Practice Pages: meditation
Freedom in Meditation
By Dr. Lorin Roche
Body and soul love each other. This is what it is to exist - you are a soul who has chosen to take on a body and participate in life on Earth. It’s an adventure. On your journey, you might feel, from time to time, the need to refresh yourself in the soul’s innate happiness and consciousness. This is where meditation technique comes in. Meditation is a love relationship, a way for body and soul to be together intimately and infuse each other with vitality and connectedness.
In the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, the Goddess is teasing her lover Shiva, getting him to talk, and he describes a huge range of yoga practices. Then he says,
Beloved, I have spoken of a hundred ways —
More, actually — a hundred and twelve meditations.
Each a skill for diving under the waves,
Going beyond the commotion,
Knowing where you come from.
I have even been succinct.
nistaraṅgopadeśānāṁ śatam uktaṁ samāsataḥ |
dvādaśābhyadhikaṁ devi yaj jñātvā jñānavij janaḥ || 139 ||
Nistaranga - without waves.
Nis - out, forth, free from + taraṃga - "across-goer," a wave, billow, a jumping motion, gallop.
Upadesa - pointing out to, reference to. Specification, instruction, teaching, information, advice, prescription. Initiation, communication of the initiatory mantra or formula.
Shatam - one hundred.
Ukta - uttered, said, spoken.
Samasatas - in a summary manner, succinctly, concisely.
Dvadasan - twelve.
Adhika - more.
Devi - a female deity, goddess. Queen, princess, lady (the consecrated wife or daughter of a king, but also any woman of high rank.)
yaj jnatva - knowing these
Jnanavat - knowing, endowed with knowledge or science, intelligent, wise, having spiritual knowledge.
Jana - Creature, living being, person. The person nearest to the speaker. A common person, one of the people.
Human beings are varied and come here to experience diverse lifestyles and play different parts. So there are many different techniques of meditation — to each their own. It is a real challenge to find the kind of meditation that suits our individual nature, and figure out how to practice in a way that helps us to thrive. The wrong technique practiced in a way that is not in accord with our individuality can feel like prison, oppressive and constricting. The right technique of meditation for who you are is such a joy that you look forward to doing it, and is so much fun that it feels almost illegal.
Jeanne is an elementary schoolteacher, a mother of three, and a grandmother. She grew up on a farm in the Midwest and is sharp and discerning. When she came for instruction in meditation, we had a riveting conversation for a couple of minutes and then she got restless. I asked her, “Where would you rather be?” and she said, “Outside.” So we went for a walk and found some tree stumps to sit on. She immediately started gazing at the horizon and went into deep meditation. She lives in New Mexico and her practice is to be with the huge sky. She knows she is that vastness, she longs for it continually, and her yoga is to be in that infinite spaciousness and in her body, simultaneously.
Carmen is a yoga teacher and mother of two. The first five to ten minutes of any quiet time she has, including meditation, are spent thinking about her kids, then her husband, then the dog. It is as if she is invisibly petting them, tending to them, holding them to her heart and loving them every way she knows how, sensing any needs they have. Then, when she is sure they are okay, her attention turns toward her own needs. For years she did not meditate and felt like a total failure at it, because she could not make her mind blank. In a session I said, “What sensations do you feel when you think about the kids, the husband, and the dog?” She touched her heart with her hands, then moved her hands out in an opening gesture, and said, “It is as if there are strings connecting me to them, energy strings of love, and I am feeling the vibration of each, kind of tuning them. I can feel when anything is out of tune.” I said, “Let’s do that movement, that mudra, over and over again,” and imitated her hand gesture of reaching in to touch the center of the chest and then opening the arms wide. Then I said, “Tantri means the strings of a lute, sitar, or guitar, and also the strings of the heart. When we meditate, we are tuning the strings of the heart.” Once Carmen got that her attention is centered in the heart, and that she is always feeling the texture of vibration connecting her to her family, she was able to delight in her practice.
Gavin is a martial artist, an actor, and he teaches martial arts. He’s a bundle of energy and highly responsive. I sensed that to tell him to “slow down” in any way would feel oppressive to him. So I said, “The mind moves faster than the body. You don’t have to slow down to meditate. You can let the mind speed up. Welcome speed. When have you felt the most in the groove with speed?” He told me about certain fights, dancing with a perfect flow, half a second ahead of the game, filled with such gratitude that each time he scored a hit he would say, “Thank you,” and the crowd would shout back, “Thank you.” As he was telling me this, he was holding his hands out with his thumbs touching his index fingers. I asked him, “What are you experiencing?” He said, “Well, the crowd is roaring, and it is a sound of joy.” I said, well there is your practice. You have a mudra - the “ready for anything” mudra, and you have your version of OM - that roar of joy.
Jeanne, Carmen and Gavin already had their meditation practice inside them. They just needed a little coaching to discover, or uncover, their personal path. Each of these techniques is described by Shiva - concisely - in the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, along with 109 others, and this is why the text is so loved by meditators. The upadesa, the prescription, the mantra is right here inside your individuality. The initiation comes from the current of love between you and your soul. What do you love so much that your heart is set to vibrating?