Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The meditations of Van Gogh

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” ― Vincent Van Gogh ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ In the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Hindu text, man is adjured to be like the Lotus - he should work without attachment, dedicating his actions to God, untouched by sin like water on a Lotus leaf and the beautiful flower standing high above the mud and water. In Sanskrit, this flower is called Kamala. In the postures of Hatha Yoga, a major branch of Yoga, the lotus position, padmasana, is adopted by those striving to reach the highest level of consciousness, which itself is found in the thousand-petaled lotus chakra at the top of the head. Practically speaking, life is made of Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen. Its name is protoplasm. And it is not only the structural unit with which all living bodies start in life, this is the formal basis for all like on Earth. Therefore, ones similarities with every living thing are far greater than ones differences. Van Gogh infused his art with a compassionate consideration of these basic similarities; creating a strong spiritual reality in his work and stressing his love of the subject, be it animal, vegetable or mineral. Our journey is towards Yoga Svadhyaya; the Yoga of enlightenment and Self “Yoga is the study of the Self”. This is actually the definition of another of the niyamas, svadhyaya. The word ‘svadhyaya” can be broken up into three smaller words. “Sva” means one’s Self, meaning the soul, the atman, or the Higher Self. “Dhy” is related to the word “dhyana” which means meditation. And “ya” is an activating suffix. Thus svadhyaya means “actively meditating on or studying the nature of the Self”. I like to define svadhyaya as “remembering to be mindful”. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ How to meditate on a flower (or how Van Gogh meditated on his sunflowers) : One evening I brought a vase of beautiful yellow sunflowers to class. Each flower is an individual; some are in full bloom, whereas other are losing their luster after being cut for a number of hours or days. Some are bright vibrant yellow with tinges of gold and orange, burnt sienna and gold. Some are browning and appear drier and tired. At the beginning of class I have asked my students to notice the vase of flowers and consider them awhile. They should bring their attention and focus to the vase of flowers. They should trace the outer edges of the petals and leaves with their eyes and they should also consider the flowers with their hearts. “What do you think it would be like to be a flower? To be that flower?” I ask them to pick one of the flowers and place it beside their mats. As we begin to move and meditate, I remind the students that if your attention falls from the breath, I would encourage a contemplative return to the question and the consideration of this flower again. This is an act of full mindfulness; focus on the flower or the entire vase of flowers, without judgement or attachment, applying a non-reactive focus to the flower (or the breath). Both you and the flower share the energy of life; prana energy. As you meditate allow the air to pass through your body in a fluid, gentle, loving and easy manner. Try to maintain your attention on the breath, but do not self-judge if you fall away from this attention. counting in zazen or seated meditation is a basic form of maintaining your attention to the breath. Throughout this class you can return to this counting method to help you stay focused in the breath. Do breath without movement until you are fully engaged with your breath. The mechanics of our minds dictate frequent thought, and basic meditation can be difficult, so, in the beginning we can just be satisfied with creating moments without chatter (monkey brain) in our day dedicated to meditation and build upon it as our mind un-learns it's preexisting thinking patterns and habits. Avoid thinking of your meditation as outcome based. Simply enjoy a few moments of silence, autonomy and solidarity in capital S self now. We are going to the other side of our thinking minds, our monkey minds, dis identifying with our mental soundtracks that tell us we'd be better off doing the dishes, or that our kids needs should take precedence over this meditation, or that we look silly etc etc.
glossary of terms *meditation = is non reactivity *Basic meditation = mindlessness (avoid a focus, avoid thinking) it is a strategy that tricks the mind into a state of non-thinking to allow for restoration. Focuses your attention on one thing. *Mindfulness meditation = to train the mind to be able to concentrate. Focuses your attention on specific thoughts and sensations that arise in our field of awareness and concentrate on them without attachment, for longer and longer periods of time. Focusing on the breath can be both basic meditation, and mindful meditation. Intention is key; focusing on the breath to escape the ego and realize your inner divinity = basic meditation (Hindu practice) *Focusing on the breath in order to harness and train the mind, and view stimuli with non-attachment or a non-judgemental nature = mindfulness meditation (Buddhist tradition) *Mindfulness = applying the non-reactivity we cultivate through meditation in our daily lives. *Prana; the essential life force of the universe.

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