Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Lately, I have been longing to linger, to stay, to sit.  My yoga practice has made more room for my mind and the calm I have received is a true gift.  If sitting, breathing, and noticing helps me to enjoy life, find patience and be more present for my family and friends, then I have to find the time to sit.

The Compassion and Understanding of Kuan Yin
My husband finds it funny that I can't even sit through a movie, let alone sit purposefully and with clarity.  I would like to sit still long enough to have a connection to my breath and my inner self.  To strengthen and cultivate meditation is a rhythm that needs to be a constant in every day life, like brushing my teeth.  I have been on retreats with a focus on meditation, and I incorporate mindfulness based meditation into my yoga classes.  There are some yoga poses that bring in the energy of stillness, as in the practice of yin yoga, which focuses on holding and staying with physical sensation, breathing and noticing changes that inevitably arise.  For me, this type of yoga practice has been a window into the world of meditation.  In true yogic spirit, the postures lead the mind and body into the ability to be still, listen, and to be aware of the breath.

There has been extensive research and documented benefits of meditation.  Dr. Herbert Benson, a Harvard Medical School professor, has studied meditation and found the effects to stimulate the relaxation response, bringing about decreased stress levels, lower blood pressure, and improved sleep and heart function.  Stress can interfere with our body's natural balance, making us less immune to disease and infection.  Relaxation, clarity, calmness and kindness allows our bodies to be in a state conducive to healing and accepting of love.

I have learned and practiced only two types of meditation, both of which bring me back from my wayward thoughts and endless to - do lists made in my head.  Vippassana meditation, or insight meditation is a detached observation of the mind and body from moment to moment. This includes any technique that cultivates insight, including contemplation, introspection, observations of bodily sensations (I use the breath) and lived experiences.  Loving kindness meditation is a more focused technique that offers a way to wish ourselves and others well.  It acts as a form of Reiki by sending out signals of energy rooted in love, and stands by the belief that all living things are interconnected.

It can start with phrases such as:

May I/We be well.
May I/We be free from suffering.
May I/We be free from greed, hatred and delusion.
May I/We live lovingly.
May I/We be peaceful and at ease.
May I/We be safe.
May I/We be happy.
May I/We become wise and compassionate.

The transition of meditation is noted in stages from the self, to others, and then to all living beings.

The Relaxation Response Herbert Benson
Mindfulness in Plain English  B.H. Gunaratana