Welcome friends! OM Shanti!

People come together in all kinds of ways, what matters is that they get together.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What is the difference between Yoga & Meditation?

Earth Day  4.22.11 - Meditation based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Taught by Sisters Saraswati Andrea Lee and Chitra Jessica Sunshine Klein
Fridays 8-9am - Starseed Yoga and Wellness in Montclair, NJ

------------------Saraswati ------------------
Welcome to our first meditation class, I’m so glad all of you are with us today! My name is Saraswati and we’ll do further introductions in just a bit. First, I’d like you please join me in this morning’s opening chants. It’s call and response, so when you feel comfortable please chant along or observe in silence. We’ll start with three rounds of OM.

Exhale, inhale, OM...

Hari OM, Hari OM, Hari, Hari, Hari OM

So welcome again. Can we go around the class and just say your name, where you’re from and something you are hoping to get out of this class?  It was here at Starseed where I first began to understand that meditation is yoga.  So I want to spend a few minutes talking about yoga, a science which incorporates many practices including meditation.

Yoga is a science, a way of life and an ancient philosophy that has a great amount of current relevancy. As such, it’s teachings are presented in a wide variety of texts many of which are accompanied by commentary directed at modern seekers. One text which is commented on often is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which first codified the practices of yoga. A portion of each class will be yoga theory and for the most part, the Yoga Sutras will be our guide.

I’d like to read a passage from this text that speaks to the purpose of practicing yoga.

Sutra 1.2 Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.

Right off the bat, Patanjali gives the definition of yoga and in doing so, gives us the definition of meditation. These mental fluctuations are any conscious or unconscious thoughts from “That meal was delicious,” to “I forgot to - fill in the blank - I’m such a failure.” When we quiet these restless thoughts we begin to hear the truth about ourselves, which is that we are joy and we are happiness, innately and undoubtably so.

If not, then we remain living life identifying with each one of our fluctuating thoughts and looking outside of our selves for happiness.

So how do we still the mind? We still it by focusing it on one object or idea and giving it our complete attention. This is the “how” part of the definition of meditation. You meditate by maintaining a clear, peaceful and one pointed focus on an object or idea. What you chose as your object of meditation can vary widely whether it be an image, a sound, or the inhale and exhale of your breath. The only requirement is that it be something uplifting to you, that you like.

For today’s practice we will be working with mantra as the object of meditation. A mantra is any sound or combination of sounds that express the Divine. Some examples were the chants we did at the beginning of class, in addition to, the words Amen and Shalom. The emphasis is more on the vibration the word creates in the body and mind and less on the definition of what the words means. Some sounds used during meditation have no meaning at all or are beyond definition.

The mantra we will be using today is OM Shanti. On the inhale you will fill the body with oxygen and on the exhale we will say OM Shanti.  We will repeat the mantra together for several rounds using three ways:  1) out loud, 2) with only lip movements, and 3) silently repeating the mantra in your head.  Some tips for focusing on a mantra are to try sounding out every letter of the word, which takes you deeper into it, or even to envision yourself writing the word. Its common that you will have thoughts that will try to distract you from the mantra. in these cases, be gentle with yourself and let them pass by without indulging them. If a thought becomes persistent enough and ignoring it doesn’t appear to be effective, you can briefly analyze it, it may be some insight needing to be acknowledged.

We will be doing this practice a little later on in class by saying the mantra OM Shanti aloud together, then silently using lip movements (as if you were in a silent film), and finally silently without lip movement.

At this point Saraswati and I switched roles and I led the class for Pranayama.

Begin by observing the breath.  Follow the flow.  Feel the rhythm.  Our breathing is a reflection of our state of mind.  As the breathing slows down, the mind slows down.  The breath is the link between the body and mind.  Pranayama is control of the the breath, or life force.  Inhale smoothly and evenly through the nose. Follow the inhalation through the nose into the lungs, then follow the exhalation from the lungs out the nose, squeeze out any stale air by pulling the navel to spine.  Continue to be conscious of the breath.  Now bring your hands to the belly to feel the movement of the breath.  As you inhale the belly and hands expand out, and as you exhale the belly pulls in towards the spine.  Today, we will work with the three part breath, Deergha Swaasam Pranayama.  With your hands on your belly, breathe deeply into your abdomen for four counts, exhale for four counts.  Repeat this again.  Next, breathe deeply into your abdomen and let the air rise into the ribs.  Exhale all the way down, pulling the navel to spine.  Repeat this again.  Now, breathe deeply into the abdomen, the ribs, and let the air rise into the chest.  Exhale all the way down.  Imagine you are pouring water into a pitcher.  The water goes to the bottom first and then fills to the top.  As you pour the water out of the pitcher, the water leaves from the top to the bottom.  The same applies to this breathing technique.  Fill the lungs from the bottom to the top, exhale top to bottom.  Continue the Deergha Swaasam Pranayama for several minutes, tuning into the sound and rhythm of your breath.  By utilizing this breathing technique we are able to pull in seven times more oxygen than we do with swallow breathing.  Release the stale air and breathe fresh new oxygen into your lungs.  The breath stops at the lungs but the prana extends to nourish every cell in the body with new life.  End with normal breathing and observe the mind. 

------------------Small break for tea!------------------

After the break, Saraswati lead the students into a Mantra Meditation using OM Shanti for about fifteen minutes.  The room was quickly filled with loving positivity and peace as we chanted together.  OM Shanti = OM Peace.  We were able to try all three ways of saying the mantra out loud, with lip movements, and silently.  Using the sound of one gentle OM, I pulled the students out of meditation, and sat for a Golden Moment.  With a non-judgemental attitude, watch the thoughts.  Be the witness.  Just observe the thoughts and then the reaction to the thoughts.  No negativity allowed.  Sit quietly and observe the mind. 

Ending reading from To Know Your Self by Sri Swami Satchidananda, p. 55
"All this - everything - is infinite consciousness.  There is neither the perceiver nor the perceived.  This is the great silence.  This is the birthless and deathless state.  All that we call unconscious, subconscious, conscious, superconscious are different states of expression of this infinite consciousness.  Take the case of the ocean.  It is nothing but water, but the very same water appears as big or small waves, foam and bubbles, ice that floats, and vapor that clouds.  These are all nothing but temporary manifestations of the same sea water.  It is this spiritual oneness that is to be realized."
Ending peace chants led by Chitra
Asaato Maa Sad Gamaya Tamaso Maa Jyotir Gamaya Mrityor Maa Amritaam Gamaya
Lead us from unreal to Real.  Lead us from darkness to the Light.  Lead us from the fear of death to the knowledge of Immortality.
OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti!
Lokaah Samastaah Sukhino Bhavantu
May the entire universe be filled with Peace and Joy, Love and Light!

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