Have you ever visited the beach and experienced a feeling of deep calm? The rhythmic sound of the waves, of birds flying overhead, the sensation of the salty air engulfing you? You are absorbed in the beauty and the power and you lose all sense of self-consciousness. Just for a moment, the constant chatter of your mind slows down. The “monkey mind” is quieted. Sometimes in a moment such as this, some people feel a sense of clarity. This is a phenomenon psychologists call “flow”. It is an effortless feeling of being in the present moment.
In yoga, the Sanskrit word “samadhi” refers to this complete absorption in the moment as a blissful state where there are no thoughts of anything else and time stands still. It might happen when you are absorbed in your art work, listening to a symphony, or baking bread. Even a moment of “samadhi” on the beach can change you, it is place where it is thought, according to Patanjali, healing can occur. This blissful state is built into our circuitry, and yoga teaches us how to access it.
The Monkey Mind
The usual state of mind is a constant loop of thoughts revolving over and over again. We all experience the mind roaming, providing a running commentary on worries, to-do lists, future plans, self-criticisms, fears and desires. Much of what fills the mind is what in yoga is called “samskaras”. I wrote about “samskaras” a few emails ago which refers to our deep ingrained habits. These habits include our thoughts. The same thoughts looping over and over, prevents us from fully attending to the present moment. One poignant example is when you don’t hear what your friend or partner just said. We are lost in our automatic thoughts.
Meditation on the breath is a way to access this blissful state and calm the monkey mind.
Try this: Sit up tall on a chair or lie on your back in a comfortable position. Bring your attention to your inhale and exhales. Stay fully alert as you follow the rhythm of your breath. Pay attention to the entire inhalation right up until it ends and the exhalation starts. Tune in to the exact moment of transition. Try to focus on the detail of how the breath feels in your nostrils and listen to the sound your breath makes. Then smooth out the breath and lengthen it a tiny bit more. Stay with the practice for two to five minutes. If your mind wanders all over the place, don’t worry, this is normal. Try not to judge yourself. This too takes practice!