Sunday, April 02, 2006

V v. V

This evening’s yoga was a nice coda to a restful weekend. An hour of vinyasa – flexion, breathing, contraction, sweat, and exertion. Topped off with mindfulness, of all things.

This evening, mindfulness crept into my practice. I held DDog, my mind wandered to the sketchy painting of bamboo on the back wall of the studio, the artist’s techniques, flaws. Then, suddenly, I noticed my thinking about the sketchy painting of bamboo. Then, still holding the same DDog, I noticed the person next to me. And then I noticed my mind noticing the person next to me.

Yoga is often described as mindfulness in motion. For tonight, for a couple of breaths at least, vinyasa met vipassana.

I've probably described vipassana somewhere before now, but I can't readily find it. So here: as I practice it, vipassana is a form of meditation consisting of observing the mind. At first, it seems strange even to be able to describe such a process, but it proves out. It's possible to sit still and, simultaneously, have thoughts and notice the thoughts.

Try it this way:

  1. Find a comfortable seat where you won't be interrupted for ten minutes.
  2. Close your eyes (unless you're a super-meditator already, in which case, stop wasting time with this and do whatever super-meditators do).
  3. Relax. Unnecessary tension never helps.
  4. Wait for your mind to respond. It doesn't usually take very long for the chatter part of my mind to get bored with sitting with my eyes closed. Notice how it acts.
  5. When you have a thought -- whatever it may be, notice it; acknowledge it; assign it a classifiction -- sensation, memory, judgment, emotion, etc.
  6. And then wait for the next thought. And (as they say on shampoo bottles:) repeat.

If you were counting on meditation to lead you to nirvana, you may be disappointed by the mundanity (is that a word?) of this practice. But if you are, notice the disappointment; acknowledge it; label it (judgment, emotion); and wait for the next.

A mantra (one of my favorites): OM mani padme hum. This gets translated a thousand different ways, and as I don't speak Pali, I can't tell you which one is more accurate. But one that is meaningful to me is this: "The jewel is in the lotus."


Yes. You read it right. In a variety of traditions, the single-point focus of meditation is represented by a jewel. You can see it in most images of the Dancing Shiva -- typically he holds one of his four hands up in a "stop" position, a jewel at the center of his palm, symbolizing meditation's effect on the mind's chatter -- bringing it to a stop.

For now, think of the lotus as either the meditator, the Buddha, the dharma, or various other potentially symbolized things.

All that mantra business to give context to this: the equanimity and wisdom that devoted vipassana practice confers is worth diamonds and rubies. Or, if you come from a Christian tradition -- a pearl of great price.

I've not succeeded in bringing together my meditation practice and my yoga practice very often or very effectively. In yoga, I usually tend to such focus and effort on the various postures that I lose track of my mind. I haven't figured out how to integrate mindfulness, physical concentration, and embodiment all at the same time.

This evening, though, suggested to me that it may be possible.