Death. Some of us run from it, some of us embrace it. Recently, I have been looking at if from an alternative perspective within the use of meditation.
If we look at death from a termination of something that is active or living then there is death all around us.
If we apply this to meditation and in using a technique, there is a point at which one is trying to gain focus. The technique might be the use of a sound, tactile or visual imagery. Maybe it really is some secret yogi practice that will open up your chakras and energetic channels. No matter the technique, application is necessary to make it work and with longevity, the language of experience occurs through time, place, constancy.
We find gains in the experience, move past frustration from sitting with legs falling asleep or tension in the body causing trembling, rocking or fluttering eyes and into a peaceful and independent film of our own thoughts – enjoyable yet constant – as we watch memories, tension and residual, peripheral stress fade or even float before us.
The experience of sifting through is quite enjoyable and dharana, or concentration holds us steady and true, potentially with a life within a life of experiencing all the processes of the mind. The technique has stopped working.
Enter the mind and application. The mind loves to decide and categorize and is a great friend in the use of dharana but is not so friendly when we want to entertain dhyana, or meditation. If we travel back to earlier experiences in asana, yoga postures we may recall that time where you were practicing and you heard this internal voice say, ‘You’re not breathing’ and you reapplied all your drishtis and fired up your best ujjayi breathing and chalked it up to a lack of focus.
What if that drifting was something else? What if you were sliding into dhyana and that while you were sinking in, relaxing, moving beyond the application of your breath, posture and drishti, you were starting to enter a meditative state? I mean, if you really stopped breathing, you’d be on the floor wondering what happened. The mind is so subtle, at times the very concentration it loves to give you energy for starts to work, it also is like singing the mind to sleep. And you know when you start to fall asleep and your body jumps, well the mind does the same thing.
It is my belief that during those times we enter meditation, that the mind begins to lose overall control and jumps in as it wrestles death. However, this is the time to rejoice. It is a time to celebrate as the technique of concentration is allowing for the energy of the senses to go in and when that happens, slowly they all experience death. Especially for those of you who have been practicing asana and pranayama, breathing and mental practices to expand energy, as this is the natural transition from the mastery of the body, physical or hatha yoga and into mental mastery, or raja yoga.
To make things complicated and to understand the process further, we often continue to use the same technique throughout only how we use it changes. We change the way we use it to allow for the falling mind to stay in slumber and give death to the apprehension value. Remember, the mind is not going to physically die or stop altogether but we do want to honor the other aspects of it. What comes to mind is the word “allowing.” We allow through the change of the application of technique for the mind to ease and for tarka, observation to create the new lens.
Sri Dharma Mittra once said to me that your conscious experience is as large as your creative mind is. And I believe this to be ever true and it is why the non creative mind must sleep or experience death – this means applying the technique and allowing death in.
Here are some useful practices and refections that may assist you in allowing death in as the meditative state ushers in.
Sitting and watching your breath, eyes closed, visualize a path in which you breathe in and one in where you breathe out. Maybe you see your breath move from the tip of your nose, through your mouth, down your throat and spine to your heart and that is your inhale. And the reverse of that path is your exhale. It never changes. You may not be able to see this path really clear and it may be more of a loose outline. Now, try to make your breath even in length so your inhale and exhale have the same measure – something easy and able. I suggest about 5 counts to each breath in and to each breath out. In time you will see the way the breath moves along the path and you work on keeping your breath smooth and even along this path. The quality is smooth with no sound and in time you will begin to concentrate – so and direct yourself to breathing when you start to meander in thought. Everything comes back to the technique and you are getting really great at concentration and all the things we have discussed.
After this becomes comfortable to you, maybe in a few sittings or after some time, do the exact same practice. After a few minutes in, drop the counting and control of the breath but keep visual the path in which it moves. You are now allowing the breath to move normal and irregular, as reflected in your breath in a relaxed state, while your mind is still observing the path of the breath. Do not become frustrated if this seems difficult. You may only do this for a moment or two. You can gradually increase this practice as you did the previous one. Ideally, you can pair them, starting with the concentration technique then sliding into the dhyana exercise.
Imagine that you are seeing water flow in a gentle river. You will see it move fluidly around banks, boulders and carrying sticks and debris. Now put that image of the current flowing easily and around but continuous and see that in your own system. See it as your spine or circulatory systems or as the energy you imagine kundalini to be made of. You may even feel it more than see it. The imagery and energy may command a presence. Or it may be very visual, as if you are actually seeing it move up and down the spine. Rather than highlight all the obstacles of the flow, concentrate on what does flow and what that feels like. And just observe. Become aware of it as is without interruption. Give death to any thoughts that are trying to categorize your experience into words. Observe and allow. Do not let yourself control or claim ownership just sit by the river. Use this technique after practices or as a daily self check-in. Enjoy.