I first learned meditation in 1975. I’ve practiced at least twice a day since then. In 1979 I became a monk and a teacher. I must have clocked up well over 30,000 hours of meditation by now, and I’ve taught all sorts of people, children and the elderly, educated and uneducated, atheists and priests, students and professionals.
All this experience, together with having a wonderful spiritual guide, has helped me to appreciate the incredible and varied benefits of the ancient techniques of Tantra Yoga, the tradition my meditation style comes from. From teaching so many different kinds of people I have learned what is common to us all on this path. I’ve learned what helps us and what hinders us, not just in meditation, but in life.
Meditation is more than just sitting quietly for a period each day. There are several pieces to the puzzle of a successful practice. How we sit, how we breathe, when we sit, what we do leading up to our meditation, all make a great difference to the effectiveness of our sitting. Our daily activities and thinking habits affect our state of mind. If we are always criticizing others, or saying mean things to people, what kind of thoughts do you expect are going to come up in our meditation? Conversely, if we are habitually kind and loving in our thoughts and actions, when we sit for meditation, we are already well on the way to our goal.
In recognition of this, the tradition of Tantra Yoga includes much more than just meditation. Tantra is an complete holistic lifestyle, designed to develop body, mind and spirit. Amongst other things it includes:
- yoga postures (asanas)
- breathing exercises
- dietary advice
- natural health treatments
- service to the community
- a system of ethics
- a wide ranging philosophy
- a theory of economics, based on the principle of universal love
Most of this is beyond the scope of this course, but we will be drawing on this wealth of practical knowledge to enhance your meditation practice.
Think of a behavioral change that might improve your state of mind and make your meditation more effective.
For example, exercising regularly is known to combat depression. Or simple acts of kindness have been shown to improve the self-esteem of the perpetrator.
Record your thoughts in your journal.
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If one speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows. If one speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows like a shadow that never leaves.”-Buddha
What we eat, how we exercise, how we treat others, how we treat ourselves, every aspect of our behavior has an impact on our minds. The holistic lifestyle of Tantra Yoga helps us to lead a life that is in harmony with our inner nature and our environment. It begins with a simple meditation practice, but as our practice evolves it begins to affect every aspect of our lives.