I started meditating on a regularly sporadic basis a number of years ago. It wasn’t a resurrection of the kind of meditation I learned and practiced in the ’70’s — TM, or Transcendental Meditation, where a secret/sacred word, or mantra, was used in repetition as an energy focus. No. Rather, it has been a somewhat intuitive practice of sitting developed out of a weekend of small learning at an MCU Buddhist University meditation weekend in Thailand a few years ago.
I’ve meditated without direction or instruction for most of my practice. Informed by the short instruction received in Thailand and a variety of readings, tapes, books and dvd’s — largely Chogyam Trungpa‘s and Pema Chodron‘s work — I have developed a mostly regular practice of mindfulness meditation and awareness meditation which has been helpful and powerful in my life and for moving beyond my self.
That being said, the cushion is not always my friend. Ha. Surely not. Sitting can be challenging and well as rejuvenating. It is not always easy to be quiet with my self or to allow my self to be quiet, though it is always about being a friend to my self. Tough lessons really. Damn cushion. But, I am digressing.
As my own idiosyncratic practice developed, I began to wonder what people with instruction did while they sat and what on earth would they speak with an instructor about. So, earlier this year, I began to attend meditation weekends in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition. The Way of Shambhala this path of learning is called. The weekends have followed the teachings from Shambhala: The Sacred Path Of The Warrior. I like that they abbreviate this to WOS because it makes me think of a workout routine. The WOS is challenging and the sequelae are profound and far-reaching.
Sitting in meditation for long periods of time is trying. Not attending to thoughts, not thinking, is tough. Seriously. It is mentally, emotionally, and physically demanding. Whew! It can be downright exhausting!
Physically there are challenges of sore hips, stiff knees, falling asleep, sore back and shoulders, and obstructed circulation causing numbness or that ‘falling asleep’ sensation in your feet and legs. Just try to stand up after a seated practice period on a leg that is pins and needles from hip to toe…holy lurching walking meditation batman!
All these wonderful physical complaints become my work on the cushion, providing distraction and allowing me to stay in safe places. Getting bravely beyond them is important.
Shamatha Yoga is a short, nine posture flow constructed to provide both loosening of the body during formal sitting and opportunity to use posture and movement as part of a mindfulness practice. Stretching, moving body energy, and encouraging flexibility, the specific sequence of Shamatha Yoga allows for the experience of physicality and a return to the sitting practice fresh and renewed.
Joining heaven and earth with this simple but profound series allows me, as a practitioner, to mindfully wed a sense of being engaged in my body on this earth with the spaciousness and vastness experienced in meditation.
The Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche developed this series in conjunction with yoga masters.
My daughters, aged 23 and 15 in the video, demonstrate the postures at different levels of ability.
While looking at the video, be mindful of these postures:
- EARTH – scanning the body in order to fully relax; feel solid
- GREAT EASTERN SUN – how to lead our lives with openness and joy
- GATHERING THE MIND – taming the mind with mindfulness; a loving heart
- OFFERING – generosity, serving others
- COURAGE – to be present, to cultivate an awake mind
- WARRIOR – in the world, warriors search for inner and outer peace
- FOUR DIRECTIONS – representing the four noble truths
- GARUDA & TWISTING GARUDA – a great winged bird born ready for full flight, intelligent and cognizant of a detailed social structure
- JOINING HEAVEN & EARTH – vastness and groundedness joined in mindfulness.
The series would begin and end with a bow.
Below, please enjoy Choyce and Jaz as they perform the nine postures of Shamatha Yoga. Each does so within their ability, as you should. The series of postures is a lovely antidote to work on the cushion just as it is a wonderful companion to work on the cushion.