Meditating on-the-go

Meditating on train in Germany
Meditating on train in Germany

I love meditating while sitting on a public conveyance, such as a plane or a train.  In some ways, it’s easy to minimize distractions.

For the past year or so, I’ve been practicing Metta, or Lovingkindness meditation.

I sit up tall, with my feet planted on the floor, close my eyes, and begin to chant.  Sitting with eyes closed, folks usually don’t try to interact with you. This is not necessary, but when I’m in public like this, I usually do lower my eyelids to minimize visual distractions,

The mantra can be done for oneself  (very important!!) or for another person.  Since I noticed that I had defaulted to berating myself in my self-talk, I’ve been doing the mantra A LOT for myself to try to create more love within me, knowing that how I treat myself mirrors the way I treat others.

As a reminder, then, here is what I might chant:

May I live without fear.

May I live in physical health.

May I live in mental health.

May I live a life of ease and abundance.

The transformation has begun! For one thing, I cannot remember the last time I called myself a name such as Stupid, or Idiot.  Hopefully, my heart is opening with greater compassion for others as I think of them with less negative language.


A 2013 Mantra

Wind Sprite Studio Panterra WestfieldNY (c) 2012 barefoot photos
Wind Sprite
Studio Panterra
(c) 2012 barefoot photos

Continuing the practice of choosing a word for the year, this year two words speak to me: Listening and Softening.

While repeating them to myself, I realized that they made a mantra that would help me practice listening and softening.Here it is:

On the inbreath, I listen. (Or simply the word, listening)

On the outbreath, I soften. (Or simply the word, softening)

I’m in love with my mantra, which I think means, it’s meant for me :-)


Niyama 1, Clean Up Your Act with Shauca

Yoga Sutra 2.40: saucat svanga jugupsa parairh asamsargah

Purity protects one’s body and brings nonphysical relationships with others. (trans. B. Bouanchaud)

Yoga Sutra 2.41: sattva suddhi saumanasya ekagrya inddriyajaya atma darsana yogyatvani ca

Then, purity, clarity, and well-being of the spirit come to flower, as well as concentration, mastery of the eleven sense organs, and perception of the inner being. (trans. B. Bouanchaud)

Is cleanliness next to Godliness? Before I began studying the Yoga Niyamas I would have been scoffing in cynicism, eyebrows raised in disbelief at the *ancient* saying. That was something our mothers said that was soooo not relevant to the twenty-first century.

The yoga sutras push the whole cleanliness concept a whole lot further than, say keeping your room picked up. Patanjali links purity of body with purity of mind. No surprise there for anyone who has practiced yoga for even a month or two.

I am reminded of my Catholic school education. When preparing for the sacrament of First Confession, or Penance as it is called now we learned many ways that we can break our relationship with God. It is not only the body that can sin, but the mind as well, Sister Mary Grace would tell us. Though at times I have pooh-poohed this teaching as one that carried a truckload of guilt in its big flat bed, I now understand from my practice that pretty much EVERYTHING I do starts in my cantankerous MIND. Clearing my mind with a hard physical practice, or focused pranayama, or chanting a mantra can have amazing results with removing toxic thoughts and feelings. My body glows when my mind shines! This is shauca, or existing in a state of purity.

And no sense getting all bogged down in guilt either; shit happens as they say, and life is all about accumulating stress. A definition of life might just be that which acquires STRESS. Our job as yogins is to reduce and cleanse our systems so that pure energy can flow and energize us.

Taking another approach: everything starts with the BODY. If I clean and honor my body, my thoughts begin to flow purely and positively. Mike and I are turning our diets to the vegan side (ahh, it’s harder than I thought it would be, but more about that later). Only a couple of weeks in though, and we both notice a growing mental clarity and wakefulness. My insides feel cleaner than ever! My thoughts grow more gentle.

Amy Weintraub writes, in Yoga for Depression, that the Yamas and Niyamas (yogic ethics and observances) constitute a program for positive mental health. She suggests mantra for attaining a state of mental purity. Tat tvam asi, or You are that, a mantra from the Advaita vedanta tradition she uses, repeating the words, You are with me. Recognizing the nondual notion that there is no difference between You and That, the practitioner can settle into a state of equilibrium, if not ecstatic bliss.

Can you take one step today toward cleaning up your life? Making a committment to do it is the first step.

Lovingkindness meditation

Fredonia NY Daylily (ckg photo)

This is a GREAT time to practice METTA or Lovingkindness meditation. HAITI challenges us to step up to the compassion plate. Please try to offer some lovingkindness for not only the Haitians effected by the earthquake, but also for their families,the aid workers, and the governments involved that something may be done to ease the long-term suffering of the Haitians. Teachers, please consider beginning or ending your classes by teaching your students the metta phrases and offering them for Haitians everywhere.

This post is a looooong overdue response to Svasti’s comment on LaughingYogini’s Home or Homeless? post regarding Lovingkindness meditation. In the post I said:

MEDITATION: Georg Feuerstein, in The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, says that there is a meditation wherein the four virtues: friendliness, compassion, gladness, and equanimity are radiated from the practitioner into the universe. This sounds very similar to metta or lovingkindness meditation that I have mentioned before. Beginning with oneself, and eventually including all sentient beings, the meditator offers the following phrases (or others that resonate more deeply):

May I be free from danger.

May I be happy.

May I be healthy.

May I live with ease and abundance.

Svasti responded to that excerpt:

What annoys me about the Feuerstein quote is the ‘I’, ‘I’, ‘I’. Generally most prayers are phrased as:

May all beings be free from danger.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be healthy.
May all beings live with ease and abundance.

To me, this is much healthier, because its recognizing all conscious beings and offering to one and all, Self included.

I am afraid that I misrepresented Feuerstein in that piece.There should be a break in the middle of that paragraph, when I begin MY thoughts (& depart from paraphrasing GF): This sounds very similar to metta or lovingkindness meditation that I have mentioned before. Beginning with oneself, and eventually including all sentient beings, the meditator offers the following phrases (or others that resonate more deeply).

The other misunderstanding comes from an insufficient explanation of metta practice in the earlier post. For that I refer the reader to LaughingYogini’s page on Lovingkindness Meditation, which can be found here.


compressedDuring the workshop at Studio Panterra last weekend, a question surfaced regarding mantra. Since Francois Raoult is an ethnomusicologist by training, it is perhaps natural that mantra and sound are components of his practice and study. Here is some of his discussion:

    We are interested in how the sound is embodied and how it flows through you. We’re not so interested in simply repeating the sounds for the sake of saying them.

    The mantra doesn’t need to be polished; there is often a rough quality to it. It is not a song. Kirtan is somewhere between mantra and songs.

    In old Indian temples mantra is alive and intense with old people chanting in crackling voices, sweating, etc.

    Mantra of sound is a bindu or seed form. We’re not interested in meaning of word, but in the SOUND itself, such as Alleluia or Amen. Early Gregorian chant (in Latin) was very mantric.

    Mantra is a shamanic power tool – don’t mess around with it foolishly.

    When to begin mantra practice: Don’t do something too esoteric until you have some mastery of the exoteric. For example, if your trikonasana really stinks, don’t add jnana mudra! Side note: Mudras can devolve into gimmickry, but if you are aware and use them sensitively, they may be a powerful addition to your practice. Interestingly, most mudras Westerners can’t do because our fingers are too tight.

    When chanting mantra, your voice has to be free of any gripping or holding. The sound has to well from deep within.

    The Iyengar take is that ASANA IS THE MUDRA and BREATH IS THE MANTRA.

You should not repeat a mantra audibly without responsibility; you have to feel it deep inside. First you have to project your voice – there has to be some juice. Then you shape the sound, and then go introverted.

Every sound is a mantra, even the rain.

The percussion of acorns falling on skylights and a steady beat of rain augmented the continuous brahmari humming of a roomful of yogis stretched individually upon blankets, palms turned skyward.

F. played the singing bowl as we relaxed, healing our grief and stress. Ahh, savasana!

Gayatri Mantra

I was sooo excited about the poetry collection I began organizing Wednesday that I entirely forgot about posting a Thursday video. So sorry to those of you who have been enjoying the Thursday visual infusions.

I’ve been receiving questions from students regarding mantra, which I’ll try to field in more detail in later posts.In the meanwhile, here is a lovely video of mantra with one of my fav chanters, Deva Premal.

This is a beautiful rendition of the Gayatri Mantra — Though I’d be hard pressed to find ANYTHING by Deva Premal that was NOT beautiful. Here she explains a bit about her unusual growing up experiences to a group of girls at the cusp of womanhood.

Parents, you may find this supportive and inspiring because if you are reading this, you probably are already a bit out of the mainstream in your child-rearing practices.

If you would like to learn more about the Gayatri Mantra, wahidudden provides several other versions as well as several more translations. Here is a translation by Krishnamurti that he cites:

We meditate upon the radiant Divine Light

of that adorable Sun of Spiritual Consciousness;

May it awaken our intuitional consciousness.

May you find blessings in this powerful and sacred prayer!