SM Meditation Program: Basic Meditations
Meditation is the core of the Silent Mind program. In this chapter you will learn the 4 basic meditations that will work as the launching pad for the advanced SM meditations to come later. The 4 basic meditations are Breath, Sound, Body and Third Eye. Although you will practice each one during the first 4 weeks, you need just one to work as the base meditation for you going forward. Therefore, an important objective of Phase 1, from the standpoint of meditation, is to determine which one suits you best. In addition, the basic meditations are going to help you accomplish the following goals which are vital to your practice…
2. Power to focus your mind and keep it exactly where you would like it to be. Building your concentration
Description: You sit forming a 3-point base on the floor with your butt and both knees. Your legs can be in any one of the following 3 configurations while sitting on the floor. First, simply with your legs crossed, which is the easiest but difficult to hold for long periods. Second, lower legs resting on the floor parallel to each other in Burmese Sitting style which is a very balanced and steady posture. You can use a cushion in either of these two postures to raise you hips and take pressure off your knees. Third, in Full Lotus posture, where the foot of each leg rests on the upper thigh or calf of the opposite leg. Full Lotus is the steadiest but requires considerable flexibility to get into, so be very cautious if you plan on trying this posture. Your spine should be erect and stretched upwards towards the sky, this will cause a slight inward curve in your lower back. Your head is pulled back slightly so the chin is ever so subtly drawn in and back such that the back of the neck is aligned with the spine (like a soldier in attention). The eyes are closed and the hands are held in the Cosmic Mudra and rest gently on your lap. The Cosmic Mudra is held with your hands forming a cup with your dominant hand below your secondary hand. Just the fingers of the hands are overlapping and the thumb tips of both hands are meeting such that the space between the thumbs and index fingers forms an oval.
Benefits: Sukh asan gives you a very steady base and is ideal for sitting still over long periods of time. Taking this posture makes the mind alert, calm and ready to turn inwards. Keeping the spine elongated and straight helps in the delivery of prana (oxygen) to the brain and prevents the diaphragm from being crushed. This free movement of the diaphragm is essential for allowing the breath of become smooth and deep, thus relaxing and quieting the entire organism.
Cautions: In the beginning you will find it difficult to hold this posture for prolonged periods of time. Your back may hurt and so might your knees or other joints. This is not reason enough to use the modified postures below. If you can manage it, Sukh asan is ideal for conducting the SM meditations so persist. The Yoga for Mediation set will prove to be very handy in improving your flexibility and helping you overcome these difficulties so make sure you do that regularly as indicated. The reasons to switch to the modified postures are if you feel you are about to hurt yourself, specially, your knees, or if you have a pre-existing physical condition, like a bad back, etc. If you do have to use one of the other postures don’t be discouraged. They have all been used successfully before, and remember the real work to be done has to do with the mind and not the body.
Benefits: Very much like Sukh asan. Sitting this way makes you alert, provides essential nourishment to the brain and helps relax the breath.
Cautions: Because the base is not as wide and solid as Sukh Asan, there is a greater chance of putting strain on the back and thus having it become sore during prolonged sitting. For this reason it is important to develop the strength and flexibility of your back. Also, it is fine to use a flattish cushion to sit on to prevent your butt from getting sore.
Description: Shav asan or corpse pose is exactly that, being a corpse. You lie flat on your back and have your arms straight out to the side with the palms facing slightly up. Again, the eyes are closed and breathing is relaxed. If your lower back feels strained you can use a cushion under your knees to relieve the pressure.
Benefits: Shav asan provides total support to the entire body and is a posture that minimizes strain on the muscles. From an meditation point of view, if you are unable to take either of the other 2 postures, then Shav asan is the next best. Shav asan is one posture that most anyone should be able to do.
Cautions: Don’t fall asleep. This is the number one problem when using this posture. Since most practitioners do their SM sessions in the early morning sleep is already a challenge. Shav asan, due to being so comfortable, adds to this difficulty. Besides this there are not too many dangers with using Shav asan.
Description: Sit or lie in the posture you have chosen. Be completely still and bring your attention to your breathing. Without interfering with the breath just be as physically aware as possible of the inhalation, the exhalation and the gap in between. Attend carefully to the temperature, movement, depth, sensation, etc. To help keep your concentration on your breathing, count mentally your breaths. Count an inhalation as one, exhalation as two and so on till you reach 10. Then return to 1 and start over. If at any time you loose your awareness of the breath and wander into some mental storyline before getting to 10, just return to 1 and start again. Once you reach the stage where you can count to 10 repeatedly without losing awareness of your breath, switch the counting such that each inhalation and exhalation cycle is 1 and continue onto 10 as before. Once this is accomplished, you can drop the counting all together, and simply be aware of the breathing.