05 Jun Join a Live Non Transcendental Meditation Group Online on Mondays!
Every MONDAY at 18:00 UTC, I will be doing a live 8 mins meditation on Instagram and everyone is welcome to join in on my page indiv_yoga.
Monday @indiv_yoga: London 18:00 – Switzerland 19:00 – Greece 20:00 – Dubai 21:00 – New York 13:00 – Los Angeles 12:00
Up until a few years ago I preferred meditating on my own, but when I started giving yoga teacher training courses, I realised that sometimes I enjoy meditating with others. When I get home to Switzerland from trainings and retreats abroad, I often feel a bit lonely after living with a group of people, who are meditating together daily. Most of my friends where I live are not into meditating so my home life is a very different environment from my teacher training courses, retreats etc. Many of my students also live in places where there is no local meditation community, and for me where I live, it’s especially difficult to find a mediation group in English.
So I thought I would create a virtual group that anyone in the world can join to feel like they’re a part of a community, even if only for 8 minutes every Sunday. Even though we can’t see each other and are not in the same room, we can still feel a part of the universal energy, happy in the knowledge that others are meditating with us around the world, at the same time. It’s also a good way to commit to meditating by putting it in your calendar, setting your alarm on Sundays and making the effort to meditate, if only once a week! I am making it a short meditation to attract beginners and those that struggle to actually schedule time to meditate, even if they know how beneficial it is!
The meditation we will be doing is called Japa meditation, which means mantra repetition and is one of my favourite types of meditation. Traditionally this is done in India either in silence or in kirtan – call and response japa where one person says the mantra and the others then repeat it. Japa can be done seated with the eyes closed, while walking, driving, washing the dishes, in fact anywhere at any time. You can also use mala beads, finger line counting, or just repeat the mantra silently to yourself. There are traditionally 108 repetitions (read an article by the Yoga Journal HERE to find out the significance of the number 108) so I have chosen a short mantra which is repeated quite quickly, which helps the mind from wandering off and helps keep you focused.
How to Use Mala Beads & Finger line counting.
Mala beads are Hindu or Buddhist mantra beads that nowadays you can buy everywhere and there are many websites that sell them. Make sure they definitely have 108 small beads and a, usually larger, meru/guru bead in the middle above the tassel. You always start your mantra repetition with the bead to the right of the meru bead. Hold the first bead between your right thumb and middle finger. NB the left hand has traditionally been thought of as the ‘dirty’ hand in India, and the index finger is thought to have a negative current, so we always use the right hand and the thumb and middle finger. Resting the back of your hand on your thigh, you roll on to the next bead with each repetition of the mantra. When you reach the final bead to the left of the tassel, you have done your 108 repetitions. If you want to carry on you must swap the beads round so that the final bead now becomes your 1st bead, and you go back in the direction you just came, so that you do not cross over the meru bead. If you don’t have any beads then you can use the tip of your thumb to count each repetition by pressing it against different parts of the palm. The order of finger line counting can vary, but the usual direction is shown in the image below. Note how the index finger is also not used. Using mala beads or finger line counting is especially good for beginners because it give you an extra sensory point of focus with the tactile sensation of your hand or the beads, to keep you returning to the repetition of the mantra.
Why Japa, Not Transcendental Meditation?
Japa meditation is very similar to Transcendental Meditation (TM) in that you are simply repeating a mantra and drawing your focus back to the mantra any time you get distracted. What is better in my opinion, is that Japa is more flexible with the mantra that you use, the amount of time you can repeat it for, and most importantly it’s FREE! TM courses can cost more than 1000$ and the objective and benefits of TM are exactly the same as Japa meditation. The goal of all meditation is to keep returning your mind to a point of focus, so that you can be at one with yourself, and clear the pathway to nirvana. The benefits of meditating, whichever technique you choose, are endless and you can find many studies done on this online. My students and clients over the years, have found Japa meditation to be the easiest and most effective way to meditate, because there are several things keeping you focused. Meditating on your inhale and exhale is one of the most well-known meditation methods, however this is not ideal for beginners as it is easy for the mind to wander off when only focusing on the most automatic, involuntary aspect of our lives.
For our Monday meditations I will be playing an audio of the mantra Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha, which is a mantra in honor of the Hindu God Ganesha. Ganesha is the elephant God that removes obstacles from our path. It is a good mantra to use in times of new beginnings or stressful times when you have a lot to deal with. It was the mantra given to me by my first teacher and the first one I pass on to my students. As you go forward you may chose to look into other mantras to see if any resonate particularly with you. There are much longer ones and mantras of just one word, and they are usually connected to the characteristics of a God that you would like to invoke in yourself i.e. wisdom, compassion, . You can also try different ways of working with Japa meditation:
- Repeating it silently, aloud, while doing an activity, repeating it with an audio, attending a kirtan session.
- Using mala beads, finger line counting or nothing other than repeating the words to yourself or out allowed.
- Writing the mantra down 108 times while repeating it silently is another method called Likhita Japa.
What To Expect
I am simply creating a space that others can join to meditate. I will give a short introduction reminding you how to use your mala or finger line counting, press play on the music (Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha from the album ‘Mantras for Precarious Times’ by Deva Premal) and get on with my meditation as I always do – repeating the mantra to myself using my mala beads. If you don’t have mala beads then it is not a problem at all. At the beginning of each video I will be reminding you how you can do finger line counting instead of using mala beads, or you can simply repeat the mantra to yourself, without moving your hands at all. Mala beads and finger line counting are especially helpful because you not only have the sound of the audio, and the words being repeated in your head to keep you focused, but you also have something tactile with your fingers, to keep your senses concentrating on the meditation. There are several things going on that make it easier to return to your point of focus.
- Tell others not to disturb you and close the door so that dogs, kids etc don’t distract you.
- Find a comfortable seated position with your spine straight whether on the floor or in a chair.
- Settle in to your position and some deep relaxing breaths to center yourself before the live video starts.
- If you get distracted don’t get frustrated because it’s normal! Just push distractions and thoughts out of the mind forcefully but kindly, and just keep returning your focus back to repeating the mantra.
- If you get distracted and forget which bead you’re on, or which part of the finger you were on, just calmly come back to the nearest one, and carry on.
- Try to make this a regular habit and join in every Sunday. Ideally this will become a daily routine for you to continue during the week, and you may start working with different mantras. You may want to repeat the mantra for longer, so instead of one round of mala beads, you can do 2 rounds of 216 beads. Or instead of 12 hands (9 points on the hand X 12 rounds = 108 repetitions) you can do 24 to equal 2 rounds of 108.
- Lastly relax, smile and enjoy all the benefits that regularly meditating can bring – better control and strength over your thoughts, words and emotions, inner calm and peace, better focus, better health mentally and physically, and a deeper connection with yourself, and what is truly important in life.
See you on Mondays!