MEDITATION WITH THE RADIANCE SUTRAS BY DR. LORIN ROCHE
There are around twenty million people experimenting with meditation in the United
States, and “learning to meditate” is on the to-do lists of millions more. Yet, there is a
pervasive sense of failure among many of those seeking to develop a daily meditation
practice. Everywhere I go – England, Canada, across the US, and Australia – people
are reporting a sense of frustration: They want to meditate but they can't find what
works. Each time they try something that does not work, they get more frustrated
and convinced there is something wrong with them. This feeling of failure is a kind of
“subtle-body yoga injury,” a sense of being bruised and deficient. People are sitting in
meditation, hitting themselves (hims - to strike, himsa - injury) saying, “Shut up, all
you thoughts.” In a way, it is a violation of ethics, of ahimsa (non-harming) to train
people to be at war with their own hearts and minds.
We can do better than this. With regard to asana, yoga teachers have developed beginner classes, and in them, the instructors are not telling beginners, “Yoga is Urdhva
Dhanurasana. Okay, go ahead and get in that pose and hold it for half an hour. And
stop complaining.” These beginner classes are friendly, inviting, and build skills step-by-step. Asana instructors have learned to be cheerfully vigilant to keep beginners
from injuring themselves by doing poses they are not ready for. We need to develop
this kind of expertise in the realm of yoga called meditation.
Here are some of the challenges we are facing:
EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT.
Krishnamacharya (often considered the “Father of modern yoga”) often said that
yoga teachers must always consider their students individually and ask, is this practice that I am teaching appropriate for this particular student? Are the practices useful and well-suited for this individual’s deha (body, shape, appearance, mass), vrt-
tibheda (differences in mental modifications), and marga (path, route, way, passage)?
To honor what Krishnamacharya is saying here, meditation teachers have to learn
to discern the student’s individuality in terms of physical constitution, emotional nature, mental learning style, and life path. Then design a meditation practice that fits
in with and supports each area of that person’s daily life.
Krishnamacharya’s son, Desikachar, was asked about his approach to teaching yoga,
and he said, “The practice is adapted to suit the needs, abilities, and interests of each
individual. Unfortunately, today's standardization is a one-size-fits-all approach.
This can impose great risk. I never compromise by standardizing yoga practices for
different people. Adapting yoga to suit the needs of every unique individual is where
the true greatness of yoga lies.”
“I tried to meditate
but couldn’t make my
“We did a meditation in
class but I couldn’t make
my mind stop. It was
just a whirl of thoughts.”
“I had a great meditation
on the beach at sunset
on a yoga retreat, but I’ve
never been able to get
there again, to feel that
way at home.”