As I physically explored my way into what would become this Silent Sunday’s practice, I pondered how in most aspects of life, method, technique, and components interrelate in different ways at different times. In cooking, for example, the method may remain the same, while technique shifts and ingredients change. (Think of pesto: Overall, this is a blended oil-based sauce; yet, how finely the ingredients are “pestled” or chopped may differ, and certainly the basic pine nuts, parmesan, and basil have many suitable substitutes.)
Meditation itself is a method, one used to connect our earthly self with the Universe and the Divine: However, the techniques used to energize the method vary. I most often communicate through the techniques of Paramahansa Yogananda or kundalini yoga; still others gravitate toward Buddhist or Mindfulness techniques. There are myriad techniques that allow one to experience the method of meditation. Within those preferred parameters, the components may change based on intention or goal.
Today’s practice demonstrates how altering technique can develop or reinvigorate meditation. Typically, I suggest a mudra to enhance the effect of a meditative goal: Said finger configuration may rest easily on the knees; or it may move through space; or it may be held at a specific angle to the body. A full- or partial-body mudra also may be static or dynamic.
On this Silent Sunday, the “ingredient,” i.e., the mudra’s goal, relies on its orientation to the body. You may choose a favorite mudra to work with, or experiment with several. In my personal practice, I worked with squeezing the nail of the middle finger to release anger. Another way to relinquish that which no longer serves would be to insert the thumb tips between the bases of their respective middle and third fingers. The key to today’s outcome, though, lies in the mudra’s resonance with the back body.
As I moved into my own meditation this morning, I felt oddly dissatisfied with the energetic vibrations that resulted from the standard hold of the middle finger. I let my body wrestle with the discomfort; while holding the mudra, I shifted and rolled my torso and arms, and played with various levels and dimensions. As I did so, I thought of the mudra’s intention: to release and repair damage done by past anger.
The historical or “backward” view of anger caused me to recognize the “behind me” of it all: Almost unconsciously, my hands took the mudra behind my back. There, I felt a decided shift of reverberation: It was as if my front body yawned widely, releasing the ancient issues and giving me space to move forward. Thus, the technique had changed, while the mudra remained the same.
So, the first step into today’s meditation is to select your focus. Perhaps you have a long-running practice to which you have devoted yourself, or one that has recently called out to you. If you do not typically work with mudra, perhaps you might add one today; or, if you prefer to remain without, the body aspect of today’s practice will nonetheless highlight the result of tweaking a technique to offer new perspective or possibilities.
In order to proceed with today’s suggestions, your usual seated posture will shift to a combination of positions: “Head up, chin down…”
With your meditation focus and/or mudra at the ready, come onto the belly. Whether or not you are using mudra, rest your forehead on both hands; if your fingers form a mudra, adjust accordingly. Breathe deeply, connecting the hands to the Third Eye point between the brows. Move your energy toward your chosen focus for 2 minutes.
Then, remaining prone, bring your hands to the lower back (keeping the mudra if you have one). As the hands rest in the valley of the low spine, bend the knees to the point where the lower legs hover in space without any resistance or effort. Bring your attention to the sensations throughout the back body, form upper spine through buttocks, hamstrings, and calves, out of the soles of the feet and circling up and over to the back of the head. Move through this loop as you breathe deeply and completely for 3 minutes.
From here, keeping the eyes closed and gazing at the Third Eye, shift yourself back into Baby Pose. Similar to Yoga Mudra, extend the arms up and away from the back: If your shoulders are not very flexible, the hands may barely be able to lift away from the back body; over time, however, the shoulders will relax, and you may be able to extend the arms straight as you lift them away from the back. If you have a mudra, retain its shape as the arms stretch up and away; if not, interlace the fingers to help you straighten and raise the arms. Breathe here for another 3 minutes.
After you gently release the arms down, roll up to sit: Briefly stretch or shake any areas of stiffness or tension, and then lie on your back. Bring the feet in toward the buttocks, knees bent, as if preparing for Bridge Pose. Roll the hips and spine up off of the floor, and draw your arms underneath you; roll the shoulders open, and bring the shoulder blades closer together under your body. Bring the hands together underneath your lifted body, palms down, mudra or not: Slowly roll down through the spine, bringing the hips to rest on the backs of the hands. If possible, extend the legs straight out on the floor; you may also choose to keep the knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Breathe here, again connecting your sensory awareness to the back body: Move the inner eye from back of head down the spine and backs of legs, then circling the arc of energy up and over the body, into the Third Eye. Inhale as you travel down the back, exhale to loop the vibration upward. Continue for 3 minutes.
Now, to further stimulate the back body and thus encourage old ways, thoughts, and emotions to be left behind, tuck the knees into the torso: Wrapping yourself into a ball, begin to rock back and forth, keeping the chin down, head up (in order to avoid hitting it on the floor as you roll). Continue this rock and roll along the spine, staying tightly tucked, for 1 minute: inhale as you rock back, exhale to propel yourself up.
Finally, arrive in your favorite seated posture. Again, shake, massage, or stretch any part of the body that requires attention. Then, bring the arms behind you, mudra intact or fingers interlaced: Extend through the elbows, drawing the hands back and down. If possible, lift the hands away from the floor behind you. If this is too much for your shoulders, keep the arms straight, hands together, but resting on the floor behind your tail. Allow the shoulders to fall away from the ears, yet extend the cervical spine ever-upward.
Shift your awareness to the entirety of your front body; feel the openness across the chest, around the Heart Center, and throughout the belly. Deepen the breath, so that each inhale and exhale contribute to the sense of lightness and awakening in your front space. Know that the arms and hands are redirecting your troubles of yore away from your spiritual progress and potential; breathe here for 3-11 minutes. Then, gently slide into Svasana for as long as you like.