Meditation

Meditation means to reflect upon, ponder, or contemplate and there are many ways to meditate. The first stage of meditation is to concentrate on a specific object or establish a point of focus, with the eyes either opened or closed. Silently repeating a word or phrase, audibly reciting a prayer or chant, visualizing an image such as a deity, or focusing on an object such as a lighted candle in front of you are all commonly recommended points of focus. Observing or counting your breaths and noticing bodily sensations are also optional focal points.

  1. Find a quiet place where you can be alone if possible.
  2. Sit in a comfortable position.
  3. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Let your thoughts come and go.
  4. Start to visualize a particular object-for example, a rose.
  5. In your thoughts, start to repeat the word for the object-“rose”-over and over, at any speed or rhythm it wants to go.
  6. As you continue to repeat the word, start to imagine the rose opening and closing in the same rhythm.
  7. If distracting thoughts come into your mind, let them pass through. Continue to repeat your word and see its image. (Often, worries of the day, like “what shall I have for dinner” or “I have three exams to study for,” will flow through your mind to distract you.?
  8. Keep this process going from two to twenty minutes.
  9. When it is time to stop, open your eyes slowly.

You should feel relaxed, refreshed, and less anxious after trying this technique.
Benefits of meditation
 
benefits of meditation
 
Find below links to read more!
http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/let-s-meditate/
http://www.indiana.edu/~engs/hints/med.htm
http://www.artofliving.org/meditation/meditation-for-you/benefits-of-meditation
 
 

Meditation and Insomnia

I started to try meditation sometime last year. I wasn’t sleeping well then because of a lot of stress at work that I was going through and at the same time I was experiencing much emotional anxiety from relationship problems. I was close to exhausting all my options I knew of. I had tried all sorts of exercise, oral aids and medications, changes in diet and sleep hygiene habits, massages and a whole plethora of things you could think of that you have heard of. Most of them worked temporarily, but none had a lasting effect on its own. These things I had already tried culled only the “symptoms” but not the cause of my poor sleep. They were not enduring solutions.
So yes, I was very, very desperate for sleep. I was medically termed an insomniac. I needed it so badly because my physical and mental health were already gravely affected. I was falling sick frequently, I was terrible with my anger management and my mood pinged like a pinball in a neverending game. I snapped easily, I became an extremely unpleasant person and I knew it. This was affecting me in every way possible.
 
So then, I heard that “meditation” might help. A friend of mine had suggested to me the Headspace app (which appears to be quite popular). I was told it would only take 10 minutes it involved the practice of “mindfulness” etc. Sounded easy enough, so I decided to give it a try since I had already tried everything else and was kind of desperate. I was skeptical at best, and I had this preconception that meditation was just being able to sit cross-legged and falling asleep while sitting upright or something like that. But there was no harm in trying anyway, if it worked, hurrah, pretty cool if I could learn how to sleep sitting upright! If not…I would just have another one to add to that long list of “been there done that and it doesn’t work”.
 
Anyways, so I went ahead and tried the app. The first time I had tried it, I was surprised to have experienced the most amazing and relaxed 10 minutes I’ve had in several months at that time. It wasn’t easy for a full 10 minutes to not get distracted, I must admit. But for what I had managed – it was a sure improvement to my mental state. I was so thankful to have discovered this so I continued practising this for the next 10 days (and more) with the app.
 
During the 10 minutes of the app, you get verbally guided through focusing on what your sense of touch was feeling in various parts of the body, then to what your ears were hearing, and then to the smells and then to being aware of the thoughts that were in your head, and then eventually to counting your breaths while not being engaged in any particular thought but being aware of them being present. Towards the end, you have about 10-20 seconds to allow your mind to let loose and engage in whatever thought it wishes to.
 
I learnt from using the guided 10 minutes of the app that getting into a meditative state was really about the practice of daily mindfulness, being aware of the presence of the thoughts in your head, be it happy, sad, angry or whatever emotion it creates, and simply acknowledging its presence, AND choosing not to engage in any particular one thought or emotion. You reach past these thoughts (grey clouds) into the blue sky above it. This is definitely much easier said than done! I’ve realised that meditation is NOT about cutting out thoughts and shutting out your mental processes, which is the popular and common misconception of meditation. It is actually, more about making peace with whatever is up in there, and being ok with knowing these thoughts in your mind are there – be it bad, good, sad, happy, evil or great. Again, you acknowledge the existence of them, but you do not engage them, sort of like giving a familiar faced neighbour, the little nod saying “hi, hello, I see you there, good morning” when you see them in the morning. Achieving this peace is also perhaps like how people can choose to agree to disagree.
 
During the 200hr YTT, we also learnt that meditation or Dhyana is a state, and not something you can “practice” or simply just “do”. You can however, “practice” concentration or Dharana, which is the focus and attention on a single thing, like a candle flame (or on the what the individual senses are perceiving through touch, hearing and smelling or even focusing on your breaths). And it is only from the practice of this, you will gradually let your mind move fluidly into a meditative state of being in Dhyana. Moving into Dhyana is surely not an easy feat, and as Master Paalu had described it in class, being in Dhyana is like being aware of all of the fish in the river of thoughts but not concentrating or paying attention to any particular one of the fish in that river of thoughts. Master Paalu had also described that even though most people can achieve it, Dhyana is a state that is difficult to maintain because a lot of people fall right asleep.
 
Haha this is where I’ll jump in and say that it is because being in a meditative state is certainly extremely relaxing and I can vouch for this personally! This is almost surely why meditation has definitely helped and worked to negate my sleep problems. It puts me in such a state of relaxation that, my body at the time, which was intensely exhausted and worn out, would slip into sleep- or shut-down mode to give it the much-needed repair and rejuvenation. It was and is still the most enduring solution to my sleep problems which I try to get into before I sleep, up till today.
 
Through the repeated use of the app and self-practice of learning to quiet the mind, I have learnt and realised that the root cause of my sleep problems was my inability to quiet or still my mind of the war that was going on up there before going to bed. Mental preoccupation keeps your mind engaged and operating, much like a CPU of a computer, which if left on, would still keep running the computer even if lets say, the monitors, are switched off. And trying to “sleep” with the CPU still running would be exactly like switching off the computer’s monitor without switching the CPU off. At some point the computer is going to run into a whole plethora of problems and break down or overheat if you never give it a break or let it rest. Learning to make peace with the thoughts in my head is therefore like learning to discipline the mind, via regular training, to achieve stillness and peace up in your CPU-brain to allow it to “switch-off” and also direct the rest of the body to relax for rest.
 
Meditation has not only helped to improve my sleep problems since I started on it. It has helped me to calm and still my mind in stressful situations which I face daily and in my line of work. I also believe that it will eventually help to expand the function of my mind and also my control over it. While I have been weaned off the external “solutions” to my problems for one that works from the inside and directly at the root cause of the problem, I believe this will be an ongoing journey to discover what else meditation can do for me.
 
-Mel (200hr TTC weekend batch)

Jesus was a Yogi

I have the following opinion: that although yoga is a spiritual path, it does not have to be a religious one.

There are a variety of viewpoints on this matter, some contentious.  I believe, however, that the ethical precepts espoused by Patañjali, for example: the yamas and niyamas, are universal in nature and applicable to anyone who desires to partake in conscious living.

Because yoga has its roots in pre-Vedic Indian traditions, the major theistic adoptions of yogic practices have historically been in Hinduism and Jainism.  Sanskrit, the language of ancient Hindu texts, was the lingua franca in that period of history and thus was the language used by Patañjali when the Yoga Sutras were penned.  The philosophical underpinnings of the Sutras, are however, by no means restricted to any specific religion.

In his commentary on the Yoga Sutras, the learned Swami Satchidananda stated the following:

“Truth is the same always. Whoever ponders it will get the same answer. Buddha got it. Patañjali got it. Jesus got it. Mohammed got it. The answer is the same, but the method of working it out may vary this way or that. (page 115)”

The ultimate goal and the final limb of Raja Yoga is Samadhi, and I assert that each individual has the right to form an opinion and interpretation of what this means to him or her. In Buddhism, the term nirvāṇa (enlightenment) is used.  In Christianity, one can arguably draw a parallel to what they call salvation. Father Joe Pereira, an ordained Catholic Priest and a student of B.K.S. Iyengar, said the following:

“Yoga has nothing to do with any religion, not even Hindu. The kind of yoga that we use for health and wellbeing and for wholeness and holiness is a combination of science and faith. It is definitely a spirituality, but a blend of the body, mind and soul. The kind of yoga Guruji (B.K.S. Iyengar) taught was absolutely secular and had no reference to any form of religion. However, one was always free to integrate it within one’s faith.”

Father Joe Pereira even went as far as to equate the Antaryāmin to the spirit of the risen Lord (in his book “Yoga for the Practice of Christian Meditation“) – saying that Jesus was the ultimate yogi  because he taught and practiced union with God.

Further, scholars have long recognised the universality of the search for the a deeper truth, and it has been said that:

“…the quest for truth is the quest for God.  This is the core teacher of all religions. The Scientist’s motivation is to seek the very kind of truth that Krishna speaks about in the Bhagavad Gita.” (Prof. Harvey G. Cox, Hollis Research Professor of Divinity at Harvard University)

On the topic and practice of meditation, I was fortunate enough to be to attend several talks by Professor Nagaraja Rao, who commented that the object of the meditation is inconsequential – it could be Jesus, Mohammed, Lord Shiva, the universe or even a candle; the pivotal aspect is that we seek union with the Divine – a Higher Power of own your personal understanding.

 

Wishing you peace and contentment,

Adriel

(post adapted from original writeup published at http://path8yoga.org/spirituality/)

Yoga & Meditation

The word Meditation comes from the Latin word “meditatio” and means to think, contemplate, ponder.
A lot of Caucasians think that meditation originates from the Indian Subcontinent and has something esoteric – mythical about it.
So where mediation indeed refers to the seventh of the eight steps of Yoga in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, a step called Dhyana in Sanskrit. Whereby it’s integrally related to the prior step Dharana.
The later is where one is holding ones mind onto a particular object / Mantra (cloud, tongue, naval, breath etc.) without letting ones mind drift. Dhyana is the next step, where one starts to contemplate, reflect on what one was focused on during the Dharana. So where Dharana is the focus on a Mantra, Dhyana is about thinking about that Mantra. It is a non-judgemental, non presumptuous observation of that Mantra.
Getting back to the term and origin of the term Meditation and it’s Latin origin, it actually refers to the third of the four steps of the Lectio Devina. This is an ancient form of Christian prayer, that originates from the Benedictine monks and is where they try to get in touch with and deliberately reflect upon the revelations of their God. So it’s the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (for example a biblical scene involving Jesus and the Virgin Mary) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God.
Christian meditation contrasts with Asian types of meditation as radically as the portrayal of God the Father in the Bible contrasts with depictions of Krishna or Brahman in Indian teachings. In addition most types of Christian meditations do not rely on the repeated use of mantras as they do in Asian meditations. Nonetheless they also focus on the stimulation of though and deeper meaning.
They Christians goal is to heighten the personal relationship based on the love of God that marks the Christian communion.
By Niken Nurul Puji Lestari

Quest For Hapiness

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Imagine if happiness can be store bought! It would most likely be the first thing to run out of stock everyday, most likely be the cause for all unrest and a whole lot of other problems. All of us humans, are looking for happiness, it could be in various forms, such as success and going up the corporate ladder, a trip to South Africa, or a newly acquired Louis Vuitton, or a brand new flashy car, or shifting in to a new mansion. But, the happiness or joy we get from acquiring anything material or even helping someone out, will all be momentary. After that feeling dies out, what next!? Are we going to buy more things to fill that void? Are we going to look for more needy people in need of help? It’s surely a great deed, helping others. It is highly satisfying but it definitely isn’t that easy; unless you have all the means; and when you do have all the means, it ends up going in all the wrong directions. Why? Because its in Human Nature to want more. GREED! We have all been happy, and we want more happiness, because we got a taste of it and it never stays constant.
Well, worry no more! Happiness is here to stay, provided you make it happen. The main source of happiness is Inner Peace, and this is something you and I can achieve anytime, anywhere. This is where Meditation comes in. The feeling comes from the simple act of drawing ones awareness to the sensation of one’s own breathing. The key is to block all the distractions. Our mind is so dynamic and most of the time agitated and brimming with thoughts, ideas, dreams, wants and needs. We need to give our mind a rest and just let it drift in to the space. There is so much space, beyond all that agitation and we just need to find that and keep a check on it from time to time on a regular basis. This will help us find the Inner Peace that everyone is searching for. This may not be all that easy, as our minds are very complicated and we may not be able to shake certain thoughts off from our minds.
To me, the mind is like a bottle of champagne, full of bubbles and ready to explode. Keep the bottle still for a while and you will see how the bubbles will fizzle out, but it continues to sparkle. The bubbles are the numerous agitations and thoughts, which just wouldn’t allow us to have a calm, peaceful and still mind; and the sparkle is the happiness that every single one of us are striving for. It’s there, all of it, within our reach. Remember, the Problem Lies In Your Mind, And So Does The Power.
Lavanya

Reflections of An Amateur Meditator

I first got to learn more about meditation earlier this year when I took up a module on mindful psychology. There was an experiential component of this module, through which I was required to start a daily mindfulness practice involving a daily activity and a 20-minute meditation. For the daily activity, I chose to prepare and eat my breakfast mindfully, for my mind was often elsewhere, most likely planning for the day ahead, so this would be a good morning reminder for me to stay in (or return to) the present moment. For the formal meditation practice, I could alternate between various meditation techniques including a body scan meditation, seated breath meditation, loving-kindness meditation, and walking meditation. After my first formal practice, I felt that having to still the mind for twenty long minutes felt like eternity – having to continually pull myself out of that habitual mind wandering was a struggle. But like most things in life, the beginning is often the toughest. I found myself more often than not practicing the seated breath meditation – I like things to be simple, and this meditation technique simply involves returning to one’s breath whenever one’s mind inevitably wanders off. I find this a comforting practice, for the breath remains a constant in life when everything else changes. When I return to the breath, I return to the present moment.
One of the first things that struck me when I first started my mindfulness journey was the extent that I was not fully living in the present moment. In fact, I often found, and continue to find, my mind lingering in the past or in the future. Perhaps the only times when I was living in the present moment was when rushing last-minute work, during test situations, and when engaged in a balancing pose during yoga class.
The other thing that struck me was that not living in the present moment is naturally the reason for my inefficiency in schoolwork and habitual procrastination. My mind still wanders, but I notice that I am able to break that cycle with a gentle reminder to myself to just focus. I am also quicker to realize my mind wandering “adventures”. I suppose this is how I am beginning to integrate mindfulness into my life, and allowing mindfulness to be a part of who I am. One related example that comes to mind is perhaps how I am learning to be more mindful of the way I communicate or interact with others. I do try to pay attention to how the things I say could possibly affect or impact on others. This has been quite challenging although I am a very self-conscious person. Being a mindful listener has also been difficult. Often, I catch myself being more concerned about showing the other that I’m listening than truly paying attention and empathizing with what he or she is trying to convey. I can’t be sure my daily mindfulness practice has really translated to communication with others, but I am more aware of when I’m not really being mindful when listening or talking.
Most gladly, the daily mindfulness practice has definitely benefitted my yoga practice. Having practiced for just two years, I am still very much an amateur yogi. I used to pay more attention on my postures and the accuracy of my alignments, but I often forgot about the importance of the breath during each session. The seated breath meditation and body scan meditation have hence helped me to tune in to my body and better coordinate my breath and movements during yoga, such they flow more naturally. Indeed, I’ve come to the realization of an asana practice as a moving meditation – when one moves with one’s breath.
Along the way, I learnt to set a clear intention at the start of each meditation practice, and that really helps because it serves as an overarching little goal that I should achieve for that 20 minutes of my life. Mostly, I set myself the intention of “treating myself with acceptance and kindness”. I find that this simple act of intending does help me get through the practice with greater ease, as I view it as less of a chore. By reminding myself to be more self-accepting and self-compassionate, I learn to welcome the inevitable mental struggles that I experience during each practice. Gradually, after several weeks of mindfulness practice, I started to look forward to the daily practices. Instead of a mundane task that I felt obliged to do, mindfulness practice became a special time and mental space set aside to calm my mind and explore the pure sensation of breathing itself (in sitting meditation). Having “a beginner’s mind” has been most helpful as the focusing and refocusing of attention upon the breath repeatedly then does not imply insipidness of the practice, but rather, an interesting new experience waiting to be discovered and explored each day.
I hope to better infuse these little things learned from meditation to my newly learned Ashtanga primary series.
PS: I believe meditation would be a form of Swadhyaya, one of the five Niyamas in Patanjali’s Eight Fold Path 🙂
“Study, when it is developed to the highest degree, brings one close to higher forces that promote understanding of the most complex.”  -The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 11.44
YY (200hr YYT – Weekday Hatha/Ashtanga, July 2015)

How to Relax?

Knowing how to relax is vital for ensuring your health and well-being, as well as restoring the passion and joy in you life. 

Allowing stress to affect you can lead to depression, illness, weight gain and a general sense of malcontent.Follow along after the jump to learn how to get your anxiety under control and relax.

Accepting Stress                

Recognize stress. Obviously, some stress is good for us – it adds interest, excitement and motivation to life, in the right balance. it is when the level of stress in your life causes you to put up with things that are harming or distressing you contantly that you risk sliding into being too stressed. You could be too stressed if:     

– All you do and think about is work, non-stop. It might be your own business, a career, a salaried position, a stay-at-home mom or -dad position, or anything else that is soaking up your time and life one hundred percent, and this over-concentration is leaving you passionless,disappointed, unhappy, and unfulfilled.       

– unhappy, and unfulfilled.       

– You experience constant body tension, including headaches, neck aches, back aches, and general soreness.- You’re often irritable, short-tempered, and perhaps unable to focus on completing tasks.Trivial things set you off easily.        

– You feel as if you have too much going on and that you can’t hop off the merry-go-round.    

– Your sleep is a battlefield and you wake up feeling less rested rather than refreshed. Insomnia has become your norm rather than an unusual event.             

– You’re eating too much or too little. Or, you are choosing unhealthy food options.        

– You can’t remember the last time you had a good laugh and your sense of humor is sadly lacking.

Set Aside Time to Relax                

Once you have accepted that there are negative stressors impacting your life, it’s important to make room for relaxation amid all those busy things you’re doing.    

Ways to prepare for adding relaxation back into your routine included:

– Let go of guilt. Many religious and cultural beliefs instill the value of hard work very deeply. Over time, and increasingly so with the advent of smart technology. Many of us have come to believe that being “on-the-go” constantly is the only way to prove our value. Having an unrealistic interpertation of “hard work” will end up wearing you down. Hard work is giving your tasks the attention they reserve at the time they deserve, not letting it bleed into all hours of your day! 

– Accept that sleep is a very important part of life. During sleep, your mind continues learning in ways that are not possible during waking hours. Sleep restores and refreshes your body in myriad ways that cannot happen when you’re awake. Moreover, the alleged of some people to thrive on four hours sleep per night is the exception, not the rules – most of us need the six to eight hour sleep cycle for fill restoration.

– Block out times in your day to relax.

– If you’re at home, mark time for relaxing in blank ink on a calender for everyone to see. That way, the whole family will appreciate the important of making time to relax.

– Recognize that finding your own optimal ways to relax may take time, as well as some trial and error. Don’t give up – keep searching until you find the right combination of activities that relax you and rejuvenate your enthusiasm of living fully.

Relaxing Your Body

Practice breathing techniques. Slow down your breathing and activelty concentrate on  it. This is always the easiest way to self-calm, provided you remember to resort to it.

– Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

– Inhale deeply as you count to five, hold your breath for five seconds, the exhale slowly, counting to five. Do this ten times to relax your muscle and nerves. As you breathe out, visualize the stress and tension leaving your body through your breathe. Make healthy dietary choices. Eating well can help your body feel balanced and healthy, making you less susceptible to to spikes in blood sugar and feelings of anxiety. try to practice moderation in these areas:

– Avoid thr excessive refine sugar found in granola bars, pastries or sodas. carbohydrates, such as pasta, convert easily to sugar. These can cause severe ups and downs in your blood sugar and lead to agitation, up setting your body’s ability to efficiently utilize energy.

– Avoid excessive caffeine. Too much caffeine can make you jumpy and irritable. Try not to drink caffeine after 1 or 2 in the afternoon, and keep your morning intake moderate and steady across every day. If you must have more coffee that you should, switch to decaf or an herbal tea with little or no coffeine.

– Eat fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains that are free if refined sugar, such as apples,grapes,carrots,broccoli,brown rice or whole grain breads.

– eat plenty of low-calorie protein, such as chickrn,fish,whole grains, legumes, dark leaf vegetables or low-fat dairy. These proteins are a better source of energy.

Exercise Everyday

 This is the best-known, scientifically-proven way to significantly reduce stress. You’ll be amazed at how mush easier it is to overcome stress if you exercise regularly. Here are some ideas to try:

– aim for a least thirty minutes per day of moderate activity.

– Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

– Park a little further away from the entrance of a store.

– Go Swimming. Try your local pool, a nearby lake or a friend or relative’s home.

– Stretch, lower your shoulders to help relax.

Be more consciously aware of the tension that is quick to accumulate in your shoulders and neck region.

Try a Massage

Go to your local spa for a great massage. Undoing the body knots is a good pathway to undoing the mind knot.

Relaxing  Your Mind

Positive thinking isn’t about wishful or dreamer thinking; it’s about making the most of the situations that you find yourself in and avoiding any tendency to add negative overlays. Teach yourself to step back and see the “big picture” when you’re in the thick of things that don’t seem to going well. Recognize that most problems are temporary, and minor setbacks on the path to achieving larger goal.

Find a quite placed when you are feeling overwhelmed and pamper yourself.

– Draw a warm bath. light candles around tha tub, dim the light, add bubbles or lavender, if desired.

– Lie on your bed or sofa.  play some soft music or nature CDs. Relaxing listening to ocean waves, waterfalls or birds.

– Imagine a personal paradise. Close your eyes and envision a different setting. What do you see around you? it there a breeze?What do you hear-birds or water? Imagine the claming sound of ocean waves reaching the shore. Enjoy a moment in your special place.

– Even the stall of a bathroom at work is an ideal “quite spot” for a breather if you have no other place to go.

– Read a good book. Curl up on the couch with a blanket and a cup of charmomile tea.

Practice Meditation

Remove all the thoughts and emotions from your mind by concentrating on your breathing. Meditation takes you into focusing on your whole being as a form of relaxation, rather than just focusing on one area of your body as any other relaxation technique tends to do. It take a while to master, but it is wellworth the effort.

– Begin with a sitting posture of a minimum of 15 minutes per session, and build up to 45-60 minutes per session.

– Try to meditate regularly.

– Find a respected mentor if you are having difficulty learning meditation by yourself.

– Avoid being intense,  competitive, or frustrated about meditating-all od these emotions defeat its purpose.

Do Activities or Hobbies that relax you

 – Get your mind off the things that normally stress you out. You may just need a break every now and then.

– Use music as relaxation therapy.Play it as loudly or as softly as you like,whichever clams you the most. 

Give Hugs  

Go on the positive offensive and reach through to people who seem down and negative. Caring touch reduces stress ans promotes relaxation. Say hello and goodbye to your friends and family members with a hug, and don’t be afraid to comfort someone with a hug, or ask a hug when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Spend Time with People

Who radiate warmth and with whom you can truly connect. Contact with positive-thinking and joy us people broadens your capacities enormously and helps you to feel more relaxed and happy.

 

                      Ways to Calm Down

                                 Find a diversion

                                  Breathe deeply                                                        

                  Remove yourself from the situation

                                    Get Physical

                                Indulge yourself

 

 by Priscillia Chong   200H TTC weekday Jan/Feb’2014

 

Meditation 101

“Meditation is a way of clearing away the mental clutter that surrounds the subconscious. When our minds are clear, we can see and experience the joy of our own soul.” Gurmukh

I started my meditation practice about 3 years ago and till today, it is still a journey where I constantly struggle to quiet my mind.

For me, meditation is learning how to discipline the mind to stop reacting, stop racing around, doing whatever it’s doing, focus on my breath and the present moment. Not thinking about the future, not reflecting about the past. It’s all about just being here.

We all work and live in stressful environments where it is a huge challenge to try and keep still even for 20 seconds. We’ve been conditioned from birth to learn, explore, think, solve problems, and be ahead of others. To try and turn off these “switches” is incredibly difficulty for most people. Ironically, by turning off these “switches”, it leads to more peace and comfort.

To start a mediation practice, all you need is a quiet space, a place to sit and a timer.

I use a sofa cushion and a free meditation timer app on my phone. You can also use your alarm or stopwatch to time yourself.

You can sit cross-legged, in lotus position, or however is comfortable as long you can stay alert and keep your back straight. Alternatively you can sit on a chair if that’s physically easier, as long you do not slouch. We should be calm and alert during meditation, and not drift off to sleep. 

For a start, you can set your timer to 5 minutes, close your eyes and focus on your breath until the timer goes off. I started out counting my breaths, returning to “one” each time I caught myself thinking instead of focusing on my breath.

When you find yourself thinking, notice it, and direct yourself very gently and kindly back to the breath as many times it takes.

Do not judge yourself, as there is no success or failure. It is a process; it is training.

The goal is not to stop having thoughts – the day we stop having thoughts is the day that we leave this world – but that you develop the ability to catch your thoughts quickly and let them go.

Sometimes you experience feelings e.g. tightness in your throat, an ache in your gut. Do not fight these feelings but neither should you linger on these feelings. That’s thinking. It’s thinking about feelings.

Feelings will come and go, and you will learn to acknowledge them, watch them without judgment and let them go. If you linger on the feelings, they will thrive and take you away from the present.

Everyone has a “monkey mind”. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t need to meditate in order to be present.

And in calm and abiding presence, no matter who you are or what you believe, there is peace in the midst of any storm.

 Mavis Tan 200hr January to May 2014 Batch

The Mind, Body and Breath

Meditation is a word that was not in my vocabulary until a few weeks ago when I started doing this yoga course. Call me a realist, skeptic or whatever it is, I always thought people who does meditations are fleeting from the reality that they live in, isn’t that what you do when you meditate? How wrong was I! I might still be a long way to fully experience the positive effects of a proper meditation but starting even daily pranayama has already turned me into a half-hearted realist that I am. With hundreds of emails that I received on a weekly basis, my mind is constantly overworked.  It’s often and most of the times filled with ideas, notions, thoughts running here and there like a circular motion it doesn’t stop until I close my eyes to sleep, sometimes it even sips to dreams and I often woke up feeling restless.

By practicing daily pranayama breathing we can slowly re-create new habits of pacing our mind, slowing our thoughts and focusing on what is truly important for us. Gradually our peaceful state of mind will guide us in our daily life, how we act, behave, treat others and treat ourselves.

Taking long deep breaths and just focusing solely on our inhale and exhale forces us to sift our mind to just be present and be in the now. When we take new habits of taking in new and long breaths we will also slowly pace our mind. Lita Koontz-Stuveysant a yoga teacher in Pittsburgh recently wrote an article about how yoga can help calming the mind and body. In her article she reinstated that as we often daydream we fall into having too many expectations of the future, or even the past. When we are having a good time we often worry that the happy feeling won’t last and vice versa. This high and low mood changes prevents us from focusing on the now and living live fully as it is.

As most of you have studied recently our nervous systems are divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic works in a state of “fight or flight” much like if you are being chased by a wild animal if you are ever stranded in an African dessert.  These days though, we experience this response when things just doesn’t go like the way we want to, when we are stuck in heavy traffic late into a meeting, stressed at work, or just when someone does not return our calls.  When this system is overworked we will suffer a lot of health problems, ranging from ulcers, migraines to severe cases like heart diseases.

In class we are taught to take deep long pranayama breathing which will affect our parasympathetic nervous system. Slowing the pace of our breath; affecting the blood to freely travel into our other immune systems with organs that are key to long-term survival. Our body has now time to heal from the daily stresses that accumulates. Not only are the pranayama breathing techniques contributing to a healthier mind and body but the asanas are equally important to nourish our physical bodies. 😀

Emmelyn – 200HR 

Can you really empty the mind?

There are many misconceptions of meditation, or dhyana. One of the most common misconceptions about meditation is that it is about making your mind go blank. In my opinion, asking a person to stop thinking would be like having them keeping their eyes open and telling them not to see. Is that really possible?
Rarely do we experience times in meditation when no thoughts arise at all. Most of the time, the mind is anything but blank. Instead it is filled – filled with inner self-talk and non-stop chattering. So what do we do? Well, stop resisting thoughts and trying to make them go away. We need to learn to accept that thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations come and go continuously, and they are a part of meditation. They are a natural activity in the mind. Make use of this chance to observe our emotions rather than blindly react to them.
Where yoga is concerned,meditation is defined more specifically as a state of pure consciousness. Meditation can help people to optimise their potential by allowing them to optimise their potential by allowing them to accept the ups and downs of existence unconditionally. Acceptance of life means acceptance of self, and by leading us to learn and embrace our true selves. It is the actual experience of this union.
Meditation is about making a different relationship to our thoughts. Let us learn to maintain a detached awareness of our thoughts and emotions and allow a broadened perspective and greater access to deeper truth. Meditation helps us to optimise our potential by allowing us to accept the ups and downs of existence unconditionally. For acceptance of life suggests acceptance of self and embracing our true selves. Meditation sets free the beauty that lies within.
Claudine Yong
200 Hr – July – Aug