When considering whether or not yoga is for you, it’s important to remember that “yoga” is not just the practice of physical postures. In fact, the purpose of practicing postures (asana) is to open the body up enough so that one can sit comfortable in meditation, ideally in lotus position.
For many people, learning to meditate is just as valuable as learning asana. It appeals to them, and has the same positive effects on the mind and emotional state.
But don’t think that meditation is all about learning to empty the mind, or learning to stop the flow of thoughts.
Just holding that ideal is enough to condemn one to a frustrating experience of constant failure. Yes, after practicing regularly for a time, thoughts may slow down and periods of pure awareness may be experienced, but initially, the practice of meditation is simple shifting into a state of awareness where one notices “what is”.
1. What style of meditation do you practice and where do you teach?
I practice in the Theravada Buddhist tradition, that has its roots in the earliest teachings of The Buddha. I trained in the Thai Forest Tradition, in the Western monastic lineage of the teacher Ajahn Chah. I am a teacher with the Original Nature Meditation Group, and teach at our weekly events at Hobson Crescent in Thorndon; and I also offer 6 week introductory meditation courses at Yoga Unlimited on Tory Street.
2. How did you come to meditation?
I came to meditation as a result of the stress and suffering I was experiencing in my life. It was a time when I was becoming curious about two questions: ‘Why am I so miserable?’ and ‘What is freedom?’ I felt that meditation would help with my inquiry, and so sought out a place where I could begin to learn the art of living a meditative life.
3. When did the meditation bug really get you?
After about three months of daily sitting, when I found that it allowed me to fully feel my humanity in all its rawness in an unobstructed and non-judgmental way. I felt like I was finally allowing myself to feel my heart, my pain, and my joy, and this was a huge relief. I was beginning to come out of numbness into aliveness.The energy and vitality that arose from this was enough to give rise to a lot of enthusiasm, so I felt like I couldn’t stop.
4. How has meditation transformed your life?
It has transformed my whole sense of what it means to be alive, and what it feels like to be in relationship with others. There is less fear and confusion, and more space for love and openness. This is a cause for much gratitude.
5. What is your meditation practice like?
I don’t have any one technique that I always apply in meditation, although there are many tools that I have at hand and have inherited through my teachers and through this ancient tradition. Usually I try to listen to where there is a sense of a ‘problem’, or ‘wrongness’ in the heart, mind and body, and then feel in to the appropriate meditative response that will lead to its resolution. This is always a very intimate inquiry, and changes from day to day, moment to moment. It’s not that it always works, but is the edge that keeps me curious and interested in my practice.
6. When people ask you, “What is Meditation?”, what do you say?
What I say usually depends on where the person is at, but generally I would say that it is the art of happiness, awareness and letting go.
7. What can people expect from one of your classes?
A warm, friendly space, where you have permission to be exactly as you are – without having to put on a face or act out a role. No special skills or knowledge are required. I sometimes offer a guided meditation, to help those who are relatively new to the practice, and usually offer some reflections on a certain theme, followed by an opportunity for questions and discussion at the end.
8. What do you love most about teaching meditation?
I love the energy that is created when people come together with a shared aspiration to kindness, peace, and meditative inquiry. It is a great blessing and a privilege to be able to facilitate this.
9. What do you wish everybody knew about meditation?
That it makes life a lot better.
10. What role do you see meditation playing in our world?
I can only say from my own perspective – as someone who meditates in the world. When one is attuned to beautiful qualities of heart, and isn’t driven by the need to control, judge or manipulate others, it naturally has a beneficial effect on the people one contacts in one’s daily life.
Some years ago I found a quote by William James pinned to a bookshelf in a monastery was at – it says:
‘I am all for the invisible molecular forces that work from individual to individual, stealing in through the crannies of the world like so many soft rootlets.’
To me this expresses how the effects of our practice will never be limited to the personal – they expand into the world and those around us, whether we are aware of it or not.
11. Anything else you’d like to say?
Just a quote from American born teacher, Ajahn Sumedho, who has inspired me a great deal:
Awareness is your refuge.
Awareness of the changing of feelings, of attitudes, of moods, of material change and emotional change: stay with that, because it’s a refuge that is indestructible. It’s not something that changes. It’s a refuge you can trust in. This refuge is not something that you create. It’s not a creation. It’s not an ideal. It’s very practical and very simple, but easily overlooked or not noticed.
When you’re mindful, you’re beginning to notice, it’s like this”
12. And finally, how do people find you?
We have weekly classes at 31 Hobson Crescent in Thorndon. They are from 7:30 – 9:15pm. Either myself, or one of our other teachers (whom I would wholeheartedly recommend) will be leading the session. For more info on the Original Nature Meditation Group and what we offer, please visit our website.
I offer individual guidance in the form of one hour sessions. I offer these on a ‘dana’ basis, which means it is up to each individual to pay according to their means. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.