Have you ever done a ten-day Vipassana course? I attended a couple of these meditation retreats, which are conducted completely in silence, in the 1980′s.
I didn’t think that the sitting/walking meditations would be challenging for me because I’d been doing yoga and therefore wouldn’t experience much bodily discomfort.
It’s true that I didn’t suffer as much as some people did from the hour-long sitting sessions. What I wasn’t expecting though was that, when the meditation room was quiet and my body was motionless, my mind would go into overdrive. Or, maybe it had always been making a ruckus, but I just hadn’t been listening.
I was in a particularly difficult relationship at the time and my mind would bounce back between thoughts of breaking up and wanting to make up. Worse, without even being able to speak to any of the other meditators, I fantasised having relationships with some of them.
Vipassana course leaders describe how meditators can go through a whole imaginary romance – relationship, getting married, having kids, and breaking up -all within the time-frame of the retreat. Or, the reverse could happen, developing aversion to one or more participants in the course.
The two yoga practices, in my experience, that help settle the psycho/emotional level of being are pratyahara (stilling the senses) and savasana. It makes a huge difference just to be able to relax. The mind loosens its grip as much as the muscles release skin and bones.
When we’re relaxed we can differentiate between when we are in a reactive state or able to be detached.
Most of our active movements are learned, conditioned behaviours along well-worn neuromuscular routes, adapted for the specific purpose of grasping at the pleasant or pushing away the unpleasant. Stillness is a reflection of our growing openness to the unpredictable unfolding of the world as it is, a freedom from the constant effort to bend things to our liking, to make them conform to our conditioned notions of good and bad.*
If you are a yoga teacher, do include in your classes plenty of quiet time for the students to let go. Why? Of course because it feels good, and students are hungry for it. But it’s also because when we are relaxed, we are more likely to drop our precious little egos and feel more one with everything.
Tatah dvandvah anabhighatah
The one is no longer disturbed by the play of opposites.*
The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, a new translati