Welcome to the FEB Meditation Challenge
For those of you that have decided to join our Meditation Challenge, us from Axel and Ash in collaboration with our magnificent muse Lara Zilibowitz (read interview here) we've created a space where you can switch of and reconnect!
Lara have created guidance, schedule and tips that will make this challenge an incredible life experience, and we are proud to share it all below.
Here is your invite, to switch off from the noise of the world and Reconnect with your inner self!
Body Poetry Meditation
We often find ‘yoga’ distinguished from ‘meditation’, but the two words are synonymous. Yoga and meditation are inseparable practices and pathways to self-realisation, that invite the mind to unhinge and offer us the unique opportunity to get out of the active outward-oriented linear mode, out of the driver’s seat, so that we can rest in the receptive and quiescent majesty of our own Being.
While we can have great long discussions and meaningful talks about meditation, just as we can talk about yoga in general, we have to meditate and practice yoga in order to truly understand what they mean!
When we sit with the intention to meditate, it is the ultimate state of enhancing awareness through conscious directing of the attention inwards. It is a bathing in our own presence, investigating our own inner landscape and internal experiences, and getting intimate with the deeper self. It can be such a satisfying romance, and all it requires is for us to come as we are.
The truth is that meditation is a spontaneous state inherently accessible to all of us, and it arises naturally when we set the right conditions. Meditation is a state the mind already knows, a yielding inside ourselves, whilst remaining awake and alert.
Importantly, often what we think of as meditation is flavoured with a view from ‘behind the monastery walls’. That is, the Classic or ascetic approach to meditation is that we need to renounce normal life and daily activities and disappear into the forest or a cave to meditate and practice. Whilst this approach might be suitable if we choose the life of a monk, it would probably be restrictive and undesirable for most of us.
Contrary to the ascetic approach, the Tantric path shows us that we can still devote ourselves to spiritual practice (to any degree we choose) and participate fully in the world, without letting go of any of its pleasures. My approach to meditation is therefore exactly this - a pleasurable indulgence! In the simple and powerful practices we will share with you, we tend to all the rhythms and divine sensuousness within, caressing the flow of energy with our attention as it circulates and shape shifts.
Changes and fluctuations are happening constantly, prana is healing itself infinitely, and the creative flow moving through each one of us is forever improvising! As we gain insights into our patterns, thoughts and desires, each moment can be one of curious revelation; and there is much to discover given 98% of the time we’re completely unconscious of the automated tendencies and habits operating through us.
Remember, meditation isn’t about stopping thoughts, it’s understanding that we’re more than our thoughts, and that’s extremely liberating!
Body Poetry approach
My approach is a combination of noticing the free-association of awareness, paired with mind training. It is getting familiar with our tendencies, and then harnessing the powerful energy of our mind to hold space for ourselves.
There are a few steps which can help set us up for joy:
- Set your seat comfortably. Take the time to do this - find your favourite spot in the house, special cushion, soft blanket to elevate your hips... the ritual and routine helps the mind settle quicker and quicker over time.
- Make sure your phone is off and the container is set so you feel free to begin the journey of folding and unfolding inwards.
- Sit in the same place every time, where possible. This lets your brain know that everytime you enter the sacred space you are shifting gears.
- The attitude of meditation is an open embrace of your entire being. It is because of this attitude that the outer and inner worlds can meet, interact and integrate. Begin with a dedication/ invocation such as, ‘I welcome all of who I am’, allowing background sensations, emotions and thoughts to rise to the surface - perhaps even before you close our eyes.
- This is an important step in meditation in order to cultivate a safe inner sanctuary, without judgement, where you can be absolutely, unashamedly yourself. There is no other goal other than honouring all that is inside you, as it is.
- Eventually, as you snuggle into yourself, when the time feels right, maybe over a couple of seconds or minutes, a sense of wanting to close your eyes will take over.
- Connect with your spiritual desire or longing to merge with the most essential part of yourself, getting to know yourself from deep within.
- ORIENTATION & SENSATION
- It can help to keep our awareness inwards, but consciously directing our energy down, out of the business in the mind, and into the body. To start to notice the visceral, tangible points of contact with the earth. The fabric of your clothing against your skin, to start to feel the rise and fall of your belly and chest moving with your breath. For the first few sits, I would like you to rest here - this being the only instruction. To notice the tendency to sling shot back up into the mind to analyse, to project ahead, or get caught on a mental loop about the past. Without making yourself wrong, simply notice this - and connect your awareness back into the body. I would love for you to really attune to where your attention is drawn inside. Is it texture? Sound? Visual pictures that lure you? This will inform which technique is going to work for you…
- RIDE THE RHYTHMS
- You might think that you’re not meditating, that you’re not ‘doing’ anything - but that’s entirely the point… if we’re not used to sitting with ourselves, firstly we have to get comfortable and familiar with what it’s like inside this vessel of experience. True meditation is not dissociating our mind from our body, but resting deeping within the body.
- TRANSITIONING OUT
- When you feel complete, for today... allow yourself to segue back slowly, coasting as you come back. The intention is to continue to carry the benefits of your sitting into your the rest of your day. Introduce deeper breath and gentle movement before opening your eyes and perhaps sealing with a closing ritual such as hands over heart or reciting a mantra/prayer.
The technique of Prana Uccara (upward push of prana), is the very first dharana or thread of concentration in VBT. At its simplest, it is a form of awareness of the breath, of course! For thousands of years the yoga tradition has spoken of the extraordinary relationship between the mind and the breath, and their inextricable connection.
The reason the practice is so powerful and resonates with so many, is that it offers different access points for different human temperaments, capacities and aptitudes. The technique summons us to use the tools that resonate and work for us, whether we are:
- Kinesthetic learners, feeling the movement of energy easily, the inner touch, sensation;
- Auditory learners, absorbing information through sound and mantra; and/or
- Visual learners, understanding through images, shapes and colours, light and dark and sacred geometry.
The yogis believe we are being breathed by a natural mantra, soham, nearly 30,000 times each day. This offers the opportunity with each inhale and exhale to realise the inner meaning carried upon the sound of the breath as we chant it internally.
Hear on the inhale ~ SO (meaning I AM) ~ and on the exhale the sound ~ HAM (meaning THAT).
The full cycle of SOHAM therefore means ‘I am That’. Then once the mantra naturally reverses itself it become HAMSO meaning ‘That I am.’
The two then naturally merge into a continuous stream of non-separation from source. SOHAMSOHAMSOHAMSO = ‘I am that I am that I am that I am …’
What’s important to mention is another common and loved Tantric mantra is hamsa. The meaning is the same. We encourage you to explore which mantra speaks to your heart more!
I AM THAT = The sense of I-ness, i.e. to be individual is to be cherished
THAT I AM = Universal consciousness, i.e. the witness, the abstract
By meditating on the mantra, we’re setting up the polarity between the two; individual vs universal soul, where every breath is the interplay between that pulsation.
There are different ways of practicing ajapa japa, and the technique can additionally incorporate moving awareness along specific nadi lines in the body, along the spinal channel or in the front/back body.
The variation we will be practicing is experiencing the flow of prana along sushumna nadi, specifically between muladhara and sahasrara.
To prepare for the meditation sitting, refer to the steps set out in the ‘Meditation’ section of this manual, under ‘Our Approach’: Nesting, Welcoming, Introducing Technique, Ride the Rhythms.
- Begin by bringing your awareness to the breath.
- Without any control over the breath, allow the breath to be in its natural rhythm, becoming conscious of the natural in-flowing and out-flowing tide of the breath.
- As you inhale, feel the prana move in from the base of the spine, moving up the central column, all the way up to the tip of the skull.
- On the exhalation, follow the breath down, from sahasrara through the midline all the way to muladhara at the base of the spine.
- Continue for 2-3 minutes, feeling and visualising the flow of life moving up and down the spine with every inhale and exhale.
- Maintaining Phase 1, see if you can start to hear the natural mantra inherent in the waves of breath. As the breath flows in and up like the tide, hear the mantra SO, and as the breath flows down hear HAM. SOHAM, SOHAM... See if you can be totally aware of both the movement of prana along with the mantra flowing in and out, up and down.
- Subtly become aware of the meaning of the mantra; when the breath flows up (SO - I AM), as it flows down, we merge with the place that it comes from (HAM - THAT).
- Continue for 2-3 minutes.
- Now, we’re going to reverse the order of the mantra with the breath. Focus on the mantra HAM on the next exhale breath as awareness moves down the spine. As the inhale moves up, hear and feel SO carried upon the breath wave. HAMSO HAMSO... See if you can be totally aware of both the movement of prana along with the mantra.
- Subtly become aware of the meaning of the mantra; when the breath flows down (HAM), and merging Self with the ego (SO).
- Continue for 2-3 minutes.
- Once you feel comfortable with the mantra and the breath pattern, the final phase is to feel and hear the infinite circle of the mantra with no beginning and no end - where the SO merges with HAM and HAM merges with SO to create an unbroken chain of consciousness, breath, awareness and body.
- See if you can prolong the mental vibrations of HAM and join them with the ingoing vibrations of SO. Prolong the vibrations of SO and join them with those of HAM. Resulting in a fluid continual mantra of SOHAMSOHAMSOHAMSO…
- As you feel and hear the mantra spontaneously arising, subtly becoming aware of the meaning of this infinity symbol taking place inside you. The play of opposites between individual and universal, dissolving the duality and taking a few steps closer to Self. I AM THAT I AM THAT I AM...
- Slowly let go of the practice, coasting as you come back.
- Take lavish time to notice the effects of the meditation.
Week 1 - introduction to meditation - holding space for yourself
Week 2 - holding space for yourself and introducing conscious awareness of the breath.
Starting with TEXTURE. Feel the pattern of breath. Feel the trajectory. Where it moved in, where it turns, feel the rise and fall of belly and ribs. Temperature.
10 mins - 15 minutes once a day
Technique 2 - visualise the pathway of the breath. See with your inner eye a river a breath, stained the colour that you love flowing in through the nose and filling up your belly, torso, chest, and see it flowing back out. 10 - 15 minutes once a day. Observe difference, what do you love more?
Week 3 Technique 3 - introduce So Ham mantra on the breath
10 - 15 minutes once a day
Halfway through this week, choose the technique that you love most and stick with that. Option to merge multiple techniques.
20 minutes every day
At the end of the month notice the effects, notice what you love, what you find challenging.
If you want to hold yourself accountable, Tell us how is your meditation journey going, follow us on instagram, and tag us with you experience!
@axelandash and @larazilibowitz
We are excited to hear from you !
With Love Lara Zilibowitz, Axel and Ash !