Are You MADitating?

I have heard these and many other reasons why people think they can’t meditate. Many of you truly believe that meditation is not for you since you can’t comply with the usual “rules and regulations.”

You’ve seen pictures of people sitting there, in the lotus position, with serene looks on their faces. You assume that they must know something you don’t, since it looks so easy and natural.

The meditation is easy and natural – getting yourself to do it is the only challenge.

I’ve been meditating for 24 years and I still have to (gently) kick myself to the cushion. Once there, I am able to settle in for the ride. I have stopped labeling the sessions as good or bad. I just do it. The payoff is the cumulative effect of a regular practice, which shows up in my life in often surprising ways. So don’t sit there and expect to feel good, just sit there.


I’m getting to that.

I learned about Surya Meditation from Dr. Michael Mamas after having practiced other techniques for 18 years. Besides the gazillion other self- improvements I imposed upon my confused Self, I could sit on the cushion stock still for hours on end, observing my breath, following a mantra, or staring at a candle. I was at times even mildly successful at “blanking out” my mind.

I had some wonderful and even powerful experiences and insights, certain aspects of my life improved, and my Self took on many different cloaks of being that seemed desirable, balanced, or spiritual. I wanted to desperately believe the principles I heard from teachers I respected: principles of how the universe works, how we fit into it, who I am, and what in tar-nation I am doing here. Yet I felt these were only parts of the puzzle.

Surya Meditation has had such a profound effect on how I deal with this thing called life that it scares me to think how I would be if I had not stumbled on it.

The operative word in Surya Meditation is REST. If you’ve been “trying,” you don’t have to any more, because you can rest. Through this practice you learn to rest so deeply and so completely that you won’t understand how you could ever have done anything else. Over time, as years of accumulated stresses leave your body/mind/spirit system, deeper levels of your consciousness become available to you, effortlessly. You don’t have to figure it out because it already exists at the depth of your being. The reason for the “disconnect” from your Center is eons of identification with things other than the Wisdom within.

Surya Meditation is easy to learn.

It is not about techniques or learning new ways to improve yourself. It encourages you to abandon all self-improvement ideas so that, as you rest and your system clears, you begin to connect in a real way to the essence that lives at the deepest level of your being.

Surya assists you in becoming more naturally yourself.

If you were to attend a Surya Meditation retreat, generally the day is structured to include three rounds in the morning and three rounds in the afternoon. A “round” consists of one hour divided into 35 minutes of sitting, 5 minutes of lying down to rest, 10 minutes of sitting listening to the Rg Veda, and a 10 minute break.

After the break you come back and do it all over again.

The sitting part is anything you can tolerate. You can sit on a chair or on the floor. You can rest your back against something. The purpose is to make the sitting as effortless as possible. If it takes effort to sit straight, then slouch; if it takes effort to slouch, then lean; if it takes effort to lean, lie down. If you get sleepy, sleep. If you can’t get back up to listen to the mantras at the end, stay down. My teacher, Dr. Mamas, says, “Sleep is king.”

I LIKE that.

What to do as you sit? You cultivate a practice of resting. If you find that your mind has gotten busy and it’s easy to come back to the Self, then come back and rest with the Self. If it’s easier to let your mind wander, then let it wander. Allow your thoughts to bubble up – this is a sign of purification, and it would be counterproductive to control this process.

It is usually good to sit up for at least five minutes and then lie down if you need to sleep. Just about anyone is able to sit up for five minutes. The kind of sleep you experience at a Surya Meditation retreat feels totally different from just going to bed and sleeping. The group consciousness supports you and carries you along in whatever way you need. Sitting quietly with other people is a powerful experience – one you have to try for yourself in order to “know.”

For home practice the recommended dosage is twenty minutes of sitting twice a day, followed by five minutes of lying down, and then going about your business. If twenty minutes feels too long, shorten it to whatever is comfortable. Never skip the lying down relaxation at the end. As you sit, your physical body’s energy flow begins to pick up due to the purification process, and old tensions surface whether you are aware of them or not. Lying down allows the body to release these tensions, and integrates and balances the energy.

Daily practice brings results. The buddy system helps those of us who have trouble getting to the cushion (or chair). Even one other person in the room with you makes a huge difference; the energy to “hold” the space increases exponentially.

Once or twice a year, take your heart in your hand and dive into a retreat setting. My 2005 calendar is already marked, and I will be headed to Ashville, North Carolina. Even if I never “get enlightened,” this practice has been worth every ounce of energy, time, and money I’ve spent on it because of the difference it has made in my life, health, peace of mind, and most importantly the small peeks I’ve had of the “bigger picture” and my place in it.

Those of you with a regular Hatha practice, try adding those twenty minutes of sitting to the end of your session. Hatha Yoga was designed to get the body ready for meditation. We forget that. The place where most yoga classes end should really be the beginning, as you just naturally move into the meditative state. It certainly is not necessary to do physical yoga in order to meditate, but the physical practice helps open the gates to the body and its energy system.

So take a break from your “tryings.” Buddha became enlightened when he finally stopped his search and rested under that Bodi tree. I bet he was just thinking about having some

Haagen-Dazs with hot fudge and BLAM!!!

See you on the cushion.

Written by Heidi Ash

Heidi Ash is a yoga and meditation teacher of ten years. She directs and teaches at Ravenswood Yoga in Chicago, and runs the Midwest Retreat House in Northwest Indiana. For information on Surya Meditation and Retreats in the Chicago area. For information on Dr. Michael Mamas, go to