A guy asked his guru what he wanted for his birthday. The teacher said, “No gifts, only presence.”
Yoga asks us to be mindful. But what often happens when we try to be mindful? The mind rejects our idea immediately. To practice mindfulness is said to be like taming a wild elephant. If it were easy, everyone would do it and there’d be a lot more enlightened Buddhas around. To tame the mind means to train the mind and to train the mind, like anything else, takes practice over time. We can make progress as long as we don’t hold too tightly to the ideas about how that progress should look. Spiritual development is rarely what we think it is. It’s what is, which is easy to say. But until we develop a serious, disciplined practice it’s very difficult to notice how subtle the fluctuations of the mind really are. Yet that’s what tantra is all about.
Yoga as we practice it today may seem not to have anything to do with tantra. But it is based on tantra. Tantra is about energy; noticing it, subtly manipulating it and eventually transforming negative energy into an experience beyond energy, beyond body and most assuredly beyond mind. It doesn’t matter if our yoga is practiced in the gym, the park or a corporate yoga studio that doesn’t mention tantra or the spiritual roots of yoga. We’re still going to be affected by it on an energy level as well as mentally and physically. What’s the point?
The point of meditation at the level of body, energy or mind is to be aware of who we really are. We can develop this awareness a little at a time, allowing it to inform our thoughts and actions. Eventually we can train ourselves to live in that knowledge and act from that base. The body is the grossest level, so when we focus on the body we’re entering a meditation practice at the best starting point. It’s simple, but not easy, to practice mindfulness on the body, specifically one aspect or area. For example, we can put our attention on the sensations in our feet or muscles. The energy practices are more subtle and harder to detect. Mental practices are even trickier. I’ll talk about these more in future posts and my next book on yoga. For now, we can practice meditating on the immediacy of experience of our physical dimension.
When we bring our awareness to the immediate sensory experiences in our bodies, such as in Child’s Pose. When we embark on our mindfulness of the body practice, we invite capital “P” Presence with our physical sensations. We choose part of our body to be mindful of. For a set period of time we focus the mind on that specific area. Just notice the experience of your hand. The tip of the first finger. How is the back of the first finger? Notice the second finger. How does the nail feel? Be free of evaluation and judgement. Simply experience the finger. Give yourself enough time to go through the whole hand, from each finger, front and back, to the palm, the back of the hand. Notice aspects of the experience in a basic way: temperature, texture, skin, hairs, muscle, joints, bones. Without moving your fingers or hand, notice how it feels to have each part. Be Present to the instantaneous experience of sensation in each part of your fingers and hand. Be aware of sensation in the moment it arises. If we’re Present to the immediacy of what arises, we can be relaxed with whatever arises. Start with the hand. Eventually move to different areas of the body.
BE Present! -d