Tuesday, September 28, 2010

do you feel alive?

Sometimes, it's difficult to make a bridge between the physical emphasis of yoga (doing the poses) and the feeling quality of yoga (being in your body and feeling alive through the dance of yoga). Students can become so focused on whether they're doing it right. And we teachers can feed into this by the plethora of alignment cues we give.

I've been using the following meditation from From Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now:

"Direct your attention into the body. Feel it from within. Is it alive? Is there life in your hands, arms, legs, and feet -- in your abdomen, your chest? Can you feel the subtle energy field that pervades the entire body and gives vibrant life to every organ and every cell? Can you feel it simultaneously in all parts of the body as a single field of energy? Keep focusing on the feeling of your inner body for a few moments. Do not start to think about it. Feel it. The more attention you give it, the clearer and stronger this feeling will become. It will feel as if every cell is becoming more alive."

What do you think? I originally used it at the end of class, going into savasana, but the more I think about it, it would be a great opening theme. This week, I plan to start class with this meditation and refer back to it several times in the course of the class. I'd be happy to sacrifice a little precision in the poses for greater sense of feeling and freedom. But maybe the two qualities aren't mutually exclusive. One should help lead to the other, it's just that students can become so hyperfocused in trying to "get it right." And, not just students, but we teachers in our own practice, too, since we're always students ourselves.

So, this week (and always), a reminder to myself to let the feeling come first.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

prayer is the act of talking to God, while meditation is the act of listening

I didn't plan to write about meditation again this week, but meditation has been dogging me.

I'm in the midst of reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love, after having seen the movie and feeling less than impressed by it. Interestingly, most of the reviews here in Chicago centered on the self-centeredness of Gilbert's year-long self-exploration: How dare she? What a feeling of self-entitlement? What an affront to the average person who could never afford to indulge herself that way!

On several different occasions, friends and students would say something like, "Well, she described (fill in the blank) so much better in the book than it came out in the film."

So I checked the book out from the library. Friends were right. To me, this book is a minor miracle, touching on so many of the same challenges that I'm now going through.

Here's an unattributed aphorism from the book:
"Prayer is the act of talking to God, while meditation is the act of listening."

For me, this is the clearest answer to the question, why meditate?

I do a lot of talking to God, but I'm not sure I've done an equal amount of listening. I was raised with the concept of "God helps those who help themselves," and I'm chronically challenged by sitting still.

But, if you tell me that by sitting still and calming the mind that I might hear the voice of God, the inspiration of the Self . . . wow.

Eat Pray Love was the result of one woman's decision to spend just one year (of the perhaps 80 or 90 years alloted to her) to truly live, to find out what is inside of her. To explore some of the things she most deeply wished to experience. Imagine a world in which everyone had the same courage to look within, whether by traveling or by any other means. For someone else, it might be a year of closeting oneself to practice the guitar. . . or, so many thousands of other choices. Why is this a less worthy choice than simply continuing to slog away at a job or career? Why is such a choice shocking and self-indulgent?

Here I am, halfway through this book, and I think the entire work is about stopping to listen, to hear what your deepest Self has to say. Don't you want to know?