“Your mind can be compared to a glass of muddy water. If you let the glass stand for a long time, the mud will settle at the bottom of the glass and the water will become fairly clear. So when you sit down for a while to concentrate, your mind is muddy with restless thoughts. But if you sit long enough, repeatedly bringing the wandering mind back to the practice of meditation, you will see that all thoughts settle down; and in that stillness you will feel superconsciousness.” — Paramahansa Yogananda
Our minds are filled with muddy impressions of who we think we should be. We absorb distorted beliefs, like detritus, and allow them to influence us. A lot of times we even define ourselves by this garbage without thinking clearly.
As the summer solstice approaches, now is the perfect time for seeking solitude for yourself. Periodically remaining quiet increases your awareness and lets your mind rest.
Your challenge this week will be to receive solitude by spending time alone each day. Walking in nature or watching the sunset or sunrise are good ways to soak up some solo time. Also, consider your speech and how much you talk. Curtail your urge to speak a bit this week to bring more reflection and centeredness into your life.
Or, you can choose to be in solitude with others by practicing the concept of mouna or silence. A good time for this is just prior to or following a meal. Another effective time is the first thing in the morning or the last thing before sleeping. If you live with others, make this “silent time” a period for eliminating the television, computer, or any other device that produces sound. For 10-15 minutes (and ear buds plugged in do not count), try to keep the silence with reading, drawing or writing. Eventually, slowly phase out these activities and find a comfortable place to just be still together. During this time, consider your thoughts and observe what surfaces. This is a great prelude to meditation.
Performed on a regular basis, mouna becomes an important tool for generating increased awareness. The yama of asteya or non-stealing in the form of words, can also be a consideration for keeping the virtue of silence. When you practice silence, your thoughts become quieter, and, ultimately, you will find that you are able to pacify your emotions and soften your personality.
Yoga Nidra or “yogic sleep” is an ancient yoga practice that can be described as a combination of meditation and mind-body therapy. It is actually defined as the state between sleeping and waking. A true session can take more than one hour. The intention is to bring about a reduction in stress and better sleep.
It is also psychologically cleansing and can evoke a deep sense of joy and contentment. In the words of Richard Miller, “it awakens a seventh sense that allows us to feel no separation, only wholeness, tranquility, and well-being.”
The audio practice that I have included for this Friday Focus is a modified yoga nidra or deep savasana – similar to what we experienced in class this week. It allows you to look at your body, part by part, as you descend into a state of total relaxation. The particular recording that I have created takes approximately 20 minutes. To produce the track, I have relied on my faint expertise with the Apple App Garage Band. Hopefully, it comes across as I intended, a soothing method by which to release into the present moment.
The mind’s eye, also known as the third eye, is spiritually located between the eyes at the level of the brow. Physically, it has been related to the pineal gland which resides within the brain directly between the right and left sides – deep center to the spiritual third eye mark.
René Descartes called this pine cone shaped gland the “principal seat of the soul, and the place in which all our thoughts are formed.” His reasoning was “since our soul is not double, but one and indivisible, […] the part of the body to which it is most immediately joined should also be single and not divided into a pair of similar parts.”
Researchers still exploring its full purpose believe that the pineal gland is responsible for our circadian or biological rhythm. This rhythm is determined by the amount of light the pineal gland detects. Each evening as the sky darkens, the pineal gland triggers the release of the hormone melatonin. Conversely, as daylight approaches the gland ceases its melatonin production. In this way, the pineal gland controls the sleep-wake cycle.
This sensitivity to our environment has kept our mind’s eye impacting us in many powerful ways. It’s sanskrit name, ajna, means the perception or command center. When maintained and balanced, it is believed that this chakra’s energy can give us clearer intuition, insight and vision.
In assembling this post, I came across a quote from Edgar Allan Poe that described his perception of this mysterious third eye.
“That intuitive and seemingly casual perception by which we often attain knowledge, when reason herself falters and abandons the effort, appears to resemble the sudden glancing at a star, by which we see it more clearly than by a direct gaze; or the half-closing the eyes in looking at a plot of grass, the more fully to appreciate the intensity of its green.”
Here are some additional techniques and approaches to stimulate your insightfulness:
Focus on a positive thought or image.
Use cedarwood*, frankincense*, or sandalwood* essential oil. To reach the pineal gland, inhale the aroma of the oil or place a diluted drop in between the eyebrows.
Keep a dream journal. Record any images and feelings you get immediately after waking.
Keep a “sense” journal. Write down impressive smells, sensations, feelings, or urges – anything that sticks with you.
Watch the sunrise or the sunset.
Get out of your monkey mind by meditating, taking a walk or a soothing bath- add a few drops of essential oils* to your water.