Another hugely enjoyable and informative satsang with our dear friend Guru Sattvananda (Keith ap Owen) via Skype. We reprised the Sunbury Yoga Society‘s methods of meditation and were transported, if even for the briefest of time, into turiya – the fourth state of unified awareness. Guruji does not confine his guided meditations to a set technique but, most unusually and quite deliberately, intersperses the narrative with thought-provoking observations designed to prevent our consciousnesses falling into repetition, maundering or sleep. We are utilising a sitting posture rather than the supine (lying on the back) posture of yoga nidra which can all-so-easily lead to sleep and even the distraction of snoring fellow meditators!
how to ‘time-limit’ a meditation
After a suitable period of quiet reflection and contemplation of the meditation experience, the group discussed how one might ‘time-limit’ a meditation, conducted when a guided technique is not available. This is only a consideration when there are time constraints (only too prevalent in the busy modern world) so we offer, for now, a couple of suggestions and observations. One of the most obvious is creating the discipline of regular practise. If you reserve a particular time of day, for example early morning, and meditate for a fixed amount of time (one hour perhaps) then the mind can be trained and habituated to reserve a set, predetermined amount of time with the expectation of a return to waking consciousness at the end of practice. Of course, with the management of modern devices such as phones that can be set with a reminder alarm (even with pleasing, non-jarring, zen chimes) that indicate completion of a prescribed practice period, this should not be a problem. Other options include recording a guided meditation with a definite conclusion that urges a return to waking consciousness that can be run on a phone or computer. Heath Robinson approaches, for the less technically minded, can include an alarm clock in an adjacent room.
‘karma-free’ sleep perception
Last week Guruji reminded participants of the value of meditation and absorption in the meditative state even if one should fall asleep. In fact it can even be a blessing in disguise. Everything we perceive via our senses, whether awake or asleep, is recorded in consciousness. In a deep meditative state, which could include some forms of sleep, information is taken in ‘karma-free’. This means that information is untainted by prejudice, opposition or critical evaluation. Guruji observed that even today, after a period of fifty years, he finds information coming to him during states of teaching and meditation although he is quite sure he must have fallen asleep during its original presentation.
formulating the practise of yoga nidra
My own guru, Paramahansa Satyananda, often told the story of how he was inspired to formulate the practise of yoga nidra (conscious or dynamic sleep). On loan to a local gurukul in Rishikesh by his guru Swami Sivananda, Swamiji’s duties as night warden meant he slept during the day, whilst the local children chanted their verses from the Gita. He was surprised, one Open Day for the parents, to find he could recite these verses with the same facility as the students. Mystified by the way he seemed to have absorbed information in his sleep he sought the advice of his guru. Swami Sivananda reassured him that it was perfectly possible and quite likely that he should have this facility, common to all human beings. This led Swamiji to conduct research into the ancient tantras and adapt the little-known practise of nyasa (conscious placement of awareness) into what we know today as the practise of yoga nidra.
In the relaxed atmosphere of Shibumi Cafe, with the kind interaction from Guru Sattvananda via a Skype link, we are building a regular practise space with an opportunity to experience meditation techniques from a different tradition. If you would like to join us on a Wednesday morning (10am-12pm), contact Swami Tantramurti on: 07789-281629. Places, at this time, are limited.