March 6, 2017
At the start of the new year, the regulars of my YMCA meditation class and I discussed how, after 2 years of practicing together, we might up the ante on our search for connection. In this divisive political environment, we wanted to see how meditation might help us cope with the stress of living in an uncertain world, and also how it might help us be better, more benevolent citizens of a world in distress. Here's what we came up with:
We agreed to renew our commitment to meditation practice. For many of us, life takes over once we leave class and makes it a challenge to get to our daily seat. We recognize that we have to keep trying anyway. Forgiving ourselves generously for the times we skip or fall asleep, we keep getting to the cushion or to the chair to practice meditation; 5 minutes, 15 minutes, a half-hour, on the bus, or in our bedroom or garden, whatever we can muster. It all adds up exponentially, coloring our experience of the everyday, the large and small events of our stories.
We also decided to add in a dharma talk every week. This had been a casual thing, brought in spontaneously, but now we are doing it 'for real', guided by the yamas and niyamas of the yoga tradition. We talk about one of the principles and agree to write down whatever thoughts, words or actions come into our awareness during the week. This journaling is purely private, meant to enhance our understanding of the mind and its effect on words, actions and feelings. The first yama is ahimsa, non-violence. We looked at ways in which we can be judgmental, towards ourselves, towards others, imagined how that might lead to divisive or harmful words or actions, and did the following meditation:
Identify a judgmental or hurtful thought;
Feel where and how it resonates in the body;
Soften and expand our mental state, bringing awareness to the heart space and noticing the shift in resonance/feeling.
Anyone interested in knowing more, can get a nice summary of the yamas and niyamas from the following blog:
The source, of course, is Pantanjali's Yoga Sutras, required text for all serious yoga practitioners.