Tag Archives: practice

Baby steps in meditation revisited

Somebody asked me if – since the birth of Rayana – meditation is still the most important thing in my life. I find it meaningless to answer this question, because I don’t see the need to create a contradiction between my meditation practice and the rest of my life. My intention is for my practice to support my life in the world, and for my life in the world to support my practice. It is more interesting to me to see how my meditation affects life with Rayana, and vice versa.

I have made a choice to sit with Rayana while practicing mediation. I made this choice because I wish her to know silence, as well as the many impressions that life in the world has to offer. Interestingly enough, by choosing to sit with Rayana, I am in some ways experiencing again how it was when I was trying to establish a daily practice during the early days of my study of meditation.

When establishing a daily practice, having a fixed routine (consisting of time of day, place, posture, and sequence for meditation) is an important tool to counteract the anti-meditative habits we have formed. Rayana’s rhythm and preferences change every few days or so. This makes it difficult for me to find a fixed time, place, and posture for meditation with her. Without the a stable routine, it is more difficult to have stability in meditation. Nowadays – and this is the big difference from my early days in meditation – I am able to draw that stability from my practice itself.

To give an example of how my routine is affected by choosing to sit with Rayana: At first she would remain completely calm when lying belly down on my leg while I was sitting in meditation (a pose I jokingly call ‘koalasana’). This made it easy for me to complete my practice without concerns for her comfort. I was pleased to observe that she would relax more deeply as my own meditation went deeper.

After a few days, she started to become restless in koalasana. For the first time in a long while, I did not complete my meditation practice. She was getting uncomfortable, and that was the exact opposite of what I wanted to achieve. This was not much different from my early days practicing. Back then I used to stop my meditation practice when I found the practice itself uncomfortable.

The next day I stopped my practice again when she was starting to get more uncomfortable than I like her to be. I decided not to sit for meditation for the next two days. When I was beginning to practice meditation, the dejection I experienced because I was not able to sit for a few days inevitably led me to choose to not sit for a few days more. The difference is that this time I made that decision consciously, with the clear intent to pick up my practice again on the “third” day.

On that third day, I tried practicing meditation while carrying Rayana in a sling. She remained very calm in this way for almost two weeks, but started getting restless a few days ago. Having learned from my earlier experience with Rayana in koalasana (I was intrigued to see how chaos was slowly but surely creeping back into my mind during those 4 days of not practicing meditation properly), I made sure to practice meditation in solitude at a later time on the same day when it wasn’t comfortable for Rayana in the morning.

I have now found a new pose that is comfortable for both Rayana and me, and am curious to see how this will develop over the next couple of days and weeks.

The strength of the decision to practice, is more important than any other preparation for meditation.

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Mindfulness and negative emotions

This article was originally published on MyYogaOnline.com under the title “3 Ways Mindfulness Can Help with Negative Emotions“. You can help me to build my profile at MyYogaOnline.com by reading this article there.

“What’s wrong with me?” is a question most of us tend to ask when we experience negative emotions. When we ask ourselves this question, we are perceiving our negative emotions as something “bad” or “wrong”. This perception prevents us from using negative emotions in a positive way; in a way that serves our personal growth. Being negative about negative emotions is my definition of suffering.

The rise of negative emotions in ourselves can be compared to a traffic light turning red: it is a message to us that we need to stop. If we believe that a red light in traffic is something “bad”, it means that we don’t fully understand and appreciate its usefulness. Just imagine the chaos that would result if we were all to choose to ignore the red light’s simple message to us.

In the same way, positive emotions can be compared to a traffic light turning green: it is a message that we need to keep moving on. It would lead to disaster if, alternatively we were to hit the brakes whenever we saw the traffic light turn green.

Instead of shooting the messenger (our negative emotions), I suggest practicing the following three steps when experiencing negativity:

1. Awareness: Become mindful of the present moment.
The foundation of yoga is awareness. Whatever it is that we are doing, if we are not doing it with awareness it is not true yoga. Awareness, in the context of experiencing negative emotions, means observing that we are experiencing negativity without getting dragged along by it. Emotions are a powerful force that can sweep us away, and if the emotions we are experiencing are stronger than our current ability to return to the present moment, we can practice these three steps at a later time when the mind has become calmer. We practice mindfulness by bringing back the memory of the event that triggered our negative emotion. By practicing at a later time, we can start to train ourselves to be mindful when experiencing strong emotions.

2. Contemplation: Coming to an understanding of the source of our negative emotions.
Contemplation means engaging in a pleasant self-dialogue. When I say this, I literally mean that we will need to have a conversation with ourselves. In this dialogue, we will assume the role of somebody who is listening to a friend in need. We ask questions when we don’t understand that friend; we don’t assume the role of somebody who is ready to give advice and judgments.

There are two important questions we should ask ourselves in this dialogue, they are: “what is it that I really need?” and “how can I give myself what I really need?” When we ask these questions to ourselves, we need to remember that yoga is the practice of non-attachment. One meaning of “non-attachment” is to be independent of anything or anyone outside of us for our happiness and fulfillment. If, for example, we hear as an answer to the first question “I need my boss to show me some respect and acknowledge my work”, it means that we are dependent on our boss for “respect” and “acknowledgment”. Instead, try saying “I need respect and acknowledgment”, and then, in answer to the second question, ask yourself: “how can I give myself the respect and acknowledgment I need?” The answer to such a question will come from within.

3. Practice: Readjusting our mind, actions and speech to the insights gained in the previous steps.
Practice means following the insights that we have gained through our contemplation. Not following these insights is like having a cookbook but never actually cooking any recipe from it. The recipe book soon only becomes a burden.

These three steps have been, and still are, helping me to gain a deeper understanding of myself. It is my hope that they can do the same for you.

本文原刊登於 MyYogaOnline.com ,原標題:為”以覺知面對負面情緒的三種方法“。透過以上連結閱讀,你可以幫助我建立在MyYogaOnline.com的知名度。

「我到底怎麼了?」當我們經歷負面情緒時,這往往是我們提出的問題。當我們如此提問時,我們視這些負面情緒為某種「不好的」或者「錯誤的」事情。這樣的看法使得我們無法正向地運用這些負面情緒,以協助個人成長。對我而言,受苦的定義,正是對於負面情緒抱持負面態度。

負面情緒的出現,就好比亮起紅燈的交通號誌,它告訴我們:該停下來了。如果我們認為交通中出現紅燈是不好的事,那表示我們並未完全了解這個號誌的用處。想像一下,如果我們都選擇忽略紅燈號誌代表的簡單訊息的話,那麼結果將會出現什麼樣的混亂局面?

同樣地,正面情緒就如同交通號誌裡的綠燈,它的出現告訴我們,該繼續前進了。如果我們反而在綠燈時踩下煞車,那又會帶來什麼樣的災難呢?

與其處決傳遞訊息的使者(即內心的負面情緒),我建議,當感受負面情緒時,可以試著練習以下三個步驟:

1. 覺知:注意當下
瑜珈的基礎在於覺知。不管我們做什麼,如果我們不保有覺知,那就不是瑜珈。當我們面臨負面情緒時,覺知即意味著在經歷負面情緒的同時,不受這樣的情緒擺佈。情緒是股強大的力量,輕易地就能將人淹沒。如果我們所經歷的負面情緒,比起我們回到當下覺知的能力,要來得強大,那麼我們可以等待心情較平靜時,再練習我所提的這三個步驟。這個覺知練習,是藉由將記憶帶回觸發負面情緒的事件發生的當下。在心情較平復時練習,我們可以訓練自己,於經歷負面情緒的同時,仍保持覺知。

2. 沈思:了解負面情緒的來源.
沈思的意思,是參與一段愉悅的自我對話。我的意思正是我們需要和自己進行談話。在這場對話裡,我們可以扮演一個傾聽朋友需求的人的角色。如果我們有所不解,就向朋友提出疑問,但不要扮演一個提供建議和評斷的人的角色。

在這場對話中,我們應該向自己提出兩個重要的問題:我真正需要的是什麼?我如何給我自己我所需要的?當我們向自己提出這些問題時,我們必須記得,瑜珈是練習不執著。不執著的意義之一正是,我們的快樂或成就,並不取決於任何自身以外的人或事。舉例來說。如果我們對第一個問題的回答是:我需要我的上司對我的工作能力表達尊重與認可,這表示我們依賴上司的尊重與認可。請你試著回答:我需要尊重與認可。接著問自己第二個問題:我應該如何給自己尊重與認可?這個問題的答案,將會發自內心而來。

3. 練習:依據上一步所得的觀察和洞見,重新調整自己的心靈、行動和言語
練習即是依循沈思所得的洞見而採取行動。若我們不依循這些洞見,那就好比手上有本食譜,卻從來不能試過其中任何一道菜。很樣一來,這本食譜很快地會變成負擔。

這三個步驟一直以來都幫助我對自己有更深的認識。我希望它們也能夠對你有所幫助。

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Practicing in unfavourable circumstances

For those of us who have given the practice of meditation a high priority in our lives, there are a number of situations that can disrupt the rhythms that we have established. If we have a regular job, the mornings and evenings are usually the best times we have available for meditation. Seemingly simple activities like picking somebody up from the airport, having visitors over, attending a party, waiting for a morning delivery, etc. can then be experienced as a great burden because they come in the way of our practice. Our untrained mind, which has the habit of being scattered, can use these situations as a motivation to ‘slack’.

I recently had my in-laws from Taiwan over for a week or two. I quickly started noticing how I started finding reasons for me to reduce my practices: ‘I should spend more time with my in-laws’, ‘there’s much more stuff in the room at the moment and I don’t feel comfortable to practice meditation in such a room’, ‘I don’t want to practice hatha yoga in a busy environment’, etc.

In an earlier article I have mentioned that I lost touch with myself when I allowed myself to slack. This earlier experience was very helpful to me, because I remembered it and naturally did not want to repeat it. I became more aware of the fact that if meditation is really something I want to deepen in my life, then these situations don’t have the power to prevent me from doing that.

I still did try to analyse why I was thinking these thoughts. I found that the one reason is that due to the change of circumstances my mind had become slightly agitated. The agitated mind simply does not want to practice meditation and is also not prepared for it1. In fact, the agitated mind will only create more agitation, unless we choose to do something else with our minds. This is why it’s a common experience to us all that sometimes we don’t want to do something (going to the gym after work for example), but when we are actually doing it we enjoy it and don’t really understand why we were resisting it. We should therefore not blindly trust the suggestions of the mind when it’s in an unpleasant state, because it has the tendency then to lead us to more unpleasantness.

Another reason is that I sometimes tend to be so perfectionistic about my practices that it actually works against my practice. I then get into this type of thinking: ‘If it can’t do it as well as I want to, why do it at all?’ This is actually a sign of making myself dependent on the circumstances, which is the exact opposite of what the spiritual process is about. The reality is that we can only do things as well as the situation allows us to, and there is nothing stopping us from doing that.

It was not my intention to offer any solutions in this article, but I do hope that you can relate to the experience that I’m describing and use it to your benefit.

1: This is also why a peaceful and joyful state of mind is the starting point of meditation, rather than the goal.

中文版本稍後提供。
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Reconnecting with myself

It has been almost 3 months since my last article on this blog. My meditation practice deteriorated in that period and because of that, so did my connection with myself. In this article I want to share why this happened.

In the period since the last article Elly and I have from Taipei to London. This was challenging and frustrating at times. To give you a sense of the situations we faced during the move:

  • I had lost my wallet, with my debit and credit cards in it, the day before we moved to London. It became quite difficult for us to pay the advance for our flat in London because of this. Fortunately for us, we had a friend in England who was able to lend us the money!
  • The flat we are renting in London was left behind in an unhygienic state by the previous tenants (there was a strong urine smell coming from several places in the house!). Our landlord was not in the country to inspect the flat before we entered it, so he had not brought the flat back to clean condition before we moved in.
  • Our ISP failed to send us our internet router twice (and almost thrice), which left us without internet access for many days. This is a difficult situation for me because I work from home, and without an active internet connection I cannot do anything at all.

What is more important than what happened, is how we dealt with what happened. Even though we were quite frustrated because we couldn’t settle down, I believe we kept a clear head and just dealt with what we were faced with.

Having said that, the situations we were encountering made sure that I was hardly focused on myself and very focused on everything around me. Meditation did not seem attractive to me at all. In fact, spirituality did not have a high priority at all (which explains my silence on this blog).

The first thing I dropped in this situation is the last thing I should have dropped: regular contact with myself (regular meditation). When I use the term regular meditation, I mean to say meditation at a fixed moment in the day for a fixed duration. My habit for example, is to meditate for one hour directly after waking up.

I was still meditating daily, but the duration and moment were all over the place. One day I would be meditating for 2 minutes immediately after dinner, on another day 20 minutes after breakfast, on again another day 15 minutes on the train. This lack of stability in my practice caused a lack of stability in my mind, and this stability is the stability that I need even more than the stability of my home situation. This lack of stability in my mind caused a vicious circle which I have experienced before in the past. The only method that I know to break this circle is deciding to practice regularly.

I’m happy to see and say that I have made that decision once again.

中文版本稍後提供。
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A recipe for success 達到成功的秘訣

Imagine that you want to be a chef and you decide to study many recipes from all kinds of cookbooks. How good a chef will you be if you also decide never to cook a single dish yourself?

The question above touches on the difference between intellectual and experiential knowledge. The knowledge that results from understanding a concept with the mind is intellectual knowledge. Experiential knowledge is the knowledge that results from experiencing a truth. Said in another way, intellectual knowledge deals with concepts and experiential knowledge deals with truths.

According to me, experiential knowledge is much more clarifying and satisfying than intellectual knowledge. It does not mean that intellectual knowledge is not useful. The value of intellectual knowledge is that applying it leads to experiential knowledge. Practice is the key.

I have often seen it happen in both my professional and personal/spiritual life, that one person is sharing his experience about something and that another perceives that sharing as a theory. For example, somebody might express: “You will become very strong from within when you take responsibility for your own feelings.” If we have never experimented with this we will see the statement as a theory, because we have no way of knowing within ourselves whether it is true or not. To know something in the deep sense of the word, is only possible after an experience of it.

Because of the lack of experience, it is very natural to perceive the truth of others as a theory. Having said that, I do not believe people share their truths so that they may become theories. I believe that the desire behind expressing a truth is to help another come to a similar experience. If this is the intention, it becomes very important to learn a method to find out your truth about a certain theory. I believe that such a method should contain at least the following:

  • Understand: Ask questions when you’re unclear about something. Have many doubts resolved in this way, because doubts disturb the practice.
  • Practice: Have a method to practice what you have understood. Ask the one who is sharing his truths for a method to practice, or be creative and come up with something yourself. Practice the method with as much sincerity as you can.
  • Observe: Experience the results of the practice by observing both the inner and outer effects of the practice.

As it often happens when I write something for this blog, I am left thinking that there is much more to say. At the same time I hesitate to write more because I’m afraid I’ll turn a simple article into a book! For now I hope that this article clarifies a few things about what it means to practice and why it is useful to practice.

請你想像自己是個廚師,而你覺得從各式各樣的食譜書中,研讀食譜。如果你決定決不親嘗試任何一道食譜,你想你會是怎麼樣的廚師?

這個問題觸及了理論和實證知識的不同。來自於對某一概念理解的知識,是理論的知識。來自於親身經歷某一真實的知識,是實證知識。換句話說,理論知識對的是概念,而實證知識,面對的是真實。

就我而言,實證知識要比理論知識來得更能釐清問題,更讓人信服。這並不是指理論知識沒有用處,但理論知識的價值,在於當實際應用這知識時,它能夠使你獲得實證知識。實際應用才是關鍵。

在我自己的個人/修行和工作當中,我當看到,有人分享了自己的經驗,但這個經驗卻被認為是理論。例如,可能有人說:「當你能夠為自己的情緒負起責任時,你就會變得很堅強。」如果我們從來沒有實驗過,我們會把這個說法視為理論,因為我們本身無法得知它究竟是真是假。若要真正深刻地認識某件事,唯一可能的方法就是實際體會。

因為我們缺乏經驗,所以很自然地會將他人的真實,理解為理論。我不相信人們分享自身的真實,是為了讓這份真實成為理論。我認為在分享真相的背後,是一股幫助他人獲得類似經驗的渴望。如果這是分享的意念所在,那麼找到一個方法,分享你對某項理論的真實體驗,就變得很重要。我認為這個方法應當至少有以下元素:

  • 理解: 當你有不清楚的地方時,務必提問。有任何疑問,就提出來,解決它,否則疑問會影響練習。
  • 練習: 找一個方法,練習你所理解到的。向那些分享個人真實的人請教練習的方法,或者發揮創意,自己找出一個方法。儘可能誠心地練習這個方法。
  • 觀察: 透過觀察練習所產生的內在與外在影響,體驗練習的成果。

如同往常,當我在網誌上寫文章時,常覺得好像還有很多話沒說。但同時我很猶豫是否應該再寫下去,因為我擔心我會把一篇簡單的文章,寫成像一本書一樣!我希望這篇文章至少釐清了一些關於練習和練習的益處的問題。

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