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    Meditation Is the Systematic Release of Resistant or Stressful Thought

    Hi Everyone,

    Here's our weekly/preview of the Thursday night group meditation and training. I hope you're enjoying the program and finding it helpful -- I know I am. As always your feedback and suggestions are most welcome and I thank you for your support.

    If you have a moment, I would love to hear from you and learn more about how you're doing with your meditation practice.

    Last week:

    We discussed and practiced the elements of Mantra Meditation: 1. Presence, 2. Being-Awake, 3. Awareness, 4. Idea/Feeling, and 5. Meditating itself -- the process of moving the attention within the mind-field, learning to consistently "favor" the mantra as a path to full meditation, what Patanjali calls Dhyana -- systematically attuning the mind to a more expansive, more adaptive state of awareness and being.

    We define this meditation as the systematic release of resistant or stressful thought (yogas-chitta-vritti-nirodha, YS1:2), which allows the mind-field (chitta) to become more fully attuned and aligned (samadhi) to the energy and flow of Life itself. This is the true goal of Yoga: living in total harmony with Life and Nature without obstacles or resistance of any kind.

    Mantra, in this meditation, is any idea/feeling used as a vehicle to condition or train the mind to a more expansive, more adaptive way of being. In essence a mantra is is a practiced good-feeling thought; a thought that gives relief. It is a safe haven in the mind; child's pose for the mind.

    Proper technique for the use of the mantra in meditation follows the precepts of Yoga: 1. Non-Forcing, 2. Accepting or Allowing, 3. Non-Comparison, 4. Relying-On-Self, and 5. Non-Clinging. In formal meditation we gently condition the mind through daily practice to be more inclusive, more adaptive, more creative and more satisfied.

    Proper technique, meaning, how we use the mantra, is essential for good results, and mastering the subtleties of this technique is far more important than the actual mantra itself.

    Understanding and practicing these five elements of meditation, which is what we are doing week by week, is the best way to become thoroughly grounded in the experience. The weekly sessions are a systematic way to "tune" your meditation technique, making your practice at home more comfortable and worthwhile.

    Last week we also began to explore the metaphor of attunement (samadhi) as a way to understand and guide the experience of meditation. The concept is also useful as a way to guide our development and growth in everyday life itself. What we pay attention to, we attune to. As we focus, so shall we be.

    Yoga is fundamentally an energy practice, a spiritual practice. Alignment/attunement is one of the central concepts of both contemporary energy work and traditional spiritual practice. (See last week's journal entry for more information on this. You can find it below this one.)

    Attunement is a powerful concept but an even more powerful experience. Learning how to seek and favor alignment/attunement in both formal and informal practice is essential to the successful practice of Yoga.

    In the practice of Asana and Vinyasa, we learn to attune to steadiness in position and in flow; one-pointed dedication to the fulfillment of the asana in body, heart and mind.

    In meditation we attune to "the good" in mind, in heart and also on the level of purpose or intention. We systematically release resistance to Life's natural flow,

    Yoga has eight limbs. In physical practice we focus on only one or two of these. Our Thursday sessions broaden our focus to include the fundamentals of the inner practice of Yoga, the "non-physical" practices of Yama, Niyama, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. This full practice of Yoga will takes your personal experience of physical Yoga to a whole new level, inside and out: spirit, heart, mind, body, and behavior all aligned for the common good.

    This week:

    Hope to see you this Thursday night, 11/19 at Firefly Yoga, 311 Washington St, Westwood, MA. Start time is 7:30pm. This coming Thursday's session will focus mostly on the experience of group meditation. We've got enough understanding and flow in the group at this point to sustain longer meditations and that's what we'll be doing.

    The more experienced meditators will hopefully attend to energetically support those who are newer to practice, the way a rising tide floats all boats. And hopefully those of you who can't be there will support/join us in spirit.

    All are welcome.



    Arlington, MA


    Meditation as an Attunement of Mind, Heart, Body and Spirit

    Meditation can mean many things -- many different understandings, practices, approaches and outcomes. In our weekly meetings, we've been discussing everything from Anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing) to Vipassana (mindfulness of thoughts, feelings and actions) to Mantra Upaya and Mantra Siddhi (skilled use of mantra as a Yoga, as a way of aligning one's total self). Our emphasis has mostly been on Mantra Siddhi, the use of mantra as a means for attuning the heart and mind to a more open, creative, harmonious and resourceful state of being.

    This use of mantra is nothing new. What is new, perhaps, is the way we're talking about it. We're using the concept of attunement to describe how the use of mantra in meditation allows one to intentionally cultivate mental and emotional states and habits of mind that are more adaptive, more resilient, and more useful in the pursuit of our aims and purposes.

    Mind is the vehicle through which we perceive, understand and operate in the world. It's not who we are, but it does play a large role in how we are, and what we can accomplish. Our quality of mind and, more to the point, our practiced state of mind, is what determines who we are and what we can be in this world.

    A clear and open mind, a mind that is calm and steady, a mind that is sensitive and perceptive, yet strong and resilient -- who wouldn't want more of that?

    Meditation is a way to condition the mind to be more agile, more strong, more naturally selective in a good and useful way, and overall, since this kind of mind is more adaptive, more able to enjoy life and living, regardless of the circumstances.

    We use the concept of attunement to describe how this happens. First, a definition of what we mean by the verb, "to tune," and what we mean by attunement:

    To tune something is to adjust it to a certain level of performance, the way we do with a musical instrument when we tune the strings to the correct or uniform pitch. Another analogue is the way we tune a transmitter or receiver circuit to the frequency of the desired (or required) signal.

    In the context of meditation, an attunement would be adjusting the mind and heart (through the use of s deliberate, sustained, focusing of attention) to a state or condition of mind (bhavana) that is more expansive, more resourceful, more joyful and more free. We deliberately use the practice of mantra to progressively liberate the mind from a more restricted, uncomfortable state, to a more useful, rewarding and adaptive state. This, over time, conditions the mind to operate spontaneously from a more rewarding "frequency." We train the mind to be more adaptive, more useful. We reduce conflict and resistance.

    The practice of Raja Yoga, as demonstrated in this Mantra Yoga, has been used for thousands of years to support this natural and holistic evolution of mind and consciousness.

    Yoga is about the perfection of the total self, meaning living one's greatest potential, supporting a natural and fully effective way of being through the systematic release of constraint and restriction in heart and mind as well as in the body.


    Preview of this Thursday's Meditation Group

    Hello Everyone :)

    I've written a long message this week. Lots to share with you.

    In our weekly meetings, we've been exploring different approaches to meditation, primarily the Classical Yogic approach of Mantra Meditation and the Buddhist-derived practice of Vipassana or Mindfulness Meditation. As I've said in class, both approaches have their value and both are worth learning. They offer different experiences and produce different outcomes, but the benefits in both cases are very worthwhile. I recommend learning both approaches and choosing what works best for you.

    However, this coming Thursday we'll be focusing mainly on Mantra Meditation, and I'll be sharing insights I originally learned from my three principle teachers: Swami Satchidananda, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Swami Muktananda. Being Yogis, they taught mantra to accelerate and deepen the benefits of meditation, and all agreed that correct meditation is much more than just the mental repetition of a word or phrase. It takes a little while to get the hang of correct practice, but once learned, the technique is unsurpassed in it's power to refresh, restore, inspire and uplift body, heart and mind.

    A little background: one of the fundamental concepts of Vedic thought -- the Vedas being the knowledge base from which all Yoga is derived -- is that perception, experience -- knowing itself -- is different at different levels of mind and consciousness. Expand your mind and consciousness and expand your access to the world, both in terms of experience and capabilities.

    (The phrase from the Rg Veda, and if you're a yoga geek you'll want to know this, is "richo akshare parame vyoman," which translates as, "what or how we perceive and know depends on our state of mind and consciousness.")

    This ancient idea, thousands of years old, is one of foundation teachings of every form of Yoga.

    Simply stated: the world is as you are.

    The idea is that our state of mind operates as a lens or filter through which we see and make sense of the world around us. Our attitudes color our world --

    Click to read more ...


    Review and Invitation to Thursday Night's Meditation Group

    Hi Everyone,

    Last week, in our weekly group, we began to explore the topic of mindfulness, specifically the "mindfulness" approach to formal meditation.

    Up to this point, our series had focused more on approaches to meditation that emphasize the use of mantra.

    To review, we're talking about the the formal sitting practice of meditation. Meditation in a general sense means deliberating or pondering a topic. We do this all day long. But when we sit in the formal practice of meditation, we dispense with everyday thinking and feeling for a while and practice deliberately focusing the mind in a very specific way, with the aim of refreshing, regulating and restoring the body/mind.

    Meditation practice is analogous to vinyasa practice, in that both our minds and bodies are in motion all of the time, moving in a variety of different ways. When we practice vinyasa yoga we move our bodies deliberately, in a highly orchestrated and intentional way. With meditation we sit and move our minds in an orchestrated and deliberate way as well.

    Meditation is the intentional movement of mind, more specifically, it is the movement of attention according to a deliberate method, with the intention of producing a more relaxed, open, adaptive and resilient state of mind and body, and ultimately, insight into the true nature of things.

    Meditation is procedural. One follows a prescribed movement of awareness. It is always a loop or circle. We begin with a focal point, experience distraction away from the focal point, then return to the focal point. There are two movements: focusing (toward a focal point) and releasing (letting go of distraction to return to the focal point).

    Meditation that relies primarily on sustaining a focused awareness using concepts and feeling is called mantra meditation, while meditation that relies mainly on releasing attachments and aversions to concepts and feelings is generally called mindfulness meditation. Both are useful, in different ways, and both are worth learning and practicing.

    In both types of meditation, one is "mindful" or paying attention in a very specific way. One is taught to focus the attention on a thought or sensation, and then, when the mind wanders to some habitual pattern of thinking or judging, to release the attachment to that habit of thought and return to "center," the focal point we began with, breath or mantra usually. This "centering" practice is the basis of all meditation.

    A further step in some versions of mindfulness meditation, mainly *vipassana* practice, is to learn to observe the contents of mind from a frame of "non-judgmental, moment to moment" awareness. Being able to consistently achieve this state of mind depends on our being able to systematically release judgement and fixed ideas, and that's where technique and skill in releasing comes into play.

    We began discussing this aspect of practice last week and we will continue to explore the techniques of releasing in coming sessions.

    Meditation, like asana, succeeds or fails on the basis of technique. Proper understanding of instruction,

    Click to read more ...


    Four Recommended Articles on Meditation

    If you're interested in either meditation or the teaching or study of meditation, you might want to take a look at these four articles, mostly from mainstream sources: Sam Harris, author of the bestselling "Waking Up, A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion," Aurora Healthcare, Gaiam Yoga. They offer a good, thorough overview of contemporary meditation practice.

    To begin, let's clarify what we mean by meditation. "Meditation" is a broad category. Saying "meditation" is  like saying "sports" instead of saying "tennis" or "football." In essence, any type of sustained mental/emotion focus could be called a meditation. So when we speak of the practice of meditation for the purpose of self-development or self-improvement, what exactly do we mean by that?

    It's complicated. Meditation practices have been a part of every religious, philosophical and spiritual tradition. There are hundreds of different approaches and techniques of meditation, most of them embedded in a cultural or religious tradition, many of them shrouded in mysticism and superstitious thinking.

    Buddhist tradition describes meditation as a sitting practice that allows for insight into the true nature of reality.

    Yoga tradition describes meditation as an internal practice that provides for the systematic release of resistance and stress from the body/mind, allowing one's true nature to shine forth.

    I would define meditation as any formal, internal, deliberate mental/emotional practice (for me, true meditation must engage both aspects of subjective experience) that consistently

    Click to read more ...


    Thousands of You

    "When there are a thousand people in the room, there are a thousand different Katies in this chair..."
    --Byron Katie

    So, for every hundred people you interact with in your life, there are a hundred different takes on you, one for each person.

    Your Mom sees you one way, your boss sees you another. Your friends each see you in terms of what they focus on, what they value. A politically focused person might think you're not as involved in politics as you should be. A needy friend might want more of your attention. You get the idea.

    So which you are you? Some of them? All of them? None of them? You get to decide.

    We are all multifaceted beings. Our perceptions of ourselves and one another are multifaceted as well. We are many people to ourselves and a slightly different person to everyone we meet. There is no one truth about who or what we are. And whoever we are today, we'll be subtly different tomorrow, and the day after, and so on.

    Identity, as a fixed value, is a fiction. Who we are is a relative value, meaning it depends on who it is that's doing the evaluation, and when they're doing it and why.

    People can't be pigeonholed. Identity -- who we are -- is a mixed bag and a moving target, and it all depends on your point of view. A patriot from the perspective of the opposition is a terrorist.

    Plus no one is any one thing for long. We're constantly changing and evolving. Which is why fixed ideas about ourselves or one another aren't a good idea. People can surprise us. We can surprise ourselves.

    Leave room to discover more. Leave room for surprises. Don't imagine that you know anyone completely, or better than they know themselves


    What Works in Coaching and Therapy (Or Any Relationship)

    "Over fifty years of research shows that it is not the type of therapy that provides the conduit for emotional growth and healing. In fact, research shows that client traits are the first factor that influences the success of therapeutic outcome and the second factor is the trust that the client puts in the therapist, as part of the strength of their unique and personal therapeutic relationship."-Margarita Tartakovsky,

    Therapy is, in essence, a partnership, so results depend mostly on the quality and efficacy of the therapeutic partnership or alliance between the therapist and client, and the quality of the relationship, in turn, depends on the overall intelligence and life experience of both client and therapist, with a special emphasis on relational responsiveness and emotional intelligence:

    Emotional Intelligence
    the capacity to be aware of, manage, and express one's emotions appropriately and usefully and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically so as to strengthen harmony, cooperation and constructive outcomes.

    Other factors to be considered would emphasize social and relational skills on the part of both the therapist and client:

    1. Communication: knowing how to listen to and understand others and also being able to share one's own thoughts and feelings clearly and honestly

    2. Respect for differences, showing respect for others, demonstrating appropriate empathy, sharing, demonstrating mutuality, reciprocity and fairness in one's relationships with others. Very little blaming or criticism of self or of others.

    3. Conflict Resolution skills: conflict-resolution skills include techniques such as staying calm, a willingness to engage in fair and open discussion (reflected by a lack of defensiveness or cross-complaining or argumentative behaviors), staying focused on the topic at hand, being less interested in being right and more interested in a mutually agreeable resolution, being ready to forgive or apologize, knowing how to bridge differences and find common ground, demonstrating good faith by keeping promises and commitments

    4. Empathy: Demonstrating an accurate and appropriate understanding of the feelings and needs of others by exhibiting compassion for others and a willingness to support others according to their needs

    5. Emotional self awareness: the person has made inventories of their strengths and weaknesses and is striving for improvement; able to accurately self evaluate -- neither over- or underestimates their own social worth and relative importance

    6. Stress management: strives for equanimity amidst loss and gain; monitors and manages one's own stress levels; understands that the quality of one's own life depends less on circumstances and more on one's response to the circumstances

    Any and all of these things contribute to good outcomes in coaching. Where they do not exist we would do well to learn them.