There are many reasons for us to meditate. Sogyal Rinpoche put it this way:
“Isn’t it extraordinary that our minds cannot stay still for longer than a few moments without grasping after distraction? They are so restless and preoccupied that sometimes I think that living in a city in the modern world, we are already like the tormented beings in the intermediate state after death, where the consciousness is said to be agonizingly restless. We are fragmented into so many different aspects. We don’t know who we really are, or what aspects of ourselves we should identify with or believe in. So many contradictory voices, dictates, and feelings fight for control over our inner lives that we find ourselves scattered everywhere, in all directions, leaving nobody at home. Meditation, then, is bringing the mind home.”
So everything we do at Western Yoga College is relatable to mediation, or at least the cultivation of it. But there is no actual pre-requisite for attending mediation sessions at WYC. Everyone is welcome and everyone is free to meditate however he or she chooses. For anyone who would like some basic instruction, however, we have an Intro to Meditation time-slot from 7:00 to 7:30 every Saturday morning. That talk is then followed by a 30 minute meditation.
Thirty minutes can be very challenging at first. But the thing about starting with a relatively long sit from the start is that it gives people a chance to really experience their mind. In thirty minutes, what a person’s mind does becomes obvious. If he or she pays any attention at all, some facts come into the picture, and while some of those facts may seem like negative realities, coming face to face with the challenge of having a mind can bring some much needed clarity. After all, it’s lack of clarity that allows us to be so self-deceptive. We don’t tell ourselves the truth because it’s so easy to lie. Then mediation helps us recognize that and maybe for the first time, we uncover what’s beneath all the self-deception, and with some encouragement from a whole community of other meditators, it’s possible for us to be truthfulness enough to see the natural goodness being uncovered.
It’s easy for people to spend their whole life without that happening. We stay in self-deception. And though we we don’t even know we’re being untruthful, the unidentified feeling of not being honest with our self creates a negative sense of who we are. So, in that state of mind, no one thinks they have natural goodness inside them. They think the opposite. Still, everyone wants to be happy. So by luck one day, a person gives mediation a try even though there is no conscious sense of what might happen.
Then, after facing the challenge for however long the initial challenge of meditation presents itself, the aforementioned clarity happens. Then, with support of a group, the natural goodness is uncovered. That’s really just the beginning. But there is no point in describing anything more to someone at the start. And if starting to meditate is too challenging, then start doing yoga first. Stick with yoga practice until it’s possible for you to start meditating.
So, in any case, we hope you feel like Western Yoga College is the place for you. We call ourselves a college to make it clear that we are not just a yoga studio. But there’s nothing fancy about us. Anyone who wants to attend WYC can do so. We work with anyone’s budget. And while we accept donations, we don’t charge at all for our meditation sessions. It’s totally free. If all you want to do is come in and meditate, that’s fine. Practice any way you want, but we’ll be there supporting the possibility of you practicing on a teacher level. That’s what we do. WYC is a teaching school. People who start with mediation actually have an advantage when it comes to yoga practice because classic yoga practice is meditation. Lots of so-called yoga teachers today don’t meditate. It’s a huge disadvantage. All yoga teachers should be meditators. It only makes sense.
Also, as a place of yogic education, WYC teachers do commonly connect meditation to Yogic Breathing–what yogis call “pranayama.” And here’s why:
Because yoga comes from India, many of its terms sound foreign to Western minds and can make the practices seem esoteric or inaccessible. In reality, pranayama is as easy to practice as our next breath. “Pranayama” is a Sanskrit word made up of two halves, “prana” and “yama” (or “ayama”), and is most often translated to mean “mastery of the life force”, or sometimes, “removal of obstacles to free the flow of life force.” In yoga, the life force, known as prana, refers to the energy that animates, controls, and permeates the world in and around us. Digesting our food, changing our heart rate in response to exercise, and fighting off infections are all highly complex and variable tasks, yet each of them happen spontaneously, effortlessly, and automatically through the functions of prana. This same force is behind great migrations, the interdependence of species, and the changing of seasons. As the naturalist John Muir said, “Tug on anything at all and you’ll find it connected to everything else in the universe.” Prana is this active and intelligent force connecting everything. And pranayama is the exploration of how we can tap into this universal potential.
The aim of meditation and yoga in general and pranayama in particular is to help us participate in the nearly unlimited intelligence of the life force so that we can share in its capacities. Instead of fighting nature, we gradually become able to partner with it. When the ancient seers began their study of the potential of being human thousands of years ago, they soon saw that working with the breath could yield impressive results toward greater aliveness, self-expression, and power. The breath is one of the easiest doorways into the capabilities of the human nervous system because it touches every aspect of our being: physical, physiological, psychoemotional, and spiritual.”
That’s why we meditate. It would also be cool if we became enlightened. But in all honesty, if the only thing we got from it was some stress reduction, it would still be more than worth our while. Way more. Peace.