The meditation mantra of the month is pratyahara; withdrawal/turning inward of the senses. To practice this, I have taken away a few things. There is no music in any of my classes for this month. I am not putting out my regular candles or framed mantra of the month. There is nothing to focus on or distract your mind other than the practice itself. In the beginning of class we draw our attention inward and hopefully I’m not so distracting as to pull you out of it. The physical practice of yoga (asana) keeps you tethered to the present. You focus on your breath, softening your jaw, finding that sweet spot between effort & ease.
I know for some people the relative quiet of yoga and meditation is what makes it unattractive, like an itchy wool sweater. Their minds notice every speck of dust, make grocery lists, and generally feel anxious to get on with the day. Me too! I can’t tell you how many times I have been interviewed by Oprah in my mind, or finally told That Person off with my incredible quick wit, while I’m supposed to be in this quiet, so called peaceful state. HA!
Sometimes music and candles and pretty things can serve as a good tether to the present. I really enjoy those things and they are normally a part of my classes. But, just for this month we are going to deprive the the senses from external stimulation (a little), giving our attention to the subtle shifts and changes that we might not notice with the over abundance of external distractions.
If you are part of the Christian tradition that practices the season of Lent, you might be thinking….huh…Lent much, Rachel? Well, yes. Exactly. Lent is the season immediately before Easter. One pastor of mine described it as a time to “go into the basement of our lives”. It’s a safe period of time to go through your “stuff”, taking a sincere and faithful inventory of what is standing between you and God. Sometimes the fasting from chocolate or meat or soda or whatever can be a convenient stand-in for what is really standing between you and God; between you and healing; between you and forgiveness; between you and contentment. Sometimes all the Facebook, music, youtube, netflix, news articles, NPR, instagram — whatever — all of that can be a really satisfying stand in for paying attention, listening, and being honest about ourselves. It definitely works for me.
If you want, join me in the practice of pratyahara; withdrawal and turning inward of the senses. Go underneath the surface distractions of your senses and rest in the quiet. I would encourage you to not fill the quiet with your words or word based prayers. Keep your busy hands off of it, even if it isn’t as quiet as you hope or expect. Sit with whatever discomfort that might bring up. Like actually sit on your hands, metaphorically or literally, and don’t try to fix or fiddle with it.
I’ve been practicing having the radio off while I’m driving. I have to remind myself that I’m doing this on purpose as I often forget and turn it on automatically. It’s not forever, but it feels like I’m making more space for quiet in my day. Quiet is becoming more of an option and a choice. I can’t exactly turn off the sound of my kids or my dog — but having less background noise definitely helps me hear them and listen.
okay. Enough from me. I’ll shut up.
peace on your head, you.