[This post will arrive in your inbox in the space between my returning home from a five-day silent meditation retreat in California and my going to Kripalu in Stockbridge, Massachusetts to assist my mentor and colleague Richard Miller in a five-day nondual yoga retreat. Richard has asked me to provide commentary on the yoga-meditation practices of the retreat from the perspective of neuroscience. I’m very curious myself to hear what I have to say.
The exercises below are excerpted from Yoga Nidra: A Meditative Practice for Deep Relaxation and Healing by Richard Miller. They are simple entry points to a direct experience of the mystery of Being, of experiencing ourselves as Being. No worries if that seems a little “out there.” The practice actually creates a deep sense of inner well-being.]
For all of the exercises below, find a quiet place to practice, as though you are in a personal sanctuary on a temporary retreat. Lie on a comfortable surface, preferably a soft rug or mat. Place a rolled towel, blanket or bolster under your knees, which relaxes your lower back and allows your body to be totally supported by the floor. Cover your eyes with an eye bag or soft towel. (Keeping light out soothes the brain.)
- Listen to the sounds around you for a few minutes. As you listen, notice at first that you attend to a particular sound that is arising from a particular direction.
- After a little while, open to hearing all sounds from all directions simultaneously. Feel how the whole body participates in this global hearing, not just the mind.
- After a few moments, instead of orienting to sound, feel yourself as the awareness in which all sounds are arising. Feel how the thinking mind must stop in order for you to be awareness.
- Abide as awareness even as sounds move in you.
- Now try the same exercise with the eyes and seeing.
- For a few moments, be aware of the sensations in your right hand.
- Then feel sensation in your left hand.
- Now feel sensation in both hands simultaneously.
- Now shift your attention from sensation in your hands to the spacious awareness in which these sensations are arising.
Whatever the means, you must at last return to the Self. Why not abide as the Self right now?– Ramana Maharshi
Exercise #3: Coming Home to the Self
[explore the reality of the following statements:]
I have a body, but I am not just this body. My body manifests different sensations of health and sickness, restfulness and tiredness, calmness and agitation. But these states change. I am the unchanging awareness in which these changing sensations arise. I value my body, but I am not just this body.
I have emotions, but I am not just these emotions. My emotions manifest different conditions from love to anger, from calmness to agitation, from joy to sorrow. But these states change. I am the unchanging awareness in which these changing emotions arise. I value my emotions, but I am not just my emotions.
I have a mind, but I am not just my mind. My mind manifests different thoughts and images, which are constantly changing. I am the unchanging awareness in which these thoughts and images arise. I value my mind, but I am not just my mind.
I am aware of all the changing sensations, perceptions, emotions, thoughts, and objects, which compose my body, senses, mind and the world. I am the unchanging awareness in which all these movements arise. I am pure unchanging Awareness.
I have a body, but I am not just my body. I have emotions, but I am not just my emotions. I have a mind, but I am not just my thoughts. What am I then? What remains after having disidentified from body, sensations, feelings, and thoughts? I am a center of pure Awareness.
Exercise #4: I Am
- Sense an object in awareness (sensation, feeling, emotion, thought, or image).
- Be aware.
- Gently, and with feeling, inquire, “Who is aware of this object?”
- Sense the answer: “I am.”
- Feel where “I am” is located I the body.
- Trace the feeling from the brain, down into the heart.
- Feel the resonance of “I am” in the heart.
- Now relinquish “am.” Let it drop away.
- Feel only “I…I…” and where it arises in the body.
- Now drop this I-thought.
- Be one with Being, before the I-thought arises.
- Allow the observer to dissolve into Being, observing
- Allow the feeling of spacious awareness to expand simultaneously into all directions.
- Be, before the I-thought arises.
- Be, before the witness arises.
- Be, without center or periphery.
- Be, before, during, and after mind arises and makes a difference.