No matter your relationship to meditation, you probably have an opinion (or two), some experience and a few questions. With so much information out there– is there a ‘right’ answer?
YogaCity NYC’s Lila Galindo turns to four New York experts: meditation and philosophy teacher Prem Sadasivananda ; Tara Glazier, founder of Abhaya Yoga; Akiva Daube, founder of Psychodynamic Yoga; and Keely Garfield, celebrated yoga teacher, currently giving classas at Yoga Shanti and YogaMaya, to give us their perspective.
What is meditation?
Prem Sadasivananda: Meditation is a journey, of knowing who you are and who you are not. Don't meditate if you don't want to realize the Self.
Tara Glazier: Meditation is about allowing yourself to be really present and in that presence allowing for what IS.
Akiva Daube: Meditation is not what you do; meditation is what you are. There is nothing we can do or not do to not meditate.
Keely Garfield: Meditation is a way to be in the pause. It’s natural and present within us, and normally felt at the bottom of the breath. We are shot into this world and if you don’t attend to the natural pause then the natural pause is death.
How do you know when you are in meditation?
PS: The Kurma Purana gives a technical definition: sustain your attention for 12 seconds, that’s concentration; 2 and a half minutes is meditation; 30 minutes and that’s samadhi or deep meditation. So meditation is a sustained state of concentration. And multi-tasking is the opposite of concentration.
KG: How do you know when you’re in meditation? You don’t. Mostly it’s suffering - you’re setting up theconditions so that meditation can occur on a good day.
Meditation is a word like love or God that words can only point at. There are no real words at that moment of grace. At its most simple basic essence, it’s what Nisargadatta meant by “When I see ‘I am nothing,’ that is wisdom. When I see ‘I am everything,’ that is love.”
How has your practice evolved?
PS: For twenty-five years I meditated at least 30 minutes in the morning and then again in the evening. That kind of practice gets into the body and becomes a custom. Now I try to meditate at least in the morning for 20 minutes and try to carry the practice of meditation through every activity. I can now enjoy the smallest of the things. Some desires, anxieties and fears have lost their intensity. I have a better understanding of why people are a certain way. Happiness is directly related to meditation.
TG: For years, it was something I ran away from. Now I am willing to slow down enough to actually just want to sit down.
As I've become more comfortable with who I am, it’s easier to meditate as I need to. Whether it’s salsa or teaching or mothering or sitting, I’m asking, “How can I make this an experience of meditation?”It starts with an intention. I meet the dance partner and ask, “How can I be open to his energy?” Or if sitting, it’s like, "Today I'm really sad. I'm going to feel my skin, this emotion. Underneath that, there's something. Let me open to that.”
AD: If I am identified with my separate sense of self, which means that I think my self is responsible for being "good" at meditation, then meditation becomes a technique. From this perspective, meditation tends to be quite hard for me.
However, if I just relax and let everything be as it is and I don't push or pull anything, then meditation becomes the easiest thing possible. It's easier than breathing since it gets revealed that actually we're always meditating. The practice ended when it became clear to "me" that all my ideas, and beliefs, and efforts to realize this were getting in my own way... and betraying a subtle and unconscious lack of trust in this moment just as it is.
KG: Meditation: my life depends on it. It’s as simple as that. Our culture wants a quick fix. And it’s important to start with 5 minutes and slowly build up to 20: to change the position if it gets uncomfortable, to come back to the practice when it feels easier. I’ve often wanted to run and go jump in the lake for all the noises in my head. But at a certain point you have to suck it up. Learning how to sit with being uncomfortable, to co-exist, is kind of priceless.
I’ve done the same thing for a long time now. My practice is Shikataza, which means, just sitting. Sitting in a designated spot in front of my slowly accruing altar –with flowers, incense, water as offering– and I sit on my cushion and try to enter that noble stillness. To sit with whatever happening and with whatever is not. I’m participating in a lineage and feel all other souls, past, present and future.
Roshi Enkyo says that when one is bored - bored of fear, reasons why– that’s a good place in meditation:. I like that ordinariness. Rather than looking for bells and whistles, sometimes when I’m bored, I say, “Yeah! there’s hope.”
If you had a magic "meditation wand," what would you do with it?
PS: As long as there is a me, a magic wand, people, there is division and that is not yoga.
TG: I would help us/myself really feel and tangibly experience that to know that everything is inside.
AD: I would wave it over myself and other people and get the mind to pause for exactly three minutes. It would be very difficult to make war after 3 such minutes.
KG: I would wave the wand so that everyone had the superpower of noticing what’s going on with themselves and others and to take responsibility for their own actions.