I recently met a lovely woman on a plane. She overheard my husband and I talking about yoga and asked us if we were teachers. She shared with us that she meditates. I asked her what technique she was using. She said that she had never been officially ‘taught’ anything, but had started herself by putting the kitchen timer on for 5 minutes. She sat for that time and listened to the ticking of the clock. Over time she has been able to build that up to 30 minutes a day. I love this story as within the Yoga Tradition, there are many references to different techniques like watching the breath, gazing at a candle, focusing on the light within, listening to a mantra… and then my favorite ‘or focus on whatever works for you!’
With her simple meditation technique, she had created a way to focus her mind in a state of relaxed awareness and to create a more conscious relationship with her thoughts. I asked her what the effects of her meditation were, and she shared that she is much less stressed, has an easier time making decisions and is less reactive to events and circumstances. What a win! And all from her decision to try it for herself, and the discipline to do it every day.
There is a saying that ‘all problems are created and solved by the mind.’ In other words, the mind creates the mess and the mind finds a way to clean it up. However without creating a conscious relationship with our thoughts, and learning to dis-identify with them, we are not able to understand what the underlying problem is let alone find the solution!
The definition of yoga given in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is ‘to calm the fluctuations of the mind’ in order that we can ‘recognize our true nature.’ In order to do this, we need to work systematically to move stagnation out of our body, to balance our energy and then tend to the fluctuations of the mind. The mind is truly the final frontier. As Mr. Iyengar so famously quoted ‘the mind is the hardest part of the body to adjust!’ For this reason, meditation is called the royal road to freedom.
If you do not yet have a practice, I invite you to start today. Do not expect to sit and become absorbed in silence. Instead, recognize that your mind has been ruling your life for many years.
In order to bring your mind into the correct and intended relationship with your soul, you first must learn how your mind is currently working. Identify your thinking patterns. Then systematically work to re-organize and train your mind to be one-pointed. Strengthen your ability to let go of what disturbs you and to choose the thoughts that are helpful and supportive. All you need to do this is to create an anchor to focus the mind on.
One of the most prolifically taught anchors is the breath. Simply watch your inhale and exhale. Feel the presence of the breath. See the luminous quality of the breath. This can work on its own, or add the extra dimension of listening for the sound SO on the inhale and HUM on the exhale: SO HUM – I am that (pure consciousness). Continue for 10 minutes. Try not to fight your thoughts, just observe as they flow through your conscious awareness and keep coming back to your anchor.