahite ratāḥ