Shivananda Thomas Amelio
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Why Meditate Before Bedtime? E-mail
Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Why Meditate Before Bedtime?

I usually emphasize meditating first thing in the morning to students who are first learning meditation, for the reasons I’ve mentioned in other newsletters: among them that in morning meditation you are setting the tone for the rest of the day, and can do so from the relatively non-reactive and calm place engendered from sleep.

But why meditate before going to bed at night? Many just want to get to bed. Others avoid going to bed by spending too much time with TV computer or other activities,  and then collapse into sleep. The variations are endless. Some who like to add an evening session prefer to so an earlier time —say before dinner. That’s great, but today I want to focus on meditating before bedtime in particular.

Meditating before bedtime is a great opportunity to allow awareness to clear residue from the day—tensions, unfinished interactions, worries, ignored emotions— and to make room for listening to the often obscured “still small voice” of inspiration and wisdom. Many of us wouldn’t think of going to bed without brushing our teeth, but what about clearing the mind and heart? To take twenty minutes before sleeping has many advantages: your sleep will tend to be of a higher quality, and deeper—and when you are aware of dreams—you may find them more lucid and powerful.

I have found that I need less sleep and I wake up more rested, and far more clear and inspired.

As always, for most it’s good to use a timer: this will help create a structure allowing you to go as deep as possible without having to mentally manage the ending time. Before you begin, do a few stretches, breaths, and movements that help release tension from the shoulders and neck.

Your meditation period falls roughly into six phases: preparation, beginning, practicing, clearing, absorption, and return.

Preparation involves whatever aids you in beginning: intentional relaxation, even a few yoga stretches, deep breathing, and perhaps a little ritual like lighting a candle can be good. Sit with the spine straight, but make sure the neck is not held in a rigid “military” fashion, but rather “floats” from the shoulders. The shoulders are relaxed, and not hunched or brought forward. If you are sitting in a chair feet are flat on the floor.

Next is practice. This is when you begin the meditation technique you have chosen.

Then comes clearing—this is not so much an active process—but an allowing one that arises directly from the practicing phase.  You notice thoughts and feelings, and rather than react to them, you allow them to have their brief life and then dissolve. This is the hardest part of meditation, since resistance comes in at this phase: daydreaming, restlessness, and the urge to end your session can arise at this point. With loving persistence,  eventually a clarity and peace takes the place of resistence.  Now you can enter the wonderful phase of absorption: this is a state of stillness, clarity, and grace.

Remember, as Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt psychology, used to say, “Awareness is curative.” Whatever technique you use—breath, insight, mantra, etc—simple non judgmental awareness of what is arising is going to be the purifying, healing and transformative agent.

The return, the final phase of your session–is different from morning, or daytime meditation, in which you need to transition back to a certain external focus and alertness. With before-bedtime meditation you can instead sink directly into sleep in your meditative consciousness.

Finally, If you would like to join me in a 7 day “Meditate twenty minutes before bedtime challenge” please do! And post your thoughts and experiences below. Let’s start Weds night, 2/29/12!

In any case I’ll be meditating with you in mind every night!

With love,

Thomas Amelio-Shivanand

www.shivananda.net


 
Inner talking: noticing the mind's habitual conversations E-mail
Sunday, 13 March 2011

Inner Talking: Noticing the Mind's Habitual Conversations

 

When I teach about the power of Sanskrit Mantra to change the vibration of the mind and body, I also encourage the observing of our “inner talking.” Inner talking comprises the words, phrases, and internal conversations we repeat inside our mind. The inner self takes the intent beneath these phrases—whether they be complaints, judgments, gratitudes, appreciations, etc—and translates them into mantra-like vibrations that then become the texture of our consciousness, our character and our lives.

 

 Of course when we sit for meditation we are becoming acquainted with our inner talking, but a wonderful seven-day practice is to note the habitual thoughts we repeat to ourselves throughout the day. The idea is not to try to change them into something “positive,” but simply to notice these habitual phrases we repeat constantly and, with the light of awareness, realize that these have become the causal software creating much of our life experience.  We may find interesting surprises, and be asking ourselves, “are these the ‘mantras’ I want to be repeating to myself?” And “are these ‘mantras’ thickening into the kind of life I would love to be created?”

 

Enjoy the exploration--and let me know what happens!

 

With Love,

 

Thomas-Shivanand

 




 
Adding Devotion to Your Meditation E-mail
Monday, 31 January 2011

Adding Devotion to your Meditation

 

Devotion was a word, and a quality, very much present in my life during my ashram years; in addition to hatha yoga, pranayama, “sattvic” (pure) diet, and other yogic practices, some form of “bhakti yoga,” or devotion, was part of my daily life. This usually included chanting of scripture, kirtan, dance, ritual, and so on. Devotion adds a kind of a heightened flavor to life, a warmth in the heart that cannot be quite replaced by anything else.

 

 Once I moved to NYC, however, I began to focus on other aspects of myself, and the word “devotion” fell out of my daily awareness.  Fifteen years later, I see how much an attitude of devotion can sweeten the experience of life, soften rough edges, and enrich our meditation practice.

 

 Devotion does not have to be “to” something, and does not require a traditional religious belief. Of course in the Vedic traditions there are many practices—mantra, puja, focusing on a yantra (geometrical symbol of deity), chanting, dance, scripture, etc-- designed to awaken a sense of love for the greater "All" that is formless and is our true ground of Being. Similar practices can be found in most religious traditions.

 

In our private experience of meditation we can add any simple element, tailored to our personality, that awakens our sense of love and compassion.

Simply placing our hands in Anjali Mudra (prayer position over the center of the chest) and smiling slightly, can add a devotional feeling to any meditation practice.  Daily sending love, kindness, and healing to the world are also a wonderful ways to awaken feelings of devotion.

 

 You can also think of anyone you love; one who inspires you (living or dead); a beloved pet: etc., and notice what arises in the body. Then meditate on that feeling until it expands, and fills you, forgetting the original object that started you off. Candles, music, scent—anything that elevates the senses--and then lifts you beyond them—is great.

Experiment and explore! *

 

With love,

Thomas, Shivanand


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New Year's Spiritual Renewal (Huffington Post Article) E-mail
Monday, 03 January 2011
Hi Folks, and Happy New Year and all good wishes for much love, success, and self expression. Check out my first Huffington Post piece below. Comment, share, sign up on Huffington, all that good stuff! With love, Thomas
www.huffingtonpost.com
What are the "spiritual" approaches to change that go deeper -- and are far more successful -- than the mere making of resolutions?
Read more...
 
First Thoughts E-mail
Saturday, 05 August 2006

"All virtues come hard to those who have not identified with unconditional joy, and sought first the things of the spirit…And so the wise ponder unceasingly on the bliss of the soul, willing themselves to feel it eternally, and by so doing, all unselfish and noble actions become a joy in themselves, and never a hardship."

-Justin Moreward Haig, The Initiate, by Cyril Scott

My dear friend and spiritual brother, Philip, gave me this new site for my recent birthday; (Thanks Philip!) and I'm happy he has added this section for "thoughts," so that I can write, from time to time, whatever feels relevant.

I love the above quote from The Initiate, which I chose for my main page. So often we are told to practice virtues from a place of discipline and effort. And my primary spiritual teacher, Swami Kripalvanandji (Bapuji) certainly stressed the importance of practicing the yamas and niyamas (moral and spiritual restraints and observances). These were enjoined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, and by others sages, in some form, in most spiritual traditions. Bapuji said that practicing one virtue was like picking up one pearl on a necklace of pearls; when you do the whole strand will come along with it.

In my early years living in an ashram, I, and many of my fellow residents would, from time to time, select one yama-niyama to focus on exclusively; and I found great value and learning in this (visualize a teenage celibate tying to practice the yama of mitahar, moderate eating, for a month!)

Now, after many years of practice and insight, I have found an approach more powerful and spontaneous; when one first opens the heart center (through disciplines like yoga, self-inquiry, devotion, mantra, etc.) and contacts the ananda (joy) that is the very essence of our true being, virtues like generosity and kindness unfold naturally. When we more and more become identified with the ananda, fear is softened, because our chronic sense of isolation is softened. And when fear is lessened, all the negative qualities that are given birth to by fear—dishonesty, greed, manipulation, etc—are also lessened.

The more we become identified with non-separative ananda—the more we naturally avoid anything that disturbs it.
Thus virtues are naturally expressed, not because of some moral imperative imposed from without, but because they are the natural expression of one who is identified with joy. 

Wishing you blessings of joy,

Shivanand