As my life seems to be getting more and more complicated lately, I have had a strong need to simplify my yoga and meditation practice.
For some reason Kundalini Yoga has felt too complicated. I can’t quite explain why, and I feel this is probably a temporary state, but it’s where I am. I’ve moved back to the basic hatha poses and sequences I started my practice with.
My meditation time too has simplified. I was having trouble picking from one of the many many Kundalini meditations, not having anything in particular I want to work on right now, other than the meditation practice itself. I have been drawn to simple silent meditation. Even chant and mantra has felt like too much.
So I sit.
I sit in silence.
An outward silence anyway.
I long for the simplicity of silence from within.
But the thoughts come.
I try to ignore them.
More thoughts come.
I’ve employed one simple technique to stop the thoughts before they carry me away. This is a practice I first read about in the book A Gradual Awakening, by Stephen Levine. Recently I have gone deeper with it and found it the most effective way to stop my thoughts, dead in their tracks.
I simply call them something. I give them a label and it appears this stops any momentum they were beginning to pick up. It’s like throwing a wet blanket over that thought.
I get quite specific with these labels, and this was the new difference for me. Before, all of my thoughts got one of four labels –planning, thinking, judging, remembering. But I discovered I could be more specific. Some planning thoughts are near-future planning, far-future planning, work planning. Many are rehearsing, where I’m lead into an entire imaginary conversation with myself. Much of my “thinking” is analyzing, processing, longing, wishing, wanting. A lot of times, putting the label on it allows me to see how silly, or pointless, or useless the thought is for this present moment.
Then there are thoughts that don’t hold much power over me in and of themselves, but the emotion attached to them does. Most of these thoughts are remembering. The emotions attached range from guilt, to sadness, to anger, to joy. Labeling the emotion lets me see it clearly for what it is. Once named, the emotion can just sit there with me, without holding on to me. I can go back into the silence, and it can join me or leave me there. I’m still sitting meditating, with or without the emotion.
I can go back into the silence for another moment, until another thought tries to take it over again.
Some thoughts are distractions from my environment –noticing bodily sensations, feeling, hearing.
Sometimes I actually find myself spending too much time thinking of the label, so, as silly as it sounds that thought gets one, “labeling.”
Silence lies within the spaces between all these thoughts. Putting a quick label on the thought suspends it. The more I do it, that little label pushes the thoughts back, creating slightly bigger and bigger spaces each time.
And this is what I want to get at. The goal of my meditation right now is simply the practice of it. The experience of those moments, split seconds sometimes, of meditation that is pure meditation and my mind does quiet.
This morning I sat zoning out a bit before I began my practice, watching the trees and grass outside. The sun was on the other side of the house, and it was a partly cloudy morning. I watched as, in a moment, everything became brighter and brighter, more vibrant shades of green and blue. The whole world changed as the cloud moved from the sun. It illuminated everything. Then just as suddenly, another cloud came back over it, and the colors dimmed again.
Meditation is like that for me. My thoughts are the clouds that muddy the moment. I can still see everything clearly, but nothing is illuminated. Then the clouds part for brief moments, and the sun, soul, God-particle, whatever you want to call it, illuminates everything and I can see what is really there.
Labeling those thought clouds seem to push them through the sky of my mind, letting that soul-sun shine.