Are you a lover of books? I am and I have been forever, since I was a wee sprout. There’s nothing better than a novel that you can sink your teeth in on holidays or at bedtimes for winding down before sleep.
I went for many years reading every Self-help Book I could get my hands on, and some of them I actually did find helpful: Women Who Love Too Much, Addiction to Perfection, The Road Less Traveled, Owning Your Own Shadow, and many more. You can probably get a flavour from these titles about which issues I was dealing with.
Then there was the Yoga Book period, as you might expect. And now, the Sutra Book studies I’m engaging with are a spin-off from the previous phase.
Authors are people who we hang around with for the time we spend reading their creations. Perhaps their words will even be indelibly etched on our minds and/or hearts for life. These sorts of writers may be extremely important in our lives and never ever get a whiff of this importance to us.
I’d like to share a little from one of my favourite writers, Vyn Bailey. If you’ve been following the ‘Sutra a Day’ theme, you’ve seen me refer to him as the Catholic priest who, late in life, became a yoga teacher and translator of Patanjali.
His lovely commentary is called Patanjali’s Meditation Yoga and encompasses only 59 of the 196 sutra that Patanjali compiled. Father Bailey picked jsut the bits to include in his book that would make the practice of meditation most accessible and interesting; to my mind he really nailed the heart of Patanjali.
Here’s how Fr. Bailey closes his book:
- How should we use the limbs of yoga? Take it easy. Be kind to yourself. Begin with posture and posture awareness. You could spend all your meditation period in just this one process, and you would find it restful, relaxing and rewarding. After posture, move on to breathing awareness. Some time later you may move further on to sense withdrawal, spending the rest of your meditation period just looking at the back of your eyelids.
- How long should a session be? No more than 1/2 an hour to begin with. Always remember: at least five minutes posture awareness; at least five minutes breathing awareness; and then take leave of the world around you [meditation]. Another five minutes or so to begin with; more if you’re comfortable with it
- How often should we meditate? We are often told we use only a fraction of the energy we have, yet we finish the day exhausted. So much of our energy is unavailable, bottled up within us through poor work practice, a negative mentality, and, especially tension. Meditation means relaxation, removing that stress and tension, and releasing the energy we need. Half an hour in the morning releases the energy we need for the day’s activities. Another 1/2 hour – ideally before the evening meal – releases the energy we need for the evening [activities].
- Always remember: you are not the doer. You are the observer, the seer. You cannot make a bad meditation, because you are not making the meditation. Give yourself time, seek the stillness. When the stillness comes to you, all else will be given, right up to concentration-meditation-contemplation.Trayam-katra samyamah
Perfect mastery is prolonged focus on one object through sustained states of concentration, meditation, and contemplation.*
*The Essence of Yoga: Reflections on the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, by Bernard Bouanchaud.