I recommend an effortless meditation for that key experience of samadhi or pure consciousness. By taking you beyond the mind (which not all meditations do), you get tastes of your deeper nature and culture the ground for spiritual awakening.
Some people have different physiologies that find pure consciousness through other processes, such as the senses or body. Yoga, for example, places meditation along with asana (posture) and pranayama (breath) as arms of the 8 limbs. I know some effective teachers emphasize different limbs. Patanjali described it as the Royal Yoga to combine them.
Just be sure it brings that open spacious peace, not just some relaxing or spacing out. Relaxing is good, but is that “spiritual”?
I do not think meditation should be used as an escape nor that we should deny the body. That is the vehicle through which we will live enlightenment. Too much of the discourse around the body and our humanity comes out of a fundamentalist interpretation of renunciate practices – something unsuitable for most of us. Ignoring or denying the body will not help your life or your spiritual progress.
In my experience, body awareness can be quite useful but should be used appropriately. I don’t have a high level of expertise here but have a bit to offer.
Regular effortless asana can be great for keeping us flexible and helping energy flow and purification release. The object in this case is not to strain or go as far as you can but to go to the point of first resistance and stop there. With the attention on the posture, the resistance relaxes and things begin to flow more. Effortless ease, not competition nor a workout. (yoga and exercise serve different purposes)
In the process, we develop body awareness too. It’s useful to know what our body is doing. So many ignore most of it until they have a problem. We’re more likely to be in the body more (rather than our heads, dreams, etc) if we’re aware of it.
But a daily practice is enough. You don’t need to spend the day checking everything. That’s being in your mind, not body.
A few points are key for awareness techniques:
– where does it take you? Beyond the mind? Into the dreamy astral?
– does it bring balance and quality of life? Results are the point of practice.
– what we put our attention on grows stronger so our techniques will enhance that area
But more subtly, what is the balance of the three gunas or core qualities? A lot of teaching ignores this but the dominant guna has a profound effect on how we experience the world.
Sattva increases clarity, peace and joy
Rajas increases desire, drive, grasping, agitation, fire (also to roast tamas)
Tamas increases sluggishness, dullness, aversion & resistance
The different levels of our expression can have a different dominant guna. For example, our mind may be agitated while the body is dulled out. Over time, they tend to sync but other influences like environment, diet, and experiences will shift the dynamics.
For example, if our body is clear and pure and we give it our attention, that will be mutually enhancing. But if our body is dull and sluggish, our attention is affected that way – unless we use our attention with skill.
Skill in this case is:
– having easy attention with consciousness rather than mind (one observes, the other manages)
– being able to observe without being caught (witness)
– being able to bring light and/or love with the attention (automatically, not a mood)
What I am describing here is skill gained by clarity of consciousness. It is not something you can fake or manipulate but rather arises naturally with spiritual development. For example, when witnessing develops, then you gain the skill of detached observation. Letting go is much easier.
Mind, especially an identified mind, will naturally be influenced by what it’s being exposed to. As we settle back into pure attention, we stop being so influenced. And as the refinement process develops, we bring light to whatever we experience. Then simple awareness has a completely different effect.
Often, we’re not aware of this as it gradually increases. And then we start getting feedback from others.
Skill is developed through practices that connect us with pure consciousness and enliven it in experience.
Being broadly aware of these principles is useful. But don’t get into a constant analysis of what’s with what. It will unfold naturally with awareness and refinement.
This also relates to my comments about mindfulness. While it may help relax us, if we’ve not developed enough consciousness within, it is mind and its gunas being mindful, not true presence. But when presence comes on-line through other practices, then you’re working with unencumbered attention itself. That’s what brings potency to practices like this.
Keep in mind that siddhi (special abilities) are made possible by being able to focus attention while maintaining open awareness. (part of samyama) This arises naturally when consciousness is established enough not to be disturbed by focus. They can coexist.
A few other tips on the subject:
Our body stores unresolved experiences energetically. When we’re meditating or resting, occasionally a large block may come up for processing. It can bring an intense sensation or emotion or both. By having simple attention on the body, it will go to a sensation where the release is happening. Our attention (no manipulation needed) can help facilitate the release. After a wave of sensation or emotion, it will be complete. We may find a need to rest afterwards. Lie down if you can then. Another large burden is gone.
In this process, don’t try to figure out what is being released. If the mind gets involved, it will interfere. This is about letting go, not managing. Mostly, the release won’t be about one event anyway. The threads of karma can be very complex.
After long practice, purification can arise in daily life too. By then we’re very used to processing whatever arises easily.
When an issue arises, we can also bring the attention to areas of pain or injury to help facilitate healing. This may be difficult at first as we’re used to resisting pain. But if we acknowledge pain, then the signal is heard and it will usually wind down a great deal.
The body knows how to heal. We don’t have to manipulate that. But our innocent attention can help. This becomes progressively more potent with spiritual practice as described above.
This also serves as a reminder that what you put your attention on grows stronger (& heals). If you find yourself dwelling on problems, what’s wrong, and so forth – see that as something to heal rather than something deserving your attention. Look to see where resistance is being felt when dramas arise. Allow the sensation to arise and heal as described above. This will release the tension or agitation. At first, this may seem awkward or unclear but it gets easier with practice. Just don’t try to control the process. See it and allow it. Then we can favour gratitude for what is good and culture that.
Of course, this does not mean ignoring problems. Problems should be acted upon. But stewing over them is not healthy. Research your problem so you understand it, let that sit in open awareness for a short period and then let it go so it can digest. Soon a solution should appear if it’s time. If it’s not time, work with what is here.
Our bodies are made to move. As we age, our metabolism gradually slows and we tend to get less active. In our current culture, we can easily spend our day behind a desk, in a car, at a computer, or on the couch. All sitting.
To stay healthy, we want to include some form of daily activity. Plus we want to get up from sitting at least once an hour, briefly. Even if we intensely exercise daily, research has shown that we still develop problems if we sit the rest of the day.
There is an art and skill to living. We can stumble along or get some skills to live a higher quality of life and enjoy a smoother process.