Podcast #72 - Creative Action

This month's podcast was recorded at the gorgeous Jivamukti Yoga Jersey City! What an honor to teach there last week and to meet so many wonderful students.

Are we bound by our conditioning, or does the possibility of freedom,
spontaneity, creativity exist? Where does true spontaneity come from
and what is its relationship to practice?

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Meditation #4 - Inner Smile Meditation

Inner Smile Meditation is a Chinese Taoist traditional meditation, though echoes of it can be seen throughout other traditions as well. Thich Naht Hanh writes often about "breathing and smiling," or the practice of "smiling at life."

"In ancient China, the Taoists taught that a constant inner smile, a smile to oneself, ensured health, happiness, and longevity. Why? Smiling to yourself is like basking in Love: you become your own best friend. Living with an inner smile is to live in harmony with yourself." -- Mantak Chia

Instructions:
After settling into your meditation seat, start to turn the attention inward. Bring your attention to the very center, inside your head.

Visualize, looking out from the center of your head and see the inside of the 'mask' of your face. Starting with the inside of your forehead, simply notice the broad, blank screen of your imagination. Next, bring your attention downward, witnessing the inside of your eyes. Notice the muscles around the eyes, and even the way the eyelids gently touch together. Feel your eyes as they are in their natural and relaxed state. Next, bring your attention downward, witnessing the inside of your nose. Watch and observe the ebb and flow of life as it passes through the tip of the nose. Move your attention to the mouth and lips. Notice the mouth in its relaxed state. Feel the space between the teeth, feel the tongue touching the top of the palate and the teeth, feel the lips lightly touching together.

Now, pull your focus back to the center of your head, witnessing the whole inside of the mask of your face.

Again, return your attention to your mouth, to your lips. Notice the feeling of the corners of your mouth as they are in their natural relaxed state. Now, ever so slightly raise the corners of your mouth until you feel the 'inner smile.' Even if it feels contrived or fake. Perhaps your smile isn't physically perceivable by an outside observer, you are lifting the corners of your mouth, until you feel a distinct shift in energy, a warmth and radiance of being.

Allow the corners of your mouth to remain in this uplifted position and turn your attention up to your eyes. Ever so slightly, raise the corners of your eyes, as if the eyes themselves could "smile." Feel the warmth and radiance brought about by allowing the eyes to smile. This is the feeling of the 'inner smile.'

Resources:
Thich Naht Hanh, "Peace is Every Step"
Mantak Chia, "The Inner Smile"
Dan Landrum - http://chippit.tripod.com/inner_smile.html

Meditation #3 - Feelings as Bodily Sensation

The foundational practice is to watch the breath, to notice each time we are breathing in and each time we are breathing out. Then we start to notice the thoughts and feelings, we might even take up the practice of naming thoughts and feelings as a way to practice mindfulness of the emotion. Today, we will practice trying to feel the sensation of thought or feeling as it arises in us before it becomes a conscious, labelled, named thought.

Meditation #2 - Mindfulness of Thoughts and Emotions

"During Meditation various thoughts and feelings arise. If you don't practice mindfulness of breath, these thoughts and feelings will soon lure you away from mindfulness. But the breath isn't simply a means to chase away such thoughts and feelings. Breath remains a vehicle to unite the body and the mind and to open the gate to wisdom. When a feeling or thought arises, your intention should not be to chase it away, even if by continuing to concentrate on the breath the feeling or thought passes naturally from the mind. The intention isn't to chase it away, hate it, worry about it, or be frightened by it. So what exactly should we be doing concerning such thoughts and feelings? Simply acknowledge their presence."