Meditating at the Shala

Meditating at the Shala

“Silence is the first and last teacher.”

Ramana Maharshi

As the New Year began, I think it’s safe to bet that many resolved to give themselves to this endeavor:  To sit on their cushions for a little time each day, to turn their attention to the deep silence within.  This sounds delightful doesn’t it?  But the reality is quite different.  For most, what we find is not silence but an unrelenting mind screaming for our attention like an abandoned child.

This morning, looking out over the shala from my desk where I like to sit in contemplation, I invited silence and within nanoseconds the mind was serving up distractions, providing running lists of to-do activities, and anything it could to get me moving again.  This is the way of the mind. I do not try to turn it off.  Frankly, I don’t recall ever turning it on.  So the mind is not the way to access our deeper self where true intelligence resides.   

The way to silence is through the doorway of the senses – not in the usual functioning – but rather through tending to them with one’s attention, consciously inviting a felt experience of them.

Next time you sit try this practice:

  • Turn your attention to feeling yourself in contact with the object(s) you’re sitting on.
  • Fix your gaze in stillness and locate yourself in the room with your peripheral vision – see yourself, and see the room at the same time.   If you prefer your eyes closed then look into the back of your eyelids with the awareness of seeing while simultaneously staying connected to your space.
  • Open your ears to hear everything that is available to hear.
  • Smell what is available to smell.
  • Keep the arrow of your attention in two directions:  aware of everything that you can be aware of through sensing  – not thinking about – and stay aware of yourself.
  • Breathe
  • Continue to sense and feel, and relax deeply.

The silence experienced is not void, but rather full – full of presence and clarity.  A felt connection to our state of being that sees and knows, free from analysis and memory, where our intuitive wiser selves reside.