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Lions Roar : March 2007
Meditation practice teaches us to recognize when our mind and body are dis-integrated: the body is right here but the mind may be far away. We practice bringing mind and body together to develop a more harmonious, efficient, and creative relationship with ourselves and our world. Since this process involves uncovering layers of discursive thoughts and habitual patterns, an important ingredient is to take an open and nonjudgmental attitude toward whatever we discover. Then that approach can be extended into our yoga practice, where the yogi is encouraged to work with her or his present situation without adding stress and ambition. What- ever body we have, whatever mind we have, we look at it with an open heart and a spirit of exploration. DAVID: Taking a look at our mind begins with our body—tak- ing a strong and stable seat on our meditation cushion. Gener- ally we take a cross-legged posture, but this can be done in a variety of ways, based on our flexibility and comfort level. One can also take a kneeling posture or even sit upright in a chair, with feet flat on the floor and the spine upright and unsupport- ed by the back of the chair. We can simply rest our hands palms down on our knees or on our thighs just above the knees. Now we can pay attention to the position of our spine, stacking the vertebra one on top of the other so that we have a good, upright posture without straining. Our back is strong and stable, and our front is soft and open. We can feel uplifted and dignified by sitting this way. Our chin is tucked in slightly. There is a sense of contain- ment and relaxation at the same time. The jaw is relaxed. The eyes remain open in a soft, downward gaze, focusing three to four feet in front. There is a feeling of relaxed awareness: we are seeing without looking too hard. We are awake and alert, but in a very peaceful and open way. Having established our posture, we simply continue to breathe normally. There is no attempt made to manipulate the breath. Then we place our attention on our breathing in a very light and uncomplicated way. When our attention wanders, we simply bring it back to the breathing, time and time again. It’s like taking a fresh start over and over again. Rather than creating an idealized or dreamy state of mind, we start with what we actually have, working with our thoughts and emotions as they arise and accepting the situation as it is. This is why we talk about making friends with ourselves. We start by accepting ourselves as we are, and gradually and peacefully bring our attention and breath together. This practice naturally creates more focus, clarity, and stability in our state of mind. CYNDI: Yoga is an ideal bridge practice between formal med- itation sessions and the rest of our life, when we move through One of the wonderful aspects of Buddhism is that there is a whole range of meaning to the most basic teachings. The most profound instructions are often concealed in the introductory teachings. Our program on Yoga Body, Buddha Mind breaks the practice into four main sections: • making friends with yourself (an introduction to mindfulness practice) • dynamic equilibrium (cultivating balance in mind & body) • obstacles as path (working with obstacles and resistance) • opening your heart (developing kindness and compassion) In our workshops, David presents the basic theme of each section, as well as how it applies to formal and in-the-field meditation practices. Cyndi follows this with a yoga session in which she weaves these ideas into how we work with our body, and elaborates on how to explore these principles in the movements and relationships of our daily lives. We will follow that structure in this article. Making friends with yourself: mindfulness meditation WE START WITH our mind, because doesn’t everything re- ally start there? It seems strange, but many of us don’t know our own mind. Often, without even realizing it, we avoid get- ting to know ourselves because we think we might not like what we find. Mindfulness provides a way to take a gentle and friendly look at oneself. 52 SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2007 1