Food for thoughtHomework

BE Teacher Homework: Why Meditate?

By August 11, 2019 August 15th, 2019 3 Comments

Every month a Body Electric teacher picks a homework assignment, and most of us do it, usually. June’s homework was assigned by Shahar Kovetz. I hope you’ll enjoy the assignment, and some highlights from the responses! Please add your own thoughts in the comments.

Yay, self-development time of the month!! Offered by your martial arts specialist!!😁😁😁

This is a short one: Swami Swaroopananda has been asked a question regarding why bother to work hard on meditating in Yoga that demands practice and discipline; why not instead focus on the pleasures of life? This made me think of all the wonderful aspirants and teachers in the BE. All seek to develop and become better versions of themselves.

Listen to the short response of Swami Gi and I would love your insight on the following questions:

1.) What is your take on Swami’s answer, do you agree or disagree? Please elaborate…

2.) What is the reason you dedicate your time and resources to better yourself as a Yogi, or as an individual? Why not accept yourself as you are, as a finished project?

3.) What would be your answer to a student who asked you the same question? Doesn’t have to be about Meditation, whatever discipline you offer to BE aspirants (or others in your life).

Answers

1.) What is your take on Swami’s answer, do you agree or disagree? Please elaborate…

Brinda Chalnick: Gardening for me is like a meditation so I really appreciated his analogy. 🙂 It takes several days to groom our native yard, as well as growing some plants for human consumption. I understand the time, effort, energy, sweat, and yet the fact that there is always more to be done in our yard. Just like the mind…I believe we cultivate what we plant. Be it what we watch, read, experience, etc…our senses are the medium for our earthly experience. The mind acts as our filter….and we need a clean healthy filter as well to respond lovingly in every situation. If everyone was a gardener of the mind, that would be amazing! Share the message of love and peace…let them decide.♡

Lindsay Cross: I do agree that meditation helps us to polish and refine who we are. There are many layers of conditioning and judgement that we acquire over time. A bad relationship with someone may color our opinion towards someone else that has similar characteristics. An experience that hurt us may make us less trusting of ourselves to be open or vulnerable in the future. It is difficult, at times, to understand why we make the decisions that we do, why certain people or situations trigger a response or emotions or why we doubt ourselves. The practice of meditation helps to strip away those things and get to the core of who we are so that we are better able to follow a righteous path of service.

Gracie Mayer: I really like Swami Swaroopananda’s analogy of the garden. The idea that if we have a garden it will take work cultivate it and continue to help it remain health and grow. We cannot just have a garden and assume it will take care of itself. We have a body AND I believe we have a soul(or divine body). Therefore we should spend ample amounts of time developing both while we are on earth.

Lisa Giegler Knaffla: I totally agree and love that he made it so easy. We do not need things to be so complex – the mind needs to be kept healthy just as the body – and to me that is more important than anything. Everyone makes meditation so hard and that we have to get somewhere – when all we are doing is quieting the mind so that we can truly listen to the whispers of our soul. The beauty of my ritual of meditation is that it has become a natural part of my life. Not just 20 minutes here, 10 minutes there. It’s being on the beach and being one with the nature around you, in the mall with all the busy-i-ness around but you can just observe with no judgment, no reaction. It’s being on my mat with a great teacher and the next thing you know your in Shavasana – quieting the fluctuations of the cessations of the mind. Keep the mind healthy so that you can truly be living fully in the present moment!

Dani Mae: I agree with most of his answer + I dig the metaphor of a garden. I disagree though on the goal being to alleviate suffering. Suffering, in my current opinion, is a fact of the human condition which rather than trying to eradicate (or fight against its existence) as an entire experience, I prefer to make friends with it + use meditation to understand it as a piece of the whole picture of living. Suffering assists in illuminating polarities, harmonies + other “aha” moments which may be more difficult to grasp without the feeling/thinking/comprehension of suffering. In opposition to my own opinion here, I do agree that we should strive for optimal existence BUT accept that there is no perfect polarity absent of suffering, so using meditation to both alleviate + accept suffering seems more balanced + realistic to me.

Bethany Peabody: The Swami’s answer is very tidy, and the garden and the home metaphors (keeping them clean) are very easy to understand. I like how he shows that “embracing life as a gift” is a sophisticated idea that includes punching through human suffering, something that is a major obstacle for most of us. The tool to appreciate the beauty of human life IS MEDITATION. He is delicately questioning the premise that embracing life is somehow easy. As we all know, life is endlessly frustrating and bitterly unfair if we are not able to find connection to others, to spirit and to what Swami refers to as the “higher goals of human life.” It reminds me of discussions of the gunas – the three fundamental forces in nature: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas and how we need to balance and recognize them because their interplay exists outside of our conscious awareness. When we practice self-reflection and meditation, when we give ourself the gift of slowing down, we can see the gunas at work and seek to balance them. Without this looking inward, without this curiosity, “embracing life as a gift” can look a lot like an overly tamasic existence of feeling lifeless or an overly rajasic feeling of running from one shiny thing to another. “A mind that can appreciate the beauty of human life” – as Swami says – is sattvic. It is a mind that unveils what is true. It is a skill to find and cultivate sattva. The skill that is needed is meditation.

Mike Meehan: I was taught that the yoga poses were created so you could control your body and control your breath, and then be able to be still for periods of time and begin to control your mind. I believe the eight limbs of yoga are a pathway to liberation, much like Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. Although I have practiced for over 20 years, it was my cancer adventure that truly drove home the benefits. I do not know if I would be here today without yoga.

2.) What is the reason you dedicate your time and resources to better yourself as a Yogi, or as an individual? Why not accept yourself as you are, as a finished project?

Allison Archer: I think acceptance and a drive for personal betterment are one in the same. To accept yourself for who you are is love. To want to be better is love. Finding a balance between the two is Life. I dedicate my life to gratitude and continue to try to be better because I believe I only get one life. I must enjoy what I can and I can better enjoy when I am whole. Also, I think to be content is so very special, but to be complacent can be a curse.

Alix Emery: I feel there is a difference between accepting yourself as you are but also knowing that there is always rooms for personal growth. I dedicate time to self growth because I know staying stuck in the same habitual patterns will only keep me in that same space. I choose growth because life asks you to keep growing. If you were to remain stuck in your 22 year old brain, would that be just horrible? 😅
The whole point of living your life is to experience it and growing is part of the experience.

Gracie Mayer: I see yoga as the ultimate practice of integration–the practice of remembering that we are divinity and humanness in one. Yoga is yoking together the body/mind and soul so that we can live as fully integrated beings who accept that we are humans that hold divinity within us as well. I understand that the student who asked the question was most likely coming from the perspecitve of practicing acceptance and santosha (contentment) with who we are and what we have. HOWEVER, as humans we are make mistakes daily and are constantly experiencing new emotional states that fluctuate and change moment to moment. Even if a person is not looking to engage in long-term “self development” or “spiritual growth” to be fully human a person needs to confront their mistakes and uncomfortable emotions daily which will inevitably invite some elements of personal development and self help into their lives. In order to live peacefully and happily we will need to at least develop healthy coping skills for the suffering, painful and uncomfortable events/moments/emotions in life.

Dani Mae: I believe the goal of existence is to evolve, enjoy + exit with grace. Dedicating time/resources to become better is like a baby aiming to walk, talk, ad infinitum. I subscribe to the ideology I will never be a finished project, even in death I hope to learn/evolve in some way.

Jennifer Rose:
a. Because I have first hand experiences that I AM more than my earth plane experience and I want more of that.
b. Totally accepting myself as a finished project may be my next experiment. Wonder what would happen if I just allowed myself to BE? No matter what I was thinking about myself?

Allison Azcui: Because it would mean that I’m finished learning and we’re never finished learning. We always have something we can improve upon, sometimes it’s small habitual changes and other times it’s major wake up calls. Complacency is when we choose to stop learning.

Bethany Peabody: I really hope that I am not a finished project. Not because I don’t love myself, not because I believe the negative thoughts that sometimes float through my mindsphere, but because there is so much to learn. I am so curious about things. I change my mind because I hear people speak passionately about subjects that they know. Did you know that there is a disorder where one hand can be buttoning your shirt, and the other hand can be unbuttoning it? It’s called alien hand syndrome. I mean, come on. Also, that there is a waterfall in Kentucky that creates a moon rainbow during certain times of the year? And I know that these are just pieces of information, but they are exciting and interesting information that can be mined for insight and inspiration. Also, knowing that we are all dying and that people I have loved have already died, makes me alternately sad and completely motivated to do all the things that life has to offer. We wouldn’t ever be able to call ourselves a finished project even if we wanted to because everything changes. Nothing remains still. And all the clinging I might do to try to hold on to old ideas, rad images of myself, painful regrets is just a type of fear. I need to be able to recognize these things. We’re never finished. We can love our very human selves through all of the ups-and-downs, and one day this incarnation will be finished in some form. I remember Leonard Cohen saying that then we just “become part of the bigger masterpiece.”

Tiffany Wimmer: Man, that’s a really good question. I don’t have a good answer for this. I’ve always tried to better myself, and that probably stems from seeking approval from loved ones as a child. Now, though I feel my journey to self improvement is more about me than seeking approval from others. As I continue to learn about yoga I’ve only just recently opened my mind to thinking of things larger than this physical world. It’s taken me 4 years on this journey to even want to think beyond the physical. I think I accept myself for who I am, but look for ways to lesson suffering. So, for example I recognize certain actions from others are triggers for me, I see that this as a response to something external to myself and how it creates suffering for me. Now, I question why and what can I do in my journey to repattern my behavior/response.

Amy Wiley: I do not believe in a finished project of myself. The world is an ever changing place and I desire to change with it. In my opinion, defining myself as a finished project would be to put myself in a box without the opportunity for growth. Every year of my life I gain new insight into the person I want to become and the person I am, every year I meet new people who inspire me in different ways, and every encounter I have with a new experience adds to my opinion of myself and offers me ways to change, grow and interpret what my “finished product” might look like. For me, the finished product will be whatever it happens to be at my death.

Lance Robbins: I personally work on self development for two reasons. First to try and become the best version of myself tapping into the innate gifts I have been given and seeing them at their fullest. Second to offer an example to others (mostly my children) of what the benefit of self development can bring.

Amanda Riker: You asked: why not accept yourself as you are? Truthfully… That brought tears to my eyes. I think that is exactly what I’m striving for. I do feel in my heart of hearts, that Yoga is the right path for me to get there. And for many people for that matter. But maybe yoga isn’t for everyone. I am open to encouraging all people I meet to find a path that helps lead them to a stronger sense of self-acceptance. But whether Yoga or not Yoga, I do think Swami has a point about taking just a little more pleasure in the little things of life.

3.) What would be your answer to a student who asked you the same question? Doesn’t have to be about Meditation, whatever discipline you offer to BE aspirants (or others in your life).

Andrea Behler: That the discipline itself offers Freedom and Clarity. That by consistently showing up on your mat for asana and meditation, you can see yourself and your “ways of being” more clearly and see where you are blocking yourself from your own growth and expansion.

Lindsay Cross: Then why are you here? The student obviously has an interest in bettering themselves in some way, rather it is physical, mental, spiritual or emotional. If we allow ourselves to be stagnant, then, in some ways, we regress. If our wages stay the same, yet the price of everything rises, then we are actually earning less. Our physical body adapts to exercises so that things that were once difficult, become easier. That allows us to learn and advance to other stages. The mind is the same way. I think the mind and the spirit crave new experiences and connections. Meditation and yoga practice remove the fear from that and allow us to expand and learn from everyone and everything around us.

Zach Mills: My observations reveal we all have our own interpretation of the benefits, regardless as to whether they are the inarticulable same experience. I would ask how you enjoy the practice. Do you leave the practice feeling different, and would you do it again? If so, why not continue exploring and see where it takes you. If not, what would you change?

Jennifer Rose: I would say that the mind is conditioned to believe that it is separate. That is why it is important to practice some type of regular meditation. SO that while operating in the world and having relationships it is very useful to have practiced tools to navigate this dimension. There is a way to see peace in this world. I am an aspirant of the Course of Miracles. Which teaches that through letting go and allowing the Greater Self to operate in my mind, I can experience peace in this world. A peace which comes from union rather than separation.

Bethany Peabody: I guess the original question gets to the heart of discipline and potential and truth. And, I don’t mean discipline like some bad thing that we have to force and suffer through, I mean discipline as in a steadiness. When I am steady and consistent, I have faith. I have a confidence that my actions will move me toward my potential. And our best potential is to realize that we are not separate from God. We need to hush all the noises and distractions that take us away from this knowledge. Beginning to hear how distracted I am can be a reason why I do not like to sit still in meditation, but my steadiness in continuing to do so is a faith that is pure and true. When our practice – of meditation, of asana, of kindness, of truth telling – becomes devotional, then we are willing to be in awe again. We are ready to step outside of the thinking brain with a sense of wonder. In this space, we find our divinity.

Tiffany Wimmer: I teach Mysore; I’m not sure I have the time to write my long winded response or that you would have the time to read it. It would be a dissertation. LOL The short answer is Mysore provides us the opportunity to get to know ourselves. See our patterns-like how we approach challenges in our practice, or injuries, or how our practice changes if we are stressed. It can provide the opportunity to look into a mirror and understand ourselves physically and beyond. It’s an opportunity to calm our mind as we focus in Mysore on the tristana method so we practice deep concentration. It’s a way for us to be fully in the present. It’s a way for us to nourish ourselves as we step away from the stresses and demands of the world we are so constantly focused on, and focus on ourselves, turning inward. The practice starts purely physical (at least it did for me) and over time with dedication and consistency it develops into SO MUCH MORE. It’s simply magical.

Lisa Giegler Knaffla Never stop learning – never stop growing! Challenge yourself everyday, do something new everyday, take a risk, eliminate something that does not serve you and get out of your comfort zone. Our yoga practice may seem simple but it is not easy. It ask us to dig deep – not just surface – but really deep where we can listen to the whispers of the heart/soul and from there make conscious choices in everything we do. And when we are making conscious choices – we are normally acting from a place of love not fear. Love this Life🙏❤️

Michael Stewart: I would tell a story – Thousands of years ago, there were Rajis who would sit and contemplate the big questions of life; “Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here?” (Questions we still ask) And as they contemplated these concepts they observed that everything in life and the world was constantly in a state of flux- changing. Except for one thing; Brahman -the Devine force. And as we sit in meditation we try to make that connection with the godhead, awaken to our true nature, our Atman. If we get even a glimpse of that stillness in this lifetime, it is worth the practice. 🙏🏼

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Douglas Nakamoto says:

    To me, our mind isn’t analogous to a garden or house. I’d use the simile of a natural ecosystem (forest, jungle, …). If this is the case, ‘cultivation’ isn’t what should (or can) be done. Instead, one would observe and discover what is there and what is occurring; then, one would act in accordance with the natural flow of mind -and- the way of the universal nature in which the mind resides.

    Yes, one must attend, yes, one must act appropriately, yes, sometimes one can change some things; but, no, one doesn’t ‘fix’ one’s mind nor ‘cultivate’ to one’s (and one’s conditioning’s) liking.

    We change/develop/grow simply by living. Our conscious and unconscious attributes, our decisions, our actions — all cause (are) change. I feel one must discover and follow ourself without a predetermined goal of becoming a ‘better’ person. One’s (my) conscious mind is limited and flawed (it will never be flawless); thus, how can it be the decider/cultivator of one’s path? One can only discover what is (as we discover natural law (e.g., gravity, inertia,…) and strive to understand and follow the way.

    • Donna Satiro says:

      I agree, and disagree. I think …He offers a wonderful and beautiful analogy….although he is offering his perception, we all have a perception as Well….What would be seen as a beautiful garden in one mans mind, might be hideous in another’s mans mind. What if one has a love for weeds?… or don’t see a weed as a weed but as a flower? For Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as meaning is in the mind of the perceiver. What if one has a love for a rat? If one has a love for rats, then is that a bad thing? What does that mean? I say it means nothing…. humans attach meaning to things, it doesn’t make it right or wrong, it just is…All things are the whole of all that is.
      One can only be where one is in each moment of now…. there is no other place to be….kinda like levels, a first grader can’t have the wisdom and knowledge of a sixth grader, until he’s had the experience of prior levels.
      One can’t help but expand, and become more, you can do it faster. Or slower, but energy is always expanding, and creating , you will never get it all done, you have eternity. Love is unconditional. If there are conditions, then it’s not love.
      I think meditation is one of the most important things one could do, it’s connecting to the source/ higher self.
      One is always plugged in. Meditation helps us practice in flip on the switch.🙏🏼💕💥💫

    • Zach says:

      I enjoyed this, thank you, Douglas.

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