Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Meditating: A Primer

What does a meditation practice look like? How do you start, what do you do, and how do you finish? Do you need anything special?

For the purpose of this explanation, I will focus on my personal experiences and what I do each day as I practice Kundalini Yoga. Other meditation practices will likely follow a different routine and structure.


Ideally, you would wake up before the rest of your household (between the hours of 4 am - 6 am are best), sit in a quiet room with a special cushion or rug. Many yogis use a small sheepskin rug (I love the symbolism of that, which I'll go into another time) and a small, firm cushion to sit on.

In reality, in my life, I roll out of bed and tend to the baby and sit on the couch away from her eye-poking fingers while she plays on the floor nearby. I'm still in my pyjamas and peer at my timer on my phone without my glasses because I couldn't find them. If I've slept in, my older children are charging around the house while I try to focus on my inner self. It isn't always peaceful!

But that's okay. Kundalini Yoga isn't for cave dwellers. It's for every-day life, and can benefit you no matter if you do it "perfectly" or not. One of my teachers said that your intention is 90% of the meditative practice. If your goal is to centre your mind, calm your spirit, commune with the divine, whatever - you'll succeed. Just keep at it.

Tune In to Begin

Before starting a meditation session, we must always chant a specific mantra, called the Adi mantra. It is known as "tuning in" and I like to think of it as similar to an opening prayer in a Mormon church meeting. Why do we say an opening prayer? To invite the Spirit, to open our hearts to the words that will be spoken, to prepare our minds to be taught and to draw closer to Christ.

Tuning in has a similar purpose for beginning meditation. The terminology is different to "Mormon speak", but the ideas are familiar. Tuning in prepares us to receive Divine Wisdom. We chant the words:

Ong Namo Guroo Dev Namo

which mean "I honour the Creater of the Universe, the totality of all things that exist. I honour the Divine Wisdom within my own consciousness." 

Interpreting that in Mormon terminology would mean "I honour God and all His creations; I honour the light of Christ, the Holy Ghost, whose influence brings truth and light."

So that's quite nice.

And just as we have a specific way of sitting and holding our bodies during prayer (or, in my house, a fiercely whispered "close your eyes!" between my children during prayers), tuning in requires a specific Mudra, or body position:

Sit in Easy Pose (legs crossed over each other, or as best as you can manage) with your hands pressed flat together at the centre of your chest in Prayer Mudra. Press the joints of the thumbs into the sternum. Close your eyes and focus at your third eye point (the point between the eyebrows and about ½ in up). Inhale deeply and chant the mantra all in one breath. (If your breath is not capable of this, then take a small sip of
air after "Ong Namo" and then chant the rest of the mantra, extending the sound as long as possible. The sound "Dev" is chanted a minor third higher than the other sounds of the mantra.

Chant this mantra at least three times before beginning your Kundalini Yoga Meditation.

Now What? Choose your Kriya

What is a Kriya, and why should you choose one? I thought we were meditating over here...?

  1. In Kundalini Yoga a kriya is a series of postures, breath, and sound that work toward a specific outcome. Practicing a kriya initiates a sequence of physical and mental changes that affect the body, mind, and spirit simultaneously.
There are hundreds of Kriyas that have specific purposes. If you are struggling with something like undue stress, or persistent headaches, or you need an emotional boost, there's probably a Kriya for that.

Some Kriyas require a LOT of physical movements. This is a Yoga practice, after all. When I first started practicing Kundalini Yoga, I was focused on the meditation aspect only, so when I took a more advanced class the yoga side of things kind of surprised me. Hilarious, since the word Yoga is right in the name of the practice! If you want to do something energetic, just be prepared to work up a sweat.

But one of the best, most all-encompassing Kriyas is called Kirtan Kriya. This doesn't require any bendy legs or backs, or any jumping around. It is much more sedate in physical movements, but your mind is doing a lot of work without you realising it.

My routine includes several different Kriyas; some are short at 2-3 minutes, some are longer at 11 minutes. In total, I take about 30-35 minutes of meditating. I save the more physical kriyas for a different time of day, since I'm sooo not up to exercising when I first wake up. Babies do that to me.

To end, Tune Out

So you've completed your set, whatever that may be, and you want to finish. There is a closing song that we sing, which has lovely words (and in English). It is a peaceful, calm way to end your meditation session.

May the long time sun shine upon you,
All love surround you.
And the pure light within you,
Guide your way on.
You can repeat this three times if you wish, or just the last line three times. The first repetition is for your ancestors, the second is for yourself, and the third is for future generations. I like to mentally change the spelling of "sun" to "son" and make the song about Christ. All good things point to God.

What you choose to fit in between the specified Tuning In and Tuning Out mantras is entirely up to you. I will post a few suggestions on the blog in the future, some basics for you to start trying out. If you have any questions, feel free to add them here.

I also have a YouTube channel that I need to link to the blog somehow, which will have some demonstrations of different meditations.

Sat Nam!