Motion and Meditation

It is written in the Maitri Upanishad, “Yoga is said to be the oneness of breath, mind, and senses, and the abandonment of all states of existence.” In itself, the word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit meaning “to join.” It suggests the joining of the Atman and Brahman, allowing the personal self to blend with the totality of the universe. After our visit to the Hindu temple, the idea of using yoga as a form of meditation began to make a more sense to me. The intricacy of the designs on the temple walls combined with the general stillness of the atmosphere made it easy to feel peaceful and contemplative and inspired me to try and meditate.

A group of Hindu women doing yoga.

I had begun to think of trying something like this even earlier when we attended the Muslim prayer service. What interested me most about the service were the rituals of motion involved in the actual prayers. In other religions that I’ve witnessed, prayers are done while staying very still, allowing a person to focus solely on what they are thinking. With the Muslim prayers, it’s the combination of the movements and the words and thoughts all in conjunction that create the whole prayer. It was interesting to me to think of the notion of using the motions in order to focus the mind on a certain purpose.

If there had been more time left for us here, I would have wanted to try and go to a yoga class. As it happens though, I decided that in order to discover this link between motion, meditation, and prayer, it would be best to try and do some sort of meditation that I could do at home. To do this, I spent 5 minutes one day trying to meditate whilst remaining still and 5 minutes the next trying to meditate while moving. The first day was the most difficult. I was thinking so hard about not thinking that my mind stayed busy. I worked on slowing my breathing and focusing on that, but even then my mind was prone to wandering without my realizing. The next day was more successful, I did a series of easy dance steps and tried to clear my mind as I repeated them. In a sense, this method was more effective. Instead of circularly thinking of trying not to think, I was focused more on what my body was doing. While I’m sure with proper training still meditation might be the best method of fully clearing the mind, for me it seemed to work better to be moving and to be able to clear the mind by focusing only on what the body is doing.

A group of Muslims in prayer.

This is why the prayers at the mosque interested me so much. The rituals of moving through the motions of kneeling to standing made sense as a way of connecting the mind and the body and focusing fully on the intention of the prayers. I suppose another reason that motion route makes sense to me is because of my connection to dance. Whenever I dance, I always feel relieved of any tough emotions and calmer as a whole. After going through these exercises this week, I have realized how much dance is a form of meditation for me. For me, there is no better way to relax than by improvising a dance to music that fits whatever mood I happen to be in. So while this whole exercise was a very interesting experience and helpful in understanding the perspectives of others, I think that in the future I will slip on my dance shoes and stick to my own preferred method of meditation.

[1] Photo one comes from here.

[2] Photo two comes from here.

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