As many of you already know, I am currently in yoga teacher training at Moksha Yoga Center in Chicago. It’s a one year program and I began last October, so I am in the process of finishing up the “checklist” of requirements in order to be certified. On this checklist is a silent retreat with my yoga teacher, Daren Friesen along with Paul Fowler. I will be embarking on the retreat this weekend. Plunging, head first, into the quiet.
The retreat is being held at, Stonehouse Farm, a beautiful eco-retreat and sanctuary located in central Illinois. This retreat center is owned and operated by Moksha Yoga Center and other like-minded investors. A true spiritual co-op.
We just received an overview and itinerary for the weekend and some of the rules include: no speaking at anytime, avoid eye contact with other participants, no reading, no writing, and no electronics of any kind. Just silence. Silence all around and silence within.
I have done my fair share of meditation, but nothing like this. I am very excited to turn off the outside world and illuminate the inside world.
Guess what? I’d like to invite you to do the same! I’d like to invite you to join me from afar this weekend by turning off the outside world and turning within. I especially want to invite those who have never meditated before and those who have a hard time turing off the outside world. And those who feel their inside world needs a little tending to (I think we can ALL relate to this feeling). All you need is five to ten minutes this weekend. Five to ten minutes to unplug and come into the quiet with me.
Many people are uncomfortable with silence. Many think words or prayer need to fill this uncomfortable space with mindless chatter or requests and pleas to a higher power. Dare I suggest that you let this higher power speak to you and you not speak to it? Your god or higher power will speak to you, if you give it space. Space within the silence. God will speak to you from a place deep within. A place were the divine resides within all of us.
To begin, a good focal point for mediation is your breath. Simply follow your breath. Always breathe through your nose, not through your mouth. As you breathe, notice the quality of your breath. Is it warm or cold? Labored or fluid? Perhaps meter your breathing by inhaling and exhaling a certain number of counts. First equal counts, then unequal counts with your exhales becoming longer than your inhales. This one-pointed attention on the breath will calm and focus the mind. As thoughts begin to arise, acknowledge these thoughts and then let them go. During meditation your thoughts are like passing clouds in the sky and your breath is that fixed point beyond the clouds, always there to bring your attention back. It will be easy for your mind to wander. Wander and fret about all the tasks and to-do lists of your life. Just remember that all you need to do during these ten minutes is not do.
Meditation can be done in many different positions. Seated, lying down, walking. I prefer a cross-legged, seated position on the floor. I also like to sit up on a bolster or pillow so that my hips are elevated above my knees. I suggest placing your hands on your knees. This creates an energetically bound triangle between your torso, arms and legs. As you breathe in life energy (prana), this energy it is able to move freely throughout the body within this energetic triangle. I also suggest timing your mediation session with a stopwatch. I use the timer capabilities on phone. This way your mind can be free of thinking about how much time is left!
So, I challenge you to come with me into the quiet this weekend.
I’ll see you there.
P.S. Here is my (ten minute) meditation practice for those who are curious or who are recipe followers (smiley face). Instead of focusing on breathing, this is an example of focusing your attention on a mantra:
- Set timer. I usually set the timer on my phone to a 10 minute countdown.
- Come to a simple cross-legged seated position on the floor up on a pillow or bolster, ensuring that the hips are elevated above the knees.
- Sit up tall, lengthening the spine, creating space between your vertebrae. Slightly tuck the chin towards the chest.
- Bring hands to the knees, creating a triangle between your torso, arms and legs.
- Close the eyes and breathe (through nose).
- Begin to breathe and notice. Notice the noises in the room. The noises outside. Notice the room temperature. Notice these things and let them go. Don’t let your mind latch on to any of these things. (Remember: passing clouds)
- Begin repeating to yourself in mantra-type fashion: lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu (Translation: May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.)
- The repetition of this (or any other phrase) becomes the point of focus for your mediation. It is through this repetition that the meaning of the phrase soaks into each cell of your body. You begin to embody the phrase’s true spiritual energy and meaning so you are able to live it throughout the day in thought, word and deed.
- At the end of the ten minutes, open your eyes and bring your hands (with palms together) to your forehead in prayer position. Pause here to pray that only kind, loving and compassionate thoughts will reside in your mind. Move your hands (still in prayer position) to your lips, praying that only kind, loving and compassionate words will be spoken from your mouth. Lastly, bring your hands to your heart, praying that loving kindness and compassion will always be at your heart’s center and direct all actions in your life.
P.S.S. Leave a reply and let me know how it goes!