…and Other Yogic Joys!
I love the Cobra asana! I’m a writer who spends about ten to 12 hours a day in front of a computer screen; as a result, I get some monumentally stiff necks, sore backs, and headaches. I find Cobra to be one of the most liberating poses…and on the rare occasions that I get to do it outdoors (on the grass, as in the picture above), it’s even better. I feel my midsection getting in touch with the earth with while I try to touch my head to my feet.
Have you ever tried going through your favorite series of asanas while repeating your mantra? That’s another beautiful combination, and it helps you to keep your focus on your breath.
Speaking of focusing on the breath, on to other yogic joys of the meditative kind.
After I’ve completed my sequence of asanas (details on that in my next post), I begin my meditation period, ideally for at least twenty minutes. In my last post, I described the pre- and post-meditation ritual I follow when I’m able to meditate in my sacred space. Now, please allow me to share the details of my favorite English-language mantra, one that I created for my own use based on the mindfulness teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Actually, it’s a gatha, a short poem composed for use during sitting or walking meditation. Maybe you’ll find it applicable to your own practice.
Breathing in, my body settles;
Breathing out, my mind.
Solid, free, and lucid,
With the Infinite I dwell.
I’ve been using this for so long now; it takes no effort at all to keep it going for twenty minutes. It’s relatively long, though, and it may take some time for your mind to keep from wandering away from it at first (such was definitely the case with me!). As always in meditation, don’t allow this to throw you, and don’t try to force your attention back to the gatha. Instead, simply observe the wandering of your mind without judgment, and calmly redirect your attention.
In the first line, I’m acknowledging the need for my body to “settle.” It’s been pulled in a hundred different directions since I last meditated; now it’s time to rein it in and gather it to one place, my personal center.
On my out-breath, I acknowledge the same about my mind. Of course there’s no actual division between my body and mind; they are one substance. But my mental processes have likewise been pulled all over the place and scattered for awhile. This is an opportunity to bring those processes back to my center along with my physical body.
On the next in-breath, I focus on the fact that I am solid, like the trunk of a tree, or a great mountain. My thoughts and emotions cannot be easily scattered, as the uppermost leaves of a tree are buffeted by the wind. I am also free to be myself without restrictions. Finally, I am lucid; like still water, I reflect things clearly.
On the final out-breath, I say “With the Infinite I dwell.” This is a reminder to myself of my essential connection with the Infinite, the Divine, or the Source. It is the source of light that we honor when we say “Namaste” (“The Light in me recognizes the Light in you”).
Repeating this mantra (or, more properly, this gatha), everything I am declaring eventually becomes real for me. Some practitioners like to keep themselves sitting up straight throughout their sitting meditation; I prefer to allow my body to do what it chooses to do. If I find myself gradually bending over, I go with it. If my body becomes so relaxed that it actually winds up in a lying-down position, I allow that to happen. (If you try this, I recommend that you set a very quiet, bell-tone alarm clock. If you keep meditating while lying down, there’s a strong tendency to fall asleep.)
Frequently what happens is that my head droops further and further, and my whole body gradually falls forward. When that happens naturally, it’s an excellent, organic opportunity to practice the ritual that Buddhist practitioners call “Toughing the Earth.” Your head is in contact with your mat; you then allow your hands to follow suit and you are in the ideal position to pour all your inner toxins into the earth. Gaia is vast and strong; she can absorb whatever poisons you may have accumulated and transform them into precious things. Greed becomes generosity, hatred becomes love; ignorance becomes enlightenment. Frequently when this happens, it’s a result of my having left those poisonous things unattended within my body/mind; it is wise enough to take advantage of the opportunity to be rid of them. Don’t worry about Gaia’s ability to absorb and transform. You’ll feel the glorious opposites of your inner toxins flowing into your body/mind as you release them in this posture. There have been times when I found my cheeks wet with tears by the time I finished; it’s a deeply cathartic, cleansing experience!
William K Ferro