Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Relaxing into Meditation : Feature in Asana Journal

Asana, an international Yoga journal, have published an article on Relaxing into Meditation by Ngakma Nor'dzin in their January 2011 edition:

Relaxing into meditation teaches how to live contentedly with a sense of well-being.  We discover spacious peace of mind even when our life circumstances are far from ideal.  Relaxation teaches us how to relax the body and meditation teaches us how to relax the mind.  We discover that total relaxation of body and mind is our natural condition.

1. Relaxing the body.

Stress and unhappiness manifest in the body, so we begin by relaxing our muscles.  We can achieve this by systematically tensing muscle groups throughout the body and then relaxing the tension on the out-breath.  We can stretch the body and move into various postures, relaxing as we breathe out.

2. Relaxing the breath

When we are agitated our breathing becomes faster and more shallow.  When we slow and deepen our breathing we become calmer.  We can harness awareness of the out-breath through visualising tension streaming out of the body as we breath out; and we can cleanse the breath through alternate nostril breathing.

3. Relaxing the voice

When we are happy we may spontaneously burst into song, but it is hard to sing when we are sad or stressed.  We can therefore learn to relax through free energetic sound.  We can sing yogic syllables and give ourselves permission to make as much noise as we wish without caring about the harmony or disharmony of our voice.  We sing the sound Ahhhhhh for the length of an out-breath and release energetic tension with the sound.

4. Ready for meditation

Having relaxed the body we wish to retain this sense of comfort and calm when we start to meditate.  It is therefore essential to find a sitting posture for meditation in which we can be relaxed but alert.  Relaxing the mind is more difficult than relaxing the body so we want to be as physically comfortable as possible so that the body does not distract the mind.  The body should be upright, balanced and unrestricted.  The spine should be erect but relaxed. The body should be balanced and not twisted or placed in a position that requires effort to maintain.  Blood needs to flow freely to all parts of the body and in particular to the limbs without constriction or pressure.

5. Relaxing the mind

Meditation relaxes the mind through letting go of thought to experience mind without thought. Thought is an intricate conceptual mesh that surrounds the still deep quietness of empty mind and acts as a filter for everything that we experience.  To relax the mind we need to loosen and let go of this mesh in order to discover and understand mind when it is no longer defined by thought.  Thought is a natural process of mind but thought is not the essence of mind.  We can only discover ultimate relaxation if we learn to become familiar and comfortable in the empty essence of the nature of mind.  We begin by using the breath as a focus and letting go of thought as we breath out.  Over time we can let go of the breath as a focus and simply let go of thought whenever it arises.  Gradually spaciousness develops in the mind and it becomes easy to dwell in the space of mind without thought.

6. Daily practice

Learning to let go of thought and relax the mind requires commitment and effort. Meditating every day gradually allows the mind to settle and let go of thought, and increases our capacity to concentrate and experience spaciousness of mind.  It is more productive to meditate for a short period every day than it is to meditate for a longer period more occasionally.  The length of our daily practice must be realistic and easily achievable so that it does not become a burden or a chore.  Ten minutes of meditation a day is all that is required for meditation to  become a life skill that is simply part of who we are.  At first we will continually lose our focus and we may find this frustrating, but we must not develop self-deprecation.  Whenever we realise that we have lost concentration we must celebrate this as a moment of re-emerging awareness.   To recognise loss of awareness is to have regained awareness.  Over time a commitment to practising Letting Go every day will produce startling results.  We will start to understand our relationship with thought and develop increased awareness.  We will start to feel more relaxed about who we are.  We will start to feel less pressured by our life circumstances.  We will begin to let go of self-centredness and find joy in being kind to others.

7. Further practice

When we have established a daily practice of Letting Go we can experiment with contemplative practices that change our ordinary view.  We can examine our relationship with others through looking at how we interact with a friend, an enemy and a stranger.  We can practise purification visualisation to discover clarity, and we can practise methods of developing loving kindness to enrich ourselves and develop openness and generosity.  

Through relaxing the body we feel refreshed and invigorated.  Through relaxing the mind we discover openness and clarity.  Over time the moments of experience of mind without thought will lengthen and occur more frequently and this spaciousness of mind will start to sparkle in our everyday lives.  We will start to notice our habit patterns and cease to be their victim.  We will discover that we have a choice about who we are and how we live our lives.  We will discover emotion as naked energy and sensory experience will become enlivened.  We will find that we become more open, patient, tolerant and kind people through the spaciousness of mind we have realised.  We discover open appreciation and enjoyment and awaken to our natural state of well-being.



Ngakma Nor'dzin is the author of Relaxing into Meditation, published by Aro Books worldwide, ISBN 978-1-898185-17-8.  It is published in India by Zorba Publishers.  For more information contact geetugoel@zorbapublishers.com It is also available at all leading bookstores. For more information please see the book's web page http://bit.ly/nrprim

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