Sunday, August 17, 2008

more lessons from my nephews

Lesson #2: Find that which puts you in the "zone" -- that place where time stands still.

A sitting meditation hasn't always been the high point of my yoga practice. I'll be the first to admit, I'm not very good at sitting still. I do practice -- I set up my space, my music, candle, blanket, etc.... but as the name suggests, my meditation practice does require practice, and it is always a work in progress.

Meditation for me is most often a moving meditation, which most often is swimming. I love it. Many times I find myself rushing home to change out of my work clothes and run to the pool. I just jump right in, having the water all to myself. I've always considered myself an antisocial swimmer. So much that when a child started to talk to me as I was swimming, her parent called out, "Honey, don't talk to that lady, she wants to swim!" As I swim the breast stroke (or at least my version of it), I get into a calming rhythm of kick, glide, pull. It puts me in that "hit the pause button" mode. I don't know if my "moving meditation" will be frowned upon by meditation masters or gurus, but that's what it is to me... it's almost an escape. It reminds me of that sense withdrawal practice in yoga - bhramari, or the "humming bee" breath.

Here is a definition from my yoga teacher training book:

"Bhramari is a breath that calms the mind through nada (inner sound). The sound is very similar to a humming bee. Bhramari can be used in the place of chanting and mantra meditation. To practice bhramari, begin with a long, complete inhalation and exhale through the nasal cavity while constricting the glottis and softly hummng. The humming sound comes from the back of the throat. You will feel a vibration behind the soft palate and in the nasal cavity. This completes one round.

Shinmuki mudra is often used during bhramari and is extremely helpful in finding one's inner sound. Shinmuki mudra is done by placing the thumbs into the ears, closing off external noise. The forefingers are laid over the eyebrows, the middle fingers over the closed eyelash line, the ring fingers rest above the nasal rim and the little fingers are beside the edges of the mouth." (Anna Ferguson & Lennessa Trent, Tymeless Health: Guide to Practicing, Teaching, and Living Yoga). The purpose of this mudra, or "seal", is to withdraw the senses -- any external sights and sounds or any other distractions-- bringing awareness to your inner self.

(photo by Anna, at our yoga teacher training)

It probably sounds a bit strange as you are reading it. But I remember the first time I tried it at my yoga teacher training, and what a powerful experience it was.

Needlesss to say, swimming gives me that same powerful experience of just being, and time seems to stand still. Kick, glide, pull, breathe.

But whatever it is that puts you in the "zone", whatever it is that makes you feel like nothing else matters - be it hiking, taking photos, cooking - go ahead and do it. That's what I love about this photo of my 2 nephews above. I love the look of concentration on their faces, and how their heads were even tilted in the same direction! All that mattered was that house/castle/fort that they were building. They were in their zone, oblivious to me and my camera, and the noise from the throngs of kids and adults swarming around.

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