The Approximate Yogi

Conquering life one breath at a time


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Curating Silence

I’ve noticed in the last year that the word curate has become quite a popular one in our collective consciousness, especially online. Curate was once only reserved for museum directors; now anyone can curate. People are curating all kinds of stuff –everything from Rumi quotes to smoothie recipes, to bumble bee prints to workout music to favorite talk shows.

But sometimes all this stuff needs a rest.

I would like to create a space to curate silence. You can think of this blog post as just that space –a museum of silence. If you think about one possibility of a museum –a history museum, a place of antiques, or things that have become extinct; curating silence makes even more sense.

If I were to take silence out of the world to curate here, these are some places I might extract it from:

The car: When I turn off the radio, or CD player, or podcast I’m listening to, it is quite quiet in my car. It’s amazing how much more of the world outside my car I notice in this silence.

The living room: When I turn off the TV, shut down my laptop and Internet, the living room silence and snowbecomes a very quiet space. It even opens up space for conversation with others.

The forest: There is a lovely silence about a forest. Although the more you quiet there, the more you may hear.

In a cup of tea: You have to be silent when sipping. Tea is a liquid that somehow creates a hush of mind and body. With hands grasped around warm mug; stop talking, stop breathing, stop thinking even, at least for that one little sip.

And then another.

The predawn morning: There is nothing like the quietude when people, pets, machines have not yet awoken. When I can muster the courage to pull myself out of my cozy bed for a little extra me time in the morning, I never regret it.

I love doing my yoga in the space just before sunrise. The darkness there has this way of enveloping me, squeezing the thoughts to stay in their place. Squeezing my body to stay centered in the pose. The daylight expands my thinking into all that I will be doing for the day, and my mind gets carried away with the sun. But this soundless time before all that is priceless.

The night: Nighttime is made to be a quieter time. Darkness has a way of silencing. Too often, we shut out the darkness. Extract darkness to extract the silence from the night.

silence and snowSnowfall: Falling snow, like darkness, seems to have a way of winding down the earth into silence.

In our minds: This is sometimes one of the hardest places out there to find silence -but it is there. I find that meditation is an active work in progress in muting my mind. Some days, the task seems near impossible. Then there are those other sweet, sweet days when merely focusing on a few deep breaths draws that silence up like a spring.

I found this passage I had written a few years ago about a first snowfall that explains what I’m getting at. It encompasses three of the best places for me to find silence –snow, darkness, and morning:

The house is still quiet, still dark, only lit by the white from outside. I am sitting at the dining table looking out into our Christmas tree farm backyard; the snow falling now, slowing, but it’s there, stuck to the trees, laying on the ground, clinging to the browned leaves still on the cherry tree, even to the little cherries that no birds are feasting upon this morning. Everyone snuggled into some cozy nook, hopefully. And now all the movement of falling snow has stopped. So much energy falls from the sky, impregnating the air all around; only to bring complete stillness that lays heavy on the land. All that energy stops on tree branches, ground, roof tops, pressing into us, creating a vast silence; opening up some space for it; a quieting. Brown leaves remain on trees covered in snow, stilled in their process of dying. This silence here, creating enough space for my voice to come back.

You never know what you may find in the silence.

And lastly, this blog post: Yes, even here. My gift to you all is a moment of silence.

Sit in front of the screen. Close your eyes, if you are able. Shut off the TV. Insert your earbuds, then don’t turn on any music. Bring your laptop or ipad to a quiet spot in the house. You can even pretend you are still reading, pretend you are being productive. Go ahead, it’s worth the fib. Then let yourself experience a moment of silence, or two, or three, if you can spare more. The thing about silence is once you find it, it tends to multiply. You tend to find more pockets of quietude in the day to add to the space.

Ok. Ready? Go …

silence in snow


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The Meditation Practice that’s Working for Me Now

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.

thoughts in meditation

the world under clouds

soul in meditation

sunshine illuminating everything

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Namaste,

Catie


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Meditation in Action

sTreeOfYogaIn my last post I discussed asana as I understood it through B. K. S. Iyengar’s The Tree of Yoga. But it is too big and beautiful a book to just stop at asana. Since I’ve finished reading it, I’d like to process a little more of it with you and get to the heart of it, the heart of yoga itself.

Yogic Background

Most of The Tree of Yoga is based off the source text of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (next on my yoga reading list; let’s see if it takes me another 10 years to get to it!). In it, Patanjali breaks down yoga into its parts. Iyengar interprets these parts for us in practical modern terms.

According to Patanjali, yoga is an eight-fold path (eight limbs, which is where the name ashtanga comes from). These eight limbs can both be broken down into smaller branches, and put together into three larger parts.

Ok, stick with me for a bit!

Here are the eight, and their subcategories/principles that define them:

  • Yama –the five principles of which are: ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (freedom from avarice), brahmacharya (control of sensual pleasure), and parigraha (freedom from covetousness and possession beyond one’s needs)
  • Niyama –the five principles of which are: saucha (cleanliness), santosa (contentment), tapas (ardour), svadhyaya (self-study) and Isvara-pranidhana (self-surrender)
  • Asana –“the various postures which bring the physical and the physiological functions of the body into harmony with the psychological pattern of yogic discipline (pg. 8).”
  • Pranayama –“the science of breath, which connects the macrocosm to the microcosm and vice versa (pg. 8).”
  • Pratyahara –“the inward journey of the senses (pg.8)”
  • Dharana –“concentration, focusing the attention on the core of the being (pg.8)”
  • Dhyana –meditation
  • Samadhi –“where the body, the mind, and the soul are merged with the Universal Spirit (pg.9)” or “diffusing the soul into each and every part of the body (pg. 73)”

These eight limbs can be divided into the three different levels of yoga:

1st: Yama and Niyama have to do with the social and ethical aspects of yoga, like the dos and don’ts of life in society.

2nd: Asana, pranayama, pratyahara have to do with your personal physical and mental practice, which lead to “the evolution of the individual, the understanding of the self (pg. 5).”

3rd: Dharana, dhyana, samadhi aren’t really part of the practice, but more like the product. They are the “effects of yoga which bring the experience of the sight of the soul (pg.5).”

Woah, I know that was more than a mouthful! But it had to all be said. The Tree of Yoga takes the rest of the book to go into more detail explaining these principles. The more you come into contact with these words, hear them repeated, and explained in different ways, they do all begin to slowly make sense and fit together.

I won’t go into Iyengar’s beautiful tree analogy here, you’ll have to read it for yourself. But these are the foundations of all yoga, no matter what the style or school. To me, it seems, the style or school (i.e. ashtanga, Iyengar, Kundalini) has to do with the interpretation of these eight limbs and where the emphasis is put.

The Nature of Meditation

Anyway, it was in a chapter near the end of the book,”The Nature of Meditation,” when this all seemed to click and I could see both the big and the small pictures. Iyengar’s main thesis of the book, it seems, is to place the physical practice of asana (hatha yoga) at the center of getting at all the other aspects of yoga, even meditation.

Before reading this I had always had the idea that the asanas are really just warm-ups for sitting down to meditate. Now, you can, and should, certainly be doing each asana with meditative mindfulness, but it didn’t seem like you could get at samadhi from asana alone.

Iyengar takes a different approach. He seems to see meditation, and everything in that third tier –concentration, meditation, enlightenment, as something that can be achieved during and through an asana practice. And this was finally making sense to me by this chapter.

The ultimate goal of meditation is not to reach enlightenment just while sitting on your nice meditation cushion in complete silence, but to maintain that state in everything you do in your life. Meditation is not wisdom, not the answers to all the questions in the universe we are seeking in a cave somewhere. Meditation is to help us live our lives the best we can, to live it through our highest possible Self.

So, I kinda had all that before (and when I say this, I mean “had” as in understood it on an intellectual level, not experiential, which is the tough part!). But Iyengar puts the body back into this equation –and why not, we can’t get rid of our bodies in this life. And by putting the body back into it, he activated it for me. He writes:

“When we become aware inside and outside, we can have the experience that meditation and physical action are not separate, that there is no division between body, mind and soul (pg.146).”

He goes on:

“You may practice meditation and develop awareness when you are sitting quietly in a park, and it comes quite easily. But when you are busy working, your life gets dominated by thought and it is hard to have total awareness. When you practice asana, pranayama and pratyahara, you learn to be totally aware –you develop awareness in your whole body while you are engaged in action. Then you can become totally aware in all circumstances. In a park, while you look at a tree, you forget yourself and you are one with the universe. Why can’t you learn to be one with the universe of your own world –that is to say, your self and your body? This way of looking at daily life is total awareness, total integration and meditation (pg. 146-7).”

maybe less of this?

maybe less of this?

Woah. This means my asana practice (as meditation in action) may more easily translate to meditation in the actions of the everyday than my previous idea of what meditation was.

I like this. I like it a lot. And of course you can see why you would need to practice yoga daily for the rest of your life! This isn’t something you just get one day on the mat and then “get” one day off the mat, and you’re done with yoga.

He ends the chapter with this lovely thought:

“You and I are runners in meditation, but we have not reached the goal (pg. 148).”

and more of this?

and more of this?

At least it’s a beautiful course! See you on the road.

But wait, am I totally giving up seated meditation? Probably not. But I like this new perspective on yoga that the book gave me. And there’s still more! He ends with two beautiful chapters on the art of yoga, and teaching yoga.

Do you have any yoga texts you love by other yogis? I’m looking for more good reading. 

(Note: This scheduled post was written on 3/16/14 as I take a break from writing to heal post knee-surgery.)

Resource: The Tree of Yoga, by B. K. S. Iyengar


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Shaking the Snow Globe of My Mind

This morning was one of those rare blow-your-mind yoga practices for me –where mind-body-soul is given a complete release. These always sneak up on me unexpectedly. It had been a long while since I’d had a Sadhana like that, and I feel quite blessed by the experience.

Some back story: The saga of my knee injury continues… I found out about a month ago now that I have a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) in my right knee. I have been getting physical therapy twice a week, with twice daily home exercises that take me almost precisely 40 minutes each time to complete. The MCL is finally healing quite nicely, and in the last week I have been able to walk with an almost-normal stride, sit comfortably for a modest amount of time with my leg bent at 90 degrees, and driving has stopped becoming a delicate and tender issue. I’ve also gotten a lot of energy back that I wasn’t even that aware I’d lost as I spent time healing. In a few weeks I will get surgery to repair the ACL.

That was a long back story, but my point is, my life has really quite dramatically changed in ways I’m still discovering and just now beginning to accept. For one, my yoga on most work mornings has been replaced by the PT exercises, interspersed with a few stretches here and there and maybe a quick meditation while I ice my knee. Many of my favorite yoga poses are not available to me right now, as they require bending of both knees. I haven’t done a full kriya in quite some time. I’m learning to accept and adjust to this, some days better than others.

This Saturday morning I had done my PT exercises, and wasn’t feeling particularly inspired to do much else. But as I casually browsed through this month’s issue of Yoga Journal while I iced, I felt inspired to attempt some poses that I was curious if this week’s new mobility may allow me to do now.

I slowly re-engaged with some of the simplest hatha poses, and found my way through my own very modified Vinyasa. My body moved much slower and more carefully as I gently tested the limits of my right knee. Slowing things down brought a new awareness … No, actually, practicing these poses brought an awareness to the new way my body is working. I noticed the strength and stretch of my upper body in downward dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), a part I tend to ignore in favor of enjoying the stretch of lower back and legs. I experienced the need for modified poses, and inch-worming into them. The joy I felt just getting my leg barely into a warrior pose (Virabhadrasana II) as my toes hugged the mat. I felt my right leg working so hard just to hang on, and felt a tender almost pride toward it –“Way to go little leg, you’ve been working hard, and look what you can do now!” I felt the beauty in simple mountain pose (Tadasana).

Kermit in plank (photo credit: Google Images)

Kermit in plank (photo credit: Google Images)

Then after gingerly lowering myself into plank, I lost it –out of nowhere a burst of tears. Initially they were tears of sheer gratitude at being able to do these poses my body had been deprived of for the last month and a half. Then as the sobs continued I realized I was mourning my injury, mourning everything I haven’t been able to do, everything I won’t be able to do for quite a bit longer, just mourning the whole situation. And this wasn’t a pity party –this was my body releasing emotions I hadn’t let myself process. Getting it all out in the healthiest way possible –on my yoga mat.

Then a teary attempt at my favorite tree pose (Vrksasana), with my right leg as the very shaky trunk, my left toes still clinging to the floor, left heel barely off the mat resting gently on my right ankle. This is my work right now, this is my attempt at discovering a new balance.

I then sank into Savasana, with the mantra “This too shall pass” running through my mind. And it will. I feel a deep gratitude at the knowledge that these bodily and mental struggles my knee has caused me are temporary, and that eventually I will be doing every pose I had done before, every movement I had done before. And in the mean time, try to surrender to this healing process.

Meditation

I ended with the guided meditation in this month’s Yoga Journal, by international (and favorite of mine) meditation teacher and author, Sally Kempton, titled “Check Your Head.” The meditation is quite simple, and simply beautiful. The gist of the meditation is inhaling “I am.” Kempton writes, “Then with the exhalation, feel the space that these words leave in your consciousness. As your mind quiets, begin to drop in the question, ‘Who am I, without words? Without thoughts? Without memories or emotions?'”

Kempton recognizes this is no easy task, and many answers full of words may come up, but simply acknowledge them, and seek out those few seconds of stillness you may find. (Check out this month’s issue, March, 2014 for the full and beautifully worded meditation.)

photo credit: Google Images

photo credit: Google Images

It’s funny when I asked myself these questions, the things that first popped up were what I was not –I am not my knee. I am not this suffering. I am not this sadness. And then slowly, fleetingly, for a few seconds, here and there, between the words, I was the stillness, and it was beautiful.

I am now going through the rest of my day a little lighter. My yoga practice did not make the day any easier, or my burdens any less. I could now go into a thought tangent on energy movements and chakras, or ancient yogic philosophy, or new research behind meditation, but I won’t. Yoga does something to my insides that I can’t really explain, shifts things around in my head, shakes it up like a glittering snow globe. I like that, and right now that’s all I need.


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The Bandhas, Part 2: Neck Lock (Jalandhar Bandh)

This post is about Jalandhar Bandh, or neck lock. If you’d like to read more about the bandhas or body locks, read Part 1 here.

Unlike the root lock, neck lock is quite simple, so simple that I had been doing it without even realizing it. You probably have too. It is done during most meditations. When, in the meditation pose description, you hear lift your chest and tuck your chin, this is neck lock, simple as that.

How to do Neck Lock

Here’s a more detailed description (from The Aquarian Teacher Training Manual):

  • sit comfortably with a straight spine
  • lift the chest and sternum upward
  • gently stretch the back of the neck straight by pulling the chin toward the back of the neck (in other words, “tuck your chin” as it is commonly described)
  • the head is level and centered, the muscles of the neck, throat and face are loose and relaxed
  • don’t force the head forward or down; your neck shouldn’t feel sore

What Neck Lock Does

  • Just as the root lock helps contain and circulate the energy of the lower chakras so that energy can flow up, neck lock helps contain the energy of the upper chakras. Without neck lock, this energy could just kind of disperse willy-nilly through the upper body, but we want to direct it up through the central channel where it is most useful in awakening the kundalini energy.
  • Neck lock calms the heart and creates a natural flow of energy
  • It helps concentrate secretions from the pituitary, pineal and hypothalamus glands, and systematic practice of it can lead to creating an interconnectedness between these glands
  • It makes it easier to focus on internal sensations and perceptions without distractions from the peripheral senses
  • It prevents undue changes in blood pressure that can sometimes be induced by exercise and breathing. It acts as a safety valve that regulates that pressure by reducing dizziness that can result from a practice.

How to Experience Neck Lock

Neck lock can and should be done during all pranayam and meditations (unless otherwise specified). To experience neck lock you may want to do a few minutes of silent meditation, with the usual points of focus –breath, third eye, but also add the neck lock. Come back to this focus, checking in with your body to see if your head has moved out of the position. You can also engage the root lock as well, to experience the sensation both of these body locks has on your meditating mind and body.

The chin tuck is pretty slight. It may help to visualize bringing the chin down and in just until your neck is straight. There is this spot that just kinda feels right, so you may have to play around with it a bit. I had a teacher once use the analogy of a garden hose. We can think of our spine or that central channel as a garden hose. We want it nice and straight without any kinks in the hose, to let that energy flow up and out. That’s why we sit with a straight spin and tucking the chin creates that straight line at the top of the spine as well.

My head tends to slowly drift back up from the chin tuck. That’s why being conscious of this lock is important. In fact, when I first started meditating I preferred this little lift of my head. I had this lovely vision of lifting my head to the light. I had a teacher that would remind the class throughout meditation to tuck our chin, bow our heads (probably looking at me specifically, as I often chose not to listen to this). I used to get a little annoyed, not understanding why this was important. Now I like the visualization that I am humbly bowing to the light above.

Update (2/22/14): Sally Kempton, meditation teacher and author, describes neck lock (without calling it that) in her meditation in March’s Yoga Journal, like this: “let your chin move back so you feel as if your head is being suspended by a cord from the ceiling.” I really liked that image, and thought it may be helpful in visualizing the head position.

Resource: The Aquarian Teacher Level one Instructor Text Book, by Yogi Bhajan, PhD

I love this tree I found in the yard. I like to think that's what my third eye looks like.

I love this tree I found in the yard. I like to think that maybe that’s what my third eye looks like.


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33 Reasons I Love Yoga (for my 33rd birthday)

If you read last week’s post, you know that yoga and are…going through some things. Perhaps a little Shakti Pad? So, for a fun post on my birthday, and to help remind me what yoga (and I’m including meditation as a part of yoga, not just asana) means to me I thought I’d write this list:

Tom's Thumb, Arizona

Tom’s Thumb, Arizona

Ways Yoga Has Helped Me, or Lessons I’ve Learned from Yoga, or Ways in Which I am A More Tolerable Person to Be Around (oh, there’s number 1!)

Ok, here goes (in no particular order):

33 Reasons I Love Yoga

  1. Yoga keeps me honest
  2. Yoga clears my head in the morning –the best and fastest way I know to get those sleepies out of my eyes
  3. Yoga keeps me limber and flexible (body and mind)
  4. Yoga makes me less cranky (yes, my fiancé has on occasion asked the question on particular grumpy days, “Did you do your yoga this morning?”)

    chilly tree, Lake Tahoe, NV

    chilly tree, Lake Tahoe, NV

  5. Yoga makes me eat healthier
  6. Yoga strengthens my core
  7. Yoga strengthens my arms
  8. Yoga makes me laugh
  9. Yoga keeps me humble
  10. Yoga helps me release negative emotions, like sadness and anger
  11. Yoga helps me forgive
  12. Yoga calms my worries
  13. Yoga’s always got my back (It is always a Plan B in tough situations, even when it should be Plan A)
  14. Yoga never judges me
  15. I have met some wonderful souls through yoga

    Picture 091

    a hiking buddy and me treein’ it up at the Grand Canyon

  16. Yoga opens my mind to its more creative places
  17. Yoga makes me a more patient person
  18. Yoga makes me a better speech therapist
  19. Yoga makes me a better lover
  20. Yoga gives my lungs and body endurance when I’m doing non-yoga things like hiking big mountains
  21. Yoga taught me mantra. Mantra helps me get through really tough physical challenges or really scary times
  22. Yoga gives me commitment
  23. Yoga made me a teacher
  24. Yoga helped me conquer loneliness
  25. Yoga took me to a place inside myself I’d never been
  26. Yoga keeps life light
  27. Yoga is fun

    dancer at Smalls Falls, Maine

    dancer at Smalls Falls, Maine

  28. Yoga is versatile (I truly believe there is a style out there for everyone)
  29. I get to wear comfy pants while doing it
  30. I don’t have to wear any pants while doing it
  31. I can take yoga anywhere with me
  32. Yoga helped me get through grad school
  33. Yoga gave me the idea for this blog

Did I miss anything? Why do you love yoga?

If you enjoyed this post, as a birthday present to me, will you share it with someone?

Namaste!


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Let It All Fall Away…or Don’t

The other day, I had no one come for the class I teach, so I took it as a sign the universe wanted me to have a little extra practice of my own. I did a few sun salutations to warm up on this unseasonably chilly morning, then I got straight to meditating. I didn’t know what meditation I would do. I just sat there and let it come to me. I enjoy chanting and other Kundalini meditations, but I most love just sitting in silence. That is what I wanted to do today.

Source365, the lovely studio I teach at

Source365, the lovely studio I teach at

Then a mantra popped into my head that I hadn’t used in quite some time. It is my personal mantra, one I created long ago in an informal weekly meditation class I took as an undergraduate. We tried all kinds of different styles. In one class, the teacher had us make our own mantra, instructing us to just come up with a word or phrase that we connected with and felt right. Mine was, “Let it all fall away.”

Let it all fall away. Being an English major, I liked its rhyme and resonance. But its message resonated as well –let all my stress, all my worries, all my insecurities just fall away. As I silently chanted this on my exhale, I envisioned all that gunk I carried on my shoulders just falling off of them, falling away. The longer I sat, the more stuff I could slough off, the lighter I felt.

This is a phrase that always finds a way back into my meditating. Let it all fall away. Its meaning has changed over the years, but continues to resonate. I have let some of my old worries and insecurities fall off my shoulders for good, and new ones have been loaded on.

Today as I sat, I first tried to let all the noise in my head fall away. It continued to creep back up, perched just below my ear, but it did get a bit quieter.

Then I focused on the sounds around me. I was sitting in a gazebo, listening to a cool breeze rustling the leaves above me, hearing various bird species singing, a car or construction truck every now and then, chickens. I thought of all the beauty, and then I thought of how much I love it.

Then this thought came: how attached am I to this beauty, to this world, to my life? The answer was, a lot. The word maya kept popping into my thoughts. Maya is the word that describes the illusion of life that is our reality. There is The reality of the universe, the spirit behind the things, which we typically don’t get to see; then there is the manifestation of it, which is only a construct, only our perception of how things are. Meditation can sometimes allow us to sneak a glimpse behind the curtain –to almost touch this spirit knowledge (or, I guess if you are really good at it, to actually touch this knowledge). But most of the time we live our lives steeped in maya.

I saw my brain fighting with this thought. Going back and forth like a tug of war. I had moments of letting it all fall away, split seconds, really, in which I felt a sense of letting go –letting go of my attachments, letting go of even my practice, no longer trying hard to concentrate on the third eye, on my breath, on the mantra. For that nano-second I didn’t have to try, I glimpsed it.

Usually when that happens my brain (my ego) gets scared and pulls those covers back over my head. I feel disappointment, I feel attachment, I feel desire again. I’m right back on earth, sitting with my maya. So this dance, or war, of the brain continues. I ask myself –what am I so afraid of? Why am I afraid to totally let go of it all?

And I don’t yet know the answer.

For now, I think, it is enough to still be in love with this world, and all this beautiful maya, illusion or not. What makes it beautiful is that spark of truth, that reality that we sometimes get a glimpse of.

  • Maya. (augustmeditations.wordpress.com)