How to Meditate, Interview – March 3, 2010
HTM: What would you consider your type of meditation, if any?
Cabernet: I've done a few kinds. I've done some sitting meditation where I started with a prayer, then slowed my breathing and watched my thoughts with amusement. I've studied yoga and done a personal practice for 60-90 minutes every morning, and held the postures in a focused, meditative way. This always ends with Sivasana, the corpse pose which is quieting and surrendering. Currently I do a lot of walking, which amounts to a walking meditation. It's calming and I never feel the same leaving as I do returning.
HTM: I'm so excited that you are doing this interview and sharing your meditation experiences. I already have tons of questions but let me start with the one that is likely to fade, and that is-when you say a "moving meditation" did you mean emotional? As this is probably a yes or no question, I will add another to the mix-I want to hear about the experience of watching thoughts with amusement. There are those who have difficulty separating thoughts from self. Was this ever a problem and if so, how did it change. If not, please describe the experience of watching thoughts.
Cabernet: HAHAHA, I learned "watching thoughts with amusement" from you! In the Yoga Sutras or the Bhagavad Gita they say that the mind is like a drunken monkey bitten by a snake or scorpion. The mind's nature is to race about and NOT be still. So, when sitting in meditation the mind is like an ADD kid having a temper tantrum. It's not personal. it is simply its nature. Having that knowledge makes it possible for me to sit and not judge how crappy a meditator I may be, but instead to just notice with a sense of humor all that my brain does to avoid being still-and when my judgment halts, my thoughts eventually subside, or at least quiet-usually for only a short, but satisfying moment.
To answer your first question, no. I will try to avoid any potty humor! I just mean meditation through movement, like walking or sun salutations. I know one person who does it while swimming. I have also found beading or knitting to be meditative.
HTM: Do you do the quieting while sitting or do you now mostly do moving meditations? Also, do you experience clarity through meditation about prevailing issues in your life? Is there a guidance that comes from this practice or is it mostly a calming influence?
Cabernet: Oh, you like to ask all the hard questions, don't you??? Thanks to you and this interview, I was inspired to do a sitting meditation! I haven't done one for a good long while, but that's changing today. So, I just have to say that nothing I say is original, I have been taught through tradition or reading, everything I know. And I did a 2 year long yoga teacher training program, so you will hear a huge influence from that.
You asked "Do you experience clarity through meditation about prevailing issues in your life?" I have been taught that praying is talking to God/Higher Power/Mother Earth/Spirit/Creator-take your pick, and meditating is listening. I have also been taught, as I have said, that meditating is a practice to quiet the mind. I'm guessing so one can hear!!!
In the Yoga tradition it's a progression from Yamas and Niyamas- which are a code of ethics similar to the 10 commandments and a commitment to the journey (my favorite is Santosa, or contentment. I can think of no deeper spiritual practice than to find contentment in everything!), to Asana- the postures that firm the body to be a temple, supple and strong enough to sit a meditation, to Pranayama- learning to control the breath, the life force, to Pratyahara-turning the senses inward, to Dharana- concentration, to Dhyana- meditation, to Samadhi- enlightenment.
I love that it is a progression, and a journey, not an arrival, or a failure. The yogis talk a lot about the waves slowly, over much time, wearing away the side of a mountain. It's about doing it small, and having tiny successes that you often can't see until much later.
So, no- I do not experience clarity or answers. I get quiet enough to be in a relaxed state to make saner decisions and am often reminded to do the simple things like eat and wait. When I walk I notice the beauty and scale of nature, so it's all about perspective. I get "right sized" as does my problems.
HTM: Excellent. This is great stuff. It really struck me the "eat and wait" bit, like a waiting meditation. I wonder if you could go more deeply into what it means for you to wait. Is this patience and a resistance to pushing to make things happen... allowing versus forcing? Also, in your walking meditation that helps you to get "right sized" is there an element of thought-slowing or mind-emptying going on, and is it a very deliberate conscious walking... or just walking?
Cabernet: The eat and wait: They are actually separate ideas- but also the same, in that the messages are small and un-grandiose. The eating is doing the basics for my body, which do help my mind to not miss any salient points. The waiting is an acknowledgment that I don't have all the answers, or even a lot of good ones, and must wait for it. I've heard it as "don't just do something, sit there!" Yes, it is a ceasing of trying to force solutions. I love the idea of doing the next right thing, but if I don't know what that is, it's ok to stop and wait for a sign.
This kinda brings me to the idea of surrender. I think it is impossible to do this kind of practice w/out a sense of surrender. To whom?-I haven't the foggiest! Nor do I think it really matters-maybe just to the idea that when I reach inside I will find something of deeper value/wisdom than I could conceive of. So, I trust that when I wait I will get the next plan. But it may not happen when I want it to, on my time-line. Surrender goes hand-in-hand with letting go of the outcome, no?
HTM: I love your eating AND waiting explanation. Waiting is so difficult to do for a number of reasons, for example the external pressure from others who will consider you waffling, indecisive, unmotivated, holding up the line, bottle-necking the process, and on and on. Especially in relationships with partners who do not take the same approach.
This feels like a good place we have come to, and yet I have at least one more question. I am curious as to how you can tell, after having waited, what is right. How does the right way feel to you and where do you feel it. Are there images, thoughts, or is it some other sense of knowing "this is it"?
Cabernet: When in doubt, don't. So, I guess that means that somehow that doubt is removed. I guess I try to learn to follow my own beat. I'm not visual, in that I don't get images in my mind that inspire me one way or the other. I think I must "get" some kind of clarity, the answer just sits well. Will the important people in my life, the ones who love me, stop loving me if I take too long to make a decision- if I waffle- if I'm...unmotivated???? Course not!
I like to think that my serenity is more important than what others think of me, way more important. Not that I excel all the time, but this is what I strive for. In some cases I will say, give me a couple of hours/days to come up with an answer. People seem to respond to that well, makes them feel like they are not just hanging out there.
HTM: I have two more questions, and they are as follows. When the answers sit well and the clarity comes and the doubt is removed does something change on a sensation-level, in your body? Is there an opening up of sorts? That was question one. Question two is as to whether you ever find yourself in any form of meditation practice in order to trigger this clarity. Does it help to do less while you are waiting for an answer to a fork in the road? Does quieting the mind help, or does it just happen by itself regardless.
Cabernet: Gosh, I never thought about, or noticed any change in my body. I am thinking a relaxation occurs. And, really how can my heart be any more open than it already is??? Just kidding. My response to sitting for clarity on a particular thing: that's not at all how I meditate. For me it's a daily, regimented practice (or not!), not a results thing. Prayer is also not a results thing for me, either, but a place to bring my desires/frustrations to be removed by giving them up. The only "result" I am looking for is to let go of results!!!
Answer to Question 2: I'm a rather hesitant, inconsistent meditator. When a problem is plaguing me I first go to prayer and pray to be relieved of self and let go of the outcome. Then in the quiet moments I get those ridiculously simple answers like eat and wait. The big answers I think come from other people when I am in a calm state. The answers probably come when I'm not in a calm state, but I can't hear them then! I was reading through the yoga sutras and the translator wrote that if you drop a pebble in the ocean or in a calm lake, it will make ripples, but you won't be able to discern the ripples from the rest of the movement of the ocean-great analogy, in my opinion.
I have reinvested in my meditation practice because of this dialog, so feel free to check in and see if I feel the same way, or if maybe I do notice more. And if you think of anything else to ask feel free, I'm getting a lot out of answering your queries!
HTM: I love the pebble dropping story. I also love hearing about the bodily response of relaxation. There are a series of books by Esther and Jerry Hicks and they speak often about "The Art of Allowing" which relates to the waiting you speak about. They also write about the feeling of "relief" as a way of knowing you are on the right track. I thought of this Art of Allowing at your mention of relaxation.
I am so glad to hear that you are getting "a lot out of this" and I am also really excited to hear that you are re-investing. I would love to check in with you at a later date. I actually thought of one more question if you will permit me. It is in regard to the wisdom that comes. Where do you believe that it comes from and why does it take time? What is it waiting for? Why is time needed?
Cabernet: Where does the wisdom come from? HAHAHA! Isn't that what everyone wants to know! I don't know if it's a "God thing", or the innate wisdom some believe is in us all! I kinda don't look that gift horse in the mouth! I don't think there is a difference between God and the innate wisdom in us all. If we are created in his/her/it/their image, then a seed of him/her/it/them is in us, and if that is so, why can't we tap into that if we put our attention/intention there?
I think it takes time because the drunken-monkey-bitten-by-a-snake nature of the brain. It takes time for the mind to settle into that calm pond to see the ripples.
I think maybe the time is needed- the waiting is for a different vibration-like we try to move like leaves in a windstorm, fast and in many directions. But our true nature is closer to geologic time???? Maybe if the answers came too quickly we would take them for granted? Maybe the question is like planting a seed, and we need to wait a season or two for the answer harvest? Maybe it is a long road from the brain to the heart and back?
HTM: So insightful and to the point. Thank you so much. Thank you for doing this interview. I have really enjoyed it.