Wilfred Clark, who founded two well-known yoga societies, said that ‘Meditation is the cornerstone of yoga practice.’ Once we have worked with the asanas to increase the strength, suppleness and stamina of the body, we find ourselves to be comfortable to sit for long periods to meditate. Yoga is a journey of self-discovery. We come together in a yoga class, and we practise together, but we are discovering our inner selves. This is a curious, and wonderful, aspect of meditation. We need to turn inwards, to take the journey, before we can discover that, actually, we are all one.
It is for this reason that we need to persist with personal practice. Nothing is more beautiful than sitting in a group, in silence and in harmony. Nothing is more special than having someone lead you through a guided visualisation, but, at the end of the day, it must be your own journey. You must learn to trust yourself.
My first choice, to lead me into meditation, would always be repetition of mantra. My particular favourite is the one taught by the Dalai Lama, ‘OM MANI PADME HUM’. Repetition of this mantra, which is translated to mean ‘The jewel in the heart of the lotus’, takes me to that quiet place within. Other folk like ‘OM NAMAH SHIVAYA’, which can be translated as ‘I surrender to love’ or ‘I recognise my spiritual centre’. OM itself is the best known of all mantras. It is the universal sound, the expression of the creator. Repeating ‘OM’ on the in-breath and ‘OM’ on the out-breath, is a powerful way to cleanse the mind.
Meditation can be elusive and is endlessly changing. Sometimes you sit for meditation and you have the most amazing experience. And then, for weeks, you sit for meditation and nothing magical happens at all. We learn to let go of expectations. We learn to let go of judgement and feelings of inadequacy. Just sit. Meditation will occur when we are ready for it.