“It [Jazz] is an art that thrives on what it can do, not so much on what it does.”
Ben Ratliff

Coltrane - The Story of a Sound

Mind Friend Heart

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This February comes with a special twist. I’ve been gifted with an opportunity to partake in Peter Fernando’s A Month of Mindfulness online meditation course. For the past 12 years I’ve been studying and practicing exlusively under the guidance of my two Yoga teachers. This is the first time I am venturing off my spiritual-treasure-island to spend time with another teacher and other teachings.

When I scanned the five themes offered in the course my impulse was to go with “Focusing on Rest”. When I explored them in more depth I gravitated towards “Opening the Heart” and began my month with it. Each of the themes is offered with an article that gives a context and direction to the practice and a ~30 minute guided meditation. And so, with an open heart I sat down for my first guided meditation of the month.

In Yoga there is a distinction between Dhyana (meditation, Dharana (focusing the mind) and Pratyahara (quieting the mind). To this day my teachers have not prescribed to me Dhyana (meditation) practices but all of my practices are inherently infused with Dharana qualities. This includes a practice that to an outside observer may look like Dhyana (meditation) but to me is still a Dharana (focusing of the mind) or Pratyahara (quieting the mind) practice. In any case this is a quiet and intimate practice that does not involve an outside voice. Therefore, I am not versed or particularly skilled at guided meditations.

This guided meditation opened with surprising friction. Peter’s voice is soothing and friendly and joyful … but I couldn’t keep up. Listening is, for me, an act of mind – hearing and understading the words requires that I engage thought – so the very essence of the practice – a guided meditation – seemed to be in conflict with the intention of the practice – moving into the heart. I encountered words and phrases I could meditate on for weeks but when they finally did reach my heart new words came into my mind and again pulled me back into the mind. On occasion I ignored some of the words so that I could spend some time in my heart – but then when more words came I had already lost the thread of the story. I had to spend even more time in my mind trying to figure out where I am and what I missed. I felt tossed around, agitated and disturbed … and I did not want to experience that again, let alone for an entire month.

Peter was open and receptive to my experience and offered numerous alternative directions to go,of which I chose to return to my initial impulse to the “Focusing on Rest” theme. So the next day I sat with the guided meditation from that theme. There was still friction, though less then before. Still the act of listening and understanding words brought me into my mind – and I have a trigger happy mind. It can easily turn on itself and, if nothing else is available, think about thinking itself. This time I stopped about 20 minutes into the practice. Though I wasn’t very emotional about it I felt alone and confused.

Yesterday we had a long (and inspiring) day away from home so there was no space for practice. Today I resumed practice and as I approached it I asked myself what to do. I decided to resume my existing practices – Pranayama and then sitting – and to simply add an idea of “not doing” to my sitting. I was doubtful when I began the practice because I seemed to be gravitating towards my existing and familiar patterns and avoiding the opportunity to explore a new teaching. My doubts were unwarranted.

The “not doing” theme led to a fascinating “dialogue” between my mind and my heart. My mind introduced itself to my heart as a “doer” – it identifies challenges, obstacles, problems and it  solves them by either moving thoughts or limbs. It could not “do” anything with “not doing” – it couldn’t see the point. Then my heart smiled and offered to help – it said it loves not-doing and was willing to “help” my mind by shouldering the burden of “not doing”. My mind didn’t object and said “ok” and my heart began to “not do”.

But at that point, my disinterested mind began to wonder off in another direction of “doing”. My heart, as if clearing its throat, gently called my mind back and said “but I prefer that you stick around”. To which my mind replied “what for?”. To which my heart replied “I just want you here with me”. This happened numerous times until in my mind there seemed to grow a sense of respect and recognition towards my heart. This way, my mind realized it did not need to surrender its nature of “doing” for some inconceivable and senseless notion of “not doing”. Instead it found in my heart a friend who seemed to be able to do something it couldn’t … and all it had to “do” was observe – which is something it felt comfortable “doing”.

And so I found myself in a miraculous dialoge of mind and heart and ironically engaged in both of the themes that called out to me. It didn’t need to be (as my mind had assumed) a choice of either one or the other. It apparently could also be one through the other. I am now looking forward to the remainder of my month of mindfulness 🙂

Posted in Meditation, Yoga, Yoga & I | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-01-30

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  • some excellent resources on home heating systems: http://bit.ly/faogEY #
  • sleep just quit on me … totally …. its dark enough waking up in normal hours here … but at 5am … sheesh #
  • day is officially starting … Shakuhachi instead of Pranayama this morning … going on 1st excursion to see potential land to buy 🙂 #
  • u've purchased some land – now where to place your house? three considerations can do the trick – sleep, sun and view: http://bit.ly/h8bN5c #
  • at first we didn't have a clue – now we've got a list of things to look for when buying land: http://bit.ly/fx8wwW #
  • I don't trust people wearing ties talking about sustaintable/ecological/green building … dirt under the fingernails is a look I can trust #
  • Anyone considering building an ecological home can learn alot from this movie about a Passivhaus building project: http://bit.ly/dOaJoA #
  • souls are real … see for yourself: http://bit.ly/ecn7Z3 #

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Souls

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Are you here? Count down from 10 … really … do it … 10 …  9 …  8 …  7 …  6 …  5 …  4 …  3 …  2 …  1 …  0  … now think of someone you haven’t seen or spoken to in a while? Are you there? Can you hold an image of that person?

Now, in your heart, ask that person “Do you believe that souls exist?”. Regardless of what thoughts are streaming through you – whatever it is you are experiencing RIGHT NOW – that is a soul! It is a presence of another person. It’s that simple.

You may already be indulging in psychological, metaphysical or spiritual explanations … whatever your natural inclinations. But regardless of what you think, believe, accept or deny … that experience of another presence is all there is to it.

I can experience Andreeas presence in the other room sleeping.
I can experience Radus presence – who I met a couple of days ago.
I can experience my sisters presence – who replied to an email I sent earlier today.
I can experience my other sisters presence – who I haven’t heard from in weeks.
I can experience both of my grandfathers presences – both of whom passed away years ago.
I can experience my uncles presence – who I don’t get to speak to as often as I’d like to.
I can experience his wife – my aunts presence – who passed away 3 months ago.
I can experience a friends continuous presence over many years – who I haven’t seen and rarely spoken to in years.
I can sometimes experience other people experiencing my presence (without being in their physical presence).

I can experience my parents – but that is, to my utter surprise, a special double whammy – because I have also experienced their souls as separate from their physical presence. I have been in their presence and heard critical and hurtful words from their mouths and at the same time felt soothing and clear waves from their souls. It wasn’t always like this – I wasn’t always able to tell the two apart. Most of my life I was in the grasp of my parents’ physical presence and completely missed their alternate, and in retrospect truer, soul presence.

Now here’s a crazy thing my parents’ presences (both of whom still occupy physical bodies on this planet) inadvertently taught me. A souls presence can be at least as dominating, if not more so then a physical presence. At times, a soul’s presence can be more tangible and real then that of a physical presence. There you have it, my two well grounded, logical, reasonable, spiritually denouncing parents have taught me that a spiritual presence can be more substantial then a physical presence. I can experience my father, who I know reads my writing, reading these words before it’s even happened.

So now I’d like to really push the envelope – because the envelope has been really pushing me. If a soul’s presence can be felt regardless of physical presence – then it should be possible for me to experience souls who I have never met in this lifetime (in this physical body my soul now occupies). I can imagine this being far fetched for some (many?) people … but honestly … the more I consider it, the more it makes sense … and that brings some magical perspective into my life in recent years … and beyond.

Souls are everywhere – they are more powerful in shaping my thoughts, feeling and beliefs then people who are physically present in my life. It seems that somewhere in this highly intellectualized era in which we live I lost touch with a true life essence … and it was sitting right there all along … patient, quiet, determined … guiding my life all the same.

Are you still here?

Posted in Expanding, inside | You are welcome to add your comment

Suncuius – Our First Roadtrip in Romania

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A few days ago (time is really flying) we went on our first roadtrip with Ina & Sabin to see the area of Suncuius where they recently bought land and are planning to build in the summer. It was a beautiful sunny day following a few days of substantial snowing. A longer story of what went down (with some more images) will soon be available on Bhudeva.

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Recent Pranayama: Refinement, Chaos & Sound

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I’m fairly settled in a very regular practice sequence. I get around 08:00, much later then I used to – maybe it’s because of the winter light (or lack of it). I read a little and drink some water and then sit down for a practice that includes Pranayama practice and meditation. I still do not have a regular asana practice – that seems to come and go – I practice for a week or two and then I don’t for another week or two. Though our apartment is comforting, it still does not feel like a home … and the yoga/practice room is the coldest room in the house – so it too is not particularly inviting … so … anyways …

During the last 10-14 days something has happened to my Pranayama practice.

Refinement

At first there was a sudden refinement – it happened suddenly, one morning. My breathing became very refined, smooth and steady. Transitions were precise and gentle. BK (holds after the breath) were open and spacious – I was able to contain them with ease. There was also a fairly equal flow in both nostrils – a rare experience for me. My presence was delicious – peaceful steadiness.

This lasted for 2 or 3 days. Then came chaos.

Chaos

Ever since those refined days I have been having a very mixed experience. On one hand most of the refinement has stayed with me, on the other hand the edges are coarse and unsetady. There isn’t something specific I can point out – and to be fair with myself, it’s still a good practice. The transitions are not as smooth. The krama part of the practice though still nicely contained can demand more attention. The flow in my left nostril is again lesser then the flow in my right nostril.

I am also experiencing more resistance to practice. Part of my practice is now standing at the window for a few, sometimes long, minutes, staring outside, watching the dog pace from side to side on his chain … until there is an invitation to practice.

Generally, compared to the refined days, it feels like a mess.

Sound

Sound is a new gift that appeared in my consciousness during the refined days and has stayed with me since – including the chaotic days. The sounds begins in the first breaths of practice and stays present throughout the pranayama and meditation practice.

The sound has two layers. One layer is external – it is a high-pitched steady sound – I am surprised time and again that it doesn’t agitate me – as it is kind of like a kettle whistle – only higher and continuous.

A second layer is internal – it is a low-pitch sound that oscillates – like an engine only without a mechanical quality – a kind of sound I would imagine is heard in a nuclear plant (not that I’ve ever heard one). It is an addictive sound – the sound of me. This internal layer has been my dominant bhavana (focus) in meditation.

When I practice asana the rumbling is louder and takes center stage, leaving the higher-pitched sound as a background noise.

I feel something has shifted and that it will soon be time to change my Pranayama practice. I am looking forward to hearing my teachers.

Posted in Pranayama Journal, Yoga, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to add your comment