In last weeks blog post I talked about setting the scene for meditation and shared a few useful practices to bring your awareness into your senses, calm the mind and become present via the body and the breath.
This past weekend I attended a workshop with Richard Miller, a teacher whose work I have been following for a few years, specifically Yoga Nidra.
The practice of Yoga Nidra is a state of conscious deep sleep, where one appears to be sleeping but the unconscious mind is functioning at an deeper level; it is sleep with a trace of deep awareness. It is said that 20minutes of yoga nidra is equal to about 3 hours of regular deep sleep; so naturally it's a great tool for lack of sleep, insomnia, stress and general fatigue.
The practice of Yoga Nidra begins with sensing the physical body; cycling through body parts and becoming aware of the sensations in isolated areas such as the mouth, the inner ears, the palm of the right hand. The practice progresses to have you hold the whole body in your awareness simultaneously-- from all directions-- front/back, lower/upper, left / right, inside / outside-- the whole body together. To sense the body, thinking ceases and so the mind quietens, preparing us for meditation.
I never went any further into Yoga Nidra other than practicing sensation awareness (encompassing thought awareness and emotional awareness) and thought that the art of mindful states of being, was IT, (meditation)... until this past weekend.
Richard- who has a 45 year career practicing, teaching and researching Yoga Nidra, guided us on a deeper exploration of states of consciousness, which all fall under the umbrella of Yoga Nidra, and use body sensing technique as the starting point.
Once the felt sense of being is established, we nourish this sense of well-being, held in awareness. But this felt sense of being continues to have a "sense of self', the I factor; we no longer identify with the mind, yet we still identify ourself as sensation. Over time, the practice progresses to grounding in pure awareness. Richard defined awareness as the container in which thoughts, emotions, sensations including 'being' arise. He said-- " You need to go, where I cannot" he went on to explain that there ceases to be I, (ie self-awarensss,) in pure awareness, and you may cease to know who you are, until you find who you truly are. Whoa!
Richard encouraged us to throw out books and loosen grip on any technique, because the techniques we use to access the felt sense of being and awareness, become addictive and we ultimately need to move beyond them. When we discover the road map, it's all practice, and something we can only do ourselves. When we can do it sitting, we must then learn to do it lying down, standing and eyes open, walking and finally, while socially interacting. I cannot even fathom this, at the early stages of my journey. But I have a new focus, curiosity and commitment to the profound of meditation practice.
And even if meditating for spiritual awakening is not your thing, Richard declares in his book "Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga"
"Profound relaxation, release of chronic stress, better sleep, resolution to many of your life's conundrums, and a greater sense of harmony in your daily life and relationships.... In its ultimate revelation, Yoga Nidra points directly to your True Nature, to peace that is beyond description and your birthright."
More and more people are flocking to meditation because they are stressed. Overworking, multi-tasking and splitting mental focus to the extent that it creates extraordinary fatigue and, according to Richard, sleep-- and more accurately the meditative Yoga Nidra style 'sleep'-- is the answer.
If you are not familiar with Richard's work, and irest (The Integrative Restoration Institute, which he founded) I highly recommend you check out his book on Yoga Nidra. He has 45 years experience as a yogic scholar, clinical psychologist, researcher using these techniques with regular people as well as those with chronic pain, and those suffering from PTSD.