Imagine clouds floating in sky. Notice the shapes that they make…then let them drift by. Observe the blue spaces in between the clouds.
Replace the clouds with thoughts and this becomes a good analogy for one type of meditation. Watch the thoughts as they appear. Just sit still and let them happen. Don’t judge or get involved with the mind’s stories. Let them move on. And instead of a blue sky, observe the stillness and space in between the thoughts.
Lying down is ok for watching clouds but most teachers advise to sit for meditation, in order to stay awake and alert. This can be tough physically. I usually sit cross-legged on a zafu cushion or a folded blanket, enough to raise my hips so my knees can rest comfortably on the floor. I sit in this posture for 15 minutes and feel ok afterwards. But I remember my first 30 minute session when I visited The Path in Vancouver. My legs fell asleep so badly that the tingling in my toes changed to outright throbbing. Ouch! Swan recommended that I use a meditation bench next time. I did try one out, a few months later, and it seemed to help for those extended sessions. Maybe I’ll ask for one for Christmas…
I was reminded of all this during Benjamin’s workshop on meditation and pranayama at yoga school. We practiced sitting for half an hour (that’s been my max so far). He said that, if we had to shift our position, then to do so mindfully and with full awareness. He mentioned that he sat for 6 hours once!
We also studied pranayama, or extending the breath. This limb of yoga deserves great respect. Benjamin said that practicing it without the proper knowledge of how and why can cause a person harm. It’s a good idea to learn breath work from an experienced teacher rather than from reading a book. There are lots of techniques and they range from moving air through the nostrils, constricting the throat to exhaling deeply. We breathed and at times even hummed, buzzed or laughed as part of the workshop.
Sitting and breathing. So simple and yet so complicated.