life) are with us, giving us the strength of life itself. This
helps us to handle the incredible vulnerability and tenderness that yoga and meditation practice open us up to.
Freedom and discipline are not contradictory; they are
complementary, and give rise to each other. It takes a great
deal of skill to discern what one’s own system is – to discover what framework works for you, in your individual
nature. Then it takes diligent discipline to embody those
skills so that they become second nature and help you inhabit your freedom. Eventually, you will have developed a
system of healthy responses at the meeting ground of your
individuality and the universal forces of prana.
For instance, if we want to dance freely, there are many
skills involved and lots of strength is required. We need
to know our bodies, know what we like, know how to
surrender to the beat and let ourselves be carried by it,
and also how to protect our joints, no matter how wildly
we dance. On top of all of this, we need the physical conditioning and endurance to keep on going. Being free to
jump up and join the dance wherever you are makes the
discipline worth it.
The call to freedom is a major power source of meditation. The movement toward inner freedom could be called
muktavartana. (Mukta - loosened, set free, relaxed, open.
Liberated, delivered, emancipated + Vartana - setting in
motion, quickening, moving forward with life.) This movement is an unstoppable force, an urge to be free, at ease
yourself in, and savor the deliciousness of life. A complementary impulse is the movement toward expression in action. We can call this karanavartana. (Karana - the act of
doing, making, causing. Clever, skillful + Vartana - setting
in motion, quickening, causing to live, moving forward.)
These are the two cycles of meditation – first you want to
relax and be free in yourself; then you’ll want to jump up
and create. You want both.
An essential skill and discipline of meditation is to know
it is okay to sit there vibrating with excitement, wanting
to jump up and attack your to-do list. These two impulses, muktavartana and karanavartana, alternate every few
minutes whenever you are practicing, but some days you
are mostly on one side or the other. Sometimes you can feel
yourself going back and forth every few seconds! As you
accept the play of opposites, they become complementary
and you can sway between them as confidently as an athlete. Meditation can feel internally expressive, like singing
in the shower, while expressing in the outer world feels like
In practice, it seems to take a lifetime to set oneself free. I
am constantly discovering little ways in which I have been
oppressing myself, crimping my own style, or not developing and embodying my own system. Everyone I know is in
the same boat. A human body is made out of the same stuff
as the sun, the moon, the Earth and the stars. We are all
full of wild, dynamic energies. And yet we have to function
here in everyday life and not burn down the house. Learning to let each element and energy work in harmony is a
great art. I learn things every day that astound me.
Give yourself inner freedom. The first freedom is to realize, “I can be myself; I don’t have to try to pretend to be
someone else in order to meditate.” The second freedom
is, “I can feel whatever there is to feel.” The third freedom
is, “I don’t have to follow the instruction from a system
that was not designed for me. I can follow my instincts.”
The fourth freedom is, “I can Do Nothing.”There are
stages of meditation that are more restful than sleep, according to physiological researchers, and when we are in
those parts of the cycle, the feeling is of doing less than
nothing. Each of these realizations can feel like a revolution, a declaration of independence. Giving yourself
freedom is an act of power. You can do this anytime, in
any breath, and the discipline is to keep giving yourself
freedom as a daily act.
Dr. Lorin Roche was lucky enough to begin practicing asana, pranayama, and meditation in 1968, and he still feels like a beginner—every day. He was trained as a
meditation teacher in 1969-1970 and has been sharing the delight ever since.
Lorin is the author of Meditation Made Easy, Meditation Secrets for Women, and
The Radiance Sutras. At the University of California at Irvine, his Master’s Degree
work focused on the injuries and developmental crises provoked by meditation and
opening the chakras; his Ph.D. research was on the language of meditation - the
way meditators describe their inner worlds. He lives in Marina del Rey with his
yogini shaktini wife, Camille Maurine.
*Definitions are from the always-astounding Monier-Williams
Sanskrit-English Dictionary, published in 1899.